by Suzanne Wentley
It was a natural evolution for Tesla to expand its offerings from electric cars to at-home solar energy systems able to charge those cars with power harnessed from the sun. But do the benefits of solar energy make enough sense for typical homeowners to invest in this technology?
In recent months, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has made endless headlines over his purchase of Twitter. As a result, the stock price of the tech company has fallen more than 50% over the last six months. This may be enough for homeowners to think twice about buying proprietary systems.
Still, that doesn’t mean a solar energy system isn’t a smart move for anyone looking to save significant money in energy costs over the long haul while helping the environment.
I installed a solar system on my RV, and it’s allowed me to live off-grid and save thousands on what it would have cost to hook up to electric grids in RV parks. It’s just a matter of doing the math to see how much you could save on your home by doing the same.
Of course, solar energy is not so simple. I had to learn a lot about the installation process to understand what it takes to create a return on my investment. Tesla solar panels — or any brand of solar panels — may or may not be great for your home. The first step to making the best decision for your situation is to get an education.
Solar Energy: Definition and Installation 101
Let’s start with a simple solar energy definition. Solar energy is the radiant power that comes from the sun. Relatively new technology from Tesla and other companies has made it possible to harness this energy to use it in place of burning fossil fuels or nuclear energy, one or both of which is likely what your local energy company does to turn on your lights.
To capture renewable (and free) solar energy, you’ll need to start with solar panels. These large, flat panels are usually attached to a roof and use photovoltaics, or PV technology. While these panels have gotten increasingly affordable over the last decade, they range in size and efficiency. Once installed, they can last for decades if cared for properly.
But panels are just the start of the process. You’ll need to wire your panels to an inverter, which is a machine that changes the DC power collected from the panels into AC power. That’s what all those plugs in your home supply to appliances. You’ll also want to have a charge controller, which is designed to manage the inflow of energy from the panels, so you don’t blow anything up.
Take it from me, you’ll want to add fuses in between each of these segments of your system for safety.
Want to run something when the sun isn’t shining? Then you’ll need to also invest in a battery backup that will store the energy from the sun to use in the evenings or on especially gloomy days. Tesla solar panels are often sold with a sleek battery backup called a Tesla Powerwall.
Benefits of Solar Energy
I often hear some red herring-style arguments against solar energy, like how difficult it is to dispose of a panel. But the reality is, there are plenty of measurable and eco-friendly benefits to solar energy for powering your household needs.
Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions
A study reported by Columbia University states that an acre of solar panels can reduce more carbon dioxide emitted into the environment than an acre of trees! That’s simply amazing, especially as deforestation continues to be a serious problem on the globe. The Amazon has lost 300,000 square miles of forest cover in the last 50 years. When it comes to positively impacting manmade climate change, here technology can actually be a solution.
Saves Money on Electricity Bills
Can you imagine your electric meter turning backward? That’s exactly what can happen when you invest in solar energy. While each return on investment varies by location and use, experts estimate it will take about seven or eight years to start making money. With electricity costs rising everywhere in the nation, it makes sense to start saving now.
Add Value to Your Home
You can pass some of the cost of solar energy installation on to the next owner of your home, too. For every dollar saved on electric bills, the value of your home will rise by $20, according to real estate experts.
That doesn’t even count the tax breaks you can get through the Federal Solar Tax Credit, which gives you 22% back on your purchase. Some states, like California, Texas, Minnesota, and New York, also add on extra tax-based incentives and rebates.
Brand Spotlight: Tesla Solar Panels
When I installed a solar system on my RV (with the help of a very knowledgeable friend, let’s be honest here), I went with a less-expensive brand called Renogy. This company, like many others on the market today, offers “plug and play” systems that you can install yourself. But if you want to plug into the electric grid in your community safely, you’ll want to work with a licensed and experienced electrical installation company.
This is where Tesla gets well-deserved praise. Due in part to the name recognition, there are installation technicians almost everywhere in the world ready to add this system to your home.
Tesla sells both traditional solar panels and entire roofs made of “solar shingles” that look just as cool as the cars.
But, like the cars, it isn’t cheap. Forbes estimates the Tesla panels cost around $27,000 while the roof runs around $55,000 for a 2,000-square-foot home. That’s before the tax incentives — and before the extra costs like a battery backup or Powerwall.
You’ll want to think about whether your home gets enough natural sunlight to make the project worth it. Southern-facing roofs capture the most rays each day, and some areas of the country are naturally sunnier than others. Solar energy systems can work on cloudy days, but you’ll notice a difference.
Another thing to consider is the future of Tesla as a company. While there’s already more than a handful of complaints about lags in hookups and poor customer service, it would only get worse if headlines continue to cast doubt on the viability of the leadership and the company’s long-term success. If the company goes bankrupt, you may be scrambling to find another technician ready to service your system.
Solar Energy as a Next-Level 2023 Resolution
Whether you go with Tesla or another brand, a switch to solar energy is one of the most eco-friendly resolutions you can make in 2023. Do your due diligence and talk to different installers in your community before deciding what is best for your home.
Then, start tracking the results. Most companies, Tesla included, offer a free app that will help you monitor the good work you’re doing by harnessing power from the sun instead of burning fossil fuels. Keep tabs on your electricity bills and watch to see how long it takes for you to start making money on your investment. With inflation these days, I’m guessing it will take less time than anyone thinks!
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