You know solar energy is good for the environment, but the process of switching to solar power can seem confusing, expensive, and daunting. However, going green can also save you green in the long term with tax credits and rebates, and by reducing your power bill. If you’re considering making the jump to solar energy, here’s what you need to know to get started.
The Pros and Cons of Solar Panels
If you’re thinking about installing solar panels on your home, you need to consider three things first: installation costs, space, and location. The cost of installing solar panels has fallen over the last few years, but the average U.S. homeowner is paying between $3 and $4 per watt. The cost for installation will depend on how much electricity you need, and may range from $15,000 to $26,000. Tax credits and rebates can help cut down on the cost, but that’s still a hefty chunk of change. The second consideration is space. Think about where your solar panels will be placed (a roof or a ground-mount system) and whether or not you have enough space to generate the kind of power you’ll need. Location is also an important factor. While those living in Northern states that get less sunlight may not benefit as much from solar power, those in the Southwest could see massive savings over time.
The amount homeowners can save on their power bill over a 20-year period can range from $8,000 to $64,769 depending on your state. In the majority of states, the cost of installing solar panels pays for itself long before the warranty expires. In addition to long-term savings, you’ll be choosing a sustainable option to power your home.
Installing Solar Panels
If the benefits outweigh the initial cost for you, you’ll need to find a solar panel installer. Make sure your contractor is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners as a PV Installer. You can search for certified professionals on NABCEP’s website. Compare rates, but keep in mind that the lowest quote may not be the best deal. Solar panels are an investment that should last 25 to 30 years. A great contractor will offer a long warranty, include system monitoring, and file paperwork for you.
Switching to a Solar Water Heater
Solar panels aren’t the only way to save on energy bills. You might also consider a solar water heating system. Like solar panels, solar water heaters are initially expensive, coming in at around $3,500 including installation. Tax credits can help shave up to 30% off the cost. While solar thermal systems were once popular, it’s now often cheaper to install a photovoltaic (PV) array.
Like solar panels, location can determine how much you save in energy costs over time, but panels for a solar water heater take up far less space. A large household that uses a lot of hot water will see larger savings than a small household that uses very little.
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