Although the average sunlight per day in the Detroit area is just 4.2 hours, the efficiency of solar energy systems has increased over the past few years. Many local homeowners have found solar to be an effective way to decrease their energy bills. Federal and state tax incentives and rebates can also lower a homeowner’s solar installation cost by up to 30 percent. In addition, to encourage the installation of solar energy systems, your local power company may offer further discounts.

Solar thermal vs. solar photovoltaic
There are two main types of solar energy in use in homes today, solar thermal and solar photovoltaic. In both, solar panels are mounted on, or installed into, your home’s roof. The most common use of solar thermal energy is to heat water. Solar collectors are placed on the roof of the home to capture the sun’s heat, which warms a heat transfer fluid. The warmed fluid moves down to a water tank, transferring the heat to the water.

Photovoltaic solar energy conversion, also known as solar PV, directly converts the sun’s light into electricity. In this method solar panels collect the light from the sun. The photovoltaic material in the panel’s cells allow electrons on the surface of a solar panel to be knocked loose by the incoming light rays. The flow of the loose electrons creates direct current (DC) electricity, which runs through the panel and is then stored in batteries, sent to the electrical grid, or converted into alternating current (AC) with the use of an inverter for immediate residential use.

You can get an idea of how much solar electricity can be captured from the sun’s light to your home by using a solar calculator like the one here.

Once you decide to go with solar, you will probably want to consult a qualified Michigan-based solar installer; a few of them are listed below. All offer sales and installation of either solar thermal or solar PV systems or both.

A solar installer should be able to answer all of your questions about costs, equipment, electrical capacity, and potential for tax credits and rebates. They will visit your home to determine exact measurements and account for location specifics like roof slope, orientation, and type of roof. Once an estimate has been worked out, and you have accepted it, solar systems generally take two to four days to install, depending on complexity.

Paula Guthat is a freelance writer and a Detroit native. Her work can be found at

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