How Much Sun Does My Roof Need for Solar Panels?

If you made a list of U.S. locales where solar energy would be least likely to provide a good return on investment, Northern Ohio would definitely rank high. Ohio is, after all, one of our cloudiest states, with residents only seeing around 72 sunny days per year. And the northern region fares worst of all, dropping down to a mere 65 annual cloudless days. 

So, the amount of money one typical Northern Ohio business was able to save by going solar may surprise you.

In 2017, nüCamp RV installed a 29.7 kW solar system on the roof of their Sugarcreek, Ohio operation. In the short term, the RV manufacturer’s monthly energy bill decreased by 50%, dropping  from around $13,000 down to $6,000 which amounted to a 17.5% return on investment.

Put in other terms, the money they saved each month by going solar will fully pay off the entire cost of their installation in 7 years. Which translates to 18 to 23 years of free electricity over the 25 to 30 year expected life of their panels.

Increased Panel Efficiency

There’s nothing unique about those savings. While solar installations may have once only made financial sense in sunny states like California and Arizona, enormous increases in panel efficiency have rendered such limitations obsolete.

While sunny skies are, of course, the optimal conditions, today’s solar panels will continue to produce some power even when there are some clouds. When it’s partly cloudy, the power output from your panels may decrease by 25%. And even on fully cloudy days you might get 10% to 30% of the electricity they’d be generating on optimal days.

When you add that to the general increased efficiency of solar panels in all lighting conditions, the upshot is that typical homeowners in states like Pennsylvania can expect to produce enough surplus solar energy on sunny days to make up for any cloudy-day deficits.

This may mean installing a few more panels than a homeowner with similar energy needs in a sunnier locale would require. But, since those extra panels won’t appreciably increase labor and installation costs, they’ll have a minimal impact on the overall price of your system.

These days, the cost-benefit analysis for a PA homeowner isn’t likely to be all that different from one in Florida, Arizona, or California. 

Higher Electricity Costs

How much money you’ll save by going solar doesn’t just depend on the cost of your system. The price your paying for electricity matters just as much.  And, even though a homeowner in the northeast may require more panels and, hence, a slightly more expensive solar system than those in sunnier states, they’re also likely to be paying more for electricity as well.

In 2019, Pennsylvanians paid more for electricity than the residents of California, Arizona, or Florida. In 2020, electricity costs in California increased dramatically, putting them above Pennsylvania rates. But rates in Florida and Arizona remained higher.

Electricity rates fluctuate over time. But the trend has been that residents of sunny states wind up paying less than those in the northeast, meaning additional savings for the latter to offset the relatively minor cost of installing a few extra panels.

Other Factors

But the amount of sun your region gets per year isn’t the only or even the most important factor determining how much money you’ll save by going solar. The existence of trees, buildings and other objects that obstruct the sun from striking your roof can negate all the benefits of being in a sunnier climate.

The effect shading will have on your solar system’s production is extraordinarily dynamic. It changes throughout the day and year with the earth’s rotation around the sun.

In order to calculate how much solar energy can be generated from your roof, a three-dimensional model of your home has to be created that includes all objects in the vicinity which might potentially obstruct the sun at any time. A roof-top solar system is then constructed, and the whole model is inputted into software that performs the incredibly intricate astronomical calculations necessary to determine how much energy it will generate.

Nowadays, going solar is as likely to have as good a return on investment for residents of Pennsylvania and other northeastern states as for homeowners in sunnier states. So, give us a call. Using satellite imagery, our trained our analysts can tell you in simple terms whether generating your own clean and renewable energy from the sun makes financial sense for you. 

Our estimates are so precise that not only can you, literally, take them to the bank and get financing, but we also guarantee them in writing.

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