The decision to switch from traditional energy to solar power is complicated: from environmental considerations to significant discrepancies in costs, many people don’t know which way to turn. We can help you figure out whether grid or solar power is more profitable for you.
What Does Life on the Grid Cost?
The answer to this question is simple: look at your electric bills from the past year. That’s what living on the grid costs for you! It’s essential to consider your energy usage for a year because you may use significantly more energy to heat your home in the winter than you do to cool your home in the summer. Now that you’ve got that number, let’s talk about solar power.
Things To Know About Solar
The average American pays around $1,400 a year in energy bills. Solar power has the potential to drop that bill down to $0 (and it could even result in a little extra income each month). That might sound too good to be true, so stick with us, and we’ll break it down.
High Initial Cost
While solar power can drastically reduce or even negate your monthly energy bills, solar panel installation comes with a sizable price tag. Most homeowners pay off the installation cost within a decade through substantial savings, but the initial cost can feel prohibitively expensive for many.
You’ll need to get a quote to know how much you can expect to pay (prices differ based on energy needs and installation requirements), but solar panel installation usually costs around $14,000.
Lifespans and Warranties
With that hefty price tag comes high-quality equipment. Solar panel manufacturers typically offer a 20- to 25-year warranty, and with relatively little annual maintenance. You can expect your panels to last for 20-30 years, and since most people pay off their panels within 10, you’re looking at over a decade of free or nearly-free energy expenses.
Monetary considerations are of the utmost importance, but many people also want to know about the environmental impact of their energy decisions. Solar panels offer a guilt-free energy option. Your solar system harnesses the power of the sun and converts it into fossil-fuel-free, totally green electricity.
Grid-Tied Solar Power
If you decide to go solar, you’ve got a few options for how you’ll use the energy your panels generate. Grid-tied solar power is the most common setup, and it means that your solar system is connected to the national electrical grid.
Your home consumes all the energy it needs for daily operations, and then the grid takes any excess energy produced. The grid will calculate how much energy you’ve provided, and then you get paid back!
On the other hand, if several overcast days go by and your solar system can’t produce enough energy to power your home, the grid will provide you with all the energy you need without interruption.
Off-Grid Solar Power
Some people want total energy independence and nothing to do with the national electrical grid. That lifestyle is possible with an off-grid solar system! It requires a few more components to make it work, including batteries and a backup generator.
These extra pieces allow you to store energy up for rainy days when the sun doesn’t shine and getting off the grid means you won’t have to worry about fluctuating energy prices.
Hybrid Solar Systems
Finally, hybrid solar systems combine grid-tied systems and off-grid systems, meaning that you’re still connected to the national grid, but you have batteries to prevent you from needing grid power during peak times.
Many people don’t know that electricity is more expensive midday in the summer, but a hybrid system allows you to switch to battery power if your panels don’t produce enough energy on a given day.
If you’ve been researching solar power for a while, you may have come across the term “net metering.” This policy is a complicated way of saying that you’ll earn credits for giving energy back to the electrical grid. You should look into net metering ratios in your area as they vary across the country, but many towns use a near 1:1 ratio, meaning you’ll earn just a little less than the retail rate.
People going off-grid miss out on the opportunity for solar incentives, which are government programs that offer tax breaks or other benefits for switching to solar power. These incentives can differ greatly depending on your location, but you may be able to save quite a bit of money on your solar system, so don’t count them out.
It’s a common misconception to think that the only way to achieve energy independence is with off-grid power. While off-grid systems are independent, a hybrid solar system offers a very similar level of autonomy with the added security of backup power during long periods of low energy production.
Considerations for Going Off-Grid
Going off the grid is possible, but it requires some essential considerations.
The number of solar panels you can use is largely dependent on your unshaded roof space. Off-grid living requires more solar panels than other setups to give you the best chance of avoiding outages, and many suburban roofs cannot accommodate the required panels.
Backups and batteries come with off-grid systems, but they don’t come for free. While solar systems have reduced significantly in price over the last decade, batteries have not been discounted as rapidly. Solar power is a large investment to begin with, so adding more equipment may not be feasible for many budgets.
Your solar system can be capable of meeting day-to-day energy needs but unable to handle usage spikes. You’ll need to plan energy conservation when the in-laws come to visit to avoid outages.
The specifications of your solar system are determined at the time of purchasing, which means any future lifestyle changes won’t be accounted for. If you’re planning to have a child in the next few years, or your brother needs a place to stay a couple of months after your system is installed, you may need to consider an upgrade.
Now that you know whether grid or solar power is more profitable for you, get a quote for your system today by contacting a solar energy company in New Mexico!