Interested in solar panels?  Here are some tips.  - New York times

Interested in solar panels? Here are some tips. – New York times

Thanks to technological and manufacturing advances, solar panel costs have fallen in the past decade, making solar power more and more popular for homeowners. But figuring out how to add a solar power system to your rooftop can be daunting.

Workers installed a solar and battery system this winter in my home in a New York City suburb. It was a big investment but really starting to pay off our lower utility bills and provide peace of mind that we’ll at least have some electricity during blackouts, which is common here because storms often cut power lines.

Interest in rooftop solar energy systems is high and growing with rising energy prices and growing concerns about climate change. Many people are also concerned about power outages caused by extreme weather linked to climate change. A 2019 survey by the Pew Charitable Trust found that 6% of Americans He had already installed solar panels and another 46 percent were considering it.

Anika Wistar-Jones, director of solar energy for Solar One, a New York City environmental education nonprofit that helps low-income communities use solar energy.

If you are interested in solar energy, here are a few things to keep in mind.

This question may seem simple, but finding the answer can be surprisingly complex. One installer told me my roof was so shaded by trees that the solar panels wouldn’t generate enough electricity to make the investment worthwhile. It was worth hearing another opinion: the installer I hired allayed those concerns and recommended that some trees be cut down. On sunny days, my system often generates more energy than my family uses.

It can also be difficult to know what your local government and utilities allow because the information is usually not readily available in plain language. I learned this lesson in my previous home.

When I lived in New York City, it took months of research to learn that I couldn’t install panels on my roof. The city requires a large, clear space on flat surfaces like its own for firefighters to walk on, as it turns out. And I couldn’t install the solar panels on a canopy – a frame on the roof that raises the panels – Because it violates the city’s height restrictions on the homes in my complex.

The best way is to cast a wide net and talk to as many solar installers as possible. You can also consult neighbors who have installed solar panels on their roofs: people in many parts of the country have come together in so-called insolation campaigns to jointly purchase solar panels to secure lower prices from installers.

β€œIt has been really successful in neighborhoods and communities across the country,” said Gretchen Bradley, director of community solar energy at Solar One.

You should search for suggestions from multiple installers. Compare shopping services like Energy Sage And the SolarReviews Makes it easy to connect with multiple installers.

When reviewing offers, pay attention to the cost of the system per watt. This tells you how much you are paying for the electricity generating capacity of the system and allows you to compare offers.

The average price for new rooftop solar systems is $2.75 per watt, according to EnergySage. That comes to about $26,125 for an average 9,500-watt system before the federal tax credit is taken into account. For tax year 2022, the credit stands at 26% of the cost of the solar system; It is set to drop to 22 percent in 2023 and end in 2024. Several states, including Arizona, California, New York and Massachusetts, are also offering residents Incentives to install solar energy systemssuch as rebates and tax credits.

Prices can vary widely due to location, local labor costs, and other factors, such as the type of home you live in and whether other work is needed prior to installation. If your roof is old or damaged, for example, it may need to be replaced before the solar system can be installed.

Rooftop solar systems can reduce monthly utility bills, depending on electricity prices, how much energy the home uses and state policies. Systems that save more money will help buyers get back their investment faster. Vikram Agarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage, said solar systems should ideally pay for themselves within 10 years.

Excess electricity produced by rooftop systems is sent to the electrical grid, and utilities usually reimburse homeowners for that energy with credits on their monthly bills. The value of those credits varies from state to state.

If you can buy a whole solar system, you will get the best deal by paying with cash. Systems purchased with loans or through leases tend to be more expensive, especially over the life of the contract. Shopping is the best hedge against falling prey to shady or predatory conventions.

The main advantage of renting a solar energy system is that your costs are usually fixed for the duration of the contract. But experts warn that getting out of leases can be difficult and may become a burden when selling your home, because buyers may not want to put up with your contract.

Mr Aggarwal noted that leases “make sense” for some people who may not earn enough to claim the federal tax credit. He suggested that people interested in solar leases should get three or four quotes from different installers.

Adding a battery to your solar system will allow you to store some of the excess electricity you generate for use during power outages or in the evening and night. A solar system without a battery will not provide you with power during an outage because most residential systems shut down automatically when the grid fails.

Batteries can be expensive, especially if you want to power large appliances and provide power for several hours or days. The 10- to 12-kilowatt-hour battery, which can store roughly a third of a home’s typical daily electricity use, costs about $13,000, according to EnergySage.

The federal tax credit for rooftop solar energy systems applies to the costs of batteries purchased with solar panels or if they are added in the following tax year. About 28 percent of residential solar power systems installed in 2021 included batteries, up from 20 percent in 2020, according to an EnergySage survey.

Wirecutter, a product recommendation service from The New York Times, contains a detailed guide to buying solar and battery systems.

Most electric cars cannot provide energy for homes. Only a few models, such as the Ford F-150 Lightning and Hyundai Ioniq 5, have this capability, and it’s incredibly understaffed.

But many energy experts believe it will eventually be common for car batteries to return power to homes and the electric grid.

In many parts of the United States, blackouts may occur once or twice a year. As a result, Mr. Aggarwal said, it may not make sense to invest in an expensive household battery, which usually contains much less energy than electric vehicle batteries. “Everyone is starting to talk about using your car to run your house.”

You may be able to join a community solar project, which is usually installed on open ground or on the roofs of warehouses and other large buildings.

While rules vary by state, community solar programs generally operate in similar ways. Members get two bills per month: one from the community solar project and one from their facilities. Projects sell electricity at a discount to the price your utilities charge, and each kilowatt-hour of energy you buy appears as a credit against the kilowatt-hour of energy on your utility bill.

Bradley said New Yorkers who join a community solar project, for example, can save about 10 percent on their monthly electric bill. “Signing in or leaving a project doesn’t cost anything,” she added.

While most states allow solar energy for the community, Most of these projects are in only four states β€” Florida, Minnesota, New York, and Massachusetts β€” according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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