Are Solar Panels A Good Choice For You?

As solar technology continues to advance and capitalize on the incentives, tax credits and rebates, solar panels are becoming increasingly energy-efficient. As more individuals are making the upgrade to solar, which has made solar hot water heaters and solar panels much more commonplace.

However, with all of the various installers, financing plans, manufacturers and options that are available, it can be hard to determine what is meant by all of the various industry language and how to get started. This article should be able to help you.


Low profile solar panel installation on a Phoenix home.

By installing solar panels, an average household can save $90 per month on the electricity bills and decrease their annual average carbon footprint by 35,000 pounds of carbon dioxide. This is equal to planting 88 trees per year for offsetting this amount of carbon dioxide. It also save $1,000 per year.

Photovoltaic (PV) cells is the technical term used for solar panels. They work through the use of special batteries for harnessing sunlight, transforming it into energy, and finally sending the energy into an inverter so that it can be converted into electricity for powering the house.

If you are serious about getting solar panels installed onto you house, you will need to consult with a licensed contractor to talk about various certified options for solar panels, cost estimates, and which local incentives and rebates
are available for your local area. When installing solar panels, it isn’t just a simple matter of tossing the cells up on the roof. You will need to have a professional to make sure they are properly installed, have additional wiring installed, as well as panel placement for building an efficient system properly.

When you are searching for the right contractor, select somebody who offers a good warranty and who has an established name as someone who is a reputable vendor who performs quality work. The contractor should also be bonded and licensed, and have no major complaints filed at the Better Business Bureau. Make sure that the panels are covered for 20-25 years and the inverter for 10 years at least.

EcoBuilt’s contractors all meet these specifications.

You also need to ensure that the panels you choose are made by a U.S.-based manufacturer. That way you will still be protected by your warranty if the manufacturer happens to go out of business.

Cost: There has been a 60 percent drop in cost on solar panels since early 2011. Combined with the local and federal subsidies and tax credits, that has helped with dropping the up-front national average costs to around $17,000.

Tax Incentives: the Federal Governments Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) provides a 30 percent tax credit for commercial and residential properties converting to solar energy through 2016.

When it comes to local tax incentives, they vary by municipality and by state. Residents of Los Angeles are able to take the ITC, as well as receive a California state property tax exemption and the city of Los Angeles also offers a $0.12 per kilowatt-hour rebate for 20 years.

Performing your due diligence is definitely worth doing to ensure that you take advantage of all of the financial assistance that is available to you.

Finance, buy or lease? Solar leases have grown in popularity as an option for defraying up-front costs. In addition, leasing companies usually will pay for maintenance and repairs.

However, having a permanent installation can increase the value of your house in addition to coming with tax advantages, since new buyers will have the ability of saving energy without having to hassle with installation.

Interest rates are also historically low, which makes it very easy for a homeowner who has good credit to obtain a great deal on a loan. Should you make the decision to go that route, be sure your loan payment costs less than what your average electricity bill is to ensure you are saving money still.

Note: Your home owner’s insurance premium will usually increase when you go solar; you can expect an increase of a few dollars per month.

Average project length: Generally installation and wiring take a couple of days. It may take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months from when you sign your contract to when it is actually installed.

Permit: Definitely required. It is a major reason why there is frequently some lead time from signing the contract to when the system is actually installed. The costs and kind of permits will vary by municipality; usually your installer will get these for you.

Project considerations: It may appear to be obvious, however direct sun needs to be received by your roof and during that time of day when there is the strongest sunlight (usually from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) for the system to operate efficiently.

Chimneys, tall buildings and trees can affect the sun exposure that your panels get. And various types of panels react in different ways to shadow; some shut down completely, while others reduce output. The more hours that panels get full sun exposure, the more efficiently power will be generated by them.

How much solar radiation touches the ground over a given time period will also vary, depending on what area you live in. It is referred to as insolation. It is why a solar-powered house in Las Vegas is more efficient than one in Chicago.

How many panels will be needed and how large do they need to be? How large a system needs to be will depend on two major things: the amount of energy that is needed and insolation.

Check out your electricity bill to determine the number of kilowatts of energy are used during an average day. Then multiply this by .25. That is the size of system that you need to have.

In terms of the number of panels you will need, that will depend on outper per panel, isolation and the number of hours per day that peak sunlight is received by the panels.

Does that sound complicated? Well that is because it actually is. That is why we strongly recommend hiring a reputable professional.