What Are the Alternatives to Solar Panels?
Last Updated on
Not everyone can go solar. For some, your credit score might be too low. For others, you might not have a roof that can support it. No matter what your situation is, there are still ways in which you can benefit from solar or save energy without adding solar panels to your roof.
Benefiting From Solar With a Low Credit Score or Renting
At Go Solar Group, we require a 650 credit score to finance a solar installation. Other solar companies require an even higher score. However, there are some who can’t reach this benchmark who still want the benefits of solar power and want to help the environment. You’re in luck — there are multiple ways for you to save energy and potentially benefit from solar even without a residential installation.
Community Solar: A Residential Alternative
The first main way for homeowners who have a low credit score, or for those who rent, to benefit from solar is through what is known as community solar. With residential solar, you purchase the panels and have them installed on your property. You own your panels unless you move and sell them to someone else.
Community solar, on the other hand, differs from residential solar in some key ways. With community solar, residents come together to purchase a share in a solar plant. These plants can be dedicated solar farms on their own plot of land, or a community-built nest of panels installed on a local business. Previously, they were often installed in rural areas or outside of cities, but with the loosening of municipal regulations, some community solar installations have begun springing up in cities themselves. This is great news for urban residents.
With community solar, you enter into a contract with the owners of the solar plant — usually a council of local citizens — who take over your electric bill. You still pay a monthly power bill, but instead of coal-fired electricity being sent to your home by a utility company, you’re getting clean power from the sun.
Why Community Solar Is a Good Option
Community solar allows citizens to take power back into their own hands. It’s a more democratic way of running things compared to large utility companies. Additionally, while pricing models vary, many community solar programs promise lower energy prices. Finally, they’re a simple way to get clean energy in your home, regardless of your credit score.
Other Energy Saving Objects and Practices
There are other ways for you to save energy even with a credit score that doesn’t qualify for residential solar. These involve both practices and purchases you can make. These can be paired with community solar or installed separately.
Choosing Opportune Times for Using Appliances
Some utilities are moving to time-of-day pricing, where your electricity costs are based on when you’re using power. Electricity usage is highest during the afternoon and early evening. To incentivize consumers to spread out their energy use, time-of-day pricing costs more during these peak hours of the afternoon and early evening. They are cheaper in low-usage hours, such as the late morning and early afternoon. If you have time-of-day pricing, you can save money by running your appliances in these time periods.
A Smart Thermostat Can Lower Your Power Bill
One of the easiest steps that any homeowner — or even renter — can take to lower your power bill is installing a smart thermostat. A smart thermostat, such as the Google Nest E, has a number of power-saving features built in. A smart thermostat can adjust your climate control systems automatically to ensure efficient energy usage, it can automatically turn your climate control on and off based on your distance from your home, and more.
Solar Options for Homeowners With an Unfit Roof
Some people have a credit score good enough to qualify for solar loans, but their roof isn’t viable for a variety of reasons. Barring a full reroofing of your home, you may be unable to make your roof fit for solar. Luckily, there are still options available for homeowners interested in going solar, even if it’s not on your roof.
Ground-Mounted Solar Panels: An Alternative to Rooftop Solar
Rooftop mounted solar panels are the first thing that comes to mind for most people. Despite this common misconception, there are more options available to homeowners who want to go solar. The most common alternative to rooftop solar is ground-mounted solar.
Ground-Mounted Solar Panels: The Installation Process
Ground-mounted solar panels are exactly what they sound like — solar panels mounted in the earth instead of on your roof. The foundation for the mount is set up on unobstructed property which you own, usually a backyard. The foundation and racking system both have to be extra strong, as they don’t have a roof to serve as the base. Oftentimes this involves constructing a concrete foundation and installing the racking system in the concrete.
Once the foundation is constructed, the panels can be installed on it. After they are installed, extra durable wiring is used to connect the panels to your house. This ensures that inclement weather doesn’t damage the wiring, since it’s normally protected by your roof.
The Benefits of Ground-Mounted Solar
These types of installations are particularly useful for those who may live in a small, compact house. Some homes, even if they have sufficient energy usage to make solar worth it, may not possess enough roof space to install panels. Mounting them in the ground is a good compromise for those who feel strongly about going solar but who don’t have the space.
When you go solar with ground mounts, you get all the benefits of solar energy that you would get otherwise. The only downside may be losing backyard space, but many see that as a small price to pay for energy independence.
Miscellaneous Solar Panel Alternatives
There are many reasons why some can’t (or won’t) go solar beyond those we covered previously. To round out our survey, we’ll cover a few final solar panel alternatives and their uses.
Solar Shingles Are a Panel Alternative for a Clean Looking Roof
Many homeowners live in a homeowners association (HOA). These HOAs often prescribe certain aesthetic standards that the neighborhood needs to comply with. These can be as simple as making sure your lawn is green and cut regularly. However, some go beyond and regulate what colors your house can be painted, whether your car can be parked on the street and what shingles are allowed on your roof.
It is to this last element that we turn. Some consider solar panels to be ugly — particularly polycrystalline solar panels, which have a very noticeable blue color. Polycrystalline solar panels are less efficient than monocrystalline panels, which is why most recommend going with the latter instead. Even so, some HOAs dislike solar panels in general, no matter which type. When faced with this kind of HOA, some recommend solar shingles.
Solar shingles are more expensive than your typical solar installation. If money is no object, though, then they can be the perfect compromise with your HOA. Solar shingles are small solar panels, each of which individually produces solar power. These shingles can be laid out to look almost indistinguishable from rooftops.
The installation of solar shingles can be difficult and often requires a full renovation of your roof. Because of this, we recommend avoiding solar shingles unless you plan on re-roofing or are building a brand new home. Solar shingles are much easier to install during the construction process.
Portable Solar Panels To Take With You
Portable solar panels are the final alternative that we’ll cover today. These panels are usually fairly light and also perfect for setting up in campgrounds, parks, and yards. They don’t usually produce enough electricity to power energy-guzzling appliances, like an oven or a full freezer. However, they do produce enough power to run a portable fridge, for example.
Portable panels are perfect for taking some comfort with you while camping or on long road trips. They keep your phone and computers charged, your drinks cold, and your food hot. They also pair perfectly with portable battery backup to keep the juice flowing for longer.
Some solar panels are so small that you can hold them in your hand. These handheld solar panels are used by those going on a hiking adventure, who don’t want to haul around a 40 lb. portable solar briefcase. These panels can fit in your backpack and, while they don’t produce a ton of electricity, can keep your phone charged for emergencies. Handheld panels are perfect for those planning extended trips and who want to make sure they can always call for help if need be.