Powering your lifestyle with solar energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions and helps protects the environment from climate change. On top of that, solar panels can save you money and can help you earn an additional income. If your primary goal is maximum electricity savings, installing solar panels directly on your roof is likely the best fit for you. Since the roof of your house is able to fit more panels than most of these other spaces, you’ll produce more energy and likely eliminate your entire electricity bill. You’ll also be able to earn extra money through the federal tax credit and incentives like SMART. Plus, if your house has a solar system, evidence suggests that it will sell for a premium because buyers look for energy-efficient features.
Solar technology can easily adapt to your needs and preferences, and rooftop solar isn’t the only option. Your backyard works, too. Locations like barns, pergolas, and garages are also perfect places to install solar panels. Even if these spaces aren’t directly attached to your home, they can still provide power to it. Additionally, if these systems are fixed, you’ll be eligible for financial incentives. Here are six lesser-known places in your backyard to put your solar-powered upgrades.
1. Solar on Garages, Pergolas, and Carports
Detached garages, pergolas, and carports of almost any size are a great option for solar panels and offer the same benefits as a traditional rooftop installation. You can use a garage or carport solar system to complement your home if your house already has solar, or it can operate independently without solar on the main part of your house. Though garage solar installations often aren’t enough to entirely power your home due to their limited rooftop space, they can still shave money off your monthly electricity expenses, decrease your carbon footprint, and reduce your reliance on the grid. A standard two-car detached garage that supports 24 fixed solar panels — 360 watts each (8,640 watts total) — produces hundreds of dollars’ worth of electricity each year, and if you have an electric vehicle, installing solar panels on your garage has even more value.
2. Solar on Barns and Sheds
Barns and sheds usually have no electricity supply but a tremendous need for power. If you don’t have electricity hooked up to these structures, you have to use a gas-guzzling generator or run utility lines to your house in order to power the space, and, given the power demand for barns and sheds, this can be polluting and expensive. Solar panels are a more cost-effective and energy-efficient alternative. Again, the space on these structures is typically more limited than rooftops, but installing panels can still take a big chunk off your electric bill. When it’s time to charge up the snowblower in the winter, you’ll be glad you made this switch.
3. Solar-powered Pools
If you have a pool, a solar pool heater can dramatically reduce the electricity costs that come from heating it. These systems include solar collectors that can be placed next to your pool or, if you don’t have rooftop panels, on top of your home. With all the money you save, these heaters can even pay for themselves in as little as 1.5 years. Plus, they tend to last longer than conventional gas heaters.
Solar pool covers are another inexpensive way to keep your water warm, and they’re available for most pools. Without a cover, pool water absorbs a lot of sunlight, but evaporation causes the water to lose this heat and its temperature to cool. Solar pool covers use bubbles to trap this heat from the sun, holding the heat in the pool and maintaining a warm water temperature. Again, while both of these systems can result in substantial savings, neither are eligible for the federal tax credit.
4. Solar-powered Outdoor Lighting
You spend the spring and summer creating the perfect lawn and landscape, so you deserve to have the perfect lighting to show it off at night, too. Outdoor solar lights are simple but effective, and though they are not eligible for tax credits, they allowing you to save a little bit on your monthly electric bill. Solar lights absorb the sun’s light during the day and store it in a small photovoltaic battery. Most have darkness sensors to automatically determine when it’s time to turn on, so they’re extra efficient. They can also improve safety on walkways, driveways, and patios. Whether you’re looking to brighten up your back patio or illuminate your front walkway, solar-powered lighting offers a stylish and sustainable solution.
5. Portable Solar Panels
Portable solar panels, also known as portable photovoltaics or portable PV panels, work just like traditional solar systems but on a micro-level. Their small size enables you to generate electricity on the go, and you can use them on top of RVs, boats, camping tents, and even on hiking gear. Also, since portable units are mobile, they can be placed in different areas of the yard, which can be especially useful for avoiding the shade of trees.
6. Solar Trackers and Ground-mounted Solar
If your roof isn’t ideal for solar but you have a decent-sized yard, ground-mounted solar panels are a great solution. Traditional ground-mounted systems often include a large number of solar cells, so they can produce substantial wattage. Alternatively, you could install a ground-mounted solar tracker, which follows the sun from east to west throughout the day. This ensures that the panels receive optimal sunlight. Both options are as advantageous, if not more advantageous, than rooftop solar. In fact, solar trackers can generate up to 45-percent more electricity than rooftop solar panels. You’ll get the most return on your investment because you’ll be maximizing the power of the sun.
Choosing the Right Solar For Your Home
Whether it’s the economic benefits or environmental advantages that are prompting you to go solar, you have options when it comes to the technology you choose. You can dip your toes in the water with smaller solar upgrades like solar-powered lighting or you can install a complete solar system on the roof of your home. Alternatively, if you already have solar panels installed, you can take advantage of these smaller upgrades to save even more money and further help the planet.
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