Switching to solar isn’t an easy decision to make. Between the abundance of information, technical jargon, and the explosion of solar installers and financiers sometimes knowing where to begin can be the toughest part. This is why we’ve assembled a simple introductory Solar Guide to get you started. Our guide will walk you through all the basic ‘need to know’ info. Think of it as the first step in your solar journey. If you ever have any questions along the way don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always here to help.
Solar-powered homes were rare even as recently as a decade ago. But a variety of federal and local tax incentives along with increasing concern about climate change have made them more and more common.
If you are concerned about making an impact on the environment, installing solar panels can greatly reduce your household carbon emissions. According to a recent MIT study the average annual carbon emissions produced by a United States citizen is around 20 metric tons. To put that into perspective you would have to plant roughly 470 trees neutralize that amount of carbon dioxide. (info provided by our friends at www.carbonfund.org)
According to a recent report from the DOE Department of Energy and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, solar related employment accounts for the largest share of jobs in electric power generation sector. To date 2016 there are more than 374,000 workers employed as a result of Solar technology equalling 43% of the workforce in electric power. Solar employment is expected to rise by an additional 7% in 2017.
There has never been a better time to go solar. The price of solar panels has dropped drastically in the last 5 years. Prices on most brands have dropped as much as 60 percent since 2011. Combined this with federal tax credits, local tax credits and subsidies and you have the national average of up-front costs at an all time low.
In addition to the monthly savings homeowners will also see an increase in the value of their home. A solar energy system can add anywhere between $15,000 and $20,000 to the home’s final sale price.
Saving energy saves money. In addition to reducing your utility bill and your carbon footprint, going solar will also allow you to benefit from the tax credits put in place by the state and federal government.
The federal government has put together a tax credit that incentivizes energy efficiency by paying for for a large portion of the solar system itself. All US homeowners across the board will receive a tax credit of 30% of the total cost of their solar energy system. There is to cap on the cost or size of the system. Both existing homes and new construction will qualify. Furthermore homeowners are not limited to one property. Second homes are eligible as well. This particular tax credit is available at the full 30% until 2020 when it decreases to 26%. It will then drop to 22% a year later and expires at the end of 2021.
Certain states have jumped on board as well. Some states will even match the 30% federal credit! In certain areas your local utility provider may even reward you for going solar. There are several thousand power companies throughout our 50 states. The intricacies and variables of these policies are beyond the scope of this site. For further detail, we suggest that you discuss this with a local expert. If you like, we’d be happy to get the conversation started.
The basic idea of net metering is to balance out energy production and usage in the home. We’ve all seen the electricity meter on the outside of the house. This is used to monitor your energy usage. In most cases this slowly and surely ticks and ticks in one direction effectively running up your tab with your local power company. When you are producing surplus of energy on your roof with a solar system this electricity meter will run in reverse.
Solar energy production is at its peak in the early afternoon. In contrast power use in the home typically peaks in the mornings and evenings. During the day your solar system will most likely produce more power than you are using. This will earn you a credit with the power company. This credit can then be redeemed for use in the morning, evening, or through the night. While most states allow net metering the policies and rules will vary.
One lesser known fact about solar is that you don’t actually have to own the panels. There are a number of companies lease you the panels at a monthly rate with little to no cost upfront. You then use the energy produced from the panels. Under this model you don’t technically own the equipment. As a result the company leasing the solar panels is responsible for maintaining the the system. In the end you wind up paying a lower rate for power every month.
A Power Purchase Agreement or “PPA” is slightly different. While the installation is still taken care of at little to no cost and the panels are still maintained by the solar company your monthly payment structure will differ. Rather than paying a flat ‘rent’ for the system You will pay a fixed price per kWh used.
While the two models do vary to some degree, it’s unlikely that you would have to choose between one or the other. Different territories have different rules and regulations regarding leasing and PPA and Solar Leasing. Your location will likely determine which program is available.
While Solar Leasing and PPA options can be a fantastic way to reduce your monthly spend, owning a system outright has some pretty attractive benefits as well. Over the past several years the economics of solar ownership have become increasingly compelling. As we mentioned earlier, owning your energy system will allow you to take full advantage of the federal tax credit (meaning a $3,000 savings on a $10,000 system, a $6,000 savings on a $20,000 system and so on). Many states and local governments are also encouraging homeowners to go solar. Depending on where you live you may also be able to benefit from state incentives. In a lease, the solar company (lessor) is technically still the owner of the panels making it the beneficiary of all tax credits. When purchasing or financing solar these tax incentives belong to the homeowner. Ownership is an investment that will pay dividends in time. Third-party financing makes this investment more accessible. Our solar installers are partnered with financiers and will be able to tell you more about finance options.