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Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Is It Time for Home Solar Panels?

Federal and state subsidies, plus new products and utility incentives, make this an excellent time for seniors to consider getting solar panels installed on their home’s roof.  

The cost of home solar systems is going down year after year as the technology improves. The federal government offers tax credits for putting in a new system, and many states have their own programs to promote solar energy. Your utility company may buy back extra credit you produce, although the rate varies according to where you live. Finally, the largest American roofing company has just begun production on flexible solar shingles that nail onto your roof just like regular asphalt shingles.

Rooftop solar uses a technology called photovoltaics, or PV. These panels collect photons from sunlight to create an electric field. They are made to work in a wide variety of climates, but not every roof may be suitable. For example, trees may excessively shade a roof, or the roof may be angled too much to the north. Usually, solar panels are optimal on south-facing roofs with a 15 to 40 degree slope, but other configurations are often suitable, too.

Solar Shingles Are Here

Timberline Solar roofing systems are installed just like asphalt roofing tiles. The flexible shingles, less than a quarter of an inch thick, received a Best of Innovation Award for Smart Cities at CES 2022. 

“No one has ever specifically tried to make a solar product that a roofer can install,” says Martin DeBono, president of GAF Energy. “And we’ve done it, and our product goes on with just a nail gun. It goes on twice as fast as typical solar.”

Since installation is typically the greatest cost for residential solar, that is no small claim. GAF says that its new roof costs about half as much as the Tesla Solar Roof, and it has the added benefit of being offered by the company that makes one out of every four new roofs in the US, installed with the help of its national contractor network. Learn more about Timberline Solar shingles here.

According to a 2016 analysis, there are more than 8 million square meters of rooftop in the US where solar panels could be installed. To find out if your roof has potential for PV, and to check out the solar rooftop potential, check these three tools that estimate potential energy savings for any building’s rooftop.

Benefits of Solar

But why bother with solar energy in the first place? Apart from increasing your home’s value, solar has many environmental benefits. Using power from the sun instead of conventional energy forms cuts down on the amount of carbon and other pollutants that are released into the environment. This, in turn, contributes to cleaner air and water.

A recent study found that homeowner-owned solar panels are usually seen as upgrades, to the tune of about an additional $15,000 per home. Evidence also suggests that homes with solar panels sell faster than those without, a plus in a higher interest rate market. If you are buying or selling a home with a solar roof array, the PV Value® tool can help calculate the energy production value for the system.

Federal, State and Utility Subsidies for Solar

In alignment with federal goals for cleaner energy production, the US government offers a tax credit for new solar energy systems on residential homes. A tax credit reduces the amount of income tax you owe on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The credit is 26% for systems installed in 2022, and 22% for those installed in 2023. These credits expire in 2024 unless they are renewed by Congress. Even better, if your taxes owed are less than your credit, the credit can be carried forward. For a complete guide to the federal solar photovoltaics credit, go here.

Most states offer tax credits and/or rebates for installing solar. These credits will not reduce your federal tax credits for putting in a new system. Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency to check on your state’s program.

Finally, be sure to check with your local electrical utility to find out if it offers subsidies to install a solar PV system and/or payments for excess energy produced, and at what rate. While many state’s utilities pay for power at the same, or near the same, rate at which it is sold, others like Mississippi pay next to nothing. A total of 39 states, the District of Columbia, and four territories have mandatory net metering rules. Check your state’s net metering policy.

Add Solar When Replacing Your Roof

The optimal time to put a PV system in place is when you, like millions of other Americans annually, are putting on a new roof. The average cost to replace a roof runs about $10,000, and the average cost of a rooftop solar array is in the neighborhood of $19,000. But you can reduce this combined cost from nearly $30,000 to about $25,000 by saving on labor and doing them together. 

Solar panels last 25 to 30 years —the same number of years as an average roof. When you install them both at the same time, you will ensure they need replacing at the same time, saving money down the road. For more on saving money by installing solar when you get a new roof, go here.

Getting solar panels can be a quality investment in the environment and your home. With incentives like tax credits and rebates more plentiful than ever before, it makes sense to consider whether adding solar panels could be the right move for you. There is a plethora of statistics and information available to help you make the right decision. Make sure to use a reliable company after running the numbers. You may be one of many who can have the satisfaction of watching your electric meter run backward!