Fact vs Myth: Can Solar Energy Really Power an Entire House? [2021 Update]June 3, 2021
One of the most frequently asked questions by homeowners in regard to solar power is, “can it really power my entire house?” The answer to that is actually quite simple – yes, solar can indeed power your entire home. But explaining exactly how solar energy can power the entirety of your home is a little more complicated.
According to the United States Solar Technologies Office, “the amount of sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s consumption for a full year.”
With the sun delivering an awe-inspiring amount of energy to the earth on an almost hourly basis, it stands to reason that solar energy can indeed power an entire house. Let’s take a deep dive into how exactly this happens and how you can make estimated solar calculations at home.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
Simply put, solar panels work by capturing particles of light (or photons). These photons break electrons free from their atoms, knocking them apart, and generate what we know of as the flow of electricity.
Now, this statement may sound complicated to varying degrees based on how much science you remember from back in high school, but the main takeaway is that sunlight is converted to energy through a seemingly complex, but actually surprisingly simple process which involves capturing the sun’s energy, and turning into electricity. Once the energy is generated, it’s used to power devices, products, and homes.
If you want to learn more about the science of solar energy, take a look at our blog on frequently asked questions in regards to solar energy.
How Can Solar Energy Power Your Whole House?
So, can a home solar system really power your entire house? As we’ve stated, yes! But, it does depend on a few variables that you’ll want to take into consideration when deciding to go solar. Mostly, these variables are used to determine the power output levels and the number of solar panels that your home requires to meet your energy goals. In this case, we’ll explore the goal of running your whole house entirely on solar power.
Every home is different, and every home will require a unique amount of solar panels in order to effectively convert the sun’s energy into the energy you can use to power your home. At SunPower by BlueSel, we understand how to install your panels at the perfect angle, in the perfect spot, to maximize sun intake. Installing your solar panels in the perfect spot can make a big difference in regard to energy.
HowStuffWorks.com explains perfectly how solar panels can power an entire house:
“As solar panels protrude from the precipice at various angles, they capture whatever sunlight is available, and convert it to DC power. An inverter converts the DC power to AC power (which is what we use to power electronic devices). And for people who want to completely power an entire home with the sun’s rays, there are systems available to convert and store extra power in the form of battery energy.”
What’s Your Home’s Monthly Energy Consumption Rate?
According to U.S. Energy Information Administration, “in 2019, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,649 kilowatt-hours (kWh), an average of about 877 kWh per month.”
For the sake of simplicity, let’s round that number up to 900 kWh per month, and let’s assume that this number applies to most residential properties in the United States. If we divide 900 by 30, we can determine that most homes consume 30 kWh per day or 1.25 kWh per hour.
However, it’s important to remember that this number does vary depending on your home’s size and the amount of household energy consumption activity. You may also find your home’s specific energy consumption rate listed on your monthly electricity bill. So, be sure to check that out before making your own calculations.
How Many Hours of Sunlight Does Your Home Receive?
After determining your household’s monthly energy consumption, you’ll also want to figure out how many hours of peak sunlight your home can expect to receive.
Now, we understand that this number varies day-to-day, especially in Massachusetts, but making an educated estimate and then using the equation outlined below will allow you to determine a rough idea of the power required before consulting a professional solar installation company.
As a SunPower Master Dealer, we’ll use their comprehensive, yet straightforward equation to determine how many watts of power your home would need per day to run off solar power.
“Multiply your hourly usage by 1,000 to convert your hourly power generation to watts. Divide your average hourly wattage requirement by the number of daily peak sunlight hours for your area. This gives you the amount of energy your panels need to produce every hour. So the average U.S. home (900 kWh/month) in an area that gets five peak sunlight hours per day would need 6,000 watts.” (source: SunPower)
What Type And How Many Solar Panels Does Your Home Need?
Depending on the maker, solar panels come in all different shapes, sizes, build qualities, and power outputs. You’ll want to speak in-depth with a professional solar system installation consultant to determine the best and most efficient solar panels for your home. However, for today’s article, we’ll use SunPower’s A-Series Solar Panels as our example.
Panels range in wattage capacities with conventional solar panels typically starting at around 250 watts per panel. SunPower’s A-Series panels produce up to 400 watts per day per panel in peak conditions. Therefore, if we divide the energy needed to power the average home, 6,000 watts, by the 400 watts produced by each panel, we would determine that the average home requires at least 15 A-Series panels to run entirely off of solar energy in peak conditions.
Professional Solar Installation Consultations
While these numbers can give you a handy pen-and-paper estimate on what your home requires to run entirely off solar power, it’s necessary to consult with a professional solar installation expert. With many specific variables to consider (such as roof condition and angle, nearby shading, daily sun exposure, home size, etc.), you’ll want to ensure that professionals determine the most accurate data. From here, you can decide whether or not solar power is suitable for your home.
Enjoy all the benefits of a solar energy system while reducing your carbon footprint on the planet. Solar energy can power your entire home, as long as the right company is working with you to install your panels.