Understanding Solar for Homeowners

Considering a sustainable and cost-effective way to power your home?

Welcome to Solar 101 for homeowners! If you’re looking to reduce your energy bills, minimize your carbon footprint, and increase the value of your home, then solar power is an excellent option to consider.
Solar energy is a clean, renewable, and abundant source of power. By installing solar panels, you can harness this incredible energy source to generate your own electricity and lessen your dependence on the grid.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about solar power, including:
  • How solar energy works.
  • The many benefits of going solar.
  • The different types of solar panels available.
  • Tips for choosing the right solar system tailored for your home.
  • And so much more!
Whether you’re a homeowner thinking about going solar or just curious and want to understand how it all works, you’re in the right place. This guide is designed to give you a comprehensive overview, ensuring you’re well-equipped to make informed decisions.

Why consider Solar Power?

Solar power is not just a trend; it’s a substantial move towards a sustainable future. As a homeowner, embracing solar can help you:
  • Save Money: Reduce your monthly energy bills.
  • Go Green: Minimize your carbon footprint.
  • Boost Home Value: Enhance the worth of your property.

How does solar energy work?

Solar energy is generated through the use of solar panels, which capture the energy from the sun and convert it into electricity. Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells made from silicon or other materials capable of converting sunlight into electricity.
Have you ever wondered how those shiny rooftop panels turn sunshine into electricity? Let’s break it down!
  • Sunlight Hits the Panels: Solar panels, often mounted on rooftops or other sunny locations, are designed to capture sunlight.
  • Magic of Photovoltaic (PV) Cells: These solar panels are packed with photovoltaic (PV) cells – tiny powerhouses made primarily of silicon. Think of them as the heart of the solar panel. Their job? Absorb the sunlight.
  • Conversion Time: As these PV cells soak up the sun’s rays, they get to work. They convert the sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity.
  • From DC to AC: Our homes don’t run on DC electricity, though. They need alternating current (AC). That’s where an inverter comes in, transforming that DC power into the AC power your home appliances love.
  • Power Up Your Home: Once converted, this electricity is ready to be used in your home, from lighting up your rooms to powering your morning coffee brew!Remember, even on cloudy days, solar panels can capture sunlight and produce electricity. They’re like nature’s very own battery chargers, always ready to harness the sun’s energy!

What are the benefits of solar energy?

The benefits of solar energy are numerous. Solar power is a renewable source of energy that doesn’t produce any harmful emissions when producing power, which means it’s better for the environment than traditional fossil fuels. Solar power can also save homeowners money on their energy bills by allowing them to generate their own electricity. Solar panels boost property value and when paired with a battery back-up, offer greater independence from unpredictable grid outages. With their sturdy, low-maintenance design, they’re set to serve you efficiently for decades. Embrace solar—it’s a brighter, smarter, and kinder way to power your life!

What are the different types of solar panels?

There are several types of solar panels available on the market, including monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film panels. Each type of panel has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to do your research before choosing a solar panel system. If you’re considering the best brand for solar panels, you can see the top-tier manufacturers on our AVL. Here’s a little more about these common types of panels.
Monocrystalline Panels (Mono-Si):
  • Advantages: Higher efficiency, longer lifespan, better performance in low-light conditions, and require less space. 
  • Considerations: These panels are more expensive initially but could offer savings in the long run due to their efficiency and longevity.
  • Best for: Homeowners with limited roof space or seeking a long-term, efficient solution.
Polycrystalline Panels (p-Si):
  • Advantages: Lower initial cost compared to monocrystalline panels.
  • Considerations: They have a slightly lower efficiency and require more panels to generate the same amount of electricity.
  • Best for: Homeowners with a tighter budget with ample roof space.
Thin-Film Solar Cells (TFSC):
  • Advantages: Flexible and can be integrated into roofing materials. They also have a lower initial cost.
  • Considerations: They are less efficient, requiring more space for equivalent energy production. Their lifespan is also typically shorter.
  • Best for: Situations where flexibility is needed or as a secondary choice for homeowners on a budget.

How do I choose the right solar system for my home?

Choosing the right solar system requires consideration of things like the size of your home, your short-term and long-term energy needs, and your budget. A reputable solar installer can guide you through more technical aspects of choosing the right solar system. The best type of solar panels largely depends on individual circumstances, such as the location, available roof space, budget, and energy goals. Here are some additional considerations for making a decision on the right solar system for your home. 
  • Location and Sunlight: Areas that receive more sunlight throughout the year, like the Southwest, might allow homeowners to opt for slightly less efficient panels. In contrast, areas with less sunlight might benefit from higher-efficiency panels.
  • Local Incentives: Research state and local incentives. Some programs may provide rebates for specific types or brands of panels. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource for this.
  • Budget: Polycrystalline or thin-film panels might be more appealing if you’re on a tight budget. However, consider the long-term benefits of investing in more efficient panels like monocrystalline, which might offer better value over their lifespan.
  • Roof Space: If your roof space is limited, go for the most efficient panels you can afford. This will likely lead you to monocrystalline panels.
  • Energy Goals: If you’re trying to offset a significant portion of your energy bill or even aim for net-zero energy consumption, you’ll need efficient panels and possibly a combination with energy storage solutions.
  • Aesthetics: Monocrystalline panels generally have a sleeker, uniform appearance, which some homeowners might find more appealing.
  • Consult Professionals: Before making a decision, consult with multiple solar installation companies. They’ll provide assessments based on your home’s specifics, energy goals, and the latest technologies available.
The best panel for you will depend on your individual circumstances.
Remember, the solar market evolves quickly, with new technologies and improvements emerging, so always consult with professionals about the latest options. 

How much does a solar system cost?

As of 2023, the average cost of a solar system ranges from $17,430 to $23,870, or $2.95/W before incentives. When considering the federal solar tax credit, the average solar installation drops to about $20,650 (EnergySage).
Your actual costs are determined by a number of factors, including the size of the system, the type of panels used, and the location of your home. Many homeowners tap into tax credits and incentives, making the switch to solar surprisingly friendly to your wallet. Many homeowners are eligible for tax credits and other incentives that can help offset the cost of a solar system. These incentives can vary from local, state, and federal levels. 
By understanding the basics of solar energy, homeowners can make an informed decision about whether solar power is right for their homes. With the help of a reputable solar installer, homeowners can start enjoying the many benefits of solar energy in no time.

Why should I go solar?

Millions are making the switch to solar, driven by various compelling reasons. While energy cost savings and environmental benefits top the list, the motivations are diverse and often tailored to individual goals. Here’s a glimpse into the top motivations for going solar. What’s inspiring your consideration to switch to solar energy?
Lower Energy Bills: By generating your own electricity, you can significantly reduce your reliance on the grid and lower your energy bills. Many homeowners see a return on their investment in solar within a few years.
Increased Home Value: Solar panels can increase the value of your home, making it more attractive to potential buyers if you decide to sell in the future. Studies have shown that homes with solar panels sell faster and for more money than those without.
Environmental Benefits: Solar power is a clean and renewable energy source that doesn’t produce harmful emissions. Going solar can reduce your carbon footprint and help protect the environment.
Energy Independence: Installing a solar system reduces your dependence on the grid, making you less vulnerable to power outages when you have a battery backup. Moreover, it decreases your susceptibility to fluctuations in energy prices.
Incentives and Tax Credits: The federal government and many states offer incentives and tax credits for homeowners who install solar panels, making the upfront cost of a solar system more affordable. Always consult with your tax professional about specific tax breaks.
Overall, going solar is a wise investment for homeowners who want to reduce their energy bills, increase their home value, and do their part to protect the environment.

How do I find a solar installer?

There are several ways to find a reputable solar installer in your area. Here are some of our top recommendations. 
Call Solar Insure: We vet our installers through thorough interviews and background checks. Learn more about the Solar Insure Certified Installer program here.
EnergySage: EnergySage provides a platform that allows homeowners to compare quotes from pre-screened installers in their area. The platform offers you side-by-side comparisons of prices, equipment, and financing options.
Online Reputable Directories: You can search for solar installers in your area using online directories such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) or the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Referrals: Ask friends, family, or neighbors who have installed solar panels for recommendations on reputable solar installers. It would also be helpful to ask them to explain their solar journey and experience to make sure it’s the right fit for you. Ask them if their installer was a Solar Insure Certified Installer; this adds a huge layer of safety to your purchase. 
Solar Energy Organizations: Check with solar energy organizations such as SEIA, Solar Energy International (SEI), or the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) for lists of reputable installers.
When choosing a solar installer, make sure to do your research and ask for references. A reputable installer should have a valid contractor’s license, be certified by a professional organization, and have experience installing solar systems similar to yours. It’s also important to get multiple quotes and compare the warranties and equipment used by each installer.
Solar Installer

Do I need battery storage for my solar system?

Battery storage is a great benefit to your home power system; however, it is not necessary for all solar systems. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether battery storage is right for your solar system:
Energy Usage: If you use a lot of energy during the evening or at night when solar panels are not producing power, battery storage can help you store excess energy generated during the day for use later.
Backup Power: If you live in an area with frequent power outages, battery storage can provide backup power during these outages.
Net Metering: In some states, excess energy generated by solar panels can be sold back to the grid for credits. However, suppose your utility company doesn’t offer net metering or has a low buyback rate. In that case, battery storage can help you store excess energy for use later instead of selling it back to the grid.
Cost: Battery storage can significantly increase the upfront cost of a solar system. You’ll need to weigh the cost of battery storage against the potential benefits.
Environmental Impact: While solar energy is already an environmentally friendly option, adding battery storage can further reduce your carbon footprint by reducing your reliance on the grid and reducing energy waste.
Whether battery storage is right for your solar system will depend on your individual energy needs and goals. Be sure to consult with a reputable solar installer to help you determine whether battery storage is a good option for you.

What are my battery storage options for my solar system?


Whether you’re looking at types of batteries or brands of battery manufacturers, there are many options to choose from. For top-tier battery manufacturers, you can review our Approved Vendor List. Additionally, here are some of the most common types of battery storage options available for solar systems.
Lead Acid Batteries:
Lead-acid batteries are a common and affordable option for solar systems. They are reliable and have been used for many years in off-grid solar applications. However, they have a shorter lifespan than other battery types and require regular maintenance.
Lithium-Ion Batteries: 
Lithium-ion batteries are becoming more popular for solar systems because of their longer lifespan and lower maintenance requirements. They are also more efficient at storing energy compared to lead-acid batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are more expensive upfront but can provide a better long-term return on investment.
Flow Batteries:
Flow batteries are a newer type of battery that is gaining popularity for solar systems. They use two tanks of electrolytes, which flow past each other through a membrane to produce energy. Flow batteries have a longer lifespan and can store more energy compared to other battery types, but they are more expensive.
Saltwater Batteries:
Saltwater batteries are a newer, eco-friendly option for solar systems. They use a saltwater electrolyte solution instead of toxic chemicals, making them safe and non-toxic. They have a longer lifespan than lead-acid batteries but are still relatively new and may be less widely available.

Should I install my solar panels and battery storage at the same time?

While it’s not a requirement, and you can install these two parts at different times, it’s much more efficient and cost-effective to pair your battery and solar installation projects in one. Doing so will require less time on the job, fewer truck rolls, and reduced labor hours.