By Shawn Williams
You may have driven by a neighborhood of beautiful homes that have solar panels on their roofs. The homes in these neighborhoods are tapping into the natural power source of the universe, the sun. Solar is no longer a phenomenon, the future has become the present. Skepticism is put to rest by the many happy home owners who’ve already decided harness the sun’s energy. Solar technology has grown and developed so rapidly that homeowners, who just a few years ago could not get solar for one reason or another, are now able to. This raises the big question” “Is my property a good fit for solar?” This is not always a cookie cutter answer. There are four questions to consider:
1. What is your electrical usage, or the amount of electricity you currently use?
2. If you are considering solar for your roof, what is the roof’s orientation, or direction in which your roof is facing, (north south, east or west)?
3. Does your roof have any obstructions, such as objects that block the suns path to your solar panel?
4. What is the pitch or slope of your roof?
When considering your electrical usage, review the average amount of electricity you use on a monthly basis. You may also want to consider increasing the amount of solar you are installing to account for additional future needs, such as a pool or an electric car.
The orientation determines the direction your roof is pointing. Orientation is measured in degrees. Optimal solar azimuths fall between the degrees of 90 and 270. In the northern hemisphere, south facing roofs at 180 degrees result in highest solar energy production. Just a few years ago solar panels where only installed on south facing roofs. Better technology and higher producing solar panels now allow for east (290) and west (90) facing roofs to produce enough power to make them viable. So if your roof is not set directly south, there is no need for concern. Remember the sun rises in the east and set in the west.
Obstructions on your roof should also be taken into consideration. Solar can be installed around skylights, vent pipes, and chimneys. In some cases obstructions can be removed or relocated. Shading can also pose an issue, but even in these cases new technologies may help this issue. If your home is completely covered in shade, you may want to consider the option of removing some trees. A solar consultant can review all the options available so you can make the right decision for your home.
The pitch of your roof, or angle at which your roof is slanted, is measured in degrees. In Connecticut, a 42 degree pitch is ideal for a south facing roof. East or west roofs will perform better with a shallower pitch. A higher pitch on east and west roofs will become their own obstruction as the sun moves across the sky and shade falls on the opposite side. The rule of thumb is the best pitch is the latitude in which the property resides. This results in maximum production for both winter and summer sun angles.
There may be other factors that effect a solar installation, however the combination of the four discussed here are most important. A properly trained Solar Consultant can help you decide if solar is right for your home.
Shawn Williams is the Proposal Manager at C-TEC Solar. Working one-on-one Solar Consultants, for more than 3 years, he has assessed many homes for solar viability.