If you’ve noticed the million or so homes in the United States with installed rooftop solar and thought hmm, then this article is written for you.

Before jumping right into installing solar on your home, ask yourself, “Have I taken all steps possible to make my home operate efficiently?” If you’re ready to spend the three dollars per watt to install solar but have little or no insulation in your attic, are using incandescent light bulbs or have an aged, inefficient heating and cooling system, then you might want to take a step back and consider taking care of those items first. It is less expensive to conserve energy than create it.

The second question you should ask is, “Can I legally install solar panels on my property?” If you have an active homeowner’s association in your neighborhood, be sure to check the covenants for restrictions on solar. Some southern US states like Florida have rules that make installing solar almost impossible.

Next you will want to confirm your utility provider will allow your home to be net metered – allowing the electrical meter to spin both ways if you are overproducing power. In the Omaha Metro Area, all the local power companies (OPPD, LES and Mid-American) will allow this.

Ok, if you are good so far, then the next step is to take a look at your electrical panel. How old is the panel? Are there any open spots for breakers? How far away is your panel from the meter? Updating antiquated electric equipment could be costly and every home should be evaluated by a licensed electrician prior to solar panel installation.

Now where are you going to put those panels? Solar panels that face due south will have the best performance. Over the year the panels’ angle will affect its power output. A ground-mounted array with a method to change the panels’ angle will increase performance and seems to be the best option. If the layout or look of a ground-mount array doesn’t fit your design, a roof mounted system is the next best option. It is very important to consider the aesthetics of your system – panel installation should be clean, fit the design of your home and add value to the property.

If you’re ready to install solar on your home below are some resources that might help you on your journey. Good luck.

Jerry McNerney
Board Member, Green Omaha Coalition