Can Solar Panels Eliminate an Electric Bill?


I’m sure you’ve heard it many times before about how well solar panels are solving power problems across the world. But, can solar panels eliminate an electric bill?

I’ve wondered this many times before. So I decided to do some research to find out whether it’s possible or not.

I’d like to share my findings and some of the data. This will hopefully answer some of the questions you have about solar power for your home.

solar panel array on roof of home

Yes, solar panels can eliminate an electric bill

Not only is it possible, but you can create more than you can use and get the power companies to pay you, for putting power back into the grid.

However, in order for this to work, you must make sure a few requirements are met.

What are the requirements in order to eliminate my electrical bill?

It mostly comes down to the initial cost for the system.

The other downside is the period of time it would take to cover the installation cost for the entire system.

If you are into it for the long haul, once the initial cost has been recovered over time, it becomes lucrative.

Solar panels prices and electric bills vary from place to place. So it’s difficult to get an exact idea of numbers that are useful.

One way we can get some idea is to look at a few examples to get an average idea. I know that this isn’t perfect, but it’s something.

1. Figure out your home’s power requirements

This is an important step to determine the type of system you are going to need.

Take a look at your previous power bills over the last 2 years. If you cannot get your hands on this information, at the very least, look at the costliest bill during the last winter period.

Once you have found the most expensive bill, look at the number of units used for that month.

2. Matching a system to suit your requirements

You already have the maximum amount of units you will use in your most expensive month.

Work out how many peak hours of sunlight you get on an average day, then use this basic formula:

(Energy requirements of your home per hour) X (peak hours of sunlight per day)

Divide that result with the solar panel’s wattage. You can get an example of the wattage by looking at the specifications of the different system online.

This will give you a rough idea on the amount you need to spend on a system to set you free from your power bill.

An easier way is to visit various solar equipment providers websites. Most of them provide a calculation tool.

You will soon figure out how much it will cost.

3. Leave the rest to the experts

Now that you have a rough estimate of what it should cost you, get in contact with your preferred company to install your panels.

They can calculate the finer details and apply much more of a refined and experienced process to establish the exact product you need.

Work with them to establish what is required to give you enough headroom in the event that your power requirements should go up.

Life sometimes throws us curve balls, by having that extra, it could be of help if anyone else has to live in your home, that you couldn’t predict.

Adding more appliances in your home over time also adds to your usage requirements.

Do solar panels need a lot of maintenance?

solar power installer technician to help eliminate an electric bill

As a whole, they require very little maintenance. Here is what I recommended you should do.

Give them a wash halfway through summer. Depending on where you live to do the same during high pollen months.

Please note: Be careful for using different temperature liquid or water than the panels current temperature. Having a vast difference in temperature could be putting you at risk to cause cracks.

I don’t recommend paying anybody to clean them for you. The amount that you pay them, won’t save you nearly as much in the loss from the panels.

A really dirty panel can lose up to 30% of its capability. But that’s extremely rare in a residential area, where the gain is around $20 keeping them clean for a period of 2 and a half months in the summer.

Can they cause cancer?

The most harmful part about them is the sunlight itself. So no, they do not cause cancer.

Sunlight has its risks, which is something that other medical resources on the internet can help you with.

The amount of power that is produced from solar energy for a home, cannot generate high enough electromagnetic levels to be dangerous to us.

Power plants or solar farms, on the other hand, maybe a different matter. However, that is not relevant to someone wanting to eliminate their power bill for their home.

However, I recommend you take a look at the next section about how they work, in order to understand that are harmless to us.

How do solar panels work?

Here is the easiest way I think to explain the workings of them.

They produce electricity through the photovoltaic effect using photons from our sun.

So light is absorbed causing the excitation of an electron or other charge carriers to a higher energy state. This in essence, is how to produce electricity from solar energy.

 There are two main types of cells used in a module:

  1. Wafer-based crystalline silicon cells
  2. Thin film cells 

The load carrying part of a module can either be on the top or back layer. This is the part of any solar module that must be well protected.

Are they quite?

This is a very big yes! You won’t hear a thing. The whole process in the way that solar panels gather energy produces no noise at all.

Typically an inverter could be the culprit for generating a little noise. This is the component that takes the power from your solar panels and converts it to useful AC current. AC is the typical current that we find in our homes today.

Avoid cheap systems as they tend to increase the chance of having noisy components. Your reputable manufacturer components have brochures that specify exactly how much noise they produce.

Inverters produce intermittent humming or buzzing sounds. Again, if it’s a good quality product, it shouldn’t be noticeable at all.

Usually, these kinds of devices are installed in an area of your home which you wouldn’t ordinarily be in. With that being said, it usually doesn’t produce any more noise than a typical refrigerator.

You would only require an inverter if you have a battery type system to store your power.

Do they wear out or go bad?

Over time they will lose efficiency.

Stresses caused by temperature cycles, humidity, extreme cold, and heat, are just a few of the culprits that cause small fractures within the cells.

The actual cause is a complicated topic and requires a lot of scientific facts to reliably answer the question properly.

Can solar panels withstand hail?

It depends on the severity of the storm.

If you have car windows breaking during a high-velocity wind and hail storm, then yes, your panels will most likely break.

Most solar panels are currently certified to handle hail up to one-inch in diameter at a velocity of approximately 50 miles an hour.

What is a solar panel’s lifespan?

factory solar panel assembly

Lifespans are obviously improving and vary between different manufacturers. They can last somewhere between 25 – 30 years, or even more.

There seems to be a lot of debate into the actual amount of efficiency lost per year.

You can read a study here, which may give you some insight into annual efficiency loss.

A rough guesstimation, after reading lots of different sources, suggests that you are looking at a minimum of 0.4% and a maximum of 3% loss per year.

How much do they cost?

Cost is definitely improving.

You are probably looking at around $30,000 to equip a standard home.

Please note: This is just an average price, at this time, in the U.S.

You may get away with less, or it could be significantly more expensive, depending on where you live.

This is number is just to give you an example and it’s always a good idea to get a quote from a few different companies first.

This will allow you to set aside the amount that’s actually needed over time.

Hopefully, by the time you want to place your order, the cost of them would have come down, and it turns out slightly cheaper for you.

What about Tesla solar panels?

This is an amazing product. These solar panels are designed to look like original style roof tiles.

You won’t be able to see that they are solar panels, yet they can produce energy quite efficiently.

Most of the problems have been ironed out, so over time, we will see more of these tiles being used.

Tesla says that its tiles will cost $21.85 per square foot and could last a lifetime.

This means that for an average 2000 square foot home, it would cost just under $44,000.

And of course, this is not factoring in any assistance you may receive from the government.

Bottom line, expect to pay quite a bit extra for the aesthetically pleasing tiles, as opposed to standard solar panels.

For more specific pricing, try out the Tesla calculator.

Do you need batteries for your solar powered home?

No, you don’t have to. But if you want to be truly free from your power bill, it’s a must.

If you don’t want the hassle of battery maintenance, you can use solar energy by day and power from the supply grid at night.

A battery enables full sustainability and takes away your dependency from the power providers. So this will ensure that you no longer pay for your power.

To retain the energy that has been gathered from the day, a battery can fulfill this requirement.

This allows you to make use of that power at night or when the weather is not conducive to gathering enough solar energy.

Another component called an inverter, would have to be installed in conjunction with the battery.

Try and think of it as a water tank. Power gets stored much the same way you gather water when it rains.

How long do the batteries last?

They can last for anything between 5 to 15 years, depending on the battery type and the quality of the construction.

A lithium-ion battery is initially more expensive than its counterparts but allows the benefit of a longer lifespan.

You can expect closer to the 15-year end of the spectrum lifespan from them.

Currently, this would be the modern solar-powered home’s battery of choice.

An example of solar working on a larger scale

Australia had the worlds largest battery built by Tesla thanks to Elon Musk, in 2017.

This is a remarkable step forward in the area of self-sustainable energy.

This proves to the world that better ways can resolve power production problems.

And on top of that, it’s not that radically expensive to make it nonviable.

Other ways to use solar power in our homes

solar car charging station

Here are some creative ways they can be used, other than for your home.

  • Lighting: Outdoor lights and Christmas lights are appearing everywhere on our shelves. They charge up during the day and can provide light throughout the night.
  • Weather sensors: If you have a weather sensor for a home weather station, you can keep it energized and ready to go at any time.
  • Wristwatches: This is nothing new. Solar wristwatches have been around for a while. Nonetheless, it’s still a hassle-free way to power a wristwatch.
  • Blinds or Shades: You can fully automate your window blinds or shades by performing a smart blinds retrofit. These kits have solar features in order to keep their battery charged at all times.
  • Hot water: This is a very cost-effective way to reduce your bill. An average of 18% of your power bill is for hot water alone.
  • Keyless door locks: The smart door lock market is rapidly growing and easier ways to keep them powered up is essential.
  • Garage door openers: There are quite a few options of solar-powered garage door openers that have emerged on the market.

I’m sure you can see how we can do so much better at using solar power, for more than just powering our homes.

Solar power initiative in California

As you have most likely heard, the Californian government has recently started an initiative to offer rebates to people investing in solar products for their homes.

It even applies to hot water solar units, which is an affordable solution for many.

This makes installing these kinds of solutions a far more attractive proposition.

Solar power in other countries 

There are a growing number of initiatives in the United States to try and encourage the purchase of solar energy products.

It’s a wonderful time to be alive to witness such an increased effort into wonderful initiatives like these.

Other countries around the world are also starting to make an effort.

Conclusion

Solar panels are becoming more commonly found in more products than ever before.

It could be the very thing that pivots us into a new era of coping with ever-increasing power requirements globally.

It makes sense seeing as the sun is such a powerful form of energy.

Why shouldn’t we try and harness some of it in a safe and reliable manner?

And if some countries can take solar projects and scale it large enough, they could quite easily sell power to other countries.

While in some countries, you wouldn’t consider it to be dependable enough, it most certainly isn’t the case everywhere.

While solar power comes with an expensive price tag to set up, it will eventually pay for itself.

The question is, are you willing to wait around 16 years or however long it takes you?

I have to say, it is an appealing thought not having to pay for another power bill ever again.

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