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It used to be that “green-homes” were considered a trend. Homeowners wishing to do their part for the planet took the lead by incorporating technologies such as green roofs, low-flow toilets, and sustainable building materials into their houses. More and more however, green is becoming mainstream – especially in areas where going green can save you green! This is the case with residential solar panels.

Between rising hydro costs, environmental concerns and the desire to generate some extra household income, more and more Ontario residents are turning to solar energy as a solution. Possibly you are in the process of house hunting and considering buying a home that already has solar panels. Or perhaps you want to make sure that the next home you purchase is suitable for an upgrade to solar panels. Whatever the case, there are a number of factors to take into account first.

How solar power works

Homeowners looking to harness to the sun’s power will need to install a series of thin silicon panels. These semiconductors produce an electrical current when they are hit by the sun’s rays. Solar cells can be angle mounted on your property but most urban homeowners prefer to use their rooftops so that they will not have to sacrifice any yard space.

Will solar power be effective for your home?

While there is great appeal for many homeowners in being independent of the grid, solar power is not for everyone. Fortunately most solar panel companies offer free assessments to determine whether your home is suitable for solar.

In general though, you will need a south-slanting roof (slightly west or east facing roofs may also work). Flat roofs can work as well, but keep in mind this requires a more complex set-up and will therefore be more expensive to install.

Most solar users stay connected to the grid and can use hydro after the sun goes down. Staying connected to the grid also has the added advantage of allowing the homeowner to sell power back to the utility company when they produce more than they can use themselves.

The cost of solar power

The sun’s rays are free, the technology to harness them will still require a substantial upfront investment. For an average sized home which requires approximately 30 panels, the cost is in the $30-40K range, not including the cost to connect to the power grid.

While this may seem like an exorbitant sum to many, keep in mind that if you intend to live in your home for a long time, the expense may be well worth it. Homeowners with solar panels can save thousands of dollars per year, and a solar panel system will usually pay for itself within 25 years.

Additionally, there are many subsidy programs offered by municipal and provincial governments as well as by utility companies that can help homeowners offset the cost of installing solar panels.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, save money and possibly even generate some income, installing solar panels may be an option for you.

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