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Taking the Solar Plunge: Why 2019 Might Just be the Year to Go For It

Going solar is a big decision but one that has the potential to greatly reduce your utility costs and your greenhouse gas emissions. When paired with a battery, solar can build your home’s resiliency and independence from the utility grid. The financial and environmental benefits that come with residential solar are motivating more homeowners than ever to invest in solar energy systems. Prices are low, there are tax incentives, and the solar industry is growing nationwide and right here in the Charlottesville and Albemarle area, so there are lots of choices in the market.

Federal tax credit and pricing

This is the last year of a 30% federal tax credit for , making solar an even better investment with the average homeowner saving $5,000 on the price of their solar installation. The credit drops to 26% in 2020, 22% in 2021, and then ends completely. If you don’t have enough tax liability to claim the entire credit in one year, you can “roll over” the remaining credits into future years for as long as the tax credit is in effect. Currently, there is no state level incentive but the City of Charlottesville offers residents a real estate tax exemption for 5 years for the cost of a solar system.

Solar is more affordable than ever. Overall, the cost of solar has dropped more than 70% since 2010 and prices remain at historic lows. The overall cost for a residential system depends on the number of panels installed but on average, rooftop solar panels cost between $10,000 – $25,000. Many solar installers offer different financing options, such as no interest for 12-months, which allows a homeowner to claim the federal tax credit and apply that to the cost of their system in the interest free period.

In addition, there are multiple non-profits offering education, resources and discounted pricing through community campaigns that encourage homeowners to install residential solar and help guide you through the process.

Getting solar ready

Solar makes financial sense, now are you solar ready? If your home has a south-facing roof that gets plenty of sunlight, then your home is probably suitable for solar. East/west can work as well, but anything past due west/east will likely not be viable. You can see if your home gets enough sunlight by using an online tool that utilizes satellite data, such as the Google Project Sunroof. Many solar installers can also provide a satellite assessment and preliminary proposal using data you provide as part of their sales process.

Another factor to consider is the age of your roof. Generally, the recommendation is that if you are within the last third of a roof’s lifespan, then either wait to get solar panels or go ahead and replace your roof early.

Finally, assess the energy efficiency of your house before adding solar. By reducing your home’s energy usage as much as possible first, before producing energy with a solar PV system, you can realize even more cost savings and environmental benefits, and perhaps even reduce the size of the solar system needed. A certified building analyst can perform a home energy assessment and provide a report detailing the energy efficiency upgrades likely to result in the most energy savings. Highly efficient houses with solar systems in Central Virginia can approach net zero energy use resulting in thousands of dollars saved each year.

Educate yourself

Before contacting a solar provider, prepare yourself with some solar basics and prepare a list of questions about the company, including how long they have been in business and if they hold certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Also, look for a installer with the Alternative Energy Systems specification on their Virginia contractor’s license. You can search any contractor’s license number on the state’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation site. And of course, as you would with any major home repair or investment, get at least three quotes and ask for customer references.

Maybe you’re just starting to explore a solar photovoltaic system for your home, or maybe you feel ready to take the plunge. Wherever you are in the process, 2019 is a great year to go for it!

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