Evaluating Your Home’s Solar Potential Before Installation

valuable insights into evaluating your residence's solar potential

Considering the switch to solar energy? You're likely pondering a few questions: Is solar cost-effective? Is my roof suitable for solar panels? Will solar energy produce enough electricity for my household? Who offers the best solar panels? 

Before diving in, it's essential to assess if solar panels are a practical choice for your home.

This guide provides valuable insights into evaluating your residence's solar potential, helping you determine if solar energy through panels is a viable option.

Factors to Consider When Evaluating Your Property's Solar Energy Potential

Before committing to a solar energy system, it's crucial to gauge your property's suitability for solar energy. Here are key factors to consider when determining if solar energy is a feasible solution for your home or business in the US:

Assess Your Energy Bill

Understanding your current energy expenses is the initial step in assessing your home's solar viability. The primary question: will solar power save you money? While electricity costs vary by region, most homeowners grapple with hefty monthly bills. 

Typically, solar becomes financially advantageous for households with monthly electricity expenses surpassing $75. This threshold ensures that transitioning to solar leads to substantial savings. 

Consult local solar installers to explore available rebates, federal incentives, and electricity policies, tailoring your solar solution to meet your needs and budget.

Evaluate Your Roof Type

Solar panels perform optimally with robust, durable roofing materials like composite or asphalt shingle, concrete tile, or standing seam metal. 

While alternative materials such as wood shake or slate tile necessitate specialized installation expertise, it's crucial to choose a solar professional well-versed in installing panels on such roofs. Additionally, consider the mounting hardware proposed by your solar installer for seamless integration.

Roof Replacement Consideration

Before installing solar panels, assess the condition of your roof. It's advisable to replace an aging roof nearing the end of its lifespan to avoid premature panel removal. 

Given the extended lifespan of solar panels, ranging from 25 to 40 years, installing them on roofs in good condition ensures long-term efficiency and minimal maintenance costs.

Sunlight Exposure Analysis

Determining your roof's sunlight exposure is paramount in assessing its solar potential. Utilize solar panel suitability checkers like Google's Project Sunroof or pvwatts.nrel.gov to gauge solar viability. 

Schedule a solar consultation to evaluate your home's orientation, roof angle, and potential shading from trees, optimizing solar energy capture to meet your household's needs.

Climate Considerations

Solar energy remains viable across diverse climates, from rainy locales like Seattle to scorching regions like Los Angeles. High-efficiency solar panels efficiently convert direct and indirect sunlight into electricity, ensuring reliable energy generation even on cloudy days. 

Consult with solar experts to estimate your system's energy output and potential savings based on your local climate.

Local Regulations and Incentives

Explore local regulations and incentives impacting solar power benefits in your area. Certain regions offer lucrative solar incentives, tax credits, or rebates, enhancing solar investments' affordability and financial returns. 

Familiarize yourself with regulations governing solar panel size and placement, ensuring compliance while maximizing financial advantages.

Assessing Your Home's Solar Potential

Now equipped with insights into critical solar potential factors, it's time to evaluate your home's suitability for solar power. Transitioning to solar energy demands careful consideration and informed decision-making. Assess your solar potential using the following methods:

Online Solar Calculators and Tools

Leverage online solar calculators for a preliminary assessment based on your location, roof characteristics, and shading. While convenient, these tools may need more accuracy due to oversights in factoring roof pitch or nearby obstructions.

Professional Solar Assessment

Opt for a professional solar assessment involving a site visit by experienced installers equipped with specialized equipment. While more accurate, professional assessments may incur additional costs.

DIY Solar Site Evaluations

For hands-on individuals, conduct a DIY evaluation by gathering relevant information about your home's location, roof orientation, and shading. 

Utilize tools like solar pathfinders and compasses for a comprehensive assessment, acknowledging potential limitations in accuracy compared to professional evaluations.

DIY Solar Energy Output Estimation Guide

For a quick estimate of solar energy output:

  • Access the PVWatts Calculator by visiting pvwatts.nrel.gov. Input your home or business address into the "Get Started" field located near the top of the page, then click the "GO" button.
  • On the next page (SOLAR RESOURCE DATA), verify that the default weather location is the closest one to your residence. If not, utilize the map and select the arrow that corresponds to your location.
  • Proceed by clicking the prominent orange arrow on the right side of the page to navigate to the "System Info" section.
  • Within the SYSTEM INFO page, click on the conspicuous orange arrow to proceed to the PVWatts results.
  • Examine the prominent dark-blue figure displayed at the top of the page, followed by "kWh/Year." This value represents the estimated amount of usable electricity that a medium-sized solar system can generate at your location over the course of one year.

It's essential to understand a few concepts."kWh/Year" refers to kilowatt-hours per year, which represents the amount of electrical energy consumed over a year. For instance, if you operate a 10-watt light bulb for 100 hours, you consume 1 kilowatt-hour of energy.

In the United States, the average household electricity usage amounts to approximately 11,000 kWh per year or about 917 kWh per month. However, households inclined towards eco-friendliness typically have lower usage than this average. 

To determine your household's electricity consumption, you can review a year's worth of utility bills or check your online utility account, which usually tracks monthly usage throughout the year.

Secondly, the kWh figure derived from the quick estimate is based on default values provided on the PVWatts SYSTEM INFO page. These defaults are tailored for standard rooftop systems, with predetermined values for factors such as roof slope (referred to as "tilt") and the orientation of the rooftop (referred to as "azimuth"). 

Additionally, there's a default setting for system size, which essentially dictates the number of solar panels required. The default size is set at 4 kilowatts (kW).

For precise predictions, consult with solar professionals to tailor your solar solution to your household's unique needs and maximize energy efficiency.


Transitioning to solar power presents an opportunity to reduce your carbon footprint and slash energy expenses. 

However, thorough evaluation of your home's solar potential is essential before investing in solar panels. 

By understanding key factors influencing solar viability and exploring assessment options, you can make an informed decision and reap the long-term benefits of solar energy.