How Many Solar Panels Do I Need to Power My House? (And Should I Add Storage?)
If you’ve begun your journey towards adopting renewable energy, then one of the first things you may ask is, “How many solar panels do I need to power my house?”
While many people believe that you can never have too much solar power, most solar panel installations are designed to fit the approximate monthly energy demand of a home. Now more than ever, households and commercial properties are also incorporating solar energy batteries into their systems for even more electricity independence.
Shop Solar Kits is committed to supplying the parts and resources necessary to give our customers the easiest access possible to solar energy. In this article, we will go into more detail about how solar panels work to determine the appropriate amount for your home installation.
Why Use Solar Panels to Power Your House?
Today, solar arrays large and small can be seen on the roofs and property spaces of residential areas in nearly every US city. With millions of homeowners adding dispersed solar generation alongside commercial and industrial installations, solar energy capacity in the United States has skyrocketed over the past decade.
So why are people installing solar panels? Well today, solar energy is a perfect solution for both people and the planet. As a renewable source of emission-free electricity, modern solar panels have an extremely low carbon footprint. High-quality solar panels are designed to last for 20 years and more, and most components can be recycled.
In terms of finances, solar energy is free to produce, which is extremely convenient as it is also the most abundant source of power on the planet. With decades of production at no additional fuel expense, wise solar power investments can save electricity users tremendous amounts of money on long-term energy expenses.
How Solar Panels Work
Solar panel systems work by bringing renewable energy directly to your roof. Panels are typically installed on the south, east, and western faces of residential roofs in the United States to capture the most amount of direct sunlight each day.
Solar panels are made up of solar cells which use silicon wafers to generate direct current (DC) electricity. This current is then sent through an inverter, or a series of microinverters to transform into usable alternating current (AC) for a home’s power.
Today, most new solar panel installations do not have a battery backup system due to high storage costs. Instead, most residential grid-tie solar panel systems send the power produced on the property back to the electricity grid.
In areas with favorable net metering policies, homeowners are credited for the energy that they produce and send to the grid. For each month, electricity generated is then weighed against energy consumed which may yield “negative” electric bills, where the utility compensates the homeowner for overproduction.
Long Term Benefits
Once the solar panels are installed and activated, your monthly utility energy bills will begin to vanish right in front of your eyes. If you have paid cash for your solar panels, then your investment will quickly repay itself now that your home’s monthly electricity expenses are low, if not absolutely zero.
Solar panels last for 20-30 years of efficient production, so some affordable systems have the opportunity to “pay for themselves” multiple times over. With low and steady expected electricity costs, solar panels can help protect against utility rate hikes and time-of-day metering policies for years to come.
So… How many Solar Panels Do I Need?
Alright, let’s get to it. The number of solar panels you will need for your home depends on your personal electricity demand, local solar energy potential, and property constraints. While these factors help determine the necessary total solar input, the exact number of panels you will need to power your house will also depend on each unit’s wattage and efficiency.
Personal Electricity Demand
Taking a look at your personal electricity demand is the easiest way to determine the right number of solar panels for your house. For a full home system, locate your monthly electricity bills to find your approximate annual kilowatt-hour consumption.
With this information, any reputable local installer should be able to give you an estimate as to how many solar panels you will need for your house. Depending on a few other factors, each 1000 kWh of electricity per month consumed will warrant roughly 20 to 30 high-efficiency panels in average sunlight conditions.
If you do not know your personal electricity demand for a new property, then you may be able to estimate it based on your home’s square footage. As a rule of thumb, Every 1000 square feet of living space will require approximately 10-12 high-efficiency residential solar panels.
Local Solar Energy Potential
Aside from your personal electricity demand, the reality of going solar is only possible if local conditions make it advantageous to do so. While northern parts of the United States and Canada have limited sunlight, areas with extended cloud coverage may also limit solar potential, and necessitate additional panels to be installed.
On your home, the number of required panels can only be installed if there is enough space to do so. Here, ideal properties have a large roof that is titled (or can accommodate an angled array) towards the sun for most hours of the day. If space allows, large arrays may also be built on the ground, raised above parking lots, and in other creative spaces.
Solar Panel Wattage & Efficiency
Last but not least solar panel wattage and efficiencies are key elements to determine total panel quantity as there is a huge operating range in today’s variety of models. Although you should not get hung up on a few watts here or there, space constraints on most homes require panels of ~300 watts to effectively do the job.
Obviously, if you have all of the space in the world (or only a little bit of electricity demand), it is also possible to save on upfront cost with lower wattage panels. If you are considering a DIY installation, feel free to shop solar panel kits or solar generator kits to see available systems with included extra components to easily generate and use your energy.
The 3 Types of Home Solar Panel Installations
Once you have matched your annual electricity demand with your system’s expected energy production, you will have a clear idea of how many solar panels will be necessary to power your home.
Unfortunately, the decisions do not end there, as homeowners now have the opportunity to adopt three different types of solar panels systems: Gid-tied, grid-tied with battery backup, and off-grid installations. Below, we will take a look at the pros and cons of each one.
Exclusively Grid-Tied Solar Panel Systems
Throughout the endless suburban streets of the United States, grid-tied solar panels are the cheapest way to purchase a functional, full-home solar power system. In these installations, the grid acts as a “virtual battery” so that users can continue to draw power from the utility throughout the day and night (when solar is not being produced).
Although grid-tied systems can be installed with a tremendous return on investment, they are still limited to the constraints of the power grid. In a blackout, brownout, or period with unreliable utility energy, grid-tie solar energy systems will not continue to produce electricity and homeowners will be left without power until the grid is reactivated.
Grid-Tied With Battery Backup (Hybrid Systems)
To increase independence and solar self-consumption battery backups can be added to a grid-tie solar panel array to create what is known as a “hybrid” system. With the costs of adopting high-quality deep cycle solar batteries becoming more and more affordable, hybrid systems are increasing in popularity in areas with frequent blackouts or time of use utility rate hikes.
In a hybrid system, the battery is typically sized to power homes through a short period of emergency use. Here, batteries do not have to be large enough to power the entire home but are instead intentionally purchased to retain affordable access to small bits of solar electricity for lights, cellphones, refrigerators, and other emergency appliances.
Off-Grid Home Solar Panel Systems
Finally, solar panels paired with a large enough battery bank have the potential to take any home completely off of the grid. With the help of one of our off-grid kits, you may be able to power your entire home, cabin, or RV without having to connect to grid power. Here, no permits are required, and the free solar energy is all yours!
Home Solar Panel FAQ
Before we wrap things up, here are some quick answers to a few of the most commonly asked home solar panel questions.
How much do solar panels cost?
In browsing our selection, you can see the solar panels can cost anywhere from $50 to $500 per unit. In general, home solar panels come with many other expenses including the costs of the inverter, wiring, labor, overhead, and more.
Can a house run on solar power alone?
Yes, with a large enough battery and inverter (or solar generator), a house with moderate electricity demand can easily run on solar power alone. While this is not going to be true for every instance, sunny areas, efficient charging, and battery power make it possible to easily achieve a fully solar-powered home.
How many solar panels does it take to run a house?
Based on all of the factors we’ve listed above, most single-family homes in the United States use somewhere between 20 and 30 solar panels. Like with all energies, lower demand may mean that fewer or more solar panels would be required to meet monthly consumption.
Are solar panels worth it?
Yes, almost always, solar panels are worth it for homes in the United States. With dropping costs of adoption matched with more favorable net metering policies, solar panel installations are becoming financially worth it for more and more property owners across the country.
Key Takeaways and Additional Resources
In conclusion, the number of solar panels that you will need to power your house is determined by your electrical demand, property conditions, available sunlight, and type of installation. Every solar energy installation is different, but that should not stop you from taking a moment to figure out the exact number of panels necessary for your home and budget.
Although we are card-carrying members of the independent spirit, even DIY solar installations should be done under the guise and advice of seasoned experts. If you have any questions about how many solar panels you need for your home, feel free to give us a call or explore any of our additional resources in our DIY solar learning center.
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