There is a certain appeal to doing things by yourself. This drive to stand independent is, I believe, inherent to human beings. Just think, how many times has your child refused your help insisting that they can do something ‘by myself’. And let’s be honest, we’ve all experienced, at one time or another, a sense of deep pride when accomplishing a difficult task without external aid.
So with this human quality in mind, it only makes sense that one would apply this self-determination to providing all of your own power. Which brings us to the question, ‘can I use solar panels to run my whole house?’
Because of their efficiency and scalability, youcan, absolutely, run your whole house on solar power. And if you have any doubt about this, then consider the Tesla Gigafactory.
At the time of this writing, the Tesla Gigafactory boasted a “footprint of more than 1.9 million square feet.” This is considerably larger than your average home. And unless your household requires more energy than is necessary to produce 500,000 vehicles a year, then I think it’s safe to assume that a solar power system could be designed for you.
So why doesn’t every house have solar panels?
One would think that with this potential to power every home independently, solar power would be utilized in a much larger manner than it is. And while home-solar is growing exponentially, it is still not considered as the norm. There are two big contributors for this.
- Awareness – Something that has become blatantly obvious to me as my family and I have lived ‘unplugged’ these past few years is just how much of a disconnect there is between what is possible and what is assumed possible. In short, technology has out-paced awareness.
Generally speaking, people understand that solar panels produce power, but they do not understand just how much capacity for producing this power has improved.
For example, take Wayne and Karen Moss. They started their solar adventure in 2011 with a small array using panels rated at 225 watts a piece. Fast forward to 2016 and a final array was installed, with the new panels being rated at 285 watts a piece.
To put that into perspective, that’s about a 20% increase of power production per panel in a little more than what it would take someone to achieve their Bachelors Degree.
- Cost – While a solar array can provide you with free power, the panels themselves are not free. As of the time of this writing, the average cost for a 5kW solar panel system is around $15,000. For most, that would be a VERY nice vacation! And let’s be honest, it can be hard to spend money on something practical when you could spend it on something fun.
But, much like the improvements in power production, purchase costs have improved as well. Swanson’s Law shows us that every time the amount of manufactured panels doubles, the price per panel drops roughly 20%. In other words, the more we make, the more the cost comes down.
And with panel production continuing to grow, it is only reasonable to assume that purchase costs will continue to drop… just as they have so consistently.
Having lived ‘unplugged’ from the electric company since 2015, I can say with some authority that solar panels can absolutely ‘run your whole house’. Currently, the easiest and most cost effective way to do this is with a grid-tied system – where your panels are working in conjunction with the electric utility.
However, oncoming technologies have a history of being disruptive. Just as we have switched from horse to automobile and from switchboard to handhelds, the way we power our lives is certain to change. And as home-power systems continue to mature, along with a proper understanding of what these systems can actually do, the concept of using solar panels to power your whole house will switch from being a novelty to the norm.