In the past, people would always say “Solar is just too expensive.” However, prices have plummeted over the past 5-10 years and government initiatives have cut the cost of solar installation by more than half for most homeowners. In the 1970’s, solar power cost $100 per watt. Today, it costs approximately $1 per watt. Although it’s more affordable, there are several factors that may want to make you think about twice about making a big solar investment. Here are a few things to check before you decide whether solar power is right for your home.
Do you live in one of the top 10 solar states?
Solar panels are an obvious choice if you live in California, New Mexico, or Colorado, where there are over 300 days of sun each year. Yet, other great states with more than 50 percent sun include Pennsylvania, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Oregon, and Minnesota. Savings range from 35 to 85 percent in these geographic locations. Even if you don’t live in these places, solar power is still a possibility for you.
Do you have a good roof for solar?
The ideal rooftop is…
- South-facing (although East & West facing roofs will also generate power)
- Relatively new (within the last 5-10 years)
- Relatively flat (30-degree slant is ideal)
- Relatively simple (few skylights, chimneys, contours)
- Free of overhanging trees or tall buildings blocking your access to sunlight (at least between 9 am and 3 pm)
Will you save a considerable amount of money?
Before making any major decisions, you want to calculate your Return On Investment (ROI). Your ROI will be the highest if:
- your household uses a lot of energy and your monthly utility bills are fairly high
- you qualify for local/state/federal incentives
- your local utility company offers cash for excess energy fed into the grid
When a solar installer comes to draw up a bid, you will get a thorough energy assessment that lets you know about all of these factors and how they apply to you.
Can You Afford It?
Solar power installations are very affordable these days, but they still require immediate funds to cover the cost of the job. The solar installer will help draw up a bid and let you know how much money you’ll need. Most 5-kilowatt systems cost around $35,000, but incentives help make it more affordable. For instance, say you live in upstate New York. You can get a 30 percent tax credit, which saves you $10,500 right there. Then, through the state PV Incentive Program, you can save another $4 per kilowatt, which reduces the price another $20. The New York State solar tax credit offers 25 percent off your installation (up to $5,000), so take off another $5,000 and you’re only paying. Now your $35,000 solar system is only $15,520. Your state may even offer low-interest loans for photovoltaic systems. In some places, it may be possible to lease or rent a solar power system if you can’t afford to buy.