Can a house run on solar power alone?

Solar power is fast becoming a popular choice for residences, but there are many questions regarding the capacity of solar backup power, capacity and the number of solar panels needed to power a home. Here are the answers you’re looking for. 

What are the benefits of solar?

  • Solar is a sustainable energy source
  • Solar reduces your electricity bill
  • Solar is friendly to the environment
  • Solar provides grid independence

The short answer is yes! By installing sufficient solar panels and batteries, a house can run completely on solar power alone, but there are obviously substantial capital costs involved and many physical restrictions. As the solar power technology develops, these costs are likely to come down, making solar a much more realistic option for the residential sector. 

Currently, there are homes in remote areas that run exclusively off solar, although the energy needs are minimal. Where there are higher-load appliances, homes often combine solar backup power with grid power for times when it’s cloudy or during winter when the sun’s energy is less. Having said this, however, the technology has advanced sufficiently to power homes completely, here’s what you need to assess. 

Factors to consider

Before investing in solar power for your home, it is worth consulting with industry experts on a few elements to determine the feasibility of a completely solar-powered system. Some of the factors you’re likely to consider, include:

1. The location of your home 

One of the most critical aspects determining your solar power capacity is the location of your home. Fortunately, in South Africa, we benefit from maximum sun exposure which makes solar power backup a fantastic sustainable energy option. Homes based in South Africa, while benefiting from sunshine, will also need to access direct sunshine for sufficient time during the day. Those located in shaded areas – such as near forests or adjacent buildings – might need to consider alternative locations for the solar panels. 

2. Roof capacity for solar panels

The ideal place for the installation of solar panels is the roof as they have direct access to sunshine and are out of the way. This is why the next factor to consider is whether the roof can actually support the number of solar panels needed for a full solar power system. The roof must be in great shape, without needing any replacement in time. 

3. How many solar panels are needed to power a home? 

Understandably different households will require different solar panel numbers, depending on the location, amount of shade and energy needs. But to give a rough estimate of solar panel numbers, the average household consumes 10 400kWh per year. If you are installing 250-watt solar panels then you will need in the area of 28 to 34 solar panels to power the home. 

4. How to calculate your own solar panel estimate

The best way to calculate your solar panel number is to consult with industry experts ahead of time. However, you can also assess your current power needs to get an estimate of the solar panel requirements. Determine how many kWh of electricity you use annually – 1kWh is 1 000 watts of power used in an hour. The average household uses around 897 kWh per month, making it almost 11 000kWh a year. 

It’s clear that solar power comes with many advantages, and while you may want to go completely off the grid with your solar panel installation, remember that the system is scalable. Start with what you can afford and build your way up as your demands increase or funds become available. 

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