Minimize Solar Energy Cost and Maximize Your Experience
Yep, solar energy cost is a rather hefty expense up front. But for the wise consumer that does even a little research, there are all kinds of ways to reduce this solar burden. Federal grants, tax cuts and rebates exist, local incentives and motivated local contractors can help, and looking at the situation another way all help ease the financial burden. Here are a few things to do to help relieve the initial solar cost.
Some state and federal incentives will replace up to 50% of your initial expense. You can find out what to expect at the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy This organization was developed in 1995, and is a branch of the U.S. Department of Energy. They are an ongoing effort by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) and managed by the North Carolina Solar Center with support from the University of North Carolina. The information there is amazing in its scope and detail as concerns lowering your solar energy cost. Access info and requirements for each program, as well as how to apply is available here. They are not the best source for local and city level funding however, which brings us to our next item of interest.
You might not have thought about this aspect, but try using local installers and contractors for their wealth of information in the solar arena. They will know of local incentives, rebates, and the best local prices for materials that will help you lower your solar energy cost. This is also important because of the construction tips and tricks you will learn, as well as developing a rapport with the local work force that may end up building your system. State and local energy offices vary in levels of solar support, and these are the people to contact for those answers.
Solar energy cost can also be lowered dramatically the old-fashioned way, by comparing vendors. Ask for job references, ask to see completed projects, and ask your friends and neighbors for their input. Also, offer to allow the contractor to supply your name and number to any future clients for a discount. This is a great way to save up front money, while also helping local businesses thrive. And try to get the paperwork handling added at no extra cost. These can be a nightmare, but the contractor has handled this aspect before, and can make an error-free job of it, saving you headaches, and capturing every possible rebate and incentive. There are even firms that don't mind taking the government rebates instead of payment from you. This is nice in two ways. One, there is nosolar energy cost to you, and two, you are not waiting for a check in the mail from Uncle Sam forever! Also, he can't submit until you have signed off that the job was done properly.
This next way to cut your solar energy cost involves how much your home appreciates due to your solar efforts. On average, the value of your home increases a whopping $20 for each $1 in annual energy savings. That doesn't lower your solar energy cost up front, but pays off in other ways. This is according to a dated but timely report released by the National Appraisal Institute (Appraisal Journal, Oct. 1999). With the increase in energy rebates since then, you can fully expect the true number to be much higher, and will continue to grow right along with energy bills. Many states have property tax exemption laws in place to reward solar investments, and you can find this info at the DSIRE website listed above. As an example, a 1999 home with a small 2,500 watt solar system increased that home's value by approximately $9,000 due exclusively to lowering the utility bills.
There is another solar energy cost you may not have thought of, and that is the mental and time-consuming cost of handling the paperwork. This can also cost you thousands if you file incorrectly. It often pays many times over to pay to have someone else (a contractor) handle this aspect, but if you do it yourself, remember these tips.
If you are trying to qualify for state, local or federal money, you sometimes need to be pre-approved. The funds are then put in an escrow account, and you have a reasonable deadline for install. Be sure to look into this BEFORE you start any solar power plan, or the solar energy cost to you could be heavier than expected.
You must get a local building permit before any work is done. Your rebate watchdogs will need a copy of this as well, to prove the work was done, and in a compliant manner. And your friendly, local utility will have a load of paperwork for you also. Billing, credit and distributed energy generation maps are just some of the forms you will need to fill out. They also want a copy of your signed-off building permit in most cases.
Unless you are just a glutton for punishment, and have nothing but time on your hands, it makes financial and mental sense to allow a seasoned pro to handle the paperwork. This may mean an extra solar energy cost to you financially, but the peace of mind knowing that you will qualify for all possible rebates and incentives, and won't miss out because of rookie paperwork snafus, is worth a hundred times whatever filing costs you incur. Your time is freed up for more important matters, you papers are filed on time in the proper manner, and the contractor who has done this a hundred times already knows all the people involved in the process. This is one solar energy cost you will incur with a smile.