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Question DetailsAsked on 8/24/2014

What is the general cost vs. savings of installing solar panels for heating and cooling?

My heating and cooling runs 250 - 450 depending on season. I get notices in the mail about how much I can save with solar panels. I also live in the north east.

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Depends greatly on your solar exposure and ambient environment - both temperature and solar influx (amount or sunlight you get and distribution through the day and year). In optimal conditions, or in areas with very high energy costs, it can save you money over the long term. Unfortunately, nature works against you - in the winter when it is easiest to use it and the most beneficial, is also when you tend ot have the least solar energy reaching the US, and also tend to have lower solar influx due to winter clouds.


Generally, using solar to heat water is the easiest because you do not have to mate your solar energy with the household power system, so you can avoid much of the expensive (and maintenance prone) electronic phase matching and and variable voltage controls needed for that. Using it to generate electricity for the household circuits costs more.


Generally, on the average, the technology is just reaching the stage where larger installations on commercial building can be economic, but for residential use it represents a substantial up-front capital cost that you may or may not recover - especially since the average people moves every 5 years or less, and in many areas you will not recover the investment in resale price. That, plus the fact many buyers do not want the maintenance costs and operational risks of a solar power system can make it a negative when you do go to sell - so my recommendation, after having worked on a number of both commercial/industrial and residential systems, is unless you intend to stays in the house foreever, or pay incredibly high power rates, put your money into improving the thermal efficiency of the house first, then into more efficient heating/cooling system if your current efficiency is low. You generally get a lot more bang for your buck that way.


One additional thought - there are companies out there now installing residential systems on a "lease" or contract basis where it is paid off over time - read the fine print VERY closely, as the few I have seen involve a lien on your house which can impact resale, some actually require payoff in full if you sell the house, and the others require the buyer assume the lease/contract but theones I saw STILL kept the original signatory liable - so you can end up responsible for the payments on a system on a house you no longer own ! I also saw one proposed contract that used a 15% annual pecentage rate - pretty much a guarantee it would never pay for itself (to the homeowner).

Answered 4 years ago by LCD




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