Thanks to federal tax incentives and a growing concern for the environment, many Americans are installing rooftop solar panels to cover or offset the cost of their utilities. In the last ten years, the solar industry has grown by an unprecedented 1,600 percent and it shows not signs of slowing. As solar becomes more affordable, however, debates have opened up around the use of solar power and its effect on older ways of producing electricity (like coal-fired and nuclear power plants). Solar power is a complicated process that is part of an even more complicated industry. If you’re thinking about making the switch, consider this your crash course in rooftop solar power.
I’m interested in solar. Where do I start?Before you call a local solar provider and start getting sales pitches it’s useful to know some background information on solar in your area. Do some research on your home state to see if your local government has incentivized solar in any way. Some states have provided funding to banks to offer loans for home solar systems. You should also consider some details about your home, your current energy provider, and the amount of time you’re going to spend in your home. If you plan on moving anytime soon, leased panels may not be something you want to put up on the roof. Some buyers will happily take over the lease; others won’t be so sure or may see it as a headache. You’ll also want to learn about net metering from your current electricity provider. The electricity market is now in flux due to the increase of solar. As solar makes electricity more accessible, it could make electricity costs go up from your local utility company. Net metering is the way that power companies measure how much electricity your panels put into the grid during the daytime which will be discounted from your monthly utility bill. Finally, you’ll want to consider how beneficial the panels would be to your bill. If your home doesn’t receive a lot of sun or have enough viable roof space, solar panels might not be worth it. If you can buy the panels flat out, however, they’ll likely save you a lot of money in the long run.
Buying, leasing, and financing your panelsBuying, leasing, and financing all have their advantages and disadvantages which you’ll want to weigh before committing to one option. For example, even if you have the funds to buy outright you might prefer the leasing option for the maintenance and repairs guarantee. Maybe you want to buy or finance to take advantage of local and federal tax incentives. Another thing to consider is the changing technology itself. As solar power improves, so does the technology that makes it possible. If you’re thinking of moving within the next few years it might be in your best interest to wait for the next generation of panels for your new home instead of buying panels that will be outdated in the home you’re in.
Making the callsOnce you’ve decided you want to go ahead with solar panels on your home you have another round of research to do. Compare providers in your area. Get quotes and setup options to find one that you’re happy with. Get a sample contract and read all of the fine print. Finally, check out the customer reviews to make sure you’ll be happy with this provider–especially if you’re leasing and will be dealing with them for the next 15-20 years. Do you travel in the winter or rent your home in the Summer? If that is the case be sure that someone you trust is watching over the panels that have been installed on your home. Pat Foran is an accredited member of the National Home Watch Association and Foran Realty offers several home watch options for you and your family. Be sure to call for details today! ]]>
We all want a more energy efficient home. And while we know an energy efficient home is an eco-friendly one our favorite benefit is that it also helps save on utility bills each year. Below are some ways you can perform a home energy audit yourself to hunt out the places your home needs to have repaired to prevent energy leaks: Manual Tests Start by locating any air leaks. Areas where two different building materials meet are especially susceptible. These places include along baseboards and floors or where walls meet the ceiling. If there are any obvious cracks or gaps you have an energy leak. Windows, doors, plumbing, switches, and outlets are all guilty suspects as well and should be tested for drafts. For less obvious leaks dampening your hand and passing it over areas that are likely offenders will help you find drafts. If there is a draft the passing air will make your hand feel cool as it passes by. Another test to try is to start by closing any vents in the room and then light some incense. Watch closely if the smoke moves or billows around in areas you suspect are a culprit to any energy leaks. If the smoke wavers there is a leak. Check for leaks around windows and doors by closing them on a paper bill. If it is easy to pull out the bill you have a leak. This test is also a great way to check the seal of your fridge doors for any leaks. Tech Tests Buy a home energy monitor to determine which appliances are your biggest energy hogs. Consider upgrading old appliances to more energy efficient ones, keeping them unplugged when not in use or getting rid of the appliance altogether if it isn’t essential. Devices that have a standby are energy consumers even when “off” as they are never truly off. If it has an indicator light, charger, AC adapter or digital clock than it is using up power when plugged in. Plugging these devices into a power strip will allow you to easily flip them to off and disconnect all power to them when not in use. Investing in a handheld infrared thermal leak detector to detect any leaks in walls in places like outlets, cable wire holes or around windows, doors and attic hatches. If you find a significant difference in temperature as you pass the detector over a likely culprit you have an air leak on your hands. Whether you opt for the cheap ways to audit your home or invest in a little bit of tech to hunt out those energy leaks taking the time to test your home is well worth the effort. Finding where you home is losing energy and repairing them will save you money in the long run and turn your home will become a more eco-friendly one to boot!]]>