The advent of solar energy has been long in coming. Today, however, we find solar panels in so many communities and regions that we can safely confirm it is here to stay. Whether the concern is climate change or high utility bills, solar power answers each decisively. As a renewable energy source, the it has noi negative effect on the atmosphere. Because it can be captured directly, it offsets the amount of power drawn from the utility grid thereby saving significant funds. Panels also add to home values. The selection and installation of panels, nevertheless, should not be performed in haste.

Where is Solar Energy Most Beneficial?

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the potency and availability of solar radiation differs by region and time of day. The amount of radiation received is called insolation, the highest of which is found in lower latitudes and more arid climates. With the Equator representing zero degrees latitude -- and gauging the rainfall nationwide -- the southwestern United States benefits greatly from photovolcaic (PV) cells, i.e. what makes up solar panels. Yet this does not negate the value of PVs elsewhere. Indeed, solar receptors are sound investments in many regions of the U.S.

What Inhibits Insolation?

Essentially, anything that obstructs the sunlight is an inhibitor of insolation. Atmospheric hindrances include clouds, dust, volcanic ash and other forms of pollution. Those lovely shade trees that protect a house from the sun's heat in summer also interrupt solar energy collection. Mountains can do likewise to entire towns. Of course, the perpetual orbit of the earth around the sun means that the star that gives life to our planet will be more distant -- and its insolation capacity less penetrating -- at certain times of the year over others.

What Do These Factors Mean for Homeowners?

Those contemplating an investment in solar energy want to know if the return will be worth the sacrifice. If the dwelling is situated where relatively little sunlight pervades, savings may not add up to an appreciable amount. Rjukan, Norway is an example of a location where -- from late summer to early spring -- it is hard to tell when it's daytime. Insolation rates are low so PV panels may be an avoidable expense. Yet such an extreme dearth of solar radiation is unknown in the United States. Most regions can see ecological and economic value in solar power outfitting.

Households with low energy consumption will take many years before PV cells pay for themselves. Conversely, those with intensive usage can make up the expense much more quickly. The best we can do is look at averages: the typical home accommodates a six kilowatt solar power system. In New York City, the average output of such a system is 6,882 watt-hours annually. This translates to a yearly savings of $109. On the opposite coast, in sunny Los Angeles, annual production is 9,066 watt-hours yielding a savings mean of $143 per year. Over decades, the gleanings are substantial.

How to Estimate Solar Panel Savings

Whatever system you choose, bear in mind that its total cost will be offset by as much as 30 percent in the form of a federal tax credit and higher home values. Consumers can then figure their average monthly charges as well as the frequency and size of utility rate increases. Extending these calculations over 20 years, say, will not tell you how much you save. Still, it will tell you the price of doing without solar. That helps determine the profitability of solar panels.