Online solar calculators are everywhere these days. In fact, it seems like nearly every website related to photovoltaic energy has its own now. Simply type in some basic information, and these tools offer size recommendations and some type of cost estimate for purchasing a PV solar energy system.
But can you really rely on an online calculator to plan your photovoltaic installation?
In some cases you can, but it’s important to understand the limitations inherent in these seemingly convenient tools.
If you use an accurate solar calculator, you’ll get information that can be helpful in planning your switch to photovoltaic power.
Mapdwell, an online tool created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Google’s Project Sunroof both use advanced, high-resolution imagery to provide more precise results. However, neither of these calculators covers the entire Intermountain West.
PVWatts, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), offers detailed and reliable estimates for home PV systems. In fact, the solar power calculator here on the Intermountain Wind & Solar website uses data from PVWatts.
You can trust the results from online tools like Mapdwell, Project Sunroof, PVWatts and our own solar power calculator, but they aren’t intended to be used as your only source of information. Planning a home PV system based only on the data they provide can’t give you the whole story.
Online calculators use state-of-the-art, precise technology — but their results are only accurate if you’re accurate. Without a thorough understanding of how photovoltaic power works, you might misunderstand some of the terms and enter incorrect information. Even one simple error could skew your results.
Plus, solar power calculators may not factor financial incentives like tax credits, rebates and grants into the total.
Finally, like any type of computer-generated information, the results you get from a solar calculator lack invaluable human analysis and input.
Using online tools can give you a general understanding of your home’s solar potential and a rough idea of system cost. However, planning the design and installation of a photovoltaic power system is best left to the professionals.
Professional solar contractors have the knowledge and experience to calculate the optimal size, configuration and placement of a home PV system. And by conducting an in-person analysis of your rooftop and property, a contractor will be able to factor in details that online solar calculators might miss.
Finally, a local professional contractor knows about all the financial incentives and financing options applicable to your location in the Intermountain West. And with an individual consultation, you’ll have the chance to ask all your questions about making the switch to photovoltaic power.
We recommend that you check out the online tools for a preliminary home PV estimate, then schedule a free consultation with the professional contractors at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the leading photovoltaic provider in Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada.
Don’t invest in a home PV system based on the advice of an online solar calculator alone. Let us help you plan the ideal photovoltaic array to meet your energy needs.
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