8 Top Resources for Installing Solar in 2012

By Britt Mauriss

Going solar is a beautiful thing. It not only saves money on your electrical bills for decades to come—it conserve the earth’s precious resources as well. But where to turn for current, insightful resources on solar panels, pricing, financing and incentive options in 2012? How to know how much energy your home consumes right now, and how much you can save down the road with solar-powered renewable energy?

I’ve gathered eight amazing resources to get you started on the path to solar independence. Here’s how to go solar in 2012.

1. Solar Energy Basics

For a clear-cut introduction on what solar energy is and how it works, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is a great resource. Read up about photovoltaic (PV) systems, how much energy (kilowatts) an average system produces, and more.

2. Conventional Electricity Costs

Want to check typical solar costs in your state? The Energy Information Administration (EIA) just updated their State Electricity Profiles data. The data reveals the current average retail prices of conventional electricity costs for each state in a price-per-kilowatt hour breakdown.

3. How Much Electricity Do You Need?

Your next step is to assess how much energy your home consumes per month. This is a good way to see if solar power is right for you, and what percentage of your monthly costs you can offset with solar. For example, the EIA’s latest evaluation of electricity use in American homes shows that in 2010, the average home consumed 958 kilowatt-hours per month. If you can reduce your energy below this mark, you’ll only require a small-to-medium solar power system. To learn more about the percentage of electricity that each device in a home uses, and how to reduce that amount, check the EIA FAQs.

4. Determining PV System Size

As a part two to the step above, you can look at different solar system sizes to match your monthly energy goal. Although you’ll want to consult with professional solar installers for a definitive answer, Sizing Your Small Solar Electric System has some useful information about determining how large your system should be, how much roof space you’ll need, and more.

5. Solar Incentives

For the most comprehensive information about all the incentive programs that are currently offered, programs that can reduce the cost of your solar installation by as much as 60 percent, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE), funded by EERE, is your best source. DSIRE provides information about programs offered by utilities, as well as governmental programs on the federal, state and local level.

6. Green Energy Blogs

Things move fast in the world of solar energy. One day you’re looking at solar panels, and the next you might be considering solar paint or energy-harvesting windows. There’s a lot to take in. For up-to-date solar news, subscribe to a few clean energy blogs. CleanTechnica, for instance, covers a variety of energy topics and fresh innovations in solar. GreenBuildingElements does the same, with posts on record-breaking solar panel efficiencies, green building materials and more.

7. Industry Information

One of the most respected solar industry organizations is the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). SEIA conducts ongoing research on the solar industry. Contractors who are SEIA members are kept abreast of changing technologies, regulations and trends in the industry.

8. Finding Contractors

As the largest network of solar contractors in the country, CalFinder Solar is a great source for finding the perfect solar contractor for your home PV installation. Compare free estimates on solar panel systems, read up on cutting-edge solar shingles, and more.

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