For New York City homeowners, solar power is an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint and avoid rising electricity rates. In most cases, solar panels can completely power your NYC house, meeting your family’s energy needs and then some. But the output of your solar system can vary greatly depending on a variety of factors. 

In this article, we’ll break down what you need to know about solar production in NYC.

How does solar energy work on NYC’s Brownstones?

A solar energy system on a NYC brownstone works just the same as it does on any other home. The solar panels on your roof absorb sunlight, generating direct current (DC) electricity. The DC electricity is converted into alternating current (AC) electricity by your system’s inverter and distributed through your home’s main electrical panel. Any unused electricity will be exported into the grid, and Con Ed will compensate you for it on your next electric bill through a system called net metering.

Calculating How Many Solar Panels it Takes to Power a Home

The easiest way to determine the potential size of your home’s solar system is by talking to a trusted solar installer to get an accurate estimate (we provide custom proposals for free!). But if you’d like to do some quick math on your own, you’ll need three key pieces of information:

  • Your annual electricity usage 
  • The wattage of your potential solar panels
  • The production ratio of your solar system

With these numbers, you can use the formula below to estimate how many panels you’ll need:

Number of panels = system size / production ratio / panel wattage

Annual Energy Usage

Your annual energy usage is how much electricity your home uses in one year, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). You can get this information from Con Edison. This number varies from home to home based on how many lights, appliances, and electronics you’re running and how frequently – for example, if you’re using a home EV charger to power your car every night, your usage will reflect that.

Ideally, your solar system will offset 100% of your home’s energy consumption, so this number is key in determining how many panels you’ll need.

Solar Panel Wattage and Output

The wattage of a solar panel is its expected output under ideal conditions, measured in Watts (W). The higher the wattage, the more powerful the panel. Most panels on the market today are between 250 and 400 Watts, but vary in productivity due to solar panel efficiency. For the purposes of this calculation, it’s important to know overall how much energy your panels can produce.

Production Ratio

A solar panel system’s production ratio is its projected amount of kWh produced in one year divided by its total wattage. This ratio largely depends on how much sunlight your system is exposed to over the course of a year, which differs depending on geographic location. In the United States, typical production ratios are somewhere between 1.3 and 1.6.

Other Factors that Impact Your Solar Panel System

The formula above can help give you a rough estimate of your system size. But in a lot of situations, it’s not quite as clear cut. Achieving 100% offset through solar power can vary depending on a number of factors, especially here in New York City.

Roof Size and Orientation

The roofs of New York City are as unique as its people are. Roof space varies: any given home could have an assortment of skylights, hatches, HVAC equipment, garden beds, and more. Depending on how your roof is set up, this could affect how many panels can reasonably fit considering other factors like the fire path. 
Needless to say, we have to get creative! For this reason, we only survey our customers’ roofs in-person – no virtual estimates here. Schedule a free consultation to get started.

How Many Square Feet Your Home Is

When it comes to energy usage, the size of your home may have an impact on how much solar power you’ll need. Larger homes typically have more lights and more appliances, and also require more power to heat and cool.

Hours of Sunlight Your Home Receives

The amount of sunlight your home receives depends on the time of year – naturally, we receive less sun in the winter versus the summer, meaning you’ll see less peak sunlight hours. Shade is also an important component of determining solar viability, especially in NYC. Because everything is built so close together here, it’s common to receive shade from taller buildings and trees. But every roof is unique, and in most cases, solar still makes sense.

Proper Installation of Solar Power

Because of the many external factors at play, like shading and fire code, it’s important to work with an installer who knows how to work around potential hindrances and maximize solar production. Unfortunately, many installers who work in the area do not specialize in NYC roofs. But for us, they’re our bread and butter – we’ve spent years honing our craft and our working hard to install solar wherever possible in NYC.

Usage of Quality Solar Panels

Like any manufactured product, not all solar panels are created equal. The material used in the manufacturing of a solar panel affects how it converts sunlight into electricity. The wiring, busing, and glass used in the construction of a panel can affect its performance as well.

The Average Number of Solar Panels on NYC’s Brownstones

To reiterate, every roof and home in NYC is different – thus, we do not provide quotes or proposed system designs with exact numbers without performing an in-person assessment first. 

But to give you an idea of how many solar panels could power your house, we offer two mounting options: a canopy and a tilt rack. A solar canopy elevates the panels nine feet above the roof surface to avoid the fire path and any obstructions. Tilt racks are installed closer to the roof surface and split solar arrays into sections, working around obstructions.

A solar canopy is the larger system option – typically consisting of 21 or more solar panels. Tilt rack systems are smaller, with around 15 panels. The actual system size is subject to change depending on your roof and clean energy needs.

Now is the Time to Power Your NYC Home with a Solar System

Residential solar power is an incredibly valuable renewable energy source for New Yorkers. In most cases, solar panels can completely power the average home in NYC, allowing you to say goodbye to Con Ed bills and reduce your carbon footprint too.


Ready to start your solar journey? Schedule a free consultation to get started.

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