Thinking about solar?
If you’re concerned about the high cost of home energy—and the high environmental cost of fossil fuels—take a look at solar power. Solar is a clean, low-maintenance source of inexpensive and renewable home energy whose cost won’t rise year after year.
“Solar power is where environmental altruism and financial savvy intersect,” says Jason Liburdi, General Manager and Partner of SuperGreen Solutions in Austin, Texas. “As the cost of environmentally friendly technologies falls and the cost of traditional energy sources rises, ‘going green’ with a solar power system makes more and more financial sense.”
Installing a solar power system in your home is a significant investment, but one that pays for itself over time through reduced or even eliminated electric bills and a higher real estate value.
Liburdi offers some tips for homeowners making the switch to solar.
The first step in changing your power source is changing your power use. Reducing your energy use not only saves on your electric bill, it can reduce the size and complexity of the solar power system required to meet your energy needs.
Liburdi suggests some relatively inexpensive power savers, like energy-efficient LED light bulbs, programmable thermostats and high-efficiency appliances. Adding to your home’s insulation is very cost-effective, as is sealing doors and windows. Most power companies—and companies like SuperGreen Solutions—will walk you through a free home energy assessment and offer additional tips for your specific situation.
Check codes and bylaws
If you’re part of a neighborhood or homeowners’ association, check the bylaws related to solar panel installation. In many states, the associations do not have the jurisdiction to block your installation, but they may have some stipulations regarding set backs, visual impact and other considerations. You’ll want to do what you can to maintain good neighborhood relations.
In some states, building codes have changed to require energy efficiencies, particularly in new home construction. You can find details about regulations and policies on your state’s website (look for the sections on building codes and energy), or in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (www.dsireusa.org).
Sign up for rebates
Most power companies and municipalities encourage solar use to reduce the demand on their grid. Many offer rebates and financial incentives for improvements in home energy efficiency, and some will even offer free products, like light bulbs.
You can find up-to-date information about financial incentives, like how to get low- or no-interest loans and or apply for grants that may be available to homeowners, at www.dsireusa.org. Check deadlines and requirements so you don’t miss out.
Pick a spot
For most homeowners, the roof is the best spot for solar panels, depending on the home’s orientation to the sun. But if you’ve got some land, you can also install them at ground level. In fact, more and more businesses—and even homeowners—are using ground-mounted solar panel canopies for double duty: to provide power and shade their parking areas.
Panels are more efficient than ever and generate more power per square foot, so you probably don’t need as much room as you think. A reputable dealer can help you calculate how many panels you’ll need to power your home.
It’s important to install the panels away from large trees to maximize their sun exposure. Falling branches are a concern, too, but the surface of your solar panels is tougher than you might imagine. While many people think they’re fragile, like glass, the panels are constructed of silicon and are similar to the surface a dry erase board—smooth, tough and durable.
“We’ll toss a baseball or softball at the panels to show prospective clients just how tough the panels are,” said Jason. “Clients cringe when we do it, but then they see how sturdy the panels are.”
Unlike balky oil burners or gas heaters, a solar power system requires very little maintenance. Annual panel cleanings are recommended for efficiency: you can wash the panels yourself or hire a service. Snow can be gently raked off but most homeowners find it’s not necessary: snow tends to melt and slide easily off the panels due to their slope.
The wiring system is “plug and play” according to Liburdi, so if your roof ever needs repair, the panel mount system can readily be disassembled and set aside.
Liburdi suggests contacting a local solar dealer for a free consultation. With most states and municipalities offering rebates and incentives to improve home energy efficiency—and with electricity costs rising year after year—it’s a good time to look into solar power for your home.
Find a local SuperGreen Solutions near you to get more information and get a free energy assessment.