If you live in Los Angeles County and are thinking about installing a solar power system, there is an easy way to see what your best options are. The county has an Online Solar Map and Green Planning Tool, which assists homeowners in finding the optimal solar installations for their property.
At solarmap.lacounty.gov, homeowners can find almost everything they need to get started on taking advantage of solar power. When you type in your address, a map will offer you a bird's-eye view of the house, as well as graphics that show you where the best places are to install solar panels on your rooftop, with grades ranging from "excellent" to "not advisable." You can also zoom in on your rooftop for a closer look, and overlay it on different types of digital maps.
The county's solar map is deemed the most accurate of its kind, and takes several factors into account when assessing a building's solar viability, such as tree shade, roof pitch and features such as chimneys, and other surrounding structures. In compiling the data, solar radiation is calculated every 5 feet, and the map consists of more than 250 million measurements.
Once you get the assessment of your house, you can print out a report with all the necessary data. You can use that as you move forward with planning a solar project, and the website can help you with that as well. Energy-efficiency calculators provide estimates of project costs as well as utility bill savings. You can also get estimates of your current carbon footprint and utility costs, to compare the difference when a solar power system is installed. In the Project Planning section, you can choose different types of packages and see charts and graphs on how much a project costs, energy reduction, annual savings and payments, and estimated costs and incentives. A news blog on the home page offers the latest information on energy efficiency topics such as financing, home values, and scam alerts. There are tips on rebates and data on how solar can decrease utility costs. There's even a link to download the map for most smartphones. And don't forget to check out the links for other sustainable home information, such as recycling programs and green building. With the online solar map, it's easier than ever to make the switch to solar power.
- Michael Chagala