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4 Steps To Calculating Your Home's Solar Power Needs And Expenses

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With our existent economic melt down and energy prices fluctuating daily, many of us are thinking of installing solar panel power to contribute to our homes' energy needs, and reduce our power bills.

But if you install solar power, how much do you actually have to generate to say cut your bills by 50%? And what kind of costs will you be looking at?

This is the process we followed, if calculating our home's solar power needs and the investment required.

1 - What Is Your Daily Power Consumption?:

Your first step is to work out the average daily kilowatt hours (kWh) used. This can be done by looking back at your last twelve months power bills, and see how much power used per month, and get the monthly average. This will give you a better estimate of your average power needs by eliminating the effect of the seasons. It is calculated by adding up all 12 bills and dividing the total power used by 12. If you do not have the the past year's bills, then look at your most recent one.

Then divide your monthly usage by 30 (the average number of days in a month, to get your daily power used.

- Let's use an example: If our monthly energy usage is 800kWh, then the average daily power used is: 800/30 = 26.7 kWh a day.

- So to reduce your electricity bill to half, 26.7/2 = 13.4 kWh of solar power per day is needed.

2 - Work Out Your Solar Panel Watt Requirements:

To do this, you first need to determine how many usable hours of sunlight your area receives per day. This is where a solar insolation map comes in handy - you can view one from our original article on our website.

Now take the average daily kWh calculation and divide that by the number of daily usable sunlight hours, then multiply that by 1.25 (to take into account the wasted energy from wiring, charge controllers. batteries, and inverters).

- Continuing from our example: Our solar panel watt needs equal:

13.4 kWh required / 5.5hrs of insolation x 1.25 = 3.045 kW or 3045 Watts daily.

This tells us that our solar panels must be capable of producing at least 3045 Watts of electricity.

3 - Calculate Solar Panel Watt Costs:

Next you need to work out how much it will cost to buy solar panels that produce at least 3045 Watts. Currently the highest average cost for solar panels in North America is $4.85 a Watt.

- Continuing with the same example, the cost of the solar panels will be 3045 x 4.85 = $14,768. This is only to reduce our power bill by 50%, and it is before the costs of charge controllers, inverters, batteries, and electricians.

4 - Offset Tax Credits And Rebates:

Before thinking that your solar power investment is going to be $14,768 to only halve your power bill, you need to subtract any tax rebates and subsidies on offer.

With the new renewable energy tax credits going into effect from January 1, 2009, and state-side rebates from states such as New York, Connecticut, New Jersey or California, our solar installation costs will be much lower than expected.

- Using the same example: For a Californian to buy the solar panels, they would receive a state tax rebate of 20% of the cost, and a federal tax subsidy of 40% of the remainder. So, the investment in the solar panels would only be:

$14,768 - $14,768 x (20%) - $14,768 x (1 - 20%) x 40% = $7,089.

Just remember that this formula is basic way for you to get an idea of what home solar power will cost you. Some things could not be factored in - such as the state or country you live in, the special offers of local solar firms and the cost of the other parts (inverters, charge controllers, batteries, installation fees).

But, from our example it would cost a Californian about $7089 to invest in solar panels that can reduce his electricity bill by only 50%. We, on the other hand, know how to source cheaper and even free solar cells, and build our own solar panels, which makes the cost MUCH lower. If you are a DIY fanatic then it would save you a lot of money if your bought a solar power guide that show you how build your own solar panels.

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