Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Solar Panels, Affordable?

A solar energy powered home has always been a dream of mine, but I always thought it would take years before the costs would come down enough to afford it.  So Saturday, my husband and I decided to visit a couple of homes on the Solar San Antonio 2010 Solar Tour just to get an idea of how outrageous the cost would be.  The tour was free and self-guided, and with a printable tour map we were on our way. Over twenty five homes and businesses participated in the tour, so it was pretty easy to find a house that would be somewhat similar to ours to look at.

In fact, there was one house in the subdivision right next door and another about a mile away.  At the first residence the owner had installed his panels over a two year period with the first installation in 2008. He saved $913.70 on electricity between August 2009 and August 2010.  Well that got our attention!  He also told us about the incentives offered by CPS and the federal government, a rebate for 50% of the cost up to $30,000 from CPS for the installation and a 30% tax credit on the remaining balance from the Feds.  What's really cool about the CPS rebate is you don't even have to worry about it, your solar contractor will deal with the paper work and CPS directly.

So how much would it cost you to install a solar system?  Well, here is a handy dandy Solar power energy calculator that estimates the impact of a solar energy system on your electricity bill and your pocket book.  Plug in your zip code, select your utility company and your average kilowatt hour usage per month, or your average monthly electrical bill.  Here's my calculation

System specifications for: San Antonio, TX
Utility: CPS Energy

Solar Radiance: 5.28 kWh/sq m/day
Avg. Monthly Usage: 1,620 kWh/month
System Size: 6.37 kW
Roof Size: 637 sq ft
Estimated Cost: $44,598.45
Post Incentive Cost: $20,515.29
Not exactly cheap, but definitely doable.  You can also get Solar Financing from San Antonio Credit Union for as low as 5.75%. 

From Solar San Antonio
Solar Radiance is the amount of solar energy received on a given surface area at a given time and varies based on the weather (cloudy or sunny) and the latitude of the location.  At just below the 29th degree parallel, San Antonio is at one of the closest latitudes to the equator in the US.  We get 300 sunny days a year on average.   

Here's another cool calculator that estimates your roof's solar potential by using Google satellite maps and your average monthly electricity bill.  This calculator tells you how much of your roof is usable to collect solar energy and gives you an average electrical bill per month after a solar installation.  The part of your roof that is on the southern exposure is the place you want to put solar panels.  Why south, you may ask?  Well it has to do with our latitude, or the angle that San Antonio faces the sun.  The southern exposure gets the most rays during the day as the sun moves overhead.

Now you may wonder why you would still have an electricity bill if you have a solar array.  Unfortunately, the sun doesn't shine 24/7 so during the times when the panels aren't being charged you have to have another source of energy.  You could go completely off the grid by installing a generator, but the homeowners we spoke to said that was a lot of hassle and rather expensive.  Instead they opted for Windtricity during solar down time.  That way all of the energy they use is renewable and doesn't produce CO2 emissions.

There are several contractors in town that install solar panels, check out this list.  Also, solar panels aren't the only way to go, you can opt to install solar powered appliances, like water heaters, pool heaters and attic fans.
Solar Water Heater System
So what's holding you back now?


  1. What an estimate! It seems costly but still affordable. Your post really opened the mind of people with their questions regarding solar panels. Now they can decide about the installation.

  2. it is pretty remarkable how affordable solar and stepped up over the years. It really is viable now. A great sign for our future

  3. A solar energy powered home has always been a dream of mine, but I always thought it would take years before the costs would come down enough to afford it. efficiency of solar panels

  4. Thank you so much for sharing such an informative blog here... Home solar panels

  5. Solar Energy is one of the most practical ways available to reduce your electricity consumption and thus your utility bills.

  6. The things and the contents shared here gives brief description about the solar panels to make it more popular.

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  7. There is a chance you're qualified for a new government solar program.
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