By guest blogger, Bryn Huntpalmer
If you’ve been warming up to the idea of solar and have decided it’s right for your home—congrats! You’re on track to spending less money on energy each month and decreasing your carbon footprint. You’ve probably researched enough to know that this is a big step, but going solar is easier than you think—if you break it into a few smaller steps and do your research, you can streamline the exciting process of becoming energy independent with solar.
Get a Home Energy Assessment
A solar energy system works best in tandem with an already energy-efficient home. If you have insulation leaks or other efficiency problems, you are using more energy than necessary and will therefore need more panels to supply that energy when you get your solar system installed. Don’t buy a bigger system than you need to. Have a professional perform a home energy audit to identify problem areas. If you want, you can do more than repair ductwork and get repairs. Green up your home by replacing your oldest and least efficient appliance. Consider applying a low-emissive film to your windows that will prevent heat transfer and replace your light fixtures, bulbs, and fans with Energy Star-certified products.
Figure Out Your Potential ROI
What are utility rates in your area? Are you paying too much? If saving money each month is a huge motivator in your situation, make sure the residential solar prices in your area are competitive with traditional energy after incentives. You may be able to participate in net metering, an arrangement where you can feed unused energy back into the grid for energy credit. Call your utility company for information or visit Open EI to better understand the rate structure applied to your utilities.
Check Out the Incentives in Your Area
When you calculate the cost, make sure to consider incentives—they may be a make-or-break factor. Currently, the solar investment tax credit (ITC) is at 30 percent, which incentivizes many homeowners to go solar when it might not otherwise be a viable financial option. For instance, that’s a potential $6,000 savings off a $20,000 system, so check with your tax advisor to make sure you can take this credit. Don’t forget to research state and local incentives as well! Visit the database of state incentives for more information.
Consider A Lease
An owned solar system isn’t an option for everyone. The upfront costs may be a hurdle for some homeowners. If you’re itching to go solar but can’t afford the initial investment, a solar lease may be right for you. With a solar lease, you pay a monthly fee that covers installation and use, rather than paying a large upfront cost. The lessor owns the system, and the solar installer is still responsible for all maintenance. Research thoroughly to decide if this is the right option for your home—if you’re looking to put your house on the market anytime soon, you may discover that the system is a liability. Prospective homeowners are often intimidated by taking over the lease and will back out when they see the contract. If you don’t plan to move in the near future, call installers to make sure the total of your monthly payments to the leasing company aren’t better spent on a loan; with a loan, you can take advantage of government incentives and other benefits of owning your system.
Call an Installer
When you’re ready to move on the project, contact a professional. Direct Energy Solar can help guide you at each step to ensure that the process is straightforward and effortless, from custom-designing your system to your specific needs and providing payment options to offering you a lifetime of support.
Request your free quote from Direct Energy Solar today. You’ll learn how much you can save each month on your utility bill when you switch to solar, as well as the incentives you may qualify for.
Bryn Huntpalmer is a mother of two young children living in Austin, Texas where she currently works as an Editor for Modernize. In addition to regularly contributing to Home Remodeling and Design websites around the web, her writing can be found on Lifehacker and About.com.