Going off the grid has become a popular idea for eco-conscious homeowners wanting to reduce their carbon footprint to help our environment. For some homeowners, this means using sustainable sources for a large volume of their power needs. And, for others, this means being completely self-sustaining, including not using any energy sources other than your own.
For homeowners that want to go entirely off the grid, solar energy is a viable option. To be able to use solar energy as the sole source of power does take some pre-planning and possible modifications to both your house and your lifestyle. Here are a few issues to consider to see if you can run your home on solar energy alone.
The Energy “Grid”
As individuals become more concerned about our environment, there is a lot of talk about going “off the grid.” But, what is the “grid” really? The “grid” is the traditional system where your place of residence is connected to power sources from commercial energy companies for the home’s heat and electricity.
Homes heated by fuel oils may have gas lines running underground to their house, or have oil or propane tanks they get filled periodically. Electricity for homes is usually from power lines connected to the house and out to a succession of poles and transformers. Power lines can also be run underground to the house.
The fuels used for these power generating companies are often harmful to our environment. Three of the primary sources of energy include coal, natural gas, and crude oil. These are fossil fuels, energy sources mined from under the Earth’s surface. They are non-renewable energy sources, meaning the amount available becomes depleted as they are being used.
When fossil fuels are burned for energy, they give off toxic gases such as nitrous oxide that are harmful to our environment and our health. These gases can cause such hazards as smog, acid rain, and pollute our air, soil, and water.
Environmentally-Friendly Solar Energy
Solar energy derives its power from the sun. Our sun is a renewable power source that will never run out, at least not for millions of years. When the sun is used as an energy source, no toxic gases are emitted, making solar energy a clean source of power.
Using solar energy is an environmentally-friendly power source. Implementing a solar energy system for your whole house and going off-grid means you aren’t connected to the commercial power companies or their costly monthly bills.
Saving money and helping the environment are two things you are passionate about. Putting them together would be great! So, realistically is it possible to have your home run entirely on solar energy alone? The answer depends on a few factors including where your home is located, and how much energy your home and family needs daily.
The Location of Your House
A critical aspect of going solar is where your house is located. Homeowners in Nevada are in an excellent location for solar energy. Areas within the state get an average of about 250 days of sunshine a year.
With all that sunshine, hopefully your roof where the solar panels will be placed doesn’t have any shady spots. Shade, in this case, is not good. It blocks the sun’s rays. The shade could be caused by large trees or adjacent buildings blocking the sunshine. Trees can be removed, buildings generally can’t.
If the sunshine is adequate and there is no issue with shade, the next step is to make sure your roof can support the number of solar panels you will need. To run your house entirely on your solar energy system you will need more equipment than if you were using the solar energy to compliment your traditional source of power. With more panels and more gear means more weight on your roof. Your roof needs to be in great shape, with no foreseeable need to replace it in a few years.
If your roof looks like it will need to be replaced in a couple of years or so, it’s best to replace it before you add a solar panel system of any size. The time and cost to replace your roof after you’ve added solar panels would be significantly more than replacing it before the addition of your system.
Assessing your Energy Needs
You also need to consider how much energy your house uses each day. Air-conditioning is one of the biggest energy drains in your house. Major appliances such as dishwashers can also use a lot of unnecessary energy. Does everyone in your home have separate televisions, computers, or other technology that use electricity? Do you love to keep your A/C on high in the summer, or your heat cranked-up in the winter?
Consider trying to reduce your energy needs before going solar. Make sure all your major appliances such as refrigerator, stove, water heater, furnace, and air-conditioner are high-efficiency models. Always have your dishwasher full before you run it, or go without and wash your dishes by hand. Use fans instead of air conditioning, and invest in insulated window shades to keep out the heat. Maybe not the solutions you want to try, but if you’re going to go solar for environmental and cost reasons, reducing your energy needs before the switch will help make the transition easier.
Converting your home to use only solar energy may be an option for you and your family if you are committed to reducing your carbon footprint, helping the environment and lowering your energy costs. To go completely solar takes some planning, and understanding what your home’s energy needs are. A professional solar panel installation company, such as Let’s Go Solar can help you assess your energy needs, and work with you to see what solar energy system option is right for your family and your home.