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6/17/2016

Buying Solar Panels for Home

In addition to the generous federal investment tax credit of 30%, there are over 900 financial and regulatory incentive programs for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems across the United States. While going solar is still a big decision with a pretty hefty price tag, it’s becoming more and more affordable, depending on where you live.

Solar costs have been falling (by more than 55% since 2009), and more and more states and municipalities are implementing incentive programs to encourage the switch to solar. Moreover, as electricity prices continue to rise in most parts of the U.S., installing solar panels is an investment that reaps even greater rewards.

Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

The solar investment tax credit (ITC) is a 30% federal tax credit for solar energy systems, both residential and commercial. Originally set to expire at the end of 2016, the tax credit has been extended and will remain at the 30% level through 2017, 2018 and 2019 and then be phased out completely over the following three years, falling to 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021 and to 10% in 2022.

There is no cap on the maximum amount of the credit. If the tax credit is more than your tax liability in the year you install the system, you can carry forward the excess amount and use it in the future. Allowable expenditures include equipment costs and labor costs for assembly, installation, preparation, and interconnection.

The tax credit applies to installations on both principal residences and second homes (even an RV or a boat can qualify as long as they are considered as a second home according to the rules of IRS).

Net Metering

Net metering is an example of a regulatory incentive for homeowners with grid-connected systems that allows you to buy electricity from the grid when you are not producing enough solar electricity and to sell your excess electricity to the grid for a credit.

In most states, you are credited for your excess electricity at the retail rate. However, recent policy changes in Nevada have resulted in a significant disincentive where solar electricity generators are only compensated for their extra electricity at the wholesale rate. After a considerable slow down in new solar system applications in that state, other jurisdictions are weighing the disadvantages of such a policy shift.

Local Incentives

Many states have put their money where their mouth is, by implementing incentive programs that truly make solar energy a better investment than sticking with the status quo (i.e. the local utility). These solar tax credits, rebates and other financial incentives can make the difference between a state/city being at grid parity or not, where grid parity is defined as the point at which solar electricity is the same or cheaper than electricity from the utility, calculated over the lifetime of the panels (on average 25 years). Now let’s take a look at three example states to better understand some of the main types of solar incentives available to homeowners.

A great example is Louisiana: the state has the lowest average residential electricity prices across the U.S., yet because of the generous state tax credit for solar PV systems (up to $10,000), Louisiana is at grid parity, and solar panels will save most Louisiana residents money in the long run.

New Jersey makes solar energy more affordable for residents using other types of incentives. Along with other programs, they have implemented a sales tax exemption (currently 7%) for all solar energy equipment. They also have a Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) program, whereby solar electricity producers receive certificates based on the amount of electricity produced which they then sell using New Jersey’s online marketplace for trading SRECs. These programs, in addition to others, have made New Jersey one of the top solar states in the U.S.

Residents of Iowa benefit from yet another type of incentive. In addition to a state tax credit of 18% (up to $5000), homeowners with solar PV systems can take advantage of a property tax exemption, whereby the market value added to a property by a solar energy system is exempt from the state’s property tax for five full assessment years.

Conclusion

These are just a few examples of the different types of incentives available in the U.S. to homeowners that make the switch to solar energy. These regulatory and financial mechanisms for making solar energy more affordable, while different from state to state, are all helping to increase the adoption of solar energy across the United States. For Canadian residents, there are also a number of solar incentives available.

While it’s great to have access to so many different programs, it’s not always easy for homeowners to find the information they need. In order to help you save time and money, we consolidated available programs by state. So, why not learn about the solar incentive programs available where you live?

Simone Garneau is the co-founder of Sunmetrix, an online consumer education website for residential solar energy. The goal of Sunmetrix is to help homeowners go solar and save money with our Solar Cashback Program. In addition to the 200+ articles about solar energy, Sunmetrix offers homeowners three main resources: a Consumer Report for solar energy, Discover to preview solar energy for your home, and GO, the only solar energy test drive experience. Read all of Simone's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



6/16/2016

ground mounted solar panels

When homeowners think of installing a solar energy system on their home, rooftop solar is probably the first thing to come to mind. What you may not realize: installing ground mounted solar panels is both easy and cost-effective, and is actually the smartest option for many homes. We'll walk you through the top three things you need to know about ground-mounted solar. 

1. In many cases, ground-mounted solar is your best option.

While rooftop solar arrays are the most common choice for homeowners, there are many reasons to consider a ground mounted solar energy system.

Generally, ground-mounted solar costs the same as rooftop solar on a per-watt basis. If your home isn’t ideal for rooftop solar, installing a ground-mounted system can actually save you money in the long term.

Rooftop solar arrays are restricted by the characteristics of the roof on which they are installed. If your roof isn’t at the right angle, doesn’t face south, or has obstructions like chimneys or skylights, your solar array will be less productive. Ground-mounted solar energy systems, on the other hand, can be located wherever the conditions are best.  

In addition, if your home uses a lot of electricity, your roof might not be big enough for a solar array that meets your energy needs. In contrast, ground-mounted solar systems can be sized to match your electricity consumption without the space restrictions of a rooftop system.

2. Not all ground-mounted solar energy systems are created equal.

There are two basic types of ground-mounted solar energy systems:

Standard ground mounts use metal framing driven into the ground to hold your solar panels up at a fixed angle. Some standard ground-mounted systems can be manually adjusted a few times a year to account for seasonal shifts of the sun. 

Pole mounts support multiple solar panels on a single pole, and elevate panels higher off the ground than a standard ground mount. Pole mounts often incorporate tracking systems, which automatically tilt the solar panels to capture the optimal amount of sunshine.

Tracking systems can increase the production of your solar panels by 25 percent or more. If you decide to add a tracking system to your ground-mounted solar array, you have the option of either a single-axis or a dual-axis system. Single-axis tracking systems move your solar panels over the course of the day to follow the sun as it moves through the sky. Dual-axis tracking systems can also adjust based on seasonal variations in the sun’s position. 

3. Ground-mounted solar arrays offer benefits for all homeowners.

Even if you are a good candidate for a rooftop solar array, there are many benefits to choosing a ground-mounted solar energy system.

First, ground-mounted solar energy systems are very easy to site, because they can be placed on open land. They don’t require drilling into your roof, and the bracings used in standard ground mount systems are lightweight and easy to remove. (If you opt for a pole mount, they will usually be installed more securely.)

Second, a ground-mounted solar array can be more productive per panel than a rooftop solar array. The panels are set at the perfect angle to optimize energy production, which means you can generate more electricity than a comparably sized rooftop system and save money in the long run.

Finally, ground-mounted solar is very easy to access for cleaning and maintenance. If you live in an area that sees a lot of snow in the winter, being able to easily sweep the snow off of your panels is a major convenience.

Most solar installers offer a ground mount option, and the cost of standard ground mounted solar is comparable with a rooftop solar energy system installation. If you decide to include a tracking system in your installation, you will pay an additional up-front cost, but the resulting increase in electricity production makes tracking systems cost-effective for many homeowners.

The best way to determine whether ground-mounted solar makes sense for you is to compare all of your solar options. Within the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can get quotes at no cost from vetted solar installers and – if you choose – specify that you are considering ground-mounted solar options. Get started today and turn your house into a solar home. 

Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the option that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



6/14/2016

Big Data For Energy Industry 

As the energy industry evolves, so does big data. Big data is probably best known for tracking people’s behaviors, purchases and viewpoints, but it can have many other applications.

Now the energy sector is tapping into the resources big data has to offer. From renewable energy to oil, gas and coal, this data science can help many companies maximize profits, reduce costs and even lower risk.

The profit margin is ever present and always shifting in the energy industry. It’s one of the most volatile sectors, averaging a 3.5 percent change daily. Depending on supply and demand, the various markets and currencies involved make revenues a moving target. Big data can help with this.

Data Improves Monitoring

Producers can anticipate the market using key indicators in real-time and respond immediately. Algorithms can incorporate and evaluate large volumes of information for the utilities and power companies. This allows them to make predictions and chart energy use to make well informed plans.

Big data also improves the monitoring of equipment and its maintenance — preventing a slowing or stoppage in production. For example, British Petroleum (BP)’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster cost the company an $18 billion fine. The company wants to avoid such a disaster and thus they have invested in data to help. More specifically, they created the Center for High- Performance Computing, based in Houston, Texas.

Data Improves Efficiency

Big data ensures the efficiency of machines. This is done by installing sensors on equipment to monitor its performance. The collected data is then compared to the entire body of data on an ongoing basis — ensuring machines and individual parts are replaced when needed.

Providing better monitoring and oversight through data can enable energy producers to be proactive in the realm of public safety. This will avoid a public relations nightmare that might tarnish a brand and result in lost product.

Data Must Be Applied Correctly

Collecting data and utilizing data are very different. Making sure useful and applicable data is gathered and then guaranteeing it reaches the right department is key if data is to fulfill its goal of optimizing performance.

Not every piece of data has value, so knowing what is significant and how to store and share it is extremely important.

Moving forward in the global economy, the energy industry needs to make informed decisions to maximize profit while minimizing cost and risks. The oil and gas industries, as well as other power-generation industries, have a need for advanced computer software. It’s believed that within the next 5 years, investment in big data for higher-tech industries such as these will increase from 56 percent to 61 percent.

Photo by William Iven

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Google+, Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


5/26/2016

solar panels 

If you're an environmental enthusiast, you're probably well educated about the recent innovations in green energy. You're likely familiar with the latest, impressive Solar Impulse project, in which the world-breaking Solar Impulse 2 has become the first solar-powered aircraft to fly around the world — and by the way, the plane is currently in Tulsa, Okla. Maybe you've even spent some time installing solar panels on your roof in your noble quest to make your household more green.

The latest and greatest in solar technology? A simple light-trapping prism that's broken another world record in solar efficiency.

How Does the Solar Prism Work?

The glass prism, which maximizes the amount of energy it can derive from sunlight, contains a 28-square centimeter, four-junction miniature module that works by utilizing a hybrid receiver designed to convert electricity from each sunbeam more than other devices. The four junctions divide the rays into four separate bands. The prism includes a band-reflect filter measuring 900 to 1,050 nanometers and multiple solar cells to trap light. The ultimate goal is to eventually increase the mini-module to 800 square centimeters.

How Was the Prism Developed?

The solar-efficient prism was built by a research team, led by Martin Green and Mark Keevers, at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia. Green, who serves as director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at the university, says the device is still in the prototype phase and probably won't be commercially available for at least another decade. But ultimately, the researchers have hopes that the prism could be used on rooftops — both on residential homes and business buildings — to create a widespread breakthrough in solar efficiency.

Just How Efficient Is the Prism?

 According to preliminary studies with the light-trapping prism, the device has broken solar-efficiency records because it has converted 34.5 percent of solar energy into usable electricity. That may not sound like much, but it's substantially more than currently available technology is capable of achieving. The previous solar-efficiency record, set by a module created by the U.S. solar company Alta Devices, was 24 percent. The typical efficiency range for available solar panels is between 14 and 22 percent.

What Are the Implications of Solar Technology?

If you're not entirely aware of the benefits of moving toward solar energy, consider how taxing fossil fuels such as natural gas, oil and coal are on the environment. These fossil fuels not only release toxins into the environment, but they also contribute to climate change through carbon dioxide emissions into the air.

Solar power is considered green — or "clean" — energy because it doesn't pollute the air or water, and it doesn't emit dangerous gases. It's a viable alternative to natural gases for a variety of purposes, from everyday cooking to home heating. For example, according to Smart Touch Energy's Guide to Home Heating Systems, 18 days of sunshine is equivalent to the planet's availability of fossil fuels like oil, gas and coals.

Plus, solar power is relatively inexpensive. Photovoltaic systems, like UNSW's light-trapping prism, have experienced a 45 percent cost decrease since 2010. And many state and federal agencies offer benefits like tax credits for switching to cleaner energy sources.

What Are the Disadvantages of Solar Energy?

Despite recent innovations in efficiency, solar-powered electricity is not without its disadvantages. Most importantly, solar energy can't be generated at night or during periods of heavy cloud cover. The efficiency also depends on the angle that the sun is facing the solar panels — buildings and homes will experience reduced electricity when the angle isn't optimal, even during abundant sunlight. In addition, solar panels can deteriorate over time with exposure to ultraviolet rays.

Still, in the long run, the benefits of sustainable living by investing in solar-powered devices may outweigh the cons, especially in the near future. But even if you're on the fence about the issue, you can help save the planet in other, smaller ways — as easy as making a commitment to recycling regularly, even if you have one more bin to carry outside once a week on trash day. 

Photo credits: Scott Webb.

Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living and has an especially strong passion for helping others increase their mental health and happiness by improving their daily productivity and positivity. To learn more about Kayla, you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter and check out her most recent posts on Productivity Theory. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



5/20/2016

is solar worth it

Every solar company has a variation of the same sales pitch, “did you know going solar can save thousands of dollars?” They make it sound so easy, but the truth is, whether solar is a smart long-term investment for you depends on a few major factors. So before you buy into the hype, we recommend you use this simple guide to cut through the sales jargon. 

How to Determine Whether Solar Is Right for You

As you start exploring your solar options, there are a few questions you can ask to help determine whether solar makes sense, including:

How Much Do You Pay for Electricity?

Your current electricity bill is the largest factor in determining how much you’ll save by installing solar. You pay your utility company for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity you use, and your rate varies significantly depending on where you live. In some parts of the country, you can pay as little as 8 cents per kWh; in others, you’ll pay 20 cents or more.

When you go solar, you effectively install a mini power plant on your roof to replace the power plant where your utility gets its electricity. That means homeowners with high electricity rates from their utility are the ones who save the most when they switch to home solar power. 

If you’re just getting started and aren’t sure how much solar can save you, start out by using an online Solar Calculator. EnergySage’s calculator incorporates local electricity rate data to give you a customized estimate of what you can expect to save, and just how quickly your investment will pay off.

solar calculator savings 1

How Much Does the Solar Panel System Cost?

Installation prices will vary significantly depending on the solar company you choose and the equipment you install. While cheap solar panels might feel like the easiest way to save some cash, your total 20-year savings will often be higher if you invest in high-quality equipment. It’s worth taking some time to review all of your equipment options and find the right combination of price and quality for your home. You can use an online solar marketplace like EnergySage to easily compare all of your offers in one place, the same way you’d shop for a flight online.

Don’t forget to research the solar incentives and rebates available where you live: they can reduce your net cost by 50 percent or even more. The federal government offers a 30 percent solar tax credit, and many states and municipalities have additional financial incentives for their residents. Some utilities even offer cash rebates to their customers to encourage them to go solar.  

How are You Financing Your Solar Panel System?

Whether you choose to buy or lease your solar panels will have a major impact on your system’s long-term value. If you have enough to make a purchase in cash, you’ll save more than with any other option – but even with a $0-down solar loan, your savings could still be in the tens of thousands. While solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) require no money down and promise a maintenance-free option, they come with a trade-off: your total savings will typically be just 10 to 30 percent of your utility electricity bill.

How does this play out in the real world? This screenshot from the EnergySage Solar Calculator for an example property in Massachusetts shows the difference in long-term savings between a cash purchase, solar loan, and a solar lease.

solar calculator savings chart

What if You Don’t Live in the Sunny Southwest? 

While solar loves sunlight, you might be surprised to learn that you don’t have to live in the sunny Southwest to achieve lots of solar savings. In fact, some of the states with the most installed solar in the country (including New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) are in the Northeastern U.S. – more famous for their cold snowy winters than sunny summer days. Why is this? These states often have higher electricity costs and better local incentives than elsewhere in the country.

Shop Around to Find the Best Deal on Solar

Solar is a big investment that can pay off in a major way. Be sure to inform yourself of all your options before you sign on the dotted line. EnergySage’s Solar Calculator is a great place to start – use it to get a customized estimate of your 20-year solar savings in a matter of seconds.

If you’re ready to take the next step, join the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to get offers from qualified solar companies in your area. Since these installers compete for your business, you will generally save 20 percent or more off your installation costs. EnergySage was built with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy in order to help spread solar adoption across the country, so once ready, give it a try for free!

Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the option that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



5/19/2016

The price of solar energy is at an all-time low according to a recent report conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). Due to lower solar installation costs, improved project efficiency, and a 70 percent decline in purchase agreement prices since 2009, this renewable energy resource has never been more affordable.

Upfront Solar Energy Costs

The average installed price of photovoltaic (PV) devices has fallen by more than 50 percent since 2009, making the initial investment cost of system installations feasible for a much wider range of homeowners and businesses. The Berkeley Lab’s latest “Utility-Scale Solar” report cites that up-front costs have fallen from around $6.3/W in 2009 to $3.1/W for projects completed in 2014.

"By the end of 2020, the amount of installed solar capacity will be 300 percent higher than today," Dan Whitten, vice president of communications at the Solar Energy Industries Association, said. “Nationwide, it grew 10 times between 2008 and 2015.”

Solar Energy Prices Graph

Photovoltaic Efficiency

New solar projects generate electricity more efficiently as well. PV projects performed at an average capacity factor of 29.4% (in AC terms) in 2014, a notable improvement over the 26.3% and 24.5% average 2014 capacity factors realized by projects built in 2012 and 2011, according to the report findings. The improvement is due to better resource areas, and better solar collector fields and tracking technology, which has helped to increase energy capture.

Lower Cost of Solar Power Purchase Agreements

Another piece of this solar energy price puzzle has to do with the drop in solar power purchase agreements (PPA). A PPA is a financial agreement where a solar contractor constructs the design, permitting, financing and installation of a solar energy system on a customer’s property for very little cost. The developer then sells the power generated to the host customer at a fixed rate that is typically lower than the local utility’s retail rate.

This lower electricity price offsets the customer’s purchase of electricity from the grid while the developer receives the income from these sales of electricity as well as any tax credits and other incentives generated from the system (SEIA).

PPA prices have seen a downward price trend since 2006 according to the Berkley Lab report, making solar a much more cost-competitive option for utilities. PPAs are advantageous for both the contractor and homeowner. Developers are typically better positioned to utilize available tax credits to reduce system costs with a PPA.

And since a solar system has been shown to increase residential property values, and long term PPAs can be transferred with the property, homeowners have even more reason to invest in this home improvement strategy with minimal upfront costs.

Benefits of Solar Energy

Solar energy is a major resource in the efforts to reduce carbon emissions and our dependence on fossil fuels, which is thankfully becoming more mainstream every year. With the increased demand for solar systems, consumers have more choices when it comes to choosing a solar power provider at much cheaper prices.

If you’re interested in sustainable energy sources such as solar, you can use a solar savings calculator to estimate how much you would save each year with solar energy.

Sarah Kezer is passionate about helping others take advantage of the power of solar energy. At 123SolarPower, Sarah assists in answering questions and providing expert information for users to explore their options when it comes to going solar. 123SolarPower connects individuals with the largest network of solar power providers in the U.S. Connect with Sarah on Facebook and Twitter, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.



5/17/2016

Solar Mistakes to Avoid

More and more homeowners are making the switch to solar energy for their home. As electricity prices rise and solar panel prices fall, installing a residential solar PV system is becoming a sound economic decision for many homeowners across the country, translating into considerable savings over the 25 year lifetime of the panels.

Installing a solar energy system for your home is a big decision, the value of which is similar to a car, so you want to do your homework and make the best decision for your situation. Here are a few of the mistakes to avoid when switching to solar energy.

1. Having Unreasonable Expectations

While solar panels for your home can be a great investment, it’s important to realize that, depending on where you live, it can be one that takes many years to pay off. But remember, most solar panels have a lifetime of about 25 years, sometimes even longer, so time is on your side when it comes to recouping your money. Having a reasonable expectation of the payback period will help you in your discussions with installers and in deciding how to finance your system, as different financing options will affect the profitability of your investment.

Sunmetrix Discover can help you figure out how much solar energy you can produce with different size systems, how that compares to your electricity consumption, and what that translates into in terms of savings. All of this information, along with the expected payback period, can also be found in our Solar Report for homeowners.

When it comes to unreasonable expectations, another factor that homeowners often overlook is the variability of the sun. The output of your solar system will vary from day to day and from season to season, as it is affected by cloud cover as well as the number of daylight hours. Understanding this variability and knowing what to expect for your location will help you in managing your expectations with regard to the profitability of your system.

Just like with investments on the stock market, day to day variation is normal, but what is important is the long term outlook for your investment – in the case of solar, if you’ve done your homework, it is a decision that can offer consistent returns.

2. Not Researching Your Financing Options

As mentioned, installing solar panels for your home is expensive, on the order of $15,000 to $25,000, depending on the size of your system and where you live (more on incentives in the next section). Most homeowners don’t have that kind of cash lying around for an outright purchase.

When solar PV systems started to become popular, solar leases were developed as a means for people to afford solar panels for their home: With zero-down payment and low monthly payments, it seemed like an obvious choice for many homeowners keen to reap the benefits of solar energy. But there are a number of important drawbacks when it comes to solar leases.

With a lease you don’t own the system and as a result, you miss out on some of the key benefits of having a solar PV system, namely the federal investment tax credit of 30% (along with other local incentives) and your home’s increase in value (in fact a solar lease can undermine the sale of your home, as many would-be buyers do not want to take over a lease).

Today, you have another option, one that is increasingly popular: a solar loan. Solar loans often come with no down-payment, flexible loan terms, and reasonable monthly payments, that allow you the homeowner to enjoy all the benefits of your solar PV system. The Sunmetrix Buy or Lease Calculator allows you to compare your numbers, adjusting the terms of the loan or lease to really see what makes the most financial sense for you.

Sunmetrix Buy or Lease Calculator

3. Missing Out on Financial Incentives

A reputable solar installer will be aware of the solar tax credits, solar rebates and other financial incentives available to you where you live, and might even help you with the paperwork, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also know about these programs. Ultimately, you will be the one who pays for your system and benefits from these programs – it’s in your best interest to make sure you don’t overpay.

In your initial research phase, you want to understand what programs are available to you to bring down the cost of your system and you want to know the fine-print (for example, do you have to wait until tax filing time to receive your benefit?). All of this information will help you make the best financing decision and arm you with the information you need when you start speaking with installers.

It will also help you manage your expectations as you navigate the process. You can refer to our regularly updated pages of incentives by state, listing the available programs in your state with links to the details. Some programs are state-wide but others are specific to certain municipalities. If you want to focus on the programs available for your address or zip code, you can refer to our Solar Report. To be sure that you don’t miss out on financial incentives that can make your solar panels more affordable, it pays to do your research.

4. Not Getting More Than One Quote

As with most big purchases, it’s worth your time and effort to get a second (and third) opinion. Not only will you learn more with each site visit from installers, but you will have a chance to interact with the companies and determine which one is best suited to handle your installation.

Installers will evaluate the condition of your roof, consider its orientation, take shade estimates and go over your electricity bills with you. This is an important process that is required for the installers to propose the best design for your system and make a proper estimate of the cost.

In an ideal world, the installers will make estimates for the same size system, using similar equipment, so that you can make direct comparisons. While this is not always possible, you do want to understand how they determine the best system size for you (one that will meet your needs).

Once you have some numbers, you can use Discover to see how they stack up. We can help you find installers in your area, check out their credentials and see their Google and Yelp ratings and reviews.

5. Waiting Too Long

It is a big decision, but waiting until prices come down is not always the best strategy because you could be missing out on savings today, in the form of lower electricity bills and/or financial incentives that are time sensitive. As more and more homeowners chose solar energy for their home, solar rebates and tax credits will be phased out. Electricity prices continue to rise, on average by 3% every year across the U.S. since 2005, known as the escalation rate (in some states this annual increase is more than 5%).

It’s important to realize that solar leases also come with their own escalation rate, whereby monthly payments increase over time, something that generally makes leases less desirable. With an outright purchase or a solar loan, however, your solar PV system can help you reduce your electricity bill and mitigate the risk of rising costs, as you will know exactly what you’re paying for your system with no unpleasant surprises.

Why not Discover today what solar energy can do for you where you live?

Simone Garneau is the co-founder of Sunmetrix, an online consumer education website for residential solar energy. The goal of Sunmetrix is to help homeowners go solar and save money with our Solar Cashback Program. In addition to the 200+ articles about solar energy, Sunmetrix offers homeowners three main resources: a Consumer Report for solar energy, Discover to preview solar energy for your home, and GO, the only solar energy test drive experience. Read all of Simone's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.









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