How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for My Home?

By Adam P. Newton, February 7, 2017, Green, Home Improvement

This is one of the most common questions asked by anyone researching the viability of solar energy for home.

Some people ask it because they’re excited by the prospect of lining their roof with solar panels and creating a very modern, even futuristic look. Others are worried they might not have enough space for the panels. But the number of solar panels you’ll need to put on your roof — or elsewhere around your home — depends on what you want out of your solar energy system.

We want to examine several of the most common energy-generating needs, and calculate how many solar panels you’ll need to meet them.

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for My Home? | Bounce Energy Blog

The Cost of Powering Your Home with Solar Energy

While the sun may seem like a free source of energy, harnessing its power is another matter altogether. Setting up your home’s solar panel system can seem complicated and cost-prohibitive. To help you determine what kind of solar system you want, we want to investigate what kind of initial investment you’ll need to make when purchasing solar panels.

We’ll begin with the fact that the average Texas home uses 1,174 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month, or 1.6 kWh of energy per hour. This means you’ll need enough solar panels to be able to generate about 1.6 kWh of electricity per hour so your gadgets and appliances don’t run out of juice.

At peak times, a photovoltaic solar panel can generate about 8-10 watts of electricity per square foot. That means, you need 100 square feet worth of solar panels to generate a kWh of electricity – or basically a 10-by-10 panel.

Let’s estimate using a daily average wherein you receive five hours of sun exposure on your solar panel system. You’ll need enough solar panel coverage to generate about 39 kWh of electricity for the day — that’s 8 kilowatts (rounded up) each hour during maximum sun exposure.

To build a solar panel system for your average Texas home  that cranks out 8 kilowatts per hour, you’ll need about 800 square feet worth of solar panels. Because many residential solar panels are about 7 feet by 5 feet, 23 panels is a low estimate, so you’ll want to up that number to ensure that your solar power system can provide 100 percent of your energy. So, in our estimate, let’s assume you’ll need 23 to 30 solar panels.

Right now, it’s estimated that with all the needed equipment and installation, a solar power system costs between $7-$9 per watt. For an average Texas home that requires an 8 kWh system, it could cost you between $56,000 to $72,000 to get everything fully installed. 

Powering an entire home using solar panels can be quite a daunting upfront expense, so you may opt for a smaller system. 

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for My Home? | Bounce Energy Blog

For Partial Coverage

If you’re not ready to fully transform your home into a solar-energy station, you can certainly set up a system where only part of your electricity comes from the sun.

In this case, it’s rather easy to calculate how many square feet of panels you’ll need. Simply take a look at your last few electric bills to see how many kilowatts a month you’re using on average, and then decide what portion of your electricity you want coming from solar energy.

Let’s say you want a 40 percent solar household. Simply multiply .4 by your average monthly electricity use – for this example, let’s use 1,000 kilowatts. In this case, you’ll need a system capable of producing 400 kilowatts a month, or between 13 and 14 kilowatts a day.

Keep the amount of kilowatts you need to generate each day handy for when you call a solar panel provider in your area. By telling them what your needs are, they can help customize a system that uses right number of panels.

For the Hobbyist or Cabin Owner

If you don’t have the resources or the desire to wire your home to solar, but are still interested in partaking in the solar energy revolution, you can always install a single panel in your home.

Some people do so because they just want enough energy to power a detached garage. Others like to tinker with new gadgets and find solar panels to be an irresistible piece of technology.

You could also have a cabin you only use a few weekends a year, and you feel that wiring it to get electricity from solar power is both smart and will add to the appeal of the cabin lifestyle. In these situations, one large panel can often suffice.

Ultimately, going solar is attractive because it’s flexible. Your home can choose to go all in, or you could have the sun just partially power your home. Just like your Texas energy – you have the power to choose!

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