solar energy

By Poppy Merrell

Solar Panels—Worth The Hype?

While completely eliminating your utility bill sounds alluring to most homeowners, purchasing your own solar panels still requires a fairly large upfront cost (around $20k in Fredericksburg). The good news is that solar energy is cheaper than ever before: the cost of installing panels has gone down about 50% over the last 5 years! Homeowners who purchase their own panels can claim 30% as a tax credit and the installation usually won’t trigger a reassessment of your home, so there are definite economic benefits to buying them outright. For those of us unwilling to fork over that much cash upfront, many companies offer leasing and power purchasing options which may be more palatable for the average homeowner.

Is Solar Right For Your Home?

It’s easy to see the benefits of solar energy, but let’s remember that the energy it produces is not actually free.  While you aren’t paying for the electricity they produce, you’ll likely have to pay close to $20k for the panels themselves. Depending on where you live and the size of your roof, this may or may not save you any money over the 20-year lifespan of the panels. To find out whether going solar is even a good option for your home, plug in your address on www.sunmetrix.com. They pull your utility info and your home’s stats to show how much you might save by purchasing or leasing solar panels and whether it would be worthwhile.

For example, when I put my home’s address into Sunmetrix, they actually recommended I don’t get solar panels! Even though I have the space and the sun exposure to support the amount of electricity I use, the cost of the panels and installation would be so high that I would basically break even. Unless I was an ardent environmentalist with $20k to spare, solar does not really make sense for my house. On the other hand, if you live somewhere extremely sunny or the cost of power in your area is quite high, solar panels may actually be a moneymaker because you can sell back any excess power your panels create to the power company.

Solar-Readiness May Improve Home Value

Another factor to consider when installing solar panels on your home, is the potential effect on your home’s value. You might notice that some homes on Zillow now have a “Sun Number” which rates how well-suited a particular home is for solar. If your home is designated to be solar-friendly or has a higher Sun Number, that might attract more eco-conscious buyers or people looking to reduce their utility bills. If you like the idea of using solar energy but your house isn’t a good candidate or you can’t justify the cost, community “solar gardens” are a cool new option! Crowdsourced panels would not only provide your community with free electricity, but would also appeal to buyers looking for green features in their next home.

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