5 Reasons to Save Money and the Environment with Solar Panels

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Renewable energy is a hot button issue these days, and one that’s drawing more attention than ever before. For the most part, everyone agrees going green is a good thing. The disagreement for many, however, is how practical it is to do so. Hybrid cars are all well and good, but at $20,000 dollars on the low end and no real established used market, they’re still not quite economical yet for the average American household.

For homeowners, there’s a spectrum of green initiatives that can help out the environment while helping one’s wallet at the same time. They vary from low-flow toilets to energy saving windows and have different prices of admission, but there are few renovations or additions that can have more of an impact than going solar. Solar panels have a lot of incredible perks. If hooking your home up to the sun is something you think you might be interested in, this is what you need to know:

1) Solar Panels Will Probably Save You Money

The first question a homeowner has to ask when trying to decide whether or not to pursue solar is if it’s a good financial investment. The answer is that it absolutely is. Probably.

There are several factors that affect the cost/benefit of installing solar panels. They include how much you currently spend on power, how you acquire the panels (paying for them outright/ through a loan or lease), and—quite obviously—how much sun your roof gets. It’s important to do the research and find the right deal. Sites like this one have calculators that allow you to enter your information to determine if panels are a good choice for you, but the quick and dirty is this: the average US household that installs solar panels saves $84 dollars a month on their power bill.

2) The Government Will Help Pay for You To Do It.

For years, local and federal governments have offered homeowners and businesses incentives like tax breaks to reward them for going solar. The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) provides a 30% credit for any residential or commercial building that installs solar panels by the end of 2016. Local incentives vary, but in the state of California, residents can receive property tax exemption on top of the ITC. In sun soaked Southern California, Los Angeles homes with solar panels are also eligible to a rebate of $0.12 per kilowatt-hour from the city.

3) The Upfront Costs Can be Pricey, but are Cheaper Than Ever and They Pay Off

What scares a lot of homeowners away is that the average cost for solar panel installation is about $17,000 dollars. By no means a small sum of money for most homes. However, that is 60% cheaper than it would have been 4 short years ago according to Forbes, and prices will only continue to fall. Solar panels can also significantly raise home values, and are a wonderful opportunity for owners to invest in their property to become more competitive on the market. In the long run, while leasing panels offsets the upfront costs, permanent installation yields greater returns. As a tip, if you use a loan to purchase panels, make sure the loan payment will be less than your power bill ensuring you’ll still save money.

Also, in addition to dramatically lowering your power bill, many municipalities will pay homeowners for any excess power that they’re pumping back into the grid. In short, small homes that are already energy efficient can not only cut their power bills to 0, but even turn a small profit while they’re at it.

4) You Have to Do Your Homework

Installing solar paneling isn’t a major project compared to other renovations, but it’s definitely one best left to the professionals. Only trust a contractor who offers a strong warranty that covers the inverter for at least 10 years, and the panels 20 to 25 years after that. Only use panels from a US manufacturer so your warranty will still be protected even if the manufacturer busts. Use a contractor who is fully licensed and bonded, has filled with the Better Business Bureau, and has no major complaints on record.

You also need to make sure your home is a good candidate for solar paneling. The roof needs to have access to unobstructed, direct light when the sun is strongest (from about 10AM to 2PM). Location is a factor. Solar panels are much more efficient in areas like Los Angeles which gets nearly 300 sunny days a year compared Seattle which averages half that.

5) You’ll become an Environmental Hero

Last but not least, the environmental benefits of solar power simply cannot be overstated. It’s 100% clean, renewable, and reusable. There is 0 waste. You’ll be lowering your household carbon footprint by 35,180 pounds of CO2 per year; the equivalent of planting 88 trees every single Spring. While other green tactics can’t fully escape the fossil fuel cycle (hybrid cars are still produced in factories that contribute significantly toward emissions for example), solar can get you off the grid entirely. Between the benefits to your budget, and the benefits to the planet, taking a look into solar power is definitely a worthwhile endeavor for any homeowner.