Google constantly tweaks its search engine to improve how it handles people's queries. Now, the company is using a range of data to help users decide whether to go solar.
A new tool, called Project Sunroof, lets users enter their home address and gives them information related to the costs and savings of having a solar power system installed on their home, so they can make a more informed decision.
There are a lot of factors to consider. What will be the energy savings? How much will the installation cost? Does my roof even get good enough sunlight?
The tool was designed to help homeowners answer those sorts of questions.
It's currently only available in the San Francisco Bay Area; Fresno, California; and the Boston area. Google hopes to make it more widely available, the company said in a blog post.
The tool combines Google's satellite imagery data and information from other databases to calculate the estimated costs and savings. It also estimates the amount of sunlight per year that will hit the roof.
To do this, the tool takes into account the 3D modeling of a homeowner's roof, shadows cast by nearby structures and trees, and historical cloud and temperature patterns that might affect solar energy production, the company says.
The tool will also recommend an installation size to generate close to 100 percent of the homeowner's energy use, based on roof size, the amount of sun hitting the roof, and the electricity bill, Google says.
The tool also provides users with a list of local solar energy providers who could perform the installation.
Though its availability is limited, Project Sunroof underscores Google's growing ambitions in the home services market.
Last month, after at-home cleaning service Homejoy said it would be shutting down, Google said it would hire a portion of its engineering and product development teams.
Meanwhile, Google's high-speed Google Fiber broadband Internet service is now available in close to a dozen U.S. cities.