Rising energy costs and new tax incentives for green home improvements this year are heating up interest in solar.
Experts say now is a good time for many homeowners to go solar. While solar power may not work for every home, it can significantly cut home heating bills and reduce the environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels. And while installing a solar energy system is still not cheap, the cost has come down significantly over the past 10 years.
Cost of solar panels
Prices vary by state and depend on things like the size and quality of the solar array. Nationally, the average cost of a residential photovoltaic system is about $20,000 after the 30% federal tax, according to EnergySage.com (opens in a new tab)informational website about renewable energy for residential buildings.
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Nick Liberati, communications manager at EnergySage, breaks it down: The national average for a 10-kilowatt system, priced at a national average of $2.86-per-watt, costs $28,600. The federal tax credit allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing solar panels from your federal taxes (or in this case, $8,580 in total), bringing the cost to $20,020.
On average, it takes 8.7 years to break even — that is, to store enough electricity to recoup the cost of the solar panels. After that, solar energy is free until the device runs out. Solar panels are generally guaranteed to last 20 to 25 years, although the system’s inverter is guaranteed for 10 years. An inverter converts the DC power produced by the solar panel into AC power that is used in your home.
Should you buy solar batteries?
The cost of solar panels mentioned above does not include storage. A battery can add up to an average of more than $9,000 after federal taxes, depending on size and other features. Overall, Liberati said, the national average price for batteries in the 10-12 kilowatt hour range is around $13,000. From 2023, all residential batteries will receive a full 30% tax credit if their size exceeds 3 kWh. So you can deduct $3,900 from your taxes, leaving you with an after-tax debt price of $9,100 for the battery.
Although batteries are becoming more popular, most solar homes do not have them. Instead, most customers send their excess power to their utility as a loan to use electricity when the panels are not enough, such as at night.
Without batteries, if you run out of power, your house does too, even with the sun. “The number one reason for this is safety,” Liberati said. “While your solar power system is still generating electricity and sending it to the grid during an outage, these live wires pose a threat to any crew trying to restore electrical service to the grid.
This won’t be a problem if you have a battery with “island-hopping” capability. Islanding is a technology that allows your home to power itself. “You can continuously generate solar energy and feed it to the battery during a power outage without endangering the line crew because the islanded system will not push too much electricity to “the network,” explained Liberati. He noted that not all solar panel systems with energy storage can be automated. If you are getting a battery, you should make sure your installer provides you with the proper equipment to enable this technology.
Things to consider when getting solar panels
With thousands of dollars required upfront, going solar can be intimidating for many people, says Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage.
Aggarwal encourages comparison shopping and verifying all claims — like whether your utility or the government will give you free solar. EnergySage, he said, helps with that and connects customers with reputable contractors. The site also has information on incentives offered by different states.
Another factor to consider is how the utility company supplies you with the energy it receives from you, especially if you don’t have a battery and rely on appliances to run your home when your panels are out.
Michael Ware, solar specialist at consulting firm EcoMotion (opens in a new tab), says there are tensions in the way solar power is loaned to consumers. The utility claims a rebate, the same as it pays for the other energy it sells to consumers. But solar advocates want to credit customers with all the money they have to pay for their energy, known as net metering.
Sherri Shields, director of communications and marketing for the Florida Solar Energy Center at the University of Central Florida, said people who install solar panels should check with their insurance company to see if they cover the panels. they or have to buy additional insurance.
Another reason to go solar
Saving money is just one reason people are going solar, said Robert Stoner, associate director for Science and Technology at the MIT Energy Initiative. (opens in a new tab). “I think most people investing in residential rooftop solar just want to be part of the transition, and at a lower level to be seen,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with that…Some, like me, have houses — my weekend house is at the end of a five-mile block of beach — that don’t have the option of having electricity.” Stoner says his solar system, which includes lead-acid batteries, provides all of his power, “And it brings me great joy! Some of that comes from the sense of independence I get, and some from it comes from experiencing the wonders of solar power.”
Rotraut Bockstahler, 86, of Sarasota, Fla., along with his wife, installed 26 solar panels and a Tesla battery in November 2016. The cost of installing the solar panels was just under $28,000, including taxes. they were about $8,400, allowing for fees. about $19,600. The batteries cost about $8,400, and they received a tax credit of about $2,500, for a total of about $5,900. “We feel strongly about climate change and want to play a role in reversing this trend,” says Bockstahler. Going solar was “one of the best decisions we’ve made in our lives in Florida. We’ve saved money, we’ve contributed to the fight against climate change and we’re lucky to have electricity.” whenever there is a power outage.”
Going solar doesn’t always keep you out of the power plant. When the system was first installed, Bockstahler said, their electricity needs from the equipment were significantly reduced and their electricity bills dropped to $40 to $60 per month. With rising energy costs, they are now over $100 a month. But in addition to saving on electricity bills, they count the money saved on non-perishable food and hotel rooms they won’t be able to afford when the power grid fails.
If anyone regrets it, he says, it’s that they didn’t get a bigger system. “We felt that the decision we made about the number of panels we had was probably too conservative and should have included more areas that could be used for the battery,” he said.
Should you wait for new solar panel technology?
Another reason you may be hesitant to go solar is that technology may advance to provide more efficient and/or less expensive options. And it’s true that different technologies are constantly evolving. For example, some companies offer roof shingles that act as solar collectors. Also, conventional solar panels are becoming more efficient, less expensive and more attractive.
If you wait, might you have a chance to get something better?
Aggarwal said solar panels are getting a little better every year, but not enough to justify expecting big changes. Ten years ago, he said, each panel might produce 240 or 245 watts. Now, they each produce 400 or 420 watts of power. This means you can get more power from a system that covers the same amount of roof space. The plates were bright blue and silver around the edges, he said. Now, they are all black and “beautiful”, he said. And they are more durable.
Solar shingles, he said, are not yet ready for widespread use. Aggarwal said the roofing company plans to introduce an “interesting product” along those lines this year. But solar shingles are still less efficient and more expensive than conventional solar panels. However, if you plan to replace the roof, he says, it may be worth considering solar shingles.
Ware said he expects battery prices to drop over the next five to 10 years as companies explore different battery technologies. The most popular battery technology today is lithium-ion, which can be a fire hazard in some cases, causing some states to require it to be installed outside.
Is the sun right for you?
Some buildings are not suitable for the sun:
- If you have an old roof that needs to be replaced in a few years, for example, it makes sense to wait because removing and reinstalling the solar panels can cost thousands.
- If your roof faces north or is in the shade, you may not be a good solar candidate.
- Installing solar on a roof covered with clay tiles is also more difficult and expensive, Liberati said.
There are other options for people who cannot install solar collectors on their roofs.
The solar community has a variety of solar panels that people can purchase for their benefit. Individuals participating in the solar community generally receive credits from the power company for their participation in the project. You can find information about solar projects in your area (opens in a new tab) on the EnergySage website.
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