Latest articles by The Solar Nerd

Keep up to date on industry news and articles relevant to green living and the solar homeowner.

An image of the night sky.
How do home solar panels work at night, on cloudy days, or under snow?
Solar panels work by collecting sunlight and magically turning it into electricity to power your home. So does that mean when the sun goes down your electricity turns off and you can’t watch Game of Thrones? Actually, no. Read more to learn about how electricity continues to work seemlessly in a solar home, even when it’s dark, cloudy, or your panels are covered in snow. First, an explanation. Sunlight is made up of elementary particles called photons.
A piggy bank in which you can put the money you save by going solar.
Do solar panels add value to your home?
For many people who are thinking of adding solar panels to their house, knowing whether they will add or reduce the value of your house is a really important question. While it makes sense that any type of improvement to your home, including solar panels, should increase its value, there are a few caveats to be aware of when it comes to solar. First of all, when it comes to the question of whether or not solar will increase your home value, the answer in most cases is yes.
Illustration of people calculating the financial cost of solar panels.
Are solar panels worth it in 2022?
Thinking about solar panels for your home? It’s a major investment: even in states that offer multiple incentives, you’ll still be paying multiple thousands of dollars. Fortunately, the price of solar continues to drop, and in 2022 the cost of renewable energy - especially wind and solar - has fallen to the point where it’s cheaper than fossil fuels in many locations. But how about for the homeowner? Home solar panels can be worth it, but it depends on a few key factors: whether your home is suitable for solar, what your financial opportunity cost for purchasing solar is, what type of financing you’re prepared to use, and how personally important the environmental benefits are to you.
How many solar panels do I need to run my house?
People often ask how many solar panels it takes to run a home with a particular square footage - a 2,000 foot or 2,500 house, for example. But square footage won’t answer that question because different homes of the same size can use wildly different amounts of electricity. The number of solar panels you need to run your home depends completely on how much electricity you use in a year. You can find this out by getting a copy of your electric bill and looking for the section that tells you how many kilowatt hours you were billed for.
How much do solar panels for your home cost in 2019?
When you buy a home solar photovoltaic system, these are the factors that make up the price that you pay: Hardware costs, which includes panels, inverters, racking, and wiring; Labor; Soft costs, which includes system design, permitting, and customer acquisition costs (marketing and sales); Sales taxes; Incentives (federal, state, and local) These factors vary from state-to-state, and even cities in the same state can have different prices due to local incentives.
Example of a smart thermostat made by Nest.
How to get rebates on a smart thermostat (or even a free one)
Did you know that many utility companies give sizable rebates when you purchase a Nest, Ecobee, or other smart thermostat? In fact, you can sometimes get one completely free. They do this because smart thermostats help reduce energy loads, and dealing with peak power demands is one of the most difficult challenges for a utility. Reducing demand through improved efficiency is the easiest and most economical way to deal with this challenge, and it can help the utilities delay or avoid costly infrastructure upgrades.
This 3d map shows you what 1.4 million solar installations looks like
You’ve heard about the revolution in solar, how plummeting prices means that so many people are now choosing to put solar panels on their homes and generate their own green electricity. But what does that really look like? Well, it looks like our map! Using data from the Open PV project at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, we plotted a three-dimensional map that shows the number of residential solar installations down to the zip code level.
Picture of an Arizona landscape.
Arizona solar incentives and net metering, 2019
In 2016, the Arizona Corporation Commission (the public utility commission for the state) voted to end net metering. What this means for the solar owner is that new systems that are added to the grid will be reimbursed at a wholesale rate for any excess electricity they send into the grid. The upshot of this is that if you consume less energy than your panels produce during the day, and draw power from the grid during the evening, solar will be less financially advantageous for you.