Getting Started with Solar Power

I have a confession to make. I bought this site a few years ago with the intent of creating a site built around solar power and finding a greener way forward for myself. What I quickly learned is that I have no idea what I’m doing with all things solar. Moving forward I really want to share what I’m learning, products I’m looking at or using, and pointing out news/research regarding solar power.

Currently, I own about four solar-powered objects. This consists of landscaping lighting, a mobile device battery pack with integrated solar panel, a couple of solar powered lanterns for camping and a string of solar powered ambient lights on my deck.

I live in the midwest and have to live with the winter months. My focus going forward is how I can integrate my current life with solar power and reduce my dependence on grid-based energy consumption. Based on Google’s Project Sunroof, my house gets about 1,650 hours of usable sunlight per year and my roof has about 740 square feet available for solar panels.

Quick aside, Google’s Project Sunroof combines Google Earth along with sunlight projections and allows you to pinpoint your house and shows you the usable solar space on your roof. You can enter in different values for your current power consumption and get a rough idea of what you could invest in solar panels and anticipated usage/savings calculations.

solar roofing

Back to my house. In past estimates, I was looking at around $20,000 (after incentives) cost for installing a 7.5 kW solar system on my roof and a net 20 year savings of about $6000. This assumes professional installation and is just a rough estimate.

I’m not quite ready to drop to invest in that type of infrastructure, so I’ll be looking where I can augment my current usage. Maybe a small system to power electronics on my deck (outdoor TV, lighting, ceiling fan, etc.). I also don’t know that much about power storage, so this would be a good DIY project for myself since I already have the full tool kit.