The Tiny house Blog

The Uncensored Guide to Solar for Your Home (Beginner Friendly!)

Updated on:
September 12, 2023
Roof top deck with solar panels on tiny house on wheels

During the last few years, we have seen more and more homeowners turn to solar systems as means of energy production for their households. The reason? A rapid increase in energy prices and the alarming depletion of energy sources.

Electricity price in the residential sector in the US is predicted to increase by 1.3 percent in 2022. The trend is expected to continue upward as energy consumption rises with climate change and the non-renewable sources continue exhausting.

In light of the current energy crisis, solar systems seem a promising solution to our electricity woes. They are easy to install and breezy to maintain, and the long-term solar panel savings make up for the initial installment cost.

If you are a homeowner in the US and are thinking of saving a few hundred dollars every month on your electricity bill, solar may be the right choice for you. This post will walk you through all the basics you need to know about getting solar for your home.

Roof top deck with solar panels on tiny house on wheels
Roof top Deck with Solar Panels

How does solar work?

Solar panels house millions of electrons that receive energy from the sun and convert it into electricity through their rapid motion.

The primary components of a solar system are a battery and a set of solar panels. Solar panels, also called PV panels, are the same as the tiny solar cell in your calculator, only more significant. American inventor Russel Ohl first developed these panels in 1941.

There are layers of multiple elements in a panel. Phosphorus and silicon provide a positive charge, while boron produces a negative charge. 

When sunlight hits these layers, electrons are emitted from them, and due to the opposite charges, they start flowing in a single direction, producing current. The process is called the photovoltaic effect and is the basic principle on which solar works.

The power generated in this manner is typically enough to run an average household during the day and save energy in the solar batteries used at night.

Commonly, solar systems consist of panels, batteries, a charge controller, and sometimes an inverter. The inverter converts direct current or DC into alternating current or AC that runs most domestic appliances.

Key benefits of solar panels in the USA

The US has considerable scope for solar panels due to the ample supply of sunlight in most of its states. Below are the main benefits of solar panels for your home:

  • Solar will curb your energy expenses. Generating your energy means a significant decrease in your electricity bill. An efficient system will even render you independent of the grid power supply.
  • It is the greener alternative. Solar energy poses little to no threat to the environment, contrary to the conventional energy production methods that cause considerable damage.
  • Solar installation is easier than ever. Technological advancements and growth in the renewable energy market have made solar systems accessible now.
  • Solar panels are a profitable investment. The money they save you on your power bills will quickly pay off the installation cost and give you a monthly profit as free energy.
  • They increase property's worth. A home with an installed solar system will cost a lot more than one that doesn't.
Solar panels on a tiny house on wheels

Are solar panels worth the investment?

Solar panels are worth the investment because solar energy guarantees a great return in the long run and is non-hazardous to the environment, unlike energy generated by fossil fuel combustion.

With the drastic increase in energy bills, the residents in the US are looking for long-term solutions. According to a survey report in 2020, it has been observed that the number of homes with solar panels is increasing rapidly. 

Solar panels are one of the best renewable energy sources that save you money and add to the value of your property. Although the installation and maintenance of solar panels are expensive, if you plan to live in the same house for at least ten years, then solar panels can offer a good ROI. You can also earn money by selling the excess power back to the grid. 

Cost of solar panels based on system size

It has been evaluated that the installation cost of solar panels ranges from $17,538 to $23,458, including federal sales tax. The cost of a single panel is around $200, whereas its installation requires $20,498.  

These quotes are directly proportional to the size of the system and vary with the complexity of your project. The bigger the solar panel system, the more it costs. But it is important to note that a more significant solar system will save you more money in the long run. 

Based on the system size, an average solar panel cost is as follows:

  • 2 kW solar panel charges $4,159 in system costs. 
  • 10 kW solar panel charges $20,794 in system costs. 
  • 25 kW solar panel charges $31,985 in system costs. 

Note that the above prices are inclusive of the state-federal tax.

Average installation costs

The average installation costs of the solar panel vary by provider. Even a local solar panel contractor will charge between 75 cents to $1.25 per watt. Many factors impact the average installation costs of solar panels, including:

  • System’s size: the size is directly proportional to the cost. The bigger the size, the pricier it will be. 
  • Brand and quality: several solar panel brands are available in the marketplace, differing in quality and performance. 
  • Labor: the rates of technicians are different in solar companies.  
  • Permit cost: you have to pay for permits and interconnection fees to the central grid system before installing the solar system in your house. 

Average energy savings

The average energy savings depend upon the amount of photovoltaic (PV) energy produced by your installed system. The more it generates energy, the more you can save with solar panels. 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration survey report, an average home consumes 909 kWh of energy per month, and a typical solar system produces 850 kilowatt-hours per month. 

Hence we can conclude that a solar system can save 90% on your total electricity bills. How much you will save from solar panels also depends upon several critical factors, which include:

  • Direct hours of daily sunlight on the solar panels.
  • Size of the solar panels.
  • The angle of your roof. 

Types of solar panels for domestic purposes

Choosing the perfect type of solar panels is vital as it will impact the overall cost. There are basic types of solar panels, which are defined as follows:

Solar Roof Shingles: 

If your primary goal is to save money and reduce electricity bills, solar roof shingles are the best option. The trending option available in the current competitive marketplace will make your roof look more beautiful with architectural shingles. 

They are more durable and efficient as compared to asphalt shingles.  Each solar shingle can generate up to 13 to 67 watts of solar energy and protect your roof effectively by withstanding any weather conditions.  

Polycrystalline Solar Panels: 

As you have read above, solar panels are made up of crystalline cells. The polycrystalline-type solar cells are rectangular and made up of melted silicon. But the polycrystalline solar panels are not as efficient as monocrystalline solar panels.    

Monocrystalline Solar Panels:  

Unlike polycrystalline solar panels, monocrystalline solar panels can generate more energy from the sun and are more heat tolerant. Due to their unique cylindrical shape, these cells develop a higher energy output. 

Also, these solar panels tend to last longer and come with extended warranties. But the advantages come with a price, and the monocrystalline solar panels are more expensive than polycrystalline solar panels. 

Thin Film Solar Panels: They are newer in the solar panel world and are less frequently used for domestic purposes. As the name implies, the thin-film solar panel comprises layers of semiconductors materials, including silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide. 

It is a good option for those who do not like the appearance of solar panels on their roof. Compared to the aforementioned types, thin-film solar panels are inexpensive and more flexible. 

Criteria to consider when choosing solar panels for your home

It is crucial to identify the advantages and disadvantages of solar panels because different brands offer different standards.  There are seven essential things to consider when selecting the best solar panel for your home. 

  • Type of solar panel:

Each type of solar panel comes with some advantages and disadvantages. The monocrystalline solar panel is the most efficient, but it's pretty expensive compared to other types. Polycrystalline is a bit cheaper, but it is not very efficient. 

Likewise, the output power of thin-film solar panels is not as much as its counterparts. Still, customers are attracted to this panel type due to its lightweight and flexibility during the installation process. 

  • Performance of the panels:

Good performance ensures fast charging of panels and production of enough energy as per your requirement. The average efficiency of solar panels is somewhere between 15%-20%. Keep the range in mind while looking for a solar panel.

  • Size of the panels:

Panel size is an essential consideration since they produce energy per square meter. So if you are looking for a system that provides power to your entire house, first ensure that you have sufficient space to house solar panels. 

  • Appropriate space on the roof:

A solid installation system is crucial to avoid any mishaps. You don’t want your panels flying off in case of wind. Therefore check the necessary certifications of the panel provider to avoid any hassle in the future.  

Also, figuring out the areas of your roof that are exposed to direct sunlight before installing solar panels is pivotal. Installing them in the regions that receive little sunlight will affect their production capacity.

  • Longevity:

Durability is the key factor you should consider before investing in a solar panel project. Always choose panels that are high on durability to avoid any downtime. Manufacturers must ensure the validity of their solar panels to satisfy the customers. 

  • Warranty:

Consider a provider that will facilitate you with a more extended warranty period to get the most out of your investment and tackle sudden defects quickly. 

Best solar panels for your home

The best type of solar panels depends upon your requirements and purpose. Polycrystalline solar panels are best suited for large residential properties having plenty of roof space. 

On the other hand, monocrystalline solar panels are best for smaller residential properties as they provide enough efficiency and power at reasonable rates. The thin-film solar panels are primarily used in commercial buildings and are rarely seen in homes as they are less efficient than the other two types. 

Do I need planning permission to install solar panels?

No, you don’t need planning permission to install solar panels as they fall under ‘permitted development.’

You need to follow specific laws and regulations while installing a solar panel on rooftops. Solar panels have been designated as ‘permitted development,’ but few exceptions are still there, including whether the house or building is certified listed. Also, you must be within a preservation boundary to install solar panels. Some other laws you need to abide by are: 

  • The panel array should not go higher than your roof.
  • Panels must not exceed 200mm off the roof edge.
  • If you are not using them for power generation, you should remove the panels.

Best practices when it comes to installing solar for the first time

The best practices when it comes to installing solar for the first time are as follows:

  • Erect the scaffolding after the whole installation process is safely insured. 
  • The tilting angle of the mounting structure must be between 18 degrees to 36 degrees so that the maximum area of the panel is exposed to sunlight.
  • It is essential to tighten up all the bolts and brackets while installing solar panels on the mounting structure.
  • Use MC4 connectors for the electrical wiring of the solar panels. Make sure that the main electricity supply of the house is shut off during the wiring.
  • Solar inverters are connected to the system after installing the solar panel. Place the solar inverter in the coolest area of the house for efficient results.
  • After that solar inverter should be connected to the consumer unit to produce solar energy, you can also use your device to monitor the system's overall performance.

How long does the solar installation process take?

The time for solar installation depends on a few factors, such as your requirements, labor efficiency, and approval of the local inspector.

The time for each installation process also varies based on your residential area, your solar company, and the number of members in a team installing solar panels. Local permitting can take up to 3-6 weeks to construct the project. 

According to the client's rooftop, it may take 1-2 weeks to design the solar system. In contrast, the installation process can take 1-2 days. 

After installing solar panels, you have to wait for the local inspector to make sure that solar panels are mounted according to the given plan. This step can take up to one week, depending on your residential location. 

How do I access state solar incentives?

The US government provides a few solar incentives that you can check and see if you comply with any one of them.

There are different solar incentives that you can take advantage of. Some of these local incentives are listed below:  

  • Low-interest Loans: Many loans are available to promote solar and other green energy systems. The interest rates in these loans are below-average rates.  
  • Property Tax Relief: Some states do not include solar in property tax, thus reducing the burden on the owner.  
  • Tax Credits: This program is designed to minimize the amount of tax you pay on your solar by deducting a specific amount from the project.


Installing solar panels saves more than just money – it saves our planet. It is an eco-friendly alternative to the electricity produced by the combustion of fossil fuels, giving off deadly gases and exploiting our reserves.

At a glance, solar systems do seem expensive to install, but the long-term saving, possible earnings, government incentives, and the independence from the grid adds a whole new perspective to it. And the rapid increase in American solar users proves it.

With our detailed guide to solar, planning to get one is easier than ever. All you need to do is study your circumstances and contact a nearby provider to get an estimate. 

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