# Fix-It Chick: Consider installing solar panels on your home

The cost-effectiveness of any solar-powered system depends on generating the optimal amount of energy.

Installing solar panels can increase the value of your home while decreasing overall energy costs. Due to energy tax credits, low interest rates and a dramatic decrease in the cost of solar panels over the past decade, solar power is more affordable than ever before. Follow these steps to determine if solar power is right for you.

Step 1: Consider placement. Each solar panel is approximately 64 inches by 40.5 inches. It takes three to four solar panels to generate one kilowatt of energy. Panels should ideally face south. East- or west-facing panels generate 25 percent less power than south-facing panels, so more panels may be necessary to generate the optimal amount of energy. Rooftops are typically preferred for panel installation, but installing panels on the ground is often a great option. Air flow, location and the angle of the panels all play a major part in solar power efficiency.

Step 2:
The cost effectiveness of any solar-powered system depends on generating the optimal amount of energy. Generating excess power is not cost effective. Calculate energy needs by gathering 12 months of electric bills. Locate the kilowatt hours (kWh) used on each month’s bill and add them together. This is the total yearly kilowatt hours used.

Step 3: If the home has gas heat, multiply the yearly kilowatt hours used by .7 to determine the optimal amount of total kilowatt hours desired.

Step 4: If your home has electric heat, multiply the yearly kilowatt hours used by .5 to determine the optimal amount of total kilowatt hours desired.

Step 5: Take the total kilowatt hours desired and divide it by 1400. This is the amount of kilowatts the solar panels will need to generate. For example, if the total kWh used last year was 12,000 and the house has gas heat, 12,000 x .7 = 8,400. Divide 8,400 by 1400 to get 6 kW — the optimal amount of energy needed.

Step 6:
Many states offer tax incentives for solar power installations. Currently there is a 30 percent federal tax credit for systems put in place before the end of 2019. If the credit exceeds tax liability for the year, it can be carried forward. The reduction in energy costs realized after solar panel installation typically offsets the cost of the installation. For more information, contact your local solar energy professional.

— Email Linda Cottin at hardware@sunflower.com.