Solar-powered homes were once limited to the staunchest environmentalist and the elite — but not anymore. Residential solar power has been growing in popularity, and not because of concerns for the Earth. While saving the Earth can be a big draw, it doesn’t come close to saving money. Most homeowners consider solar power as an investment — and rightfully so.
Solar power systems pay for themselves 3-4 times over, and financing them involves little to no money.
Solar Power Systems Won’t Cost You a Cent
Advances in technology and market forces have plunged the cost of solar power systems to new lows — even as they become more efficient. The amount of sunlight is also a big factor. In Australia, most homes can run on smaller systems because of the availability and high concentration of sunlight. A typical Australian home consumes around 600 kWh of electricity a month. An 8-kW system can produce enough electricity to meet that demand.
Solar power systems can power homes during the day and send excess production to the grid to serve as a buffer for nighttime consumption. An 8-kW system costs around 8,000. A 10-year loan puts premiums at less than $80 a month — significantly less than the average electric bill of $100 a month for most Australian homes. You’ll be saving $20 a month, and your solar panels will be paid for in 10 years.
Solar power systems have guarantees for the first 25 years of use — typically for efficiency and performance at 80-90 percent. Modern panels and systems are durable, and most installations can last for 35-45 years. You’ll continue to save $100 on electricity after your panels are paid for, accumulating further savings worth $30,000-$42,000 during the lifetime of your system.
Lighten the Load with Insulation
Australia can get hot — really hot. Up to 50 percent of electricity use in most homes is directed to cooling or maintaining comfortable temperatures. Electricity use during the summer can spike by 50-100 percent. The heat from the sun can turn a house into an oven, and air conditioning units work overtime to prevent this. Most of the sun’s heat enters through the roof. Insulated roofing systems can limit heat transfer, easing pressure on your cooling systems.
Open doors and windows will also let in hot air from outside, so make sure to keep them closed. Large glass windows and doors are also avenues for heat transfer. Opt for heavy blinds to block sunlight, or use UV-filtering film to block 80 percent of the heat. A lighter load can cut the electrical consumption of your home by up to 30 percent. Proper insulation ensures the electrical consumption of your home stays well below the production of your 8-kW solar power system. If your home has prior insulation, you can even opt for a smaller 6.6-kW system to reduce initial costs and financing charges.
Match Solar with Energy-Efficient Appliances
It’s easier to stay below your solar power system’s production if your appliances are energy efficient. Newer appliances are rated and labeled by the government’s Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) Program. Energy Rating Labels are displayed in stores, allowing buyers to see how much electricity an appliance uses.
Energy efficiency is particularly important for appliances with high power consumption like air conditioners, freezers, refrigerators, and washers. Opt for appliances that utilize inverter technology. These appliances can use 30-50 percent less energy than their non-inverter counterparts.
Use Excess Power as Fuel
Getting negatives on your electric bill won’t get you a check in the mail. While producing excess power gives you a buffer for cloudier days, producing too much can be a waste. Of course, you shouldn’t wantonly use electricity to balance it out. A good way to use excess power is through an electric vehicle. The average driver spends $150 a month on petrol or $1,800 a year.
Switching to an electric eliminates the need for petrol, and the savings on fuel compensates for the higher purchase price of your electric vehicle. Fossil fuel also accounts for 80 percent of the country’s power production. Pairing an electric car with residential solar power is the only way to justify having an electric car — otherwise, you’ll just be charging it using fossil fuels.
There’s no reason not to go solar. It shouldn’t cost you more than what you’re already paying for electricity, and you can easily stay below production with proper insulation and the right appliances. Solar power is all about saving money — saving the Earth is just a bonus.