Rightsizing Solar PV Systems

November/December 2009
A version of this article appears in the November/December 2009 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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November 02, 2009
If the solar bug has bitten your client, how do you help them to select a rightsized system for their needs?
Energy conservation improvements are often the most cost-effective energy-related improvements that we can make to a building. Energy that is not used is energy that does not need to be generated. Energy conservation improvements include sealing leaks in HVAC ducts; sealing holes in the thermal envelope; upgrading insulation (both its quantity and the quality of the installation); and changing lamps to CFLs or LEDs. Such improvements can produce significant returns for much less than it would cost to install a solar PV system. An investment in energy conservation improvements should usually precede a PV investment. A more-efficient home will use less electricity and will require a smaller, less costly PV system. In the real world, mastic and caulk are not as sexy as a shiny new solar array. So if the solar bug has bitten your client, how do you help them to select a rightsized system for their needs? The answer to this question seems simple. Take last year’s electricity use from the client’s utility bills and invest in a PV system that generates close to that amount. The simple answer may be good if your client pays the same rate all year around, and ...

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