Solar panel systems have a bright future in the roofing industry and for home and building owners alike. Solar panels, also known, as solar photovoltaic panels are excellent tools for reducing monthly electric bills, providing clean power, lowering dependence on traditional fossil fuels, and adding value to a home or building. Installing rooftop solar panels is one of the best ways to increase the value of a home or building. And, not to mention the fact that federal legislation extended a 30% tax credit for commercial and residential solar panel installations.

The following “steps” can be used to guide both commercial and residential customers through the solar panel shopping and installation process, and help make it as smooth and easy as possible.

1. Make your home more energy efficient.

Before you begin the solar installation process you first need to examine the energy efficiency of your home. Adding solar photovoltaic panels to a home with poor energy efficiency is not going to provide the results you expected. In some states to be applicable for the tax credit your home needs to have an energy audit performed before the solar panel system is installed, making your home’s energy efficiency paramount. Here are some tips to make your home more energy efficient:

* Upgrade or replace windows

* Well insulate walls and attic

* Replace inefficient hot water heaters and/or furnaces

* Replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs

2. Evaluate the solar site or roof.

Ask yourself a few questions: Is the roof strong enough to support the panels? Is the available space large enough to hold the panels? Does the roof offer southern exposure? And most important, does your roof receive enough sun light? Solar panels are recommended to receive full sun exposure between 9am and 3pm in order for them to be the most effective.

3. Get competitive bids.

Solar panels are a big investment, but done correctly they can provide a significant return and increase the value of a building or home. Shop around a little and find the best price. But be aware; don’t just look for the cheapest price. Find a well established retailer and installer with a strong track record. Educate yourself and ask the right questions, because sometimes a higher costing solar system might be the better option, and in the long run provide a higher return on your investment.

4. Research the cost.

Solar photovoltaic panels vary in cost, which is usually determined by the size measured in Watts, the actual dimensions, the brand, the longevity, the warranty, and any certifications the solar panel might have. As solar systems increase in size so does the price. Expect to pay approximately double for a solar system of double the watts.

It is probably a good idea to receive multiple quotes, and if there are large differences inquire why. And, as mentioned before, don’t choose your solar panels based solely on price; make sure it will supply enough energy to fit your needs.

5. Determine the required size and Watts.

To begin, study your electricity bill. It will provide you with a lot of useful information to estimate your energy needs. Find out how many kilowatt hours (kWh) you use per day, month and year. When sunlight is optimal, a 100 Watt panel will generate 100 Watts of electricity per hour. Most homes electricity needs can be fulfilled with a solar system between 1 to 5 kilowatts or 1,000-5,000 Watts. And in general, 1 square foot of solar photovoltaic panels in bright sunlight yields 10 Watts, but that can vary depending on the type. Ultimately, when determining the required size of solar panels be sure that they will supply enough electricity to meet or exceed your needs.