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Published on August 6th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


10 Ways You Can Use Solar Panels to Help You Save or Make Money

August 6th, 2012 by  

Here’s a fun post from the folks over at Compare Electricity Prices (image added):

solar panel image

Solar panel image via Shutterstock

Whether it’s the rising cost of energy, a desire to go green, or a little bit of both, you’re considering installing solar panels in your home. Good for you. The advantages and savings can be significant and quickly offset the installation cost. Let’s take a look at ten ways to leverage solar panels to reduce your electric bill:

  1. The federal government offers incentives that help offset the cost of installation, so that a consumer can realize energy savings more quickly. This means lower energy cost in a shorter time frame.
  2. Solar panels can be used to generate a portion of your home’s power in order to reduce your dependency on traditional power sources. For instance, you can install panels to provide electricity just for appliances or lighting, to reduce your dependency on the utility company, as well as lower your bill.
  3. With solar panels as an alternate power source, you can negotiate a more favorable rate with your local electric company in many cases. Since your consumption will be lower, and your home is more energy efficient, you may qualify for lower rates.
  4. Feed-in tariffs, which are government-induced incentives for energy providers to switch to alternative, renewable energy sources. This can include homeowners, which means you can sell surplus energy generated by your solar panels back to the electric grid.
  5. Power Purchase Agreements (PPA’s) allow homeowners to lease equipment from a private company for use in generating electricity, and the company then sells surplus electricity to its customer at a lower price than the local utility. This also gives the homeowner an option that alleviates the expense of installing his own equipment.
  6. Net Metering is another policy that works to the advantage of homeowners using solar power. Electric meters will measure your electricity production as well as your consumption, and calculate the difference. So as you generate electricity with you solar panels, you are in essence banking credit with you local electric company.
  7. While not a direct savings on your electric bill, there is another financial benefit from solar powering your home. The resale value of your home will increase by as much as 20% with the installation of solar panels.
  8. Heating bills can be reduced by using your solar panels to provide the power to your home heating system. Your savings on heating costs versus using conventional electricity can reap you substantial financial rewards.
  9. Another option is to connect your water heater to the solar panel array you’ve installed. You’ll have the added benefit of knowing that you can still take a hot shower, in your comfortably warm home in the event of a winter power outage.
  10. There are numerous DIY kits available to consumers which will guide you in building your own solar panels with surprisingly little effort or expense. This can greatly reduce your initial cost, which in turn brings you to profitability that much sooner.

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Richard Ilaner

    Why pay a huge amount like $1000’s for utilization of solar or wind power when you can have the opportunity to build your own home made solar system for less than $200. You can Learn more on w w w . i n p l i x . c o m .

  • Pooo

    dis sucks

  • Paige Smith

    Thank you so much for these 10 ways to save money on solar panel. My husband and I have been researching why and if it would be feasible to get solar panels installed. So far it has been positive. We found another article that really helped us make our decision. We are so excited. http://www.briteideaenergy.com/southern-nj/solar-panel-experts/saving-money-with-solar-panels.php

    • why do i have the feeling you’re paid to spread that link? 😉

  • hi


  • Yeah!!In
    the Adelaide paper they are advertising 3 kilowatt solar systems for
    $5,000 installed.  So unless the house was very cheap, I doubt it would
    increase its resale value by 20% here in Australia.

    • Bob_Wallace

      $A 1.67/Watt.  $US 1.77/Watt.

      Can that be true?  Are decent quality systems being installed for that small amount of money or are there hidden costs/other problems?

      (In the US those kinds of ads are often “too good to be true”.)

      Installed solar in the US would produce electricity for under a dime per kWh.  It would hit retail grid parity almost everywhere.

      Sure would like some confirmation if anyone has good data….

  • Jeff

    Anyone considering using a DIY kit to install solar PV should do considerable research beforehand. Some municipalities/utilities will not allow you to connect DIY kits to the grid and thus take advantage of net metering etc. They will only allow licensed installers to connect PV panels to the grid, and many installers may be unwilling to install a panel that you have put together yourself.

  • Matt

    While I don’t know if I count that as 10 seperate items (some are just how you use the electric). But for the cost of a extra subpanel and switch over unit, you can run your panels when the grid is down. That is what the NG powered whole house back up power units do, that they sell at Lowes. But it is a extra cost you have to trade off against how stable the grid is in your area. I’m not a electrican so if you are making more than you use, not sure where you dump it when grid down.

    • Home solar panels can be used when the grid is down but the system has to be isolated from the grid to stop people working on the power lines getting zapped.  As solar panels are DC, if the circuit is broken they won’t produce current, so stopping production if no one wants it is not difficult.  Obviously a solar system in a city in India where the grid goes down daily would have different requirements than one in an Australian city where the grid is very reliable.  I don’t know what they do in the US where normally grid power is extremely reliable, but when it does go down it can go down for ages. 

  • Greg

    @ Anne,   Solar panels can generate plenty of power during winter… unless you have like 3 panels.  Also yes they don’t produce during power outages unless you have battery backup but solar overall can reduce the chance of brownouts affecting the overall grid during periods of peak demand.  Luckily the grid here in CA isn’t in the same shape as India thanks in part to an increasing amount of renewables.   

    • Anne

      “can generate plenty of power during winter”

      ‘can’ is the keyword here.

      Like I said, it is dependent on where you live. You live in sunny California. ‘Round where I live winter yield is approx. 1/6 of summer, and you can easily have a week with a total yield of not more than 2 kWh per kWpeak (that means that even a fairly large 5 kW system would deliver 10 kWh) and about 20 kWh per kWpeak for the month of December. November and January are about 50% more.

      It could work in California, but over here I would not count on it. But then again, power outages are not a concern so for me it’s a theoretical discussion anyway.

  • Mikediethelm

    #10 those components may not add up to a usable product as electrical devices need to be UL listed.

  • In the Adelaide paper they are advertising 3 kilowatt solar systems for $5,000 installed.  So unless the house was very cheap, I doubt it would increase its resale value by 20% here in Australia.

  • Anne

    option is to connect your water heater to the solar panel array you’ve
    installed. You’ll have the added benefit of knowing that you can still
    take a hot shower, in your comfortably warm home in the event of a
    winter power outage.”

    That needs some explaining. Solar panels do not generate much energy in winter to begin with (depending on where you live). More importantly, they do not generate any energy at all during a power outage, since grid inverters are designed to switch off under such circumstances due to safety regulations (anti-islanding).

    Solar thermal panels also don’t work, since they require electricity for the water pump to circulate the water. No pump, no harvest.

    The only thing that can help you out is hot water in the insulated buffer tank, which usually is larger for a solar thermal system.

    • GaryBIS

      Hi — Solar thermal collector pumps can be powered by PV — this is straight forward and done often.  Laing, ElSid, Topsflo all make good DC pumps that can be driven direct from a small PV panel.  

      Thermosyphon systems don’t need a pump or any kind of electricity.A couple examples of PV powered solar thermal systems: http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/WaterHeating/DougsSolarWater.htmConnecting a PV panel directly to a heating element to heat water is possible, but its only about 1/3rd the efficiency of solar thermal panels.Gary

      • Anne

        Thanks Gary,

        I have not seen these here in The Netherlands. But then again, the preoccupation with power outages is seems to be an American affair. We never think about it because it never happens.

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