How do I get started in solar?

So you have been thinking about generating your own electrical power but aren’t sure where to start. First off, there are a few actions you should consider taking on your own to reduce your annual energy usage.

Why is it important to take energy saving measures before investing in solar?

Taking as many energy saving measures as you can will eliminate energy waste while potentially decreasing the size of the solar system required to meet your needs. Before designing and installing your solar system, some quick things that you can start doing today include:

  • Turn off appliances you aren’t using: This goes for lights, TV’s, gaming systems, etc.
  • If you run air conditioning and/or heating often, make sure you aren’t losing excessive amounts due to poor insulation, doors and windows.
  • Consider upgrading existing appliances, heating, ventilation, air Conditioning (HVAC), hot water heaters, refrigerators, etc. If these appliances use a large amount of electricity, it may be worth upgrading to an energy efficient model.
  • Watch out for devices in “standby” mode. Standby power can consume 7-25% of a home’s electricity bill!

So, what’s the big deal about saving energy? I only pay an extra $15 a month on my electric bill…

You will pay for what you use. So if you don’t really need the electricity but use it anyway, you’re giving money away to the utility company. An extra $15 a month may seem like a small amount, but it adds up over time:

$15 a month x 12 months = $180

This means that over a year you will be paying $180 extra, and especially over the course of several years, this adds up quickly.

Additionally, over the past 10 years, the cost of electricty in the state of Kentucky has increased by an average of 3-4% a year/kWh. So $15 a month this year, WILL become more in the future. And this does NOT even include any increases in tax rates, surcharges, fees, etc.

So I’ve heard there are different types of solar systems, which is right for me?

There are three main types of solar systems: Grid-Tied PV System, Off-Grid PV System, and Hybrid (Battery-Backup) PV Systems.

Types of Solar Systems Diagram

Grid-Tied PV System is one which is still connected to the electrical grid. There are no batteries involved, which makes this generally the least expensive system to install and maintain. Since you are not storing electricity in batteries, you essentially use the grid as your battery. During a bright, sunny day your panels may produce more power than you are using. This excess power will go back into the power lines and into the electrical grid. But at night when your panels are not producing power, you will draw on power from the utility. By using a net-metering system, any power you put back into the grid serves to give you an electrical credit. When you are using more power than your panels are producing, you will use the credit you built up to purchase power from the utility. In some areas you can even earn money if you average producing more power than you use, but you need to check with your local utility to see what their policy is.

An Off-Grid System is one in which you are completely independent from the power company. Any power you use, it was produced by you. In order to be able to still have electricity when the sun is not shining you must have batteries to store charge. Your solar panels will charge the batteries during daylight hours and then when they are no longer producing power, you will draw your electricty from the batteries. This means, however, that if you use more electricty that was stored in your batteries, you will be without power until the panels can start producing more power again. You don’t have the electrical grid as a backup in this scenario. One the plus side, this means you are completely independent in your power generation, and you don’t have to pay for an electrical service connection fee.

Battery-Backup System is a hybrid of the previous two systems. In this case, you are still connected to the grid, but you have batteries as well to provide power in case there is a power outtage. This system could be useful for people who live in areas where power outtages are common. If you choose this system, you can probably do with less batteries than you would in an off-grid system, since you don’t need to rely on them for regular useage, but only in the case of a power outtage. But how much backup capabilities you want is up to you and what sort of situation you want to be prepared for.

Where should I put the panels?

We specialize in both ground and roof mounted systems. Depending on your site and the size and orientation of your roof, either a ground or a roof mount may be more suitable for you. Benefits and drawbacks as well as examples of each system can be seen on our Ground Mounted System and Roof Mounted System pages. Each site is unique and has different mounting requirements. But we will work with you to make sure you know what your options are.

How will Wilderness Trace Solar Inc. help me go solar?

The first step is to contact us today! We would be happy to come visit you to do an evaluation of your property to see how suited it is for solar. We will ask to see some of your recent electric bills (preferably spanning a year) and then we will talk you through the process of what your goals are and what you need to consider. We will then work out the design of a system and give you a detailed quote showing you all costs and energy savings, what you can expect in energy production from your system, and your return on investment. Take a closer look at our Residential system and Commercial system pages to learn more!