Man in construction gear putting solar panels on house.

Is My House Good For Solar Panels? 3 Signs Your Home Is Ready To Go Solar

Apr 5, 2022

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Have you caught yourself asking some version of these questions:

"Is solar right for my house?” 

"Is my house good for solar panels?"

If you're asking these questions, it's one of the first steps you take to rig your house for solar. 

There are many different types of solar panels and arrangements in residential spaces, so it can be a bit confusing to decide if your house is good for solar panels.

Let's help you piece together how to determine whether your home is ready to go solar. We'll go through three signs that your home is ready to go solar and consider some other factors as well.

1. The Roof Is In Good Condition

You roof should be in good condition before you add solar panels.  

Most roofs are compatible with solar panels, but you may need to make adjustments to your current roof. For example, if your roof has leaks or is damaged, if it has missing, broken or sagging shingles, if there are holes or dark spots, if you see ice or tree damage or if there’s improper installation, it might not be suitable as-is for solar panels.

Wood and slate roofs are also not ideal for installing solar because they are brittle and harder to install on – it can be done but the installation will cost more.

Ultimately, it's a good idea to have a contractor look at your roof and give you some feedback as to whether solar panels will be a good fit for your current roof. Also, verify that your contractor knows how to install solar panels without damaging your roof.

How Often Should I Replace My Roof?

It's important to maintain your roof and conduct regular visual checks or hire a roof inspector to determine the state of your roof. How long your roof lasts depends on the materials used. In general, here is how long the following roof types will last:

  • Composition shingles: 12 – 20 years
  • Asphalt shingles: 15 – 30 years
  • Wood shingles: 20 – 25 years
  • Rubber roofs: 30 – 50 years
  • Metal roofs: 50 – 75 years

2. The Location Gets A Lot Of Direct Sunlight

The location and the direction the home faces will affect the amount of direct sunlight it gets. Solar panels should be positioned due south to be most effective. However, even if your roof doesn't face south, you can get them installed to face either southwest or southeast. Your installer can also use a rack to adjust the orientation of the solar panels.

3. There Are Few Obstructions Blocking Sunlight

Obstructions (like satellite dishes) can impact where solar panels are placed and how much sunlight they can take in. The amount of shade you get affects how well your solar panels work. If you have a lot of overhanging trees or can't otherwise get a lot of sunlight to your home, your home might not be a great candidate for solar panels. However, cutting back the trees could be one option to make sure your roof gets enough sun.

Other Factors To Consider

Several other factors determine whether your home is set up well for renewable energy, specifically solar. Pitch, shape and size, your existing electric panel, length of time you're planning on staying in the home and cost should factor into your decision.

Pitch

The pitch of your roof makes a difference, and is calculated by taking the vertical rise divided by the horizontal run. Most people consider the ideal angle for a solar panel to be 30 degrees. Steeper roofs (such as anything over 40 degrees) may affect solar panel efficiency and may prompt safety issues because it might be hard to get on the roof. If you have a flat roof, installers may have to angle the solar panels.

Shape And Size

The shape and size of your roof affects how easy it is to place solar panels on your roof. Five kilowatts of solar requires you to have 300 feet of surface area on your roof. Anything that gets in the way of the surface of your roof (dormers, chimneys and other features) can affect how your solar panels work on your roof.

How Long You’re Planning On Staying In The Home

The length of time you plan to live in your home can help you determine whether solar panels will make sense for you. Knowing what's called the "payback period" can help you figure out how long before you'll start to save on electric bills. The solar panel payback period is a calculation that estimates how long it will take for you to break even on your solar energy investment. Consider your mortgage term length and how long you plan to stay in the home in order to recoup solar panel installation costs.

The Cost

The upfront cost of installing panels is probably hanging heavy in your mind. An average residential system cost ranges from $12,000 – $40,000, depending on your location and roof type. There are federal, state and local incentives and rebates that can help reduce these initial costs if you qualify. 

The good thing is, solar systems don't require much maintenance. Clearing debris (such as after a snowstorm or dust storm) may be required to make sure the sun's rays penetrate the solar panels. Warranties often cover the expense of services. An annual inspection may cost you about $150 on average.

Your Electric Panel

You might need a new electrical panel, especially if you live in an older home. Most residential solar panel systems require a maximum 200-amp panel, which can cost $1,000 – $3,000 to install or replace.

The Bottom Line: Explore Your Solar Financing Options

If you're considering adding this type of renewable energy to your roof, your number one goal is probably to trim your electricity bill. However, whether it will actually work the way you prefer depends on a few things, including the amount of direct sunlight you get and the square footage of your roof, as well as your roof condition, pitch, shape and size. You'll also need to consider the upfront installation costs, costs of maintenance (don't worry, it's usually minimal!) as well as the costs of the electric panel.

Homeowners, ready to take the next step with solar? Learn more about whether solar panels are worth it on Rocket SolarSM.

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