Is my Home a good candidate for Solar Panels?

This is Part 1 of our series to help Home Owners go Solar. Click here to read Part 2, Part 3 or Part 4.

If you’re thinking about installing solar panels and going solar, you probably have a lot of questions: Let's start with the most basic question, Is your home a good candidate for Solar?  

Your home is a great candidate for Solar Panel if you are :
  • single family home owner with
  • an average monthly electric bill in excess of $100 a month,
  • have a large roof with very good sun exposure and
  • your local utility charges you 12 cents or more for each unit of electricity
You will save many thousands of dollars over the life of the Solar System. 

In this series of we will help answer all your solar questions honestly without asking for your emails or peppering you with ads.  Lets start with your home :

1. Is your home suitable for Solar Panels?

Most Solar Panel deals are for Home Owners and not Renters. And,  Solar Panels generally work best for Single Family Home Owners.

However, if you own a Condominium or Town House, and your Association and Town allow Solar Panel installation, you could enjoy the benefits as well.

Let's now look at your home to assess if the roof is a good candidate for solar panels.

1a. Does my Roof have enough Solar Exposure?

Google Maps is your best friend for this evaluation. Bing Maps also works in exactly the same manner. 

Open a new tab on your browser and open www.google.com/maps and type in your home address on the search box on the top left. Also click the satellite view button / icon as shown below.

Google Maps

Zoom in to see your home, it will have a red marker on it, and inspect it  :

1. Is there clear roof area that is not covered by Trees?  Trees block sunlight and make it impossible to generate solar power.

2. Alternatively, make sure you have room in your yard where you could place panels on the Ground. See the example image below from Google for a dummy address in New Jersey.

Inspect your Roof for Solar Panels

If you have clear solar access like the home show above, you are a good candidate for solar panels.  

A Solar professional will make the final assessment, but a visual inspection on google will give you a fairly good idea if your roof is good for solar panels.

Here are  examples of homes that are excellent candidates for Solar Panels.

Good Homes for Solar Panels 1

All the 3 homes are good candidates for Solar Panels on their Roofs. The 4th home on the bottom left corner of the picture is not good as most of the roof is in shade from the surrounding trees.

Good Homes for Solar Panels 2

These 3 homes have good Solar exposure as well and are good candidates for Solar Panels

And, here are 3 examples of homes which will likely be poor candidates for Solar Panels.

Not good for Solar Panels 1

Both homes have significant shade and aren't likely to be good candidates.

Not good for Solar Panels 2

Most of the Roof is in shade, the small area outside shade might might not be enough to support solar for the whole home

Not Good for Solar Panels 3

This Roof is also mostly in the shade and unlikely to do well with Solar Panels

Once again, leave the final assessment to a solar professional. But your initial visual inspection on Google will probably give you the same answer as the Solar Professional.

Another, resource which is very helpful is Googles Project Sun Roof. The website estimates how much solar potential your roof has.

It's not super accurate, but it does a reasonable job of estimating Solar Potential. Project Sun Roof does not cover all geographies, so it might be a hit or miss for your own Home address.

1b. How much Roof area do I need for Solar Panels?

This depends on your electricity usage.  The higher your usage, the more panels you need and the more roof area you will require.

A very quick and dirty estimate is about 400 square foot of roof area with direct full exposure sun light for each 5000 kwh of usage.  

So if your annual usage is about 12,000 kwh, you probably will need about 900 square feet of roof.  

1b. Is my Roof a good candidate for Solar Panels?

Solar panels can be installed on most standard roof types in the US and Canada. 

Most Pitched Roofs and are built with Asphalt or composite Shingles and those are great for Solar.

Roof Shingles 3

Shingled Roof

Single Roof 2

Shingled Roof

Shingle Roof 1

Shingled Roof

Other Roof types including  Tiles, Standing Seam Metal, Flat Roof etc need different kinds of mounting hardware for Solar. The good news is you can install solar on these roof types as well.

Your Solar Professional will be able to guide you.  Make sure they have expertise in your particular kind of roof.

MySolarHome.us can do a custom Home Evaluation for you : just email me at    mike @ mysolarhome.us  .

Tile Roof

Slate Roof

Metal Standing Seam

Standing Seam Metal Roof

Flat Roof

Flat Roof

1c. Will I have to replace my roof before installing Solar Panels?

The best Solar Panel are warrantied for 25 years and have a useful life of 35 to 40 years.

Once you install solar panels, you wouldn't like to replace your roof as that would involve the additional cost of removing the solar panels before replacing the roof.

A good rule of thumb for shingled roofs is to install a new roof prior to solar if your roof is over 20 years old.  Most modern Shingled Roofs have a 30 year or longer Roof warranty.

Shingled Roofs less than 20 years which are in good shape will likely last 15 years or more. And with the added protection from the Solar Panels, they might last and additional 5 to 7 years.

Many Solar companies have Roofing sub contractors to help you make a correct assessment about your roof and even get you a new roof.

2. Will Solar save me money?

Solar Savings arise from Electricity savings, Tax Credits and State Incentives such as SREC's and Rebates. Here we will show you how to calculate your savings on Electricity.   

We have a detailed post on the these different Solar savings in this series.  To dive into the calculation of Electricity Savings,  the first question is :

2a. What do you pay for Electricity?

Depending on where you live, your energy needs are likely served by a combination of Electricity, Natural Gas and Oil.  

Look at your Energy bills carefully and calculate how much you pay for ONLY electricity on average every month (Add 12 month of electric charges and divide the total by 12).  

Ignore Gas and Oil related charges if any. 

Home Solar Panels makes financial sense if your average monthly electric bill is $100 or more.  Remember, Home Solar will only affect your Electric Bill, not your Gas and not your Oil Bill.

So, Why  the $100 threshold.  That's because, going Solar is like buying a new Car.  It is a big investment. And the savings are significant only when you have an electric bill in excess of $100 average per month.

As you have probably guessed, Free Solar is a myth. 

However, Solar is an awesome financial investment if you are spending $1200 ($100 per month) or more on electric every year.  

3. Will Solar save me money?

Assuming you have qualified for Solar:  your electric bill is more than $100 per month and your Roof is suitable for Solar. It's time to look at How much money you can save by going Solar?  And the different ways of going Solar.

The second article in this series takes you through the different ways in which Solar Saves you money.  

The third article talks about the three ways of going solar :

  1. Purchase your Home Solar System by paying the cost upfront. 
  2. Purchase the Solar Panels using Financing.
  3. Rent the Solar System: Also known as the Solar Lease or Solar PPA. 

Overall the idea is to pay less than you currently pay for electricity by by generating your own clean energy from Solar Panels. 

And the fourth in the series is all about different kinds of Solar Panels, Inverters and Balance of System. 

This is Part 1 of our series to help Home Owners go Solar. Click here to read Part 2Part 3 or Part 4.

Author: Michael Bennet

A Solar energy professional with ten years of marketing and installation experience. Avid and passionate about the adoption of solar and related technologies in all homes. Blogs about all things solar and sustainable at MySolarHome.us.