Going Solar

Solar Energy is a hot topic right now, as our climate crisis continues, aided and abetted by the low-IQ individual currently occupying the White House.  The good news is that there are many options available to homeowners who want to go solar; the bad news is that can make it hard to decide which option is right for you.

One of our new members, Jeff Dobhriste, put some time and into the issue, an here are his recommendations:

How Much Do You Need?

The average home needs 4-8 kilowatts of power; at current prices, that will cost between $16,000 and $21,000 to install.

DIY?

You can save half that money if you install the system yourself.  Be careful, though, as you’ll need permits, expertise, and you won’t get a warranty.  Definitely for experts only!

Tax Credits

The Federal government is offering tax credits for solar installation through December of 2021.  These credits are 26% of the cost this year, but decrease to 22% in 2021.

California offers $3000 per kilowatt in its SASH-DAC program, which specifically targets disadvantaged communities.

Maintenance

You should expect to have your panels professionally cleaned twice per year, at a cost of around $150 per cleaning.  If your panels are damaged, they can be expensive to repair, but most companies offer warranties, and your homeowner’s insurance may also help.

The Payoff

You can expect your lower energy bills to pay off the cost of your solar panels in 6-10 years, counting tax incentives; less if you qualify for California’s SASH-DAC program.  There is a handy calculator here if you want to run the numbers for your home.

Own, Don’t Lease

Consumer Reports recommends you skip the companies that offer to lease you panels and give you a lower rate on your electricity.  The money you save is likely to be substantially less over time than if you owned your panels and you have limited control over what they do to your roof. Additionally, if you own solar panels, they will increase the market value of your home, but if you lease them, they may reduce the market value of your home because they complicate the selling process and/or impose a commitment the buyer may not want.

Bottom Line

If you’re considering solar and you can afford the up-front cost to buy your own panels, buy your own solar now.  The tax credits are diminishing, and while technology is improving, it’s not improving so fast as to outweigh the benefits of the tax credit.

Don’t be tempted by the folks who just offer you a discounted rate on power, but want to own the panels themselves; this isn’t likely to save you very much money and may lead to headaches.