How Much Energy Do Solar Panels Save & Produce?
As global warming worsens, more and more homeowners are doing their part to help the environment by installing solar panels, which convert sunlight into electric energy. The result is clean, renewable energy that powers your household while reducing your carbon footprint.
While there are many advantages to owning solar panels, they’re also a big investment. Before you make the move, it’s normal to wonder: how much energy do solar panels save and produce? The truth is, there’s no universal answer to this question – it depends on a variety of factors, such as:
- The size of your solar system
- How much direct sunlight your area receives
- The cost of electricity in your area
- Whether you own or lease your solar panels
To determine how much energy solar panels may help you save, let’s take a closer look at each of these categories.
Are you thinking about installing solar panels? Get a free custom estimate by contacting Photon Brothers at 720-370-3344 (Colorado) or 805-351-3371 (California). We pride ourselves on our 5-star quality service and are more than happy to design a custom solar system that meets your precise needs.
Want an instant estimate? Click below to use our free solar calculator!
1. The Size of Your Solar System
The first factor to consider is size. This doesn’t just refer to the number of solar panels or size of your inverter — it’s also about the quality of panels and their positioning. Let’s break this down further.
Number and Type of Solar Panels Installed
There’s no universal answer when it comes to the optimal number of solar panels.
Unsurprisingly, the more solar panels you have, the more energy you’ll generate. However, you don’t want to overdo it. As a rule of thumb, you should have more solar panels than necessary to fulfill your minimum energy needs.
Now, you might be thinking: what are my energy needs? On average, an American home uses 2,400 watts per hour (per 12 hours of sunlight). If we divide 2,400 by 100 watts (which is what a conventional solar panel produces), we get 24 solar panels. However, the work isn’t done just yet.
It’s important to remember that the efficiency of solar panels is influenced by sunlight. If there’s not much sunlight, your solar panels won’t produce as much energy — thus, you need more than the bare minimum of panels to make up the difference.
Another factor to consider is quality. Not all panels are created equally — some produce 100 watts, while others produce up to 400. Similarly, some panels can only perform optimally when there is full sunlight, while more expensive panels remain efficient in poor weather conditions.
Ultimately, if you want to enjoy a high amount of solar energy, go with quality over quantity. Learn more about calculating your solar panel amount here.
The Size of Your Inverter
Did you know that solar panels don’t generate the same form of energy as your home’s electricity? In the US, the electricity that flows out of outlets is known as alternating current (AC) power. Solar panels, however, create direct current (DC) power, a one-way current that’s not compatible with a standard home. Your system will need an inverter to convert this DC power into AC power.
This device re-routes the DC input to imitate AC power, enabling homeowners to enjoy solar power when plugging in their devices. However, inverters aren’t one-size-fits-all — they’re specifically sized for your solar system.
If your inverter isn’t sized correctly, you’ll lose some energy that would otherwise be converted into AC power. Generally, the inverter should match your solar panel wattage. So, if you have a 4,000-watt system, you’ll need a 400-watt inverter.
Your Roof Pitch and Panel Positioning
The angle of your roof and the position of your solar panels play a role in how much energy your panels can produce. In the Northern Hemisphere, the optimal solar panel positioning is facing south on a roof that tilts at 30º. This angle is ideal for receiving direct sunlight.
Learn more about whether your roof is optimal for solar panels here.
2. How Much Direct Sunlight Your Area Receives
Your solar panels need at least a few hours of direct sunlight.
As mentioned earlier, solar panel efficiency is influenced by sunlight. This doesn’t mean you’ll be without electricity during stormy weather or at night. During sunny weather, solar panels produce more energy than needed at the time. If you have a solar battery, this energy is reserved in the system’s battery, where it will be used when there’s no sunlight available. If you don’t have a battery, excess energy is exported to the utility grid.
Of course, to charge the battery, you must be in an area that receives direct sunlight. Generally, you need at least four to five hours of direct sunlight per day to use solar panels.
3. The Cost of Electricity in Your Area
According to the US Energy Information Administration, Americans spent around $115 per month on electricity in 2019. An increasing number of homeowners are turning to solar panels to save money.
Although the initial investment of panels can be high, they reduce the amount of energy you use, ultimately lowering costs. Solar panels are especially cost-effective in areas with higher electricity costs, such as California and Colorado.
4. Whether You Own or Lease Your Solar Panels
When installing solar panels, you have two options: owning or leasing. You can either purchase the panels outright (or finance them through a solar lender). Or, you can lease them through a solar installer.
Although leasing programs are heavily advertised by big name solar companies, we don’t recommend it. These types of programs typically provide cookie-cutter solar panel designs that don’t maximize your sunlight gain or energy efficiency. You also won’t qualify for federal tax credits that could otherwise reduce your total installation costs.
We actually wrote a blog recently about the pros and cons of owning vs. leasing solar panels. Read more to learn about why owning solar panels provides higher savings and value to your home. And, if you’re looking for more hands-on advice, don’t hesitate to contact one of our solar panel installation professionals today.
Get a Free Solar Estimate!
At Photon Brothers, we have over 10 years of experience helping California and Colorado homeowners make the switch to renewable solar energy. Schedule a free custom estimate with our team of friendly, knowledgeable solar professionals and we’ll help you find the right system for your needs and budget. Our goal is to help you save as much money as possible!
Want an instant quote? Click below to use our online solar calculator.