How many solar panels do I need? It's a reasonable question. Renewable energy is taking off, and homeowners everywhere are looking into solar power. However, it can be a daunting process.
So, how many solar panels do you need? Unfortunately, there isn't a definite answer for a lot of reasons. Here's what you need to know.
So How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?
Solar power is a great idea and can be highly beneficial to homeowners everywhere. However, when asking "How many solar panels do I need?" the most accurate answer has to factor in everything from house size to how much power you use.
Generally speaking, if you own a 2,000 square foot space, you'll be consuming around 10,400 kWh per year. Depending on the type of panel you choose, this kind of system would require anywhere from 28 to 34 solar panels to support that.
Now, because technology is always improving, especially when it comes to solar power, that estimate is likely to change. Panels are becoming more efficient, new types of panels are in development, and the industry is booming.
How To Figure It Out Exactly
Not everyone asking "How many solar panels do I need?" is going to own the same size house. They may not even require the same amount of power. Before you look at the types of panels or where you live, you need to look at how much power you use.
You can figure this out by running a quick calculation looking at all of your appliances and their wattage. Or a more straightforward method is to look at your power bill or call your utility. Either will be able to give you an average of how much you use.
To add some perspective, one kHw is 1,000 watts of power being used in an hour. So if you had 20 lights in your home and they each use 50-watt bulbs, having the lights on for one hour would result in the use of one kWh of electricity.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average American household uses just under 11,000 kWh per year.
Next, you'll have to see how many kWh a solar panel will produce. While this answer is again, something that takes a lot of factors into consideration, we are talking generally right now. Looking at a standard size panel with adequate sunlight, one solar panel could generate about 320 watts.
So, to determine the answer to "How many solar panels do I need?" you'll need to do some quick math. For a 2,000 square foot house, using about 11,000 kWh per year, you'll need a 10 kW system -- which will require 40 solar panels.
Solar panel calculators
Still wondering "How many solar panels do I need?" There are far more accessible and more accurate ways of figuring out the answer. One way is using a preset solar panel calculator. These just have you plugging in how much power you use and how much of the energy you want to offset.
The beauty of these calculators is that you can also select what state you live in. Different states will receive different levels of sunlight, and by selecting your state, the calculator will take collected data and give you a close estimate.
Other solar calculators can provide you with insight into how much money you can save by switching to solar power. You can also find some that will give you a better look at which panels are ideal for your situation. Honestly, the internet has just about anything you need.
Saving money and power
You'll find that there are a ton of great benefits to making the switch. Not only can you save a good deal of money by getting off the grid, but you can also even make some money back.
The answer to the question "How many solar panels do I need?" will always be an over-estimate. That is because the amount you use will never be the same every single month, and you want to be sure your solar system can handle changes in your usage.
But then what happens to that extra power that the panels generate?
Two things can happen. Either the extra power will be stored in a power bank, and you can access it if sunlight is absent, or you can sell it back to the power company. Going with the latter can allow you to make a bit of your money back.
Also, switching to solar power is much more efficient and green when it comes to generating electricity. Even though your solar system over creates energy, it's not nearly as much as what a power plant will overproduce. That power is often left unused, resulting in a waste of resources.
Factors To Consider
Nearly everything factors into your estimate. That includes where you live, the size of your house, what appliances you use, your windows, building materials, and so much more.
The hardest part about that question is that each of those factors is likely to change. Possibly enough to throw off the entire calculation. Honestly, it must be rough being a data analyst in the solar industry.
Types of solar panels
While the rest of the factors may be subject to reasonably drastic changes, only one changes for the better. That is the type of solar panel you use. Each of the three types of panels is continually improving in how efficient they are.
Monocrystalline panels are the original and the most efficient of the three, giving you excellent performance. However, that performance means they are also much more expensive. For this reason, you may not see these a whole lot.
Polycrystalline panels are probably the most popular and are commonly found on most houses. While their efficiency isn't as high as monocrystalline, the price of these panels makes up for it. The fact that they are cheaper means you can pair more of them together on your roof.
The thin-film panels are the least efficient but also the cheapest. However, you will rarely find these in a roof system because of their low efficiency. These are typically reserved for portable solar panels, for their lightweight properties.
Types of solar panels
One of the two most significant factors you are going to want to look at concerns your roof. Every house is different, and some have considerably less available space to make use of. The other is regarding how much sun your roof receives.
You may have a lot of square footing, but the layout may be different. Meaning your total square footage may be 2,000, but the design could be more verticle, which can result in a smaller roof. That can throw a damper on your calculations and skew everything.
The last thing you want is to order a bunch of panels that you have absolutely no room for.
Secondly, you need to see how much sun your roof gets every day. That can be hard to calculate on your own, so it's best to hire a professional to help. But one thing you can pay attention to is if there are any overbearing shadows like trees or buildings.
Solar panels can still generate power in the shade, but their efficiency drops substantially. For that reason, it is best for you and your wallet if you place them in an area that gets regular sunlight.
Some people have chosen to set up their solar system in their yard. However, that may limit your backyard space if you often use it.
There are too many things to consider to get into each and every one of them right now. However, to give you a feel for everything you have to look at, let's put it into perspective.
Everything in your house factors into how much power you use. What types of light bulbs you use, do you use efficient windows that aren't drafty, are the materials of your house solid and durable? What about the other appliances like your fridge and washing machine?
The more efficient your appliances and the overall house is, the better your solar panels will perform. Less usage is generally a good thing, regardless if you are using solar or not. More money in your pocket and less spent on bills is always a good thing.
While you can probably overlook some of these considerations, as they aren't huge factors, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Harness The Power Of The Sun
If you find yourself wondering "How many solar panels do I need?" it's best first to figure out how much power you use and where you live. Everything else can come second, and you can adjust your estimate accordingly.
If you are worried about making a mistake by doing it yourself, you can always hire people to help with your solar issues.
How many solar panels do you use, if you use any? How much power are you using per month? Let us know in the comments below!