What's the real truth behind all those ads?
Just searching around online for information about solar power, solar energy, and installing solar panels on your own home, you've probably run across many claims which say you can earn money from solar power. So is it true? Yes… sort of.
You see, it's not nearly as cut and dry as many advertisements would lead you to believe. There is a process involved, and for most people it requires extensive investments before you can actually start “making money” from the solar power you're generating.
It's becoming a well known fact that installing solar panels on your home can drastically reduce your electricity bills. In fact, if you install enough of them, you can eliminate your monthly electric bill entirely. And if you happen to generate extra electricity… and you live in the appropriate place… you might be able to get “paid” for the solar power you generate.
The catch though, is that you have to be generating more power from your solar panels than you actually use.
Most residential solar installations only provide part of the total household electric usage, because installing a large enough solar panel system to cover the entire load can cost upwards of $ 10,000. And even though building your own solar panels is much less expensive at an average of about $ 200 per panel, many standard size households in the United States need 10-20 panels just to get close to covering their own electricity usages each month.
Here's how the reality tends to work for most American families:
1. They install a small, starter solar panel system that's relatively inexpensive. This system helps them reduce their overall monthly electric bill, but in most cases the starter system only provides enough electricity to reduce the bills by 30%-50%.
Larger reductions can be obtained easily of course, simply by installing a larger solar panel system right from the start. Not everyone can afford that large initial investment though, so they go with a starter system instead.
2. Over time the family may add to their home solar panel array. As you add solar panels, you continue taking more of the load off of public electricity needs. This of course continues lowering your electricity bills.
3. If the family continues investing in additional solar panels over time, they will eventually reach the point where they are providing 100% of their own home's electricity needs. This is when the public electric bill is hopefully at $ 0.00 per month year round.
At that point, if the family wants to start “earning money” from their solar power installation, they will need to reduce their own power consumption, install more solar panels, or both. The only way they can earn money directly from this investment is to generate extra electrical power which can be sold back to the public electric company.
Not all electric companies will actually “buy back” the power you generate either. In fact, most of them simply give you energy credits which can be applied to your existing utility bill. In most cases if you have no electric bill to pay though, those credits can be cashed in a few times each year, for a partial part of their value.
So before you decide to install solar panels as a way to make money, evaluate your true situation first. Figure out how much electricity your family uses on average, and use that figure to know how many solar panels you'll need to buy. Calculate that cost first and if you're still determined to try and make money from this venture, research your local laws. Also be sure to talk to your local power company so you'll know their policies and restrictions before you invest more money than you need to.
Related Reading: How Much Solar Power Do I Need?