Want to learn the basics of solar energy? This is a great place to start. The following information will help you understand the fundamentals of harnessing sunlight for sustainable energy, the pros and cons, the potential savings, and whether solar is right for you.
Generating solar energy at home is a great way to offset your electric bill while supporting clean energy. But, like most energy decisions, it comes with both advantages and disadvantages that are important to consider:
Top 5 reasons customers consider solar energy
- Solar energy has a lower carbon footprint: because solar doesn’t directly release carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses, it’s a great way to lower your home’s carbon footprint.
- Solar offsets the cost of electricity: making it possible for homeowners across West Central Florida to typically save $35,000-$45,000 over 25 years.
- Solar improves home value: solar can be installed on existing rooftops and studies show that solar installations increase home value by an average of 4 percent.
- Solar output is high in Florida: with the many days of direct sunlight in Florida, solar panels will work close to their maximum capacity unless shaded by trees or nearby buildings.
- Solar systems require little maintenance: solar panels have no moving parts, meaning they generally require little maintenance.
Top 5 reasons solar isn’t for everyone
- Solar doesn’t work for some roofs: depending on your roof’s age, material, size, shading, tilt, and orientation, rooftop solar might not work for your home. If you have a lot of yard space or live in a mobile home, you could instead consider a ground-mounted system. If none of these options work for you, consider Tampa Electric’s Sun Select community solar program that lets you power your home with locally generated solar power.
- Upfront solar costs can be high: Adding solar can increase your homeowner’s insurance premium and you may be required to increase your liability coverage. Check with your insurance company before you commit to solar. Many financing options are available, including Federal Tax Credits. Be sure to tap into this solar panel calculator to quickly estimate your solar potential.
- In general, rooftop solar is only available to homeowners: most landlords won’t let you install a solar system. You may also face difficulty if you’re part of an HOA that has related restrictions.
- Solar panels don’t work at night or when the utility grid is down: Grid-tied solar systems are designed to shut off when the grid goes down. This is a safety requirement that prevents your system from back-feeding electricity onto the grid and electrocuting line workers. It's important to understand that installing a rooftop solar system doesn't guarantee that you will have power during a grid outage. However, if you combine your solar system with battery storage, you can isolate your solar and battery storage from the grid and power your essential home needs.
- Finding a solar installer can be difficult: solar is a big investment, so it’s important to do your research before making a decision. When you shop through the EnergySage Marketplace, you’ll receive custom quotes from vetted, reputable installers so you can make an informed decision.
Learn more about the pros and cons of solar energy.
How do solar panels work?
The process of turning sunlight into electricity requires more than just panels and the sun. Solar panels, inverters, and your home’s electrical panel work together to harness the sun’s energy and deliver usable electricity. Here’s how:
Step 1: Solar panels absorb the sun’s energy and convert it to electricity
The process of generating solar electricity starts with solar cells, the individual pieces that make a larger solar panel. Solar cells are usually made from the element silicon. Silicon is a nonmetal semiconductor that can absorb and convert sunlight into electricity. When particles of sunlight (also known as photons) hit solar cells, they set electrons into motion. Solar panels capture this flow of electrons and convert it to an electrical current.
Step 2: Solar inverters convert the energy into usable electricity
Solar panels initially generate DC electricity, which isn’t typically compatible with home appliances. To create usable energy, solar inverters convert the DC electricity from the solar panels into usable (AC) electricity.
Step 3: AC electricity transfers to your electrical panel
Finally, the inverter transfers the AC electricity to your home’s electrical panel, which then distributes it to all of the power outlets around your home.
Step 4: Solar panel systems use grid-tie to balance demand
Most home solar panel systems are tied to the electricity grid, allowing you to pull from the grid when your solar panels aren’t producing enough power to meet your energy demands and send excess energy to the grid when your panels produce more power than you need.
As a Tampa Electric interconnected net metered customer, any solar credits received throughout the calendar year will be rolled onto your next month's billing statement. If you have excess solar credits remaining at the end of the 12-month period, this dollar credit will be applied to your February billing statement.
Learn more about how solar panels work.
Solar panel systems can have great financial and environmental benefits, but some properties are more suitable for solar than others. In general, there are a few factors that influence whether yours is a good fit for rooftop solar:
Renters typically can’t install solar panels on their homes. If you rent, face Homeowners Association (HOA) restrictions, or your home otherwise can’t accommodate an on-site solar panel installation, you can still purchase solar energy through Tampa Electric’s Sun Select program.
Your roof’s age, material, space, shading, tilt, and orientation all influence whether your roof is a good fit for solar.
- Age: Your roof should be in a condition to support solar panels for 25-30 years.
- Material: Slate and wood are difficult to install solar panels on.
- Space: Large, wide-open roof space is ideal for a solar panel system.
- Shading: If your home is usually shaded, you may not be a fit for solar.
- Tilt: The optimal solar production angle is between 30 to 45 degrees.
- Orientation: South-facing solar panel systems receive the most sunlight.
Return on investment
Installing a home solar panel system is an investment, but financial incentives can cut upfront costs considerably. Fortunately, you may be able to take advantage of the federal solar tax credit to lower your costs by 30 percent.
Your solar investment should save you more money over its lifetime than it costs you to install. The more expensive your electric bills are, the more you can save by going solar. The typical gross price of a 13.8 kilowatt (kW) solar panel system in the West Central Florida area is around $35,277. Your return on investment depends on how you decide to finance and the structure in conditions of your agreement, but you’ll likely recover that investment in about 8.5 years and go on to save around $35,000-$45,000 over 25 years.
Find out if you can save with solar by trying EnergySage’s Solar Calculator.
Our abundant sunshine makes Florida a naturally solar-friendly state, but factors such as the amount of energy you consume and the size of your solar panel system impact how much you’ll save with solar panels.
Short term savings
Typical West Central Florida area homes considering solar spend an average of $3,210 per year on their electric bill. By installing a solar panel system covering 80 percent of the average home’s electricity consumption, the average household could reduce their bill to $53 per month. Depending on how you finance your system you may also still have to make monthly loan payments so it's important to consider your savings over the lifetime of your system.
Solar panel systems usually continue to generate electric bill savings for up to 30 years. After accounting for the cost of solar, the federal solar tax credit, and inflation, Tampa area residents typically save $35,000-$45,000 over 25 years with a 13.8 kW system. Ultimately, the value of your solar panel system investment depends on the conditions of your property, the size of your system, federal and state policy changes, electricity usage, how you pay for your system, and other variables.
Carbon emissions reductions
Solar panels provide both financial and environmental benefits. The renewable, emission-free electricity from a typical 13.8-kilowatt solar panel system can reduce 15.5 metric tons of carbon emissions per year, the equivalent of planting 713 trees.
Get a detailed savings estimate for your home.
Visit Go Solar to learn about the cost of a solar panel system, how to choose the right solar panels and more.
Paths to solar
EnergySage is a third-party online resource that helps educate consumers about renewable energy solutions. It offers online offers for rooftop solar and/or battery installations from EnergySage-qualified solar installers and financing companies.