There’s never been a better time to go solar, and solar has never been more affordable, either. Here are 10 cost-cutting ways to join the movement to make the world run on clean, green, renewable energy.
1. Get a Home Assessment
The first step is getting your home assessed for solar potential. The only way to know for certain if solar is right for you–if it will indeed save you money–is to have it inspected by a licensed solar contractor.
For free solar estimates, pricing and contractor info, click here.
Another good tip is to get an energy audit. Energy audits save homeowners money by identifying how an individual home is using, and perhaps wasting, energy. Some states offer rebates for energy audits. In fact, Californians may be eligible for a $500 rebate from the California Energy Commission.
2. Start Small
Solar panels are modular. Extra panels can be added over time. In areas with tiered electrical rates, even a small residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system can save you money. Tiered rates include a low base rate that covers the primary amount of electricity homes use. The addition of a small PV system can lower usage enough to keep you paying that low base rate.
3. Low-Income Programs
Some states offer special solar grant programs for low-income homeowners, paying for all or some of the upfront costs. The household’s income is compared with median incomes in the area to determine eligibility. Funding for these programs, however, is limited.
4. Solar Leasing
Homeowners can lease home solar power systems for little or no money down. The solar company purchases, installs, maintains and insures the system. The homeowner usually pays the company for the electricity that the system produces, typically less than they were paying before for traditional electricity.
5. Home Financing
Some solar contractors, financial institutions and banks offer solar financing, energy-efficiency home equity loans, or mortgages at discounted rates.
6. Group Buying
Companies like 1BOG organize group buying opportunities for homeowners by collecting names of interested residences in a neighborhood online. The company then negotiates for a discounted group rate, typically around 20 percent lower than most solar installations.
7. Incentive Programs
Homeowners can save up to 50 percent or more by taking advantage of solar rebate and incentive programs available in their areas. The federal tax credit program alone covers up to 30 percent of installation costs.
8. Solar Renewable Energy Credit
About 39 states give homeowners Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC) for each megawatt-hour of electricity their residential solar power systems generate. The SRECs operate as a financial instrument, sold to either utilities or solar energy markets. Depending on the state, prices range from around $200 to $700. They can drastically offset your electric costs.
9. Net Metering
Net metering allows you to send surplus electricity that a home solar system generates back to the electric grid. A few states will pay you directly for the excess electricity, while some credit your electrical bill.
10. Time-of-Use Metering
Many utilities use Time-of-use metering that allows them to charge customers more for conventional electricity used during peak-demand periods. Peak demands periods usually occur during the afternoon, when home solar systems are operating at the most efficient levels, allowing homeowners to avoid using high-rate conventional electricity.