Jul 12, 2016

Five Easy Steps To Going Solar

In late April, I was contacted by an employee at Modernize.com. He told me that they've recently written on clean energy for The Huffington Post, About.com, and even Time Magazine. He wanted to provide some basic and awesome content for my readers as well. He told me that if I posted it on my site, he would send it around to Modernize.com followers (they have over 5,000 on Twitter)! Here's the post and I hope you enjoy my accompanying sketches.

Installing residential solar panels used to be far too expensive for the average homeowner to consider. However, since 2006 and the implementation of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), the price of solar equipment and installations has fallen by more than 73 percent, allowing nearly  800,000 businesses and homes to convert to solar power. If you want to set up a solar system on your home, you have a lot of important decisions to make—here are 5 easy steps from Modernize to help you make the transition.

1. Home Energy Audit
Energy efficiency and solar power go hand in hand, and the less energy efficient your home, the more solar panels will have to be installed in order to meet your power demands. Ensure that you keep costs down and don’t purchase a larger system than you actually need by opting to have a professional home energy assessor audit your home for energy deficiencies. For roughly $300 to $500, an auditor can identify hidden leaks in your home, saving you up to 30 percent on your heating and cooling alone. Considering that space heating makes up 42 percent of the average home energy use, that translates into hundreds of dollars saved each year!
      The auditor will also assess how energy efficient your major appliances are and offer suggestions on ways they can be improved. Replacing these older appliances with ones that have an excellent rating from Energy Star will be another worthy step to take before talking to a solar professional. Better yet, opt for appliances that are solely powered by the sun, like solar water heaters or solar refrigerators, to completely remove their pull from your main solar panel network.

2. Solar Energy Design Specialist Evaluation
Once your home is as energy efficient as possible, it is a good idea to have solar professional come and evaluate how compatible your home will be for a photovoltaic system. These design specialists will analyze your home’s orientation to the sun, the pitch of your roof, and how easily they can perform the installation due to your roofing material. You will need to have looked over your energy bill history before this appointment so that can tell them what your current kilowatt usage is. A general rule to keep in mind is that since most homes use roughly 2,000 to 6,000 watts, you should expect to need roughly 200 to 600 square feet of roof space to adequately generate enough energy. If your solar professional suggests a solar power system that is drastically divergent from these figures, then you should get a second opinion. When the analysis has been completed, you’ll have a good estimate for just how much this renovation will cost.

3. Call Your Power Company and Realtor
Depending on where you live, some utility companies are willing to buy any excess energy that you generate with your home’s solar panels through net metering. When you talk to them, find out what their current rates are and what steps you will need to take in order to participate in this program.
      It is also advisable to contact a local realtor who can evaluate how adding solar power to your home will impact your property value. Some homeowners have seen their property value increase enough to recover almost 97 percent of their renovation expense!

4. State and Federal Incentives
The ITC provides homeowners with a 30 percent return on their solar investment in the form of a tax credit until the end of 2019. That means that if your total renovation is projected to cost $25,000, you will receive an additional $7,500 on your next tax return. This money can certainly help make your initial investment a far more attainable expense.
      Most local and state governments also have some form of incentivization depending on the system you install. To find out what is available for your area, visit the database of state incentives.

5. Purchase or Lease
Now that you have all the important information for how adding solar power will impact your home expenses, it is time to determine your cumulative return on investment (ROI). If you determine your ROI to be worth the renovation expense, then contact your solar professional and have them finalize your designs. But if your ROI bottom line is too great, does this mean that you have to completely give up on solar power? Not necessarily. Many solar companies have a lease option available for homeowners which might be a viable option for you.
      At the end of the day, it will take a lot of research and effort to make your dreams of having a solar powered home come true, but the reward of having a home that takes care of its own power needs will be well worth it