should i install solar panels
Click through to find out what's possible with solar in your town.Photo: Google
Source: Project Sunroof data explorer (February 2017)Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google Photo: Google
Homeowners who have toyed with the idea of installing solar panels on their roof now have a new tool to help them make up their mind.
Google’s Project Sunroof can tell residents of all 50 states if their rooftop gets enough sun for solar panels, the company announced earlier this month. The tool, which previously only covered San Francisco, Fresno, Calif., and Boston, now includes most of Connecticut.
Project Sunroof lets people search their home address and assess its solar potential. It also tells homeowners how much money they can save if they decide to go solar and how much it would cost them to lease or buy panels.
Many Connecticut homeowners have already jumped on the solar energy bandwagon. Nearly 23, 000 Connecticut homes had solar panels as of February and about 80 percent of them were purchased in the last three years, according to data from the Connecticut Green Bank, a quasi-public state agency.
“We’re seeing solar explode in Connecticut, ” said Kerry O’Neill, vice president of residential programs at the Green Bank. “But it’s still this under-told story where folks have this assumption that this is too expensive for them.”
Bridgeport residents Clive and Christine Griffiths were the first homeowners on their street to go solar. They live with their four children and two grandchildren in a one-family house and their energy bills averaged $400 a month in the winter. They replaced their furnace, fridge, and water heater; yet their bills were still eating up their budget.
The couple started leasing solar panels in 2015 from PosiGen, a New Orleans-based company that helps homeowners lease solar panels through a partnership with the Connecticut Green Bank. The installation lowered the Griffiths energy bill by more than two-thirds, or about $17 in August and $230 in January, Clive Griffiths said. But it’s still not as low as he’d like in the winter months.
“I’m happy with my choice, ” Griffiths said. “I was a little disappointed last month. But I know that in the winter the roof doesn’t get as much sunlight, so the bill was a little high.”
According to Project Sunroof, Griffiths’ solar panels will save him $24, 000 over the next 20 years.
“Early adopters were brave and are now seeing great savings on their utility bills, ” said PosiGen Vice President Beth Galante.
Last year, the average solar price per watt was $3.80, a 14 percent decrease since 2013, according to the Green Bank.
The technology is also getting better. Modern solar systems can now collect more sunlight with fewer panels for people whose roof is partially shaded. The new Google data shows that about 68 percent of all rooftops analyzed in Fairfield County are technically viable for solar installations.
What makes a rooftop perfect for solar? That good sunshine, for starters. Roof inclination, nearby trees, and weather patterns can affect how much sun hits your panels.
“If your roof needs to be replaced, you also need to do that before you go solar because your panels are going to last for 25 years or more, ” O’Neill said.
The Green Bank also requires all Connecticut customers to go through a home energy audit. O’Neill recommends that homeowners on a budget start making their home as energy-efficient as possible before pursuing solar.