How many solar panels will depend on if you live in a particularly sunny or cloudy location, how much electricity you use, and what kind of panels you choose. Averages are hard to calculate with so many factors. If you look at your electricity bill and calculate how many watts of electricity you use in a day, you can divide that number by the hours of direct sunlight your house receives daily. There are different sized panels, which are measured by how much energy (watts) they put out in direct sunlight. Don’t forget that you will need more solar panels to stock up on power for the nighttime when there is no sunlight at all, and for seasonal times like winter if you live in an areas affected by seasons. The best way to get a good answer to that question is either to narrow down where “average” is limited to (Oregon, the Netherlands, Europe, etc) or to look into local solar providers who can better give an estimate based on your situation or general location.
This can be rather difficult to generalize as it depends on many variables such as the average amount of sunlight per day an area gets and the efficiency of the solar panels. Of course, we have to consider the seasonal impact as well — summer will yield more hours of sunlight while winter will have less. In these instances, it will be necessary to have an extra source of power to make up for what the solar panels are unable to provide.
Furthermore, providing solar panels for the “average household” as we know it today would be very, very expensive. Most homes use far more energy than needed, and anyone who is serious about converting to solar panels will need to make some major changes to their household and lifestyle in order to lower their monthly energy usage. According to the U.S Energy Information Administration, the average American household will consume about 920 kWh per month. I will be using this figure to calculate how many solar panels will be needed to power a home consuming this amount of electricity.
Okay, so first we need to figure out the amount of insolation the house recieves. As I mentioned before, each area will differ in this respect, so let’s assume 5 hours of full sunlight per day as our average. Now we have to figure out how much energy our solar panels will produce per square foot. Once again, this value can vary, but a good average would be about 10 watts/sq. ft. That’s 100 square feet to produce 1 kW.
In the citations section you can find the link to a very handy converter that easily allows us to plug in 920 kWh per month and calculates it to an average of 1278 watts per hour. Thats 30672 watts per day. Divide this number by the amount of sunlight per day (5 hours) and you get 6134. But what does this number mean? This is the amount of energy your solar panels will need to produce per hour in order to power your house. If we use a 200-watt solar panel, we would need about 30 panels to produce this much energy. The Sanyo 200-Watt solar panel measures 13.06 square feet, which equals a total amount of 391.8 square feet for the total system. On average, a solar panel will cost $9 per Watt. For 30 panels, this would be $54,000!
Hope this all made sense. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask in the comments!
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