Should I go solar? Thousands of Americans are asking themselves that question every day. You may have asked the same question, or perhaps one of these:
Today, the costs of photovoltaic (PV) panels and alternative energy systems continue to plummet. The added financial incentives of state solar rebates and federal tax credits also make this investment quite appealing. But is it the right decision for you?
Now you can Google your house to find out, using Google’s newest online tool.
Google has created a website called Project Sunroof, which makes it easier for homeowners to determine if solar power is economically feasible. Using the power of Google Maps, Project Sunroof locates your home and computes the amount of sunlight that hits your roof in a year. The program uses the high-resolution aerial imagery of Google Earth’s database to create a 3D model of your roof.
In calculating your home’s sunlight, Project Sunroof takes other factors into account as well, including shadows cast by trees and nearby structures as well as the sun’s position throughout the year. Using your average electricity bill, the program then offers a recommended size for a PV panel array that could generate enough energy to power your home.
When wondering if you should go solar, you probably have a number of other questions about solar power systems and how they work as well. Google has designed Project Sunroof with an easy-to-use interface, including an informative FAQ to guide homeowners through the process.
Beyond being user-friendly, however, Project Sunroof is also believed to be quite accurate, at least in some parts of the country. While traditional solar calculators can be helpful in determining the potential costs of installing a system, Google’s website uses a unique algorithm that reduces classification errors. In other words, Project Sunroof is better than many other programs at distinguishing rooftops from nearby trees, structures and other environmental elements.
The biggest factors in making this determination are the cost and effectiveness of the potential system. Project Sunroof works to calculate the size of solar array you will need to power your home, giving you a cost estimate. Then the program calculates how much you could save by going solar.
The financial considerations are different, of course, depending upon whether you decide to purchase your solar array or finance it with a loan, but Project Sunroof provides you with information regarding all three options.
At present, Project Sunroof is available in limited areas, but plans are in place to extend the program to other parts of the country. At this time, the Intermountain West region is not a part of the program.
Project Sunroof’s one potential drawback is that it is 100 percent automated, and consequently unable to answer your questions or address the unique features of your building. At Intermountain Wind and Solar, our knowledgeable and experienced (and live) technicians can do exactly that, and help you determine what type of system would best suit your specific needs. So, until Google expands to our part of the country, give us a call today and let us help you answer the question, “Should I go solar?”
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