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5 THINGS TO DO BEFORE CONSIDERING SOLAR

Posted by Glenny Nana on December 16, 2011 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

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Solar installations can reduce your monthly electric bill, provide you with clean power, protect you from the rising costs of energy over time, and present a strong, reliable investment. But don’t just jump right in–make sure you’ve got your bases covered:

 

(1) Reduce your energy consumption. Renewable energy is awesome, but it’s expensive. Reducing your consumption means any solar energy you produce on-site will offset more of your total usage. Use less, save more. Small changes to your habits can make big differences.

 

(2) Make your house more energy efficient. This is the other side of the reduction coin. A poorly insulated home is just leaking away your energy dollars. A responsible solar installer will almost always recommend energy efficiency improvements be made before continuing on with solar. Some states codify this best practice in legislation; for instance, New Jersey offers a slightly higher solar rebate ($1.75/watt vs. $1.55/watt) for applicants who have a professional home energy audit performed before solar is installed.

 

(3) Read your electric bill–no, no, seriously READ IT. Not many people know how much they pay per kilowatt-hour for electricity, let alone the chunk of the bill that’s made up of supply and delivery charges. Find out what rate structure you’re on with your utility–it might affect your energy use habits. For instance, if you’re on a time of use (TOU) rate with your utility, you may start doing your laundry and dishes at night when energy is cheaper, and keeping the AC down during the middle of the day when energy is at its most expensive. Becoming familiar with your own energy use patterns makes you a more conscious, informed, and effective solar homeowner. For more help understanding the mysterious hieroglyphics on your bill, refer to our guide to understanding your electric bill.

 

(4) Assess your site and roof. This is where some professional assistance can come in handy, but you can and should get your facts in order first. Most important: does your roof receive full sun between the hours of 9am and 3pm? This is the recommended window for full sun exposure to get the most out of your solar panels. Only slightly less important: does your roof offer a southern exposure for installation? Some states require this as a prerequisite for solar rebates, but in any event it’s preferable. A south-facing roof ensures maximum average sun exposure throughout the year.

(5) Assess your finances. Okay, you’ve jumped through the other hoops. Now jump through this one. Careful, it’s on FIRE! Making sure you’re financially well-positioned for solar is key. If you live in a competitive state like New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania or Arizona, you’ll see excellent returns on an investment that will pay for itself in under 10 years (in some cases, as few as two or three). Still, solar requires the ability to either pay for or finance a large out of pocket sum; many excellent programs exist to make this as easy, approachable, and painless as possible, but if your credit boat would be sunk by an additional $15,000 of debt–well, rethink your strategy and come back to solar later. It’ll be here.

 

If after reading the five points above you think you’re ready to take the solar plunge — or if you’ve just got questions — give us a call! +1767 4455826/  +1767 6172994.


HOW MUCH DO SOLAR PANELS COST

Posted by Glenny Nana on December 16, 2011 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (0)

We all know that gasoline is priced in dollars per gallon. (Duh.) We also all know about how far we’ll be able to drive after shelling out 40 bucks for a tank of gas.

 

When it comes to solar power, however, not many of us know how the cost of solar panels is measured. Nor, for that matter, do we immediately see the relationship between the cost of solar power and the value of solar power. Unlike a tank of gas, the value of which is enjoyed (and used up) more or less immediately, solar panels deliver their value over a number of years.

 

 

 

With this in mind, the aim of this post is to answer two questions: (1) How much do solar panels cost? AND (2) Does the value of solar panels outweigh the cost? So, enough chit chat. Let’s get started.

 

How much do solar panels cost? –> Try our free solar cost calculator.

 

Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels — which turn the sun’s rays into electricity — are typically priced in dollars per watt ($/W). There are a few details related to this measure. You may sometimes hear some people talk about DC watts versus AC watts, for example, or refer to something called dollars per watt peak ($/Wp). But the main thing to remember is that, when you buy a solar energy system, you’re paying for the ability — or “capacity” — to generate electricity now and into the future. Pretty cool, huh?

 

 

 

So, how much are you paying? What is the out-of-pocket cost of a solar PV system?

 

 

>> Info-graphic: How does solar power work?

 

Since every solar home project is a litte different, the answer varies somewhat from house to house. And, since solar rebates and solar tax credits are typically made available at the state and/or local level, it varies a bit from region to region. (Note that all U.S. homeowners with federal income tax liability can take advantage of a federal solar energy tax credit worth 30 percent of system costs.) Here are a few helpful resources on solar energy costs:

 

(1) The Open PV Project, an undertaking of the National Renewable Energy Lab, relays pricing information from solar installers across the country. At the time this post was written, the 2010 national average cost of solar PV was $7.62 per watt. Not all solar installation companies participate in the project, so the numbers aren’t perfect. But the data do provide a glimpse at how much, say, the average Arizona homeowner may be paying ($5.64/W) compared to the average homeowner in New Jersey ($7.64/W).

(2) Some states require solar installers to report the prices of their solar installations — and officials may withhold solar rebates if numbers aren’t submitted. The result is fairly comprehensive solar cost data. Pennsylvania’s Sunshine Solar Rebate Program, for example, is reporting a median cost of $5.92/W for residential solar energy projects — and a median system size of 8 kilowatts (kW). Go Solar California, a joint project project of the California Energy Commisison and the California Public Utilities Commission, is meanwhile reporting quarterly updates on residential solar costs, which in 2010 are averaging around $7.50 per watt.

(3) When in doubt, look for a rule of thumb. Our solar cost calculator, for example, uses a default value of $7.00/W for residential solar projects. While this number may not be bulletproof, it’s a reasonable ballpark figure to start. Remember that this pre-incentive figure will be reduced by whatever solar rebates and tax credits that are available in your area.

(4) Get at least two (preferably three) solar home energy quotes from qualified solar installers. Ultimately, it’s not until you see a hard proposal that you’ll be able to know how much solar panels will cost for your home.

As noted above, since each and every project is unique, it’s somewhat difficult to generalize. But, assuming a pre-incentive cost of $7.00/W, a typical 5-kW system would have a gross cost of $35,000 ($7.00/W * 5,000 W = $35,000). Any solar rebates would reduce this gross cost further, as would the 30 percent federal solar tax credit.

 

Does the value of solar panels outweigh the cost?

 

Like the previous answer, this one varies from project to project, and region to region. In states that are “good” for solar — like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Massachusetts Colorado and Hawaii, among others — a solar panel system can pay for itself in as little as three to five years and provide reliable, long-term energy savings.

 

When considering a residential solar energy project, you should weigh the following factors, each of which contributes to solar panels’ return on investment:

 

The price you pay for electricity. All else equal, homeowners who pay a relatively high per-kilowatt hour (kWh) price for their electricity will see the strongest financial return on their solar home energy system.

The solar energy incentives available in your area. If you live in a state where you’ll be eligible to sell solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), a residential solar energy system will not only cut you’re electric bill — it will also generate income above and beyond utility savings.

The amount of sunshine — or “insolation” — in your area. While most of the U.S. gets plenty of sunlight to make solar a good proposition, solar energy systems do produce more power in sunnier regions.

The likely impact solar will have on your home value. Generally speaking, solar panels reduce a home’s cost of ownership and, accordingly, increase its value.

A good quote will clearly demonstrate the year-over-year savings of a given system. It will also include a cash flow analysis that indicates a projected pay back period and return on investment (ROI).

 

Ultimately, it’s up to you, the homeowner, to decide what kind of financial return you seek in a home energy upgrade, like installing solar panels. Some individuals are content with a ten year payback — and understand that a solar panel system would continue to generate inflation-protected savings for at least another 15 years after that ten year mark. Other homeowners will look for a payback of, say, five years or less.

 

Here at GetSolar, we see many solar power projects that are drastically cutting homeowners’ electricity bills and offering a favorable ROI — evidence that suggests, yes, the value of solar panels far exceeds the costs. To be honest, however, we also see inquiries from states where local solar incentives are weak and/or electricity is relatively cheap. Examples include Kentucky, Alabama and Nevada. Right now in these areas, it’s difficult to say whether the value of solar is greater than the costs. Faced with a 19-year payback and a return on investment in the low single digits, a homeowner in Nebraska, for example, may be forgiven for his skepticism.

 

As solar panels become more affordable, and as more and more states take steps to promote demand for solar power, we hope and expect that the value of a home solar energy system strengthens for all homeowners across the country. If you’re lucky enough to live in state where the value of solar already exceeds its cost, don’t miss out on a great opportunity! Thank your lucky stars, get prepared and request a quote today.

 

 


WHAT MAKES A GOOD ROOF FOR SOLAR

Posted by Glenny Nana on December 16, 2011 at 1:00 PM Comments comments (0)

 You may pay a relatively high per-kilowatt hour (kWh) rate for your electricity, which means that, all else equal, a solar PV system would pay for itself quicker than it would where power from the grid is cheap. You may have even come into some money recently, and are looking for a reliable, medium- to long-term investment. But if you a’int got a good roof, you a’int gonna be doing a rooftop solar installation.

What, then, makes a roof good for solar?

(1) Orientation. Here in the northern hemisphere, southern exposure to the sun is ideal. You can, however, orient panels to the southeast or southwest without substantially decreasing performance. You can read more about the orientation (azimuth) and inclination (altitude) of solar panels here. And, if you really want to geek out, you can estimate your own numbers here.

The roof below, to take an example, has two south-facing sweets spots for solar:

(2) Age. Relatively new roofs are the best. Simply put, PV panels last a long time — like decades. You don’t want to put panels on an old roof, only to remove them five years down the line to install new shingles.

(3) Roof space. Some people are surprised to hear they don’t have enough south-facing roof space to accommodate a PV system of any appreciable size. A very rough rule of thumb: these days, you can fit one kilowatt (kW) of panels on about 100 square feet. Currently, the average U.S. system size is about five kilowatts. So, well, you do the math…

(4) Simplicity. Things like skylights, chimneys, ducts and roof contours can add to the complexity, difficulty and cost of a solar installation. The most straight-forward surface, from a solar design and installation perspective, is a flat, unadorned roof.

(5) Shade. Trees and tall buildings are bad. Simply put, solar panels need sun — specifically between 9 am and 3 pm — in order to achieve optimal performance.

So, if you’re looking into a rooftop solar PV system, take a few minutes to ponder these points. While you’re hanging around the house this Memorial Day weekend, take periodic note of the amount of sun hitting your roof throughout the day. If you’ve got a tall tree that casts a big shadow through the middle part of the day, chance are you’ll have to decide between the tree and the new solar panels.

The good news is that we find most homes have roofs that are decent for solar, while only a handful of roofs are not good at all. If you’ve got a brand-new, unshaded roof, however, with clear southern exposure and a flat, simple design, consider yourself among a lucky few who can rightfully brag about how good their roof is for solar. Not that this will make you particularly popular at this weekend’s BBQ…

 



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