Solar energy is an exciting renewable energy source that, if right for you, can save homeowners significant amounts of money on their heating, electricity, and water bills.  There are a number of alternative energy sources available, so how can you know if solar power is right for you?  When making the decision to switch from traditional energy sources, you'll want to consider a few things.

First, you will want to make sure that solar energy is a viable option for your location.  Take a few days to look at the patterns of sunlight on your property, and note any areas that get full sun throughout the day.  These are likely the best candidates for your panels.  Likewise, make note of any areas that are mostly shaded.  You'll want to avoid these areas, or modify them to create better sunlight conditions.  Always remember that even if a small area of a solar panel is shaded, it can significantly reduce the potential output.  Take the time to do a thorough analysis of your property, ideally with the help of a professional, to ensure you'll get your money's worth.

Next, contact your municipal offices to determine if there are any restrictions or bylaws that apply to your area.  Some municipalities have building height restrictions, or may require that you get permission from your neighbours before beginning to build.  Others require that the installation be supervised by a licensed electrician, or restrict the types of grid tie-in systems you can use.  It's important to get all the information before you begin to build; Omissions in this phase of planning can mean a lot of money wasted having to redo portions of the installation.

Finally, research solar panel costs and make sure you know exactly what you'll need.  A simple, low-output solar panel is relatively inexpensive and can be purchased for a few hundred dollars, but a full solar setup that generates enough juice to power a whole house will often cost fifteen thousand dollars or more.  Talk to several reputable companies that do installations in your area, and if any offer free consultations or quotes, don't hesitate to schedule one!  Everyone's needs will be different, so make sure you have a solid idea of exactly what it is you need to ensure the quotes you get are accurate.  Don't forget to plan for battery banks, grid tie-in systems, and any permit or inspection costs that may apply in your area.

A solid plan and thorough research will ensure that you can make an informed decision about using solar energy in your home.  There are many useful resources online that can be helpful in the early planning phases, but your best source of information will be your local municipal offices, and the solar energy professionals in your area.  If you decide that solar energy is right for you and your family, you'll join the millions of people around the world who have made the choice to save money by adopting this environmentally-friendly new renewable energy source!