Solar-powering your House: Here’s what it would cost you to switch from UMEME to Solar energy - Dignited (2023)

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Your utility bill keeps going up every month for one reason or the other. You have unplugged all the appliances you are not using, switched off lights when you are out of the room and tried to use less power during peak hours. However, with all these efforts, they still don’t seem to make a dent on the power bill not to mention the reliability issues.

So in your quest for a solution, you thought about solar but you are not sure it can help or maybe you dismissed it too soon without a second thought because of the cost. If any of the above describes you even for the least bit, you may want to read through this entire post. If not, UMEME is your friend.

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The story of powering your window installation with solar has been there for years but has always been hindered by low efficiency, the prohibitive cost of solar panels and the system at large. Also there is only so much roof space you have available for solar panels not to mention the location and orientation of your house. Of course with more space or good understanding with your neighbour, you could use some of his roof space. In village 2.0 and microgrid posts, suggestions are made for how access to electricity via solar can be a possibility on a community level.

So lets say you want to be independent of the grid (UMEME) or use very little power from the grid. The lingering questions are; how do you go about it and about how much do you need to invest. Am glad you asked, stay with me as I take you through the sizing of your system and approximate it’s cost.

We are assuming your house location has good irradiance levels that allow you get good hours of peak sun. Irradiance on the panel from the sun is what in the end gives you the power output from the panel. Irradiance is a measure of how much power you can get from the sun per unit area, this varies with location.

Sizing

A typical Ugandan house with no dish washer, washing machine or electric cooker and no heating or cooling needs would have a total load of about 2500 Watts or 2.5kW. Watts is the unit we use for measuring power. Total load in this case means you sum up the power ratings of your all your appliances, devices and electronics basically anything that uses electricity in your house including that 10 watts energy saver bulb in your bedroom. These are usually indicated on the side or back of your appliance. Of course 2.5kW is an approximated value, every household would have a different value depending on what they own.

Having established your load, now we need to know how much energy you use daily. Energy is power used over time (time is usually in hours).This means we need to know your electricity usage patterns, which appliance you use, when and for how many hours. Approximations can also be used where possible.

Energy for a day is then given by the power rating of your appliance known as wattage(W) multiplied by the hours of use for each appliance. We can then sum up the total energy for the entire day by adding up the energy for each device. In this sizing example since we don’t have all the appliances broken down, we can multiply by a factor to give total energy for the day as 12.5kWh or basically 13 units(rounding off). With UMEME Yake system, you can tell how many units you use daily or get an average value per month. This of course makes the consultant’s work easier on sizing your system.

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How many panels do you need for a load of 2.5kW? Like you have heard, a panel is not 100% efficient. When they are dirty or covered in dust or overheat the output power is even lower. The wiring also causes some losses in the system. With all these factors in consideration, we need to calculate for a load that’s a lot more than what our house is holding, say 3.5kW. Various panel ratings exist on the market, your choice is usually limited to availability, cost and specs. Lets say you choose 250W 30V panels, you will need about 14 of them.

Panels give us direct current (DC) but our appliances and electronics need alternating current (AC). We need a device that converts this DC to AC, this device is an inverter. The inverter should be able to supply the entire load at once in the event that one day you may be using all your devices at the same time. So the inverter for this load should be 3kW from 24V DC to 240V AC. Remember, It’s always good to get an inverter slightly above your load.

Now we have sized everything we need that will keep your system online when there is sun. But there’s one more thing, if you need to have power in the night when there is no sun or on a cloudy day. You need to store some of the power you generated during the day in batteries for later use. To determine the size of batteries required, starting from the energy per day, and using the system voltage of 24V. We factor in the losses involved, the depth of discharge of the batteries and assuming you want your system to work for two days without being charged, your battery can be calculated to be about 1480Ah. Again based on what is available on the market, If you choose 12V 110Ah batteries you need about 14 of them. For our 24V system, you will need to connect these batteries in series.

Cost

Now that we are done with the sizing. How much is this going to cost you? (Disclaimer: the figures used in this cost are based on a supplier of PV systems in the UK, prices may be different depending on the quality and your source of choice)

Batteries = $200 each, but we need 14

Inverter = $760

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Panel = $390 each, we need 14

Charge controller = $60

Cabling = $30 (without house wiring)

MPPT = $250

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Solar-powering your House: Here’s what it would cost you to switch from UMEME to Solar energy - Dignited (1)

Breakers and Disconnects = $120

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Charge controller, helps control the charging of your batteries so they don’t get overcharged and wear out quickly.

Cabling includes all the connections required between the panels, inverter, battery, distribution panel. This assumes your house is already wired for electricity. MPPT is maximum power point tracking. Like the name suggests, its an accessory for solar systems that basically tracks the position of the sun and adjusts your panels accordingly so you always receive the maximum power possible in your location.

Breakers and disconnects add a level of protection to your system. Should a fault occur, they disconnect your appliances to avoid damage on both sides.

All the above gives a Total = $9480, let’s say around $10000 if you include labour and other possible miscellaneous costs.

Seeing that figure, you have already written off solar. Rightfully so, this investment is as large as the last wedding budget you saw. In many countries the government has provided incentives and financing options to help people offset this huge initial investment. Utilities have also stepped up in different ways to make this investment very beneficial to owners of rooftop solar home systems.

Maybe in my next post I will talk about how investment in solar systems can be encouraged on a home to home basis or even micro level. The big question I want to address though is, Is this investment worth it?

These systems usually have a lifespan of 25 years. If we assume you use the same number of units per day for all those 25 years. Assuming a unit with Umeme remains UGX 520, for those years you will pay $24,300. Again this figure is an approximation subject to change based on the rates of power, dollar exchange rate. Now with the solar system assuming you don’t need to replace anything, after 10 years you will be using free electricity. Okay even if you had to buy the whole system again in those 25 years, you would still have about $4, 300 left over.

I guess this is where I ask you, is it worth it? Am an advocate for solar systems if only ways to offset this initial investment were available. Let us know if you would invest in solar.

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Editor’s Note: This is post by our contributing writer Jemimah C. Akiror. She is currently a PHD student at Concordia university Canada where her research is mainly in energy efficiency and electrical machine design. She also takes interest in power systems, renewable energy technologies and power electronics. You can follow on Twitter at@JemyConnieor on Linkedin.

Related

FAQs

What are the 2 main disadvantages to solar energy? ›

Solar Cons
  • Standard home solar does not “work” at night.
  • Home solar panels are not attractive.
  • DIY solar installation is difficult (if not impossible) for most homeowners.
  • Not every roof configuration is ideal for maximum solar power generation.
  • Solar manufacturing is not good for the environment.

Do you still have to pay electricity bills with solar panels? ›

After your solar panels have been installed, it's time to enjoy the benefits! You'll be generating clean energy and helping to reduce your energy bills. However, you will still have to pay for any energy you use that you don't generate yourself.

Do I need to tell my electricity supplier I have solar panels? ›

If you install generation equipment like solar panels at your home, and the equipment is connected to the grid, your DNO must be notified. This is because they need to know if you're putting electricity onto the grid, so they can manage their networks efficiently. Most installations are connected to the grid.

How many solar panels are needed to power my home? ›

How many solar panels are needed for a house? The average one-bedroom house needs six solar panels, a typical three-bedroom house requires 10 panels, and a five-bedroom house will usually need 14 panels. Want to see how much this would cost you?

What is the biggest problem with solar panels? ›

One of the biggest problems that solar energy technology poses is that energy is only generated while the sun is shining. That means nighttime and overcast days can interrupt the supply.

Do solar panels cause roof leaks? ›

In virtually all cases, the answer is no. Roof leaks after solar panels are extremely rare. When roof leaking after the solar panels are fitted does occur, however, it usually becomes evident very quickly after the installation process is finished.

Can I run my house on solar power only? ›

With a modern solar energy system, including power storage, you can definitely run a whole house completely on solar power. Today's high-efficiency solar panels and solar batteries make it cheaper than ever before to power an entire home exclusively using solar energy.

Why are my solar panels not saving me money? ›

Your Home Is Using Too Much Power

If your solar panels are not reducing your bill, it can be because: Your system is generating less electricity than you use. You're using too much electricity at night when panels aren't generating it. Too many appliances or devices are plugged in.

Is solar cheaper than electric bill? ›

Although solar energy requires an initial investment to purchase and set up, people find that solar energy is a lot less expensive than electric power in the long run due to the rising price of electricity.

What do I need to know before switching to solar? ›

15 Things to Consider Before Installing Rooftop Solar Panels
  • Does your roof need repairs? ...
  • What is the shape of your roof? ...
  • Which direction do the slopes of your roof face? ...
  • How much weight can your roof handle? ...
  • Where will the water go? ...
  • What about nature's other surprises? ...
  • How do you connect to the grid?

How long do solar panels last? ›

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic or PV panels, are made to last more than 25 years. In fact, many solar panels installed as early as the 1980s are still working at expected capacity. Not only are solar panels remarkably reliable, solar panel longevity has increased dramatically over the last 20 years.

Which energy provider is best for solar panels? ›

If you're looking for the best SEG tariff for your solar, then Social Energy (5.6p/kWh) and Octopus (5.5p/kWh) are the best rates available as of November 2020.

How many kw do I need to run my house on solar? ›

Typical solar PV systems installed in 2021 are at least 6.6kW in size and we think that's a good size for most homes to aim for right now. That said, bigger systems of 8–10kW are becoming more common, especially for systems that include a storage battery.

How many kw Do I need to power my house? ›

Average Home Energy Consumption. According to data from 2020, the average amount of electricity an American home uses is ​​10,715 kilowatt-hours (kWh). If you divide this number by 12 (months in a year), the average residential utilities customer uses 893 kWh per month.

How many solar panels do I need for 3000 kWh monthly? ›

This particular farmer would need about 64 panels to produce 3000 kWh per month. (By the way, we multiply by 1000 because there are 1000 Watts in a kilowatt). If you want panels that produce less power, like 200-W panels, you'll just need more of them.

Does rain hurt solar panels? ›

Solar panels will still work even when the light is reflected or partially blocked by clouds. Rain actually helps to keep your panels operating efficiently by washing away any dust or dirt.

Can rain destroy solar panels? ›

The rain itself will have no effect on your solar energy system. Solar panels are made of waterproof material, hence moisture won't damage them.

Can rain break solar panels? ›

Solar panels that are not waterproofed properly can have rain get inside and damage individual cells. Rain can also flood the panel, meaning that less amount of sunlight can reach the parts that react with the solar energy.

Can we run air conditioner on solar power? ›

ACs can easily run on on-grid solar systems with capacities ranging between 3 kW to 10kW. An on-grid solar system can support the running of ACs in the large commercial office spaces (with electricity bills as high as Rs. 1 lakh) to residences (with bills of Rs.

How much is a whole house solar system? ›

With installation, an average residential 5-kW system costs from $3 to $5 per watt, according to the CSE, which results in the $15,000 to $25,000 range. That cost is before any tax credits or incentives. If you know your current energy usage, you can calculate how much you'll need to pay for solar panels.

Can solar panels power a house 24 7? ›

Solar panels work hard all day producing electricity from the sun. They also support sustainable solar energy solutions at night. You can continue benefiting from their energy production after sunset through net metering and solar battery storage.

Why is my solar true up bill so high? ›

The High Usage Surcharge takes into account the energy your solar system generates. If applied, the Surcharge indicates that you are using significantly more energy than you generated. The High Usage Surcharge reflected on your monthly bill is not paid until your Annual True-Up.

How long does it take solar panels to pay for themselves? ›

The most common estimate of the average payback period for solar panels is six to ten years. This is a pretty wide range because there are many factors that will influence the number of years it can take to pay off your panels and the monthly savings you can expect.

Why you dont want solar panels? ›

High upfront costs for your solar energy system. This is usually because solar equipment and/or installation costs are expensive where you live. Space restrictions mean that you can't install a solar panel system large enough to deliver adequate electric bill savings.

Do solar panels increase bills? ›

PV solar panels enable you to generate your own free electricity, which is then used to power your household appliances and other electrical devices. This means that you won't need as much electricity from the grid so will save money on your bills, especially if energy prices rise.

Do solar panels work at night? ›

The short answer is: no, solar energy systems only operate during the day.

Does solar energy cost a lot of money? ›

Solar panels cost, on average, about $16,000, or between $3,500 to $35,000 depending on the type and model. While solar panels can help save you money on energy costs, it's important to know the overall startup solar panel costs so you can plan a budget.

What are 4 main problems associated with installing solar in your home? ›

Nine Common Problems with Solar Panels
  • Delamination and internal corrosion. If moisture finds its way into the panel, it can cause internal corrosion. ...
  • Electrical issues. Faulty wiring prevents your solar panels from performing well. ...
  • Micro-cracks. ...
  • Hot spots. ...
  • PID effect. ...
  • Birds. ...
  • Snail trails. ...
  • Roof issues.
16 May 2019

Do solar panels need to warm up? ›

Short answer — yes, they do. Solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, and as long as there is sunlight falling on the panels, it does not matter how hot or cold it is. In fact, photovoltaic (PV) solar panels work more efficiently in the cold.

How long do solar panels last before needing to be replaced? ›

The industry standard for most solar panels' lifespans is 25 to 30 years. Most reputable manufacturers offer production warranties for 25 years or more. The average break even point for solar panel energy savings occurs six to 10 years after installation.

Do solar panels hurt your roof? ›

For most homeowners, as long as your solar panels are properly installed, they shouldn't do damage to the exterior or the infrastructure of your roof. If you are working with a qualified licensed professional and your roof is in good condition, your solar panels won't affect the integrity of your roof.

Do solar panels get weaker over time? ›

The reduction in solar panel output over time is called degradation. NREL research has shown that solar panels have a median degradation rate of about 0.5% per year but the rate could be higher in hotter climates and for rooftop systems.

Do solar panels still work after 25 years? ›

In reality, solar panels can last quite a bit longer than that: the warranty typically guarantees panels will work above 80% of their rated efficiency after 25 years. A study by NREL shows that the majority of panels still produce energy after 25 years, albeit at slightly reduced output.

Can I change electricity provider if I have solar panels? ›

You can switch your gas and electricity energy supplier and this shouldn't affect the payments that you get from your existing feed-in tariff provider – it is obliged to continue making payments to you.

Is 1 kW enough to run a house? ›

A smaller house in a temperate region would consume around 210-kilowatt hours (kWh) per month. Whereas a larger house where air conditioners require the most energy might use 2,000 kWh or more. The typical home uses 900 kWh per month. That works out at 1.25 kWh every hour or 30 kWh per day.

How many kWh does a house use per day? ›

That means that the average kW used in U.S. households is 30kW per day, which averages at around 900kW per month. As a disclaimer, these figures are calculated from the U.S. home average of kilowatt-hours per day.

How many solar panels do you need for a family of 4? ›

According to the average estimation, If the house consumes about 1000 kWh, it requires about 26 - 30 solar panels. You will find that there is a different calculation method to obtain the number of solar panels required. If you know about the monthly energy consumption of your house, then divide it by 120.

How many kilowatts do I need for a 4 bedroom house? ›

As the average 4 bedroom house has between 10 and 15 radiators, you will most likely require a boiler with an output rating of around 20 to 30 kW. You will also need to take the number of bathrooms into account as well.

Is 3 kW enough to run a house? ›

Thrissur, Kerala: The experts who deal in solar said that three kilowatts (kW) of a solar power system is enough for an average family of three to four people. But for a larger family or for running an AC at home, five to seven kilowatts of a solar system will be required.

Is 7 kW enough to run a house? ›

7 kW systems are large enough to meet the energy needs of larger-than-average homes. They can also meet the energy needs of average-sized homes with higher-than-average energy usage, or when combined with battery backup, may be able to support small to average-sized homes nearly full time.

How many solar panels do I need to power a 5 bedroom house? ›

We estimate that a typical home needs between 20 and 24 solar panels to cover 100 percent of its electricity usage.

How many batteries do I need for a 3000 watt solar system? ›

Lead-acid battery for 3kw solar system, in the statement of 24V, 3000W/24V=125A, if it needs to stay in the best condition, and run at full load for a long time, we suggest you to use 125A*10H=1250AH, 13 batteries in parallel.

How many solar panels do I need for a 3 bedroom house? ›

How many solar panels are needed for a house? The average one-bedroom house needs six solar panels, a typical three-bedroom house requires 10 panels, and a five-bedroom house will usually need 14 panels.

What are 2 advantages and 2 disadvantages of solar energy? ›

Advantages & Disadvantages of Solar Energy – 7 Pros and Cons
Advantages of Solar EnergyDisadvantages of Solar Energy
Reduces Electricity BillsHigh Initial Costs
Provides Tax IncentivesTime Consuming
Pairs with Solar Battery StorageWeather Dependent
Environmentally FriendlyStringent Criteria
23 Sept 2021

What are the 2 advantages and 2 limitations of solar energy? ›

The energy generated by the sun throughout the manner of heat as well as light energy. Advantages: Solar energy somehow does not pollute the environment. It is possible to generate power using solar energy sometimes in distant as well as unreachable regions.

What are 2 main advantages of using solar energy? ›

Advantages of Solar Energy
  • Solar power is low-emission. ...
  • Solar power is suitable for remote areas that are not connected to energy grids. ...
  • Solar power provides green jobs. ...
  • Solar panels contain no moving parts and thus produce no noise. ...
  • In the long run, solar power is economical.

What is a disadvantage of using solar power? ›

One of the disadvantages of solar power is that it comes with a high initial cost of purchase and installation. This includes wiring, batteries, inverter, and solar panels. The cost of solar energy systems varies depending on where you live as well as the incentives you are qualified for.

Does solar panels affect your house insurance? ›

You may not see an increase in your homeowners insurance premium after installing solar panels on your roof. However, you'll likely need to raise your coverage limits to account for the replacement cost of your solar panels, which will likely result in some increase to your premium.

Can solar panels power a whole house? ›

With a modern solar energy system, including power storage, you can definitely run a whole house completely on solar power. Today's high-efficiency solar panels and solar batteries make it cheaper than ever before to power an entire home exclusively using solar energy.

Why do we need to avoid even the use of solar energy? ›

In general, the disadvantages of solar energy include high cost, low efficiency, space needed for installing solar panels, the unreliability of sun exposure, and high pollution from manufacturing solar panels. Concentrated solar power plants are massively expensive to install with very low return on investment.

How much is it to install solar panels? ›

How much do solar panels cost for homes? On average, solar panel installation and the system together can run from $15,000 to $25,000, according to the latest information from the Center for Sustainable Energy. Electricity rates vary by location.

Which country produces largest solar energy in the world? ›

China- 340 GW

With a whopping 340 GW, the country is the largest producer of solar energy in the world. In the first six months of 2022, the nation has deployed more than 30.88 GW of Solar PV systems. Moreover, it has set goals to install 108 GW of solar power this year.

Is solar energy expensive? ›

Yes, solar panels are expensive. With a typical 6 kW system costing an average of $17,700 before incentives, they are a home improvement that requires a significant financial investment.

Do solar panels make house hotter? ›

According to a study conducted by researchers at UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering, solar panels reduced the amount of heat reaching the roof by an incredible 38%, keeping a building's roof 5 degrees cooler than portions of a roof exposed to sunlight directly.

What are 3 cons of using solar panels? ›

We want to discuss a few of the important cons to consider.
  • Solar Panel Installations Can Be Expensive. ...
  • Solar Energy Doesn't Work at Night. ...
  • Solar Energy Storage is Expensive. ...
  • Solar Panels are Difficult to Move Once Installed. ...
  • Some Solar Panels Use Rare Earth Metals.

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