How to Self-Assess your Home for Solar Panels

Q&A from our 'Learn about Solar' series.

This article explains how you can self-assess your home to see if it makes sense to consider purchasing and installing solar panels.

  1. First step is to find your home on Google Maps.

  2. After you find your home, on the bottom-left corner there is an image to toggle to see your home in "Earth"-mode.

  3. Zoom in so that you can see all of your home.

  4. Now is where you need to get creative. Look at the roof areas of your home. Find a roof that is "South"-facing. South is at the bottom of your screen. Solar panels need to be facing south-ward because in the United States, the best sunlight is coming from the south.

  5. Once you locate a south-facing roof, ensure that it is not shaded by any trees or other obstacles. Solar panels need to be in the sunlight as much as possible.

  6. If you've made it this far - you are in luck - you definitely have a home that will work for Solar Energy. The next step is to see how many panels your home can accommodate.

  7. Get the square footage of your home's south-facing roof. Google Maps has a way you can easily do this: Right click on one corner of your home's roof, and select "Measure Distance".

  8. Then work in a circle around your roof and select each corner. Once you make it the whole way around, it will give you the square footage of your roof.

    As you can see from my home above, I try to keep my selections all at right angles because panels cannot be installed skewed.

  9. Typical panels are around 18-19 sq feet in area. So you can do the math to determine how many solar panels your home's roof can hold. My roof can hold around 36.

  10. Now the image above is from an actual solar company I contacted to assess my home. They did this without coming out to my home, and he sent me it directly to my email.

  11. Here is the email that was sent along with my home's quote.

    Here is the preliminary quote for that system. Please take a look and let me know what you think about it. I project that for the PV array located on the detached garage that we can install a total of 36 300-Watt Solar World panels totaling 10.8 kW of capacity at a cost of $34,000. Allowing for use of the 30% Federal Tax Credit and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC's), the out-of-pocket cost of the system, after the first year, should equal around $23,800.

    Considering the available orientation and potential shading factors, we estimate this system should produce around 12,500 kWh of power in that first year. In this scenario, based on the current apparent cost of utility power, after applying all available incentives and accounting for inflation, this should yield a payback of around 11-12 years.

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