Until quite recently, most people thought of solar panels as expensive and impractical. However, thanks to several significant tax breaks and advances in solar technology, solar power is no longer the sole possession of the elite. More and more people are opting for the clean, environmentally-friendly energy offered by solar panels for the home. If you’re thinking about making the switch to solar, here’s a few basic guidelines to get you started.
Why Solar Panels?
There are many benefits to installing solar panels. While the cost for home solar panels is still relatively steep, their overall cost has dropped by about 60% in the last four years, thanks to improved technology and tax incentives. The cost of solar panels is expected to continue to drop.
These tax incentives vary depending on your location, but at least a few constant rates exist. For instance, the Solar Investment Tax Credit offers a 30% tax credit for homeowners who purchase solar systems. Incentives like this, along with solar power’s ability to save you money on energy bills, ultimately saves most homeowner’s an average of $84 per month. Over time, these savings easily make up for solar power’s initially hefty investment.
Terms You Should Know
1. Buy vs. lease
It’s important to consider whether you want to buy your system or merely lease it. Leasing a solar panel system reduces the initial costs, and for many people, this is a much more accessible way of achieving solar energy for the home. However, actually owning a solar system will ensure enhanced tax benefits and will also add value to your home. It’s worth taking some time to weigh both options carefully.
2. Solar Photovoltaic vs. Solar Thermal
Solar cells, also called photovoltaic (PV) cells, convert sunlight directly into electricity for your home. A typical home uses about 10 to 20 solar panels to power the home.
Solar thermal, or solar water heating, systems feature storage tanks and solar collectors. Solar water heaters use the sun to heat either water or a heat-transfer fluid in the collector. This provides hot water for your home.
Solar Panel Basics
1. Hire a professional: Installation is involved, so don’t expect to effortlessly haul your panels up to the roof on your own. A talented solar installer can also help you navigate the permit process.
It’s essential that you hire a professional who can give you a solid warranty. Look for solar energy companies that have been around for awhile–these contractors will have a better chance of still being around several years down the line when it’s time to honor your warranties. Your solar installer should also have several reliable past referrals and a valid license number.
2. Secure sunlight: Make sure your roof gets significant sunlight during the sunniest portion of the day (generally the hours between 10 o’clock in the morning and 2 o’clock in the afternoon). It may be necessary to trim any encroaching foliage if it’s blocking your access to the sun.
3. Expect some delays: Although wiring and installing the system only requires a few days to be completed, expect several months to pass between the moment you sign the contract and the moment installation actually begins.
In short, solar panels are no longer the exclusive property of the wealthy and progressive. Solar panels for your home are a practical investment, creating significant longterm savings for your home and allowing you to live in a cleaner, more sustainable way. If you have a roof and no solar panels, get started today with SolarContact’s convenient database of local solar contractors.