Buying Solar Panels? Check Out These Free Tools

Reader Contribution by Sarah Kezer and 123solarpower
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If you’re beginning to educate yourself about the using solar energy in your home, it’s easy to become overloaded with information. Even veterans of the industry have to actively keep up with a variety of topics like state and federal regulations, utility policies, and changing technologies. If you’re excited about having solar panels installed on your roof, don’t be intimidated by the process.

Adopting solar power is a great way to invest funds, increase your property’s value, lower your electricity bill, and reduce your personal carbon footprint. Plus, with the recent and continued drop in solar panel costs, the return on investment is the most profitable it’s ever been. In other words, it’s definitely worth your time and research!

Depending on what state you live in, the type of property you own, whether you want to lease or own your solar panels, and other specifications, there are many aspects to consider during your purchasing process. Thankfully, there are several free tools available to make this process as easy as possible. Whether you’re looking to avoid energy cost fluctuations, make a financial investment, or to live a greener lifestyle, these resources will help clarify some frequently asked solar power questions you may have.

Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE)

Also known as DSIRE, this website provides a wealth of free information about renewable energy incentives and policies. Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, DSIRE serves as a massive database and provider of technical assistance to thousands of homeowners, businesses, solar companies, policymakers, and advocacy groups.

So what exactly do you need to use it for? DSIRE lets you easily and instantly search solar policies by state and even zip code, so you know exactly which tax credits you should qualify for and the amount of rebates you can expect with your purchase of solar panels. The online platform is very easy to use, and once you select your location, the database will display all state and federal policies that apply for your area and detail each one specifically. It’s the best way to inform yourself about all the policy technicalities, expiration dates, extensions, and more.

It’s important to be well versed in the types of net metering, state tax credits, and federal incentives that before installing your solar panels, so you can accurately crunch the numbers on your investment and future savings. This information should also come in handy when speaking with solar panel installers. A good installer will be aware of the exact net-metering policies in your area and local incentives. 

Solar Savings Calculator

One of the main advantages that you’re probably familiar with in regards to using solar power is that it will greatly reduce your electricity bill, saving you thousands of dollars at the end of each year. But how is this calculation made and how much can you be saving? There’s a solar savings calculator for that!

When you start generating your own electricity, the amount of power that you need to draw from the utility company will obviously decrease dramatically. However, the exact amount that you will save depends on the cost of utility power in your area, the size of your home, your region’s net-metering policy, and your energy needs.

It can be a headache to calculate all of this yourself. That’s why 123SolarPower created a freesolar savings calculator that provides an instant estimate of your potential savings. Simply input a few criteria based on your household, and you’ll get an online savings estimate, which can give you a jumping off point on what to expect.

Solar Panel Marketplace

As home solar has become more and more popular, the numbers of solar providers have increased to meet demand. This is great in terms of creating more competition in the market for homeowners to choose from, resulting in better quality service and rates. But researching and selecting which company to go with can become a little overwhelming. That’s where a solar panel marketplace like 123SolarPower comes into play. The free marketplace allows you to request pricing and service quotes from a number of certified solar providers. This gives you the advantage of comparing several companies and prices in minutes, instead of calling and meeting with each one yourself.

This type of tool only connects you only with providers that service your area and offer the exact type of solar that you’re looking for. These companies can be a wealth of knowledge in your shopping process and answer lots of questions about installing solar panels on your roof and what you should expect, not to mention, provide competitive pricing quotes. Whether you’re looking for solar panel San Diego or South Florida, a trusted network of providers can be a big help.

Energy Audit Self-Assessment

Last but not least, if you’re serious about getting the most out of your solar panel system, a home energy audit can be really helpful. While enlisting the help of a professional is best, you can perform your own assessment to spot where your home is losing energy. has a free Do-It-Yourself home energy audit checklist available online.

The checklist provides a number of areas of your home to check and what exactly to look for. From air leaks, insulation, lighting and more, this list can serve as a great tool for homeowners. It should be noted that a DIY assessment won’t be as thorough as one conducted by a professional, but it can definitely help you get a good idea of where you can save.

There are many important factors to consider before making your solar power purchase. Tools like these make the process much easier, answer your questions, and get everyone in your household excited about solar power.

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. Read all of Sarah’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here

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