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Become Your own Power Generator – Go Solar!

Solar energy is the cleanest and the most abundant renewable energy source in the world. It has quickly become widely popular among homeowners, with the solar market in the United States growing approximately 49% per year. Interested in going solar, but have some questions? 

Here are Your Options 

Photovoltaic solar panels generate electricity directly from sunlight. There are three different types of photovoltaic panels, each ranging in price and efficiency: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. 

Here are the basic pros and cons of each type. 

Monocrystalline solar panels are the most popular type of solar panels. They are made up of rectangular solar cells that are black in color. Due to both their dark appearance and composition, they are the most efficient type of solar panel. However, that efficiency means that they are generally the most expensive option. 

Polycrystalline solar panels are a more affordable option. They are made up of square cut solar cells that are more blue in color. Like the monocrystalline panels, they are made of silicon. While less efficient than monocrystalline panels, they are still a worthy alternative if you are on a tighter budget. 

Thin- film solar panels are more lightweight and flexible than the others. They are narrow in design, made of light-absorbing material that is 350 times smaller than that of a standard silicon panel. Due to their composition, they are cheaper to install than silicon panels. However, they are overall less effective. Their average efficiency is 11 to 13%, compared to 15 to 20% efficiency of a silicon panel. 

What’s the cost? 

Solar panels range in cost, depending on the type and size of your system. On the lower end, a system can cost around $4,500. On the higher end, it could cost up to $45,000. 

There are several ways to finance a solar panel system for your home. The most common methods are through loans, leases, or power purchase agreements (PPA).

Additionally, New York State has many rebates and incentives in place to promote the adoption of solar statewide. Make sure to take advantage of these, to reduce your cost! Learn more here. 

What’s the process? 

Step One: Assess. Before contacting a contractor, it is best to assess the condition of your roof. If your roof is old, damaged, or has more than two layers of shingles, it may need repair prior to the installation. Additionally, survey the location of your house. The amount of sunlight your house receives will play a role in determining whether you should install your panels on the roof or ground and how many to get. Ideally a good roof for solar panels will be south-facing and is exposed to sun throughout the day. Finally, it is wise to have a home energy assessment to learn from a certified home performance contractor if getting insulation or taking other energy saving measures could reduce the size of the system you need; or conversely, if you want to get rid of your oil tank and go for heat pumps, you may need to take that additional electric use into account when sizing a system.

Step Two: Find a Contractor. When it comes to finding a contractor, it is important to understand how to find a reputable solar contractor. Here are some solar contractors in New York that are recommended by NYSERDA. You can get a price estimate over the phone, to decide whether or not to proceed with installation. Before they even come to do a site visit, contractors can use something like Google Earth to see if your roof is too shady.

Step Three: The Implementation. Once you find your contractor, begin with the design and installation process. This will begin with an engineering site visit, in order to assess the electrical status of your home. Then, you will need to complete the logistical paperwork required for installation; this includes applying for state and federal solar incentives and figuring out the best way to pay for your system as well as applying for a town solar permit. Next, you will work with your contractor to order your equipment, based on the size and type of system you decide on. Once the equipment arrives, installation can take place! After a visit and approval from the building inspector, you can officially connect your solar panels to the electric grid!