Clean energy options, those that stray away from traditional grid power in residential and commercial applications, have seen a steady increase in popularity over the 2010s. With the end of the first year in the new decade, these trends are more noticeable than ever before as an environmentally conscious commercial landscape arises. Homeowners recognize the cost-efficiency of solar panel systems in multiple areas. With the increasing growth of roof panel systems, property owners can take an active role in reducing emissions by lowering their power requirements of fossil fuel created electricity. Because there is much you might not know about solar panels and clean energy, here are some answers to 10 common questions.
- Has the cost of purchasing a solar panel system decreased in recent years?
From 2010 to the present, solar panel systems’ investment costs have dropped significantly, and the work of certified installers for the product has dropped by more than 80%. In light of the hit that many businesses took during the global pandemic this year, those interested in upgrading their home can expect to pay even less as these expected costs continue to decrease. With solar panel installation costs also falling in kind, there has never been a better time for commercial property and homeowners to consider upgrading to clean-tech options.
- Is there a difference between residential and commercial solar power?
There are several differences between the type of equipment and output that you can expect in residential applications versus a commercial structure’s needs. A business model and needed energy demands often far exceed the limitations of solar systems installed for residences. Because of a smaller size, usually not more than 6 kilowatts, rooftop systems are an affordable upgrade for many houses. However, providing adequate power for commercial demands is a much more considerable investment involving investors working in conjunction with the business.
- What is the expected cost of residential solar panel systems?
The hardware’s estimated costs depend on where you are in the country and the supplier of the panels and other equipment. Often, the expected price of the system relates directly to the wattage the system is capable of producing. In 2008, the average cost per watt was $8.00. As of recent data for 2020, the average cost per watt has dropped steadily to $2.64. To put this number into perspective, a system more than a decade ago would have cost $48,000 before applicable taxes. Still, now, homeowners can make this upgrade to a 6kW system for around $15,840 before any potential rebates or taxes.
- If I go with solar energy, am I off the grid? Is net metering a help?
It is customary for your solar panel system to connect to the primary electrical grid serving your neighborhood, as this tends to be the most direct answer for powering your home throughout the night. The term net metering is often correlated with solar energy to provide an incentive to continue service with traditional electric utility providers. This is an exchange of bill credit when solar panels overproduce that typically cover most of any expense for grid electricity used when production of your panels slows.
The desire to be off the grid is not unattainable, though you need to make more significant provisions for the household. You have to solve energy storage problems, have a more extensive system to provide a greater volume of available power, and install backup sources like house generators when panels do not produce the desired amount of energy.
- How long will the installation take at my home?
The time that panel systems take to install can vary based on several factors ranging from net metering connections to its size and complexity. In most cases, setting up the hardware and equipment is rarely more than a couple of days. This timeline does not account for the installers’ initial meetings to map out their plan for the upcoming installation. Often, the longest part of setting up a new system for your household is choosing solar panel power over traditional approaches.
- What if my roof isn’t ideal for solar panels? Can I still get a system?
While roof installation is often the ideal positioning for panels to get adequate sunlight, there are multiple options for homeowners wanting a clean energy alternative without a suitable roof to sustain the panels. In smaller communities where many homes intend to switch to solar energy, it can be possible to network all interested families with a centrally installed system. Ground-mount options are also feasible solutions for individual residences and can often allow you to install the system on your own to forego the expense of professional roof installation.
- Do I qualify for tax credits for installing a residential solar system?
Often rebates or tax credits/cuts are two-fold to install solar panels and clean energy systems. Across the country, homeowners are eligible for the ITC, or federal Investment Tax Credit. The ITC is a credit on your taxes equal to 26% of the system cost if you purchase it. This is typically referred to as the solar tax credit, and all that many homeowners believe they are eligible to get. State tax breaks also exist when installing these systems, such as New York’s 25% of your system’s cost. These incentives and tax credits change from one state to the next, so ensure that you inquire with state officials and research what rebates and tax credits might exist for you where you live.
- Is it smart to install a solar system if I don’t plan on living in my house for 25 years?
There is no mistaking of the significant initial expense in installing a solar panel system for your residence, which can make those not living in their ‘forever home’ unsure about the investment. These systems can last for upwards of three decades, and even if you do not intend to live in your home after that, it is still a worthwhile consideration. Statistics support that solar energy systems increase the value of a home and can help to sell a property in many instances. The market favors residences that can sustain themselves without electric utility bills.
- How much of my home can get powered by solar energy?
While ideally, you want a system installed to resolve the energy needs of the residence completely; this is not always how it works. There are instances in which a solar system can entirely offset the electricity needs of the house. However, it is unrealistic to assume the highest production values every day in a week. Calculating a target for solar panel offset should include a 25% cushion in which properties rely on the grid’s energy. With net metering credits issued with surplus energy generated, you can use this grid as a backup when production slows and having no monthly bill to the primary electric utility provider.
- How long does it take me to ‘break-even’ on solar panel installation?
When you calculate the costs of installing a solar system for your residence, you can begin to experience the benefits of not paying an electric bill every month. Calculating the payback period, or how long it takes for the savings to exceed the cost of installing the system, depends on multiple factors. Where you live is often the primary variable, as utility costs can vary based on generation methods and storage needs. Typically, the average for breaking even is around eight years.
Residences continue to be the most active sector in the solar industry as these installations increase your return on investment (ROI), and you can recoup the upfront costs after a short period.