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Guide to Home Solar Energy Systems
How Solar Energy Works
The Solar Powered Future

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There's a reason why more and more families and businesses across the country are turning to solar energy! Not only could solar energy save you a substantial amount of money month after month – but it's clean, environmentally friendly, and depending on the solar energy savings plan you choose – it may also qualify you to receive additional tax credits.

Since every individual and family is different, we make it easy to compare your solar energy options and savings. Just take a moment to answer a few simple questions online to request your free solar energy savings quote.

A Guide to Solar Energy

Solar power is energy harnessed from the sun that is converted into electrical energy. It is, by far, the cleanest and most sustainable energy source available, and has a variety of uses including generating electricity for homes and businesses, providing light, and heating water.

If you own a home and have a roof that is in good shape, then you're a good candidate for solar energy. There are so many benefits to switching over to solar power, including immediate and significant savings on your electricity bill as well being able to help the environment conserve energy. Here's a quick look at the ins-and-outs of solar panels, including the technology, cost, installation process, and more.

Solar energy panels carry out a process called photovoltaic (or solar electric), which converts light from the sun into electricity. Powered by cells made of conductive material, solar cells perform the solar photovoltaic process, thus creating energy and electricity for homes.

Residential solar panels are offered in three basic types: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film. As far as life span, your best options are monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Thin film, however, gets the best cost per watt. And when it comes to energy per square feet, monocrystalline wins by a long shot.

Before making the switch to solar panels, you need to determine the amount of solar energy that is around your home. Solar works best if your roof is not overly shade and faces west, east, or south. The angle of your roof will also affect your system's efficiency. Professional solar energy installers can help you determine if solar is a good option in your specific location.

Installing Solar Panels

The basics of installing solar panels are greatly influenced by the system you have installed- whether it's a grid-tied system or an off-grid system. With a grid-tied system, you won't need energy-storing batteries because you will use solar power during the day, and then at night, you switch back to the grid (regular electricity). Many times, any excess solar power that you have will flow back into your grid, thus causing your electricity bill to be greatly reduced. A grid-tied system has three main components: solar modules, an inverter and meters.

An off-grid system requires the use of storing batteries. You will run off solar power during the day, and at night, you will use power stored in your batteries. This type of system requires four components: solar modules, solar panel batteries, solar charge controller and an inverter. The modules (solar panels) themselves will be installed on your roof. The inverter, meters and inverter are installed on the outside of your home connected to a main fuse box.

Solar Energy Tax Credits and Rebates

The tax credits that you can qualify for installing solar panels on your home will vary according to the state you live in. As of today through December 31, 2016, you can receive a 30 percent federal credit for converting over to solar power through the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit program. To qualify for this credit, at least half of the energy used in your home to heat your water must come from solar energy.

It's important to keep in mind that in addition to solar energy tax credits, you can also take advantage of solar energy programs. Solar programs enable you to earn back money on the power that you produce via your solar panels. Some incentives are reoccurring, while others are one-time credits.

Solar Pros and Cons

One of the main advantages of installing solar panels is that you will enjoy solar energy prices, and the panels are completely sustainable. If you meet certain requirements and have them installed by credit deadlines, you may be able to qualify for several rebates. Most importantly, you'll be doing Mother Nature a favor by making your own energy instead of using fossil fuel. In addition, installing solar panels on homes in remote locations tends to be far more cost effective than having high voltage wires ran to the home.

Although tax credits and solar rebates are available, installing solar panels can still be quite expensive. Buying your own system can range from $15,000 to upwards of $30,000 - before rebates and tax incentives are taken into consideration. Another downside is that both weather and pollution can affect how efficient solar panels operate.

When purchasing solar panels, you need to determine how many kilowatt-hours your home needs. To do this, look at your past electricity bills. You'll also need to consider how many hours each day that the sun will be shining on the solar panels (the more, the better). This is why it's ideal to put them on the south facing side of your roof. Lastly, know that off-grid systems are usually less expensive than grid-tied systems because there is no need for an inverter

Lease vs. Buy

If you make the decision to have solar panels installed on your home, then you'll need to choose between leasing or buying them. When you lease your panels through solar companies, you will enjoy lower upfront cost. Leasing the panels also come with the benefit of lower maintenance.

Buying solar panels come with the advantage of being able to earn money back via federal and state tax credits. In addition, solar energy programs provide incentives where you can earn money for any extra power that you produce.

If you don't have the funds to straight-out purchase a solar panel system for your home, you may be able to qualify for various financing options. The Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program helps homeowners finance their systems and pay back the borrowed funds via their property tax bills. You can also take out a home equity loan to finance your solar panel system. Feed-in-tariffs and the Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) can also provide financial aid for solar panel systems.

A Solar-Powered Home: Is It Right For You?

If you're looking for a way to lower your energy bills, then a solar panel system is an excellent way to achieve this goal. Yes, it may take a hefty initial investment, but in the long run, the monetary and environmental benefits to be gained are well worth the money spent.

Cost of Going Solar

Many assume that the price of solar panels is prohibitively expensive, or that solar energy prices themselves don't make the conversion in the home environment quite worth the effort. When it comes to solar installation cost and the general price of solar power in general, there are a few key factors that you need to keep in mind.

The average cost of solar power is broken down into two different categories depending on exactly what it is that you're talking about. The first is the price per kilowatt-hour of electricity, which is calculated similarly to the way a standard utility company calculates your bill on a monthly basis. A watt is a unit of power that describes the rate at which energy is converted, while a kilowatt is equal to 1000 total watts. A kilowatt-hour is the electricity being produced from solar systems over a specific period of time. Therefore, to find out how much money you're paying for the system in kilowatt-hours, you would take the total power being generated and multiply it by the amount of time you're looking at to arrive at the appropriate number of kilowatt-hours.

The second way to look at solar energy costs has to do with the installation of the system itself. This is commonly measured in the amount you're paying per watt that the system is capable of generating. When factoring in not only the hardware but also labor and other factors, you get a dollar value for each watt the system can generate.

Average Cost Breakdown

The average cost breakdown of solar power is broken down into a few key categories. The solar panels themselves, which are used to convert energy from the sun into electricity, are only one of those factors. Electrical wiring components, the equipment needed to mount the solar panels to your home, the components that actually convert the energy that the panels are absorbing into electricity, and the solar installation cost will all play important factors in determining how much you will pay to convert your home to solar energy.

To put those numbers into perspective, a larger solar system may only cost around $3 per watt of electricity. However, when all of the aforementioned factors are taken into consideration, the initial cost of the system itself may be $20,000 for a system that can generate around 6000 watts.

When you compare prices solar providers offer, there are a few key questions you'll want to ask. For starters, you'll want to ask about the type of maintenance that will be required to keep your system up and running. These regular maintenance costs can increase the amount of money you're paying on average over time. Secondly, you'll want to have an estimate performed by a professional on your home to help make sure that you're buying a system of the appropriate size. Buy one too small and you won't have enough energy when you need it. Buy one too large and you'll essentially be wasting your money.

Cost of Solar Panels

The average cost per watt for solar panels varies from between $3 to $6 depending on the system in question. The average cost per watt is an important number to know, as it essentially tells you not only how much money you'll be spending up front but also how much you could potentially be saving over time.

When you pay for electricity from a traditional energy provider on a monthly basis, costs are also based on your average kilowatt per hour usage. To find out the size of the system you need, you must estimate based on your standard usage habits how many kilowatts of electricity you will need on a monthly basis. For a small residential home, you may only need a system that provides 300 or so watts of power. For large homes with multiple rooms or multiple floors, however, the size of the required system would be much higher. You would expect to pay more money by way of equipment costs and other factors as a result.

Financing Options and Grants

A variety of different options are available to help people pay for solar roof costs. Certain tax incentives are available that vary by state, for example, to allow people to recoup some of the initial installation costs as a reward for taking steps to reduce a home's energy footprint. Many solar panel providers also offer extensive financing options to help people switch over to solar.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels can be an excellent choice for powering a home. By using solar energy technology, we can protect the environment's disappearing resources and save money on our electricity bills at the same time. If you're considering buying or leasing solar panels for your home, it's important to understand how solar power works so you can find the system that best meets your needs.

A solar panel works by collecting photons, which are light particles, and using them to push electrons off atoms to create electricity. If one looks closely at a solar panel design, one can see a collection of photovoltaic cells. Each one of these cells can convert sunlight into electric power, and the number of cells will depend on the size of the panel. The photovoltaic cells contain silicon, along with other materials such as phosphorous and boron, that provides each cell with a negative or positive charge. Also included in the solar power design are metal plates along the sides of the cells; these metal plates are conductive, and transfer the collected electrons to wires. From that point, the electrons are able to flow just like they would from any other power source. They travel through the wires and into a person's home through a meter, like they would from the power company, so the current can be properly regulated.

Types of Solar Panels

There are three basic types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film. Monocrystalline, or silicone solar panels, are the most expensive. These panels use rounded cells that are cut from a single piece of crystal silicone, resulting in evenly colored panels, typically dark blue or black. Monocrystalline panels typically last more than 25 years, and are considered the best option for roofs in non-shaded spaces.

Polycrystalline panels have cells that are fused together from several silicon crystals. The cells are square, taking up less space than rounded cells, but they are also less efficient. These panels have the same lifespan rate as monocrystalline panels, and because they are less efficient (12 to 14 percent return rate of electricity), they are also less expensive.

Thin film solar is the least expensive option. These non-crystalline solar panels are made by layering glass or steel with amorphous, copper indium, silicon diselenide or cadmium telluride. Because these solar panels are less efficient than crystalline versions, more are required to produce the same energy. Your rooftop will need lots of unshaded space because it will likely have to be covered with thin film solar panels.

Inside the home, solar power features are the same as standard power features. Lights, outlets, and systems that are powered by electricity all work the same way, provided that enough solar power is collected to properly operate those systems. Often, when a source of alternative power such as solar power is used, the electric meter actually runs backward. That indicates that there is enough power for everything the home needs, plus extra that is being fed back to the utility company.

Most homes do not run solely off of solar power all the time, and use a combination of power from the electric company and solar power. There are some homes, however, that have taken the benefits of solar power far enough that they have gone "off grid" and use only solar power for everything they do. This system works best in hot, sunny climates, where there is more of an opportunity to soak up sunlight for hours on end. The size and number of solar panels also matters, though, and it is possible to go off grid in cloudier climates with enough panels and a relatively low need for power.

There are a number of solar power benefits, which is part of the reason it is such a popular alternative power source. The savings each month by having a much lower power bill – or by not having a power bill at all – can truly add up. The solar panels are not free, though, and it can take some time before the monthly savings allow the homeowner to recoup the cost of the panels. Of course, using solar energy also helps protect the planet's natural resources, which can be another valuable reason to use solar energy technology.

Solar Energy Pros and Cons

If you're interested in switching your home over to solar power, then you'll want to weigh the pros and cons against one another. There are many to be compared, and it is your preferences, financial status, and the location of your home that will ultimately determine whether or not going solar is right for you.

Pros

One of the main advantages of going solar is that it is good for the environment because you will be reducing - possibly eliminating – your use of fossil fuels to supply energy to your home. Due to solar panels efficiency, your energy bills will also be significantly reduced. In fact, many homeowners say they have reduced their energy bills by 50 to 90 percent after switching over to solar power.

In addition to saving money on your energy bills, you'll also enjoy taking advantage of tax credits and rebates. As of now through the year 2016, you can receive a 30 percent federal tax credit for the money you invest in going solar. Other state and local rebates are available to those who qualify.

Another reason to go solar is because the energy produced is renewable, meaning it comes from a natural source – the sun – that isn't depleted. Furthermore, it's sustainable, which ensures that future generations won't be negatively affected by your decision to go solar.

Many people think solar technology is only used to produce lighting in a home. However, it should be noted that there are many applications. You can use solar power to heat water, operate appliances and more. This is one of the more notable solar benefits that should be kept in mind when comparing solar energy pros and cons.

If you don't have the funds to pay for solar panels, you can always lease them. Or, you can take out a loan through a solar company that enables you to pay back the borrowed funds over a certain period of time. Some cities will even allow you to take out a loan and pay back the funds via your property taxes. They simply add on your annual payment to your taxes.

Cons

Going solar will cost quite a bit of money. Depending on the type of system that you have installed – off-grid or grid-tied – you will likely be out around $15,000 to $30,000. Do keep in mind that if your home has a rooftop that is heavily shaded, then you will need more panels. Also, if you live in a location that doesn't receive a lot of sunlight, you will need more panels too.

When comparing advantages and disadvantages of solar panels you must also keep in mind that solar energy is intermittent just the same as wind power. Still yet, solar power is far more reliable than energy produced by the wind.

Another disadvantage of going solar is that energy storage can be expensive, especially the batteries that the energy is stored in when using off-grid systems. On the upside, though, there's a good chance that you won't have to store much energy because it just so happens that the time of day when the most sunlight is available is the time of day when you are likely to be using the most energy.

As far as space requirements for your solar panel system, the panels themselves are the largest component, and they will of course be installed on your roof. Depending on where you live, the amount of power that you need and how unshaded your rooftop is, you might only need a single panel. On the downside, if you don't have favorable solar conditions, your entire roof may need to be covered, which of course also means more money.

Lastly, manufacturing solar panels sometimes requires the use of rare materials. Take for example thin-film solar cells, which are the least expensive to purchase, meaning they are in high demand. These cells are made of either copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) or cadmium telluride (CdTe), both of which are rare.

Making the Switch

Now that you know more about the pros and cons of going solar, it's time to evaluate whether or not you want to make the switch. While the cons are definitely large in number, so are the pros, and being that solar power is environmentally friendly, society as a whole benefits each time a homeowner has a solar panel system installed.

Solar Panel Installation Guide

When installing a solar power system within a household, benefiting surrounding environments and lowering energy costs is a huge objective. Often, solar installers customize each solar roof before applying a solar panel kit, and many systems are available for roof mounting purposes.

While one may not need an engineering degree for installation, several considerations should be taken before installing solar panels. Solar panel installation, itself, is easy when an industrious homeowner is present, and the straightforward process often provides many solar energy benefits.

Pre-Installation Steps

Before installation begins, contacting a local zoning agency is important. Often, zoning ordinances apply to installation requirements. Agencies can be contacted for further information, as can local governments.

Additionally, solar mounting should be discussed with neighbors, as they may cause glare for passerby. Once the neighbors are in agreement, contacting a contractor for inspection is the next step. Oftentimes, solar panels last decades, so it's wise to consider the following aspects to ensure healthy installation and maintenance:

  • Rooftop condition
  • Solar panel direction
  • Newly installed overhangs
  • Chimney areas
  • South and southwest wooden studs
  • Roof beams

Getting an Estimate and Consultation

As mentioned above, south and southwest rooftop sides should be examined, as such areas receive the most sunlight throughout the day. When accessing solar panel design and installation estimates, prices are often directly related to these areas.

Consultation typically begins with a simple call to solar installers and/or a request for information online. Some households may not be candidates for solar panels, depending upon local laws and regulations. However, estimates are often acquired by local real estate authority information, and installation technicians often cross-reference estimates for best possible prices. Additionally, during consultation, remember to ask about the following benefits from each potential installer:

  • Renewable energy rebates
  • Lowered sales tax
  • Cash savings
  • Time needed for return on investments

Solar Warranties

Solar panels are man-made objects, so they're subject to environmental and unanticipated damages. Understanding potential warranty selections is important and will likely increase a solar system's lifespan. Solar panels are likely equipped with warranties guaranteeing freedom from manufacturing defects. These warranties insure normal usage for prolonged time periods, and they protect homeowners for an average of 10 years.

Additionally, long-term warranties are often available. These warranties feature a system's prolonged performance, and they adhere to the following dynamics associated with solar panels, solar energy systems and household utility links:

  • Solar panel energy generation declines approximately .25 percent a year
  • Production warranties protect up to an average degradation of 1 percent per year
  • After 20 years, systems may be guaranteed under a 20-percent loss in generated power

While many different providers carry different warranties, the above serve as a benchmark for installation and use coverages. Long-term performance warranties should always be the most important, followed by manufacturing warranties.

Design, Measurements and Energy Needs

Solar panel design steps are often determined by a household's energy needs. Energy prices regularly fluctuate, and many building owners consider different setups to accommodate for different energy needs. Where power bill reduction is the most important aspect, solar panel installation counts on different roof measurements and expense goals.

Total wattage must be calculated first. Often, a technician will provide a solar insolation map, which determines the amount of useable sunlight contacts on a rooftop. Once these measurements are taken, daily kilowatt-hours are determined, and daily sunlight hours are divided by the measurement. Then, panel measurements must match a rooftop's highest "contact" area, or, where it receives the most sunlight. When paired with the household's average kilowatt-per-hour usage, an overall price will be determined.

Installation Timeframe and Preparation

Once an installation technician is contacted, preparing a building's rooftop for installation is important. Following any needed repairs, debris should be hosed off, and gutters should be cleared of dirt, leaves and dust. Outdoor hoses are useful for such events, and a pressure washer will remove grime or stains from non-shingled areas.

Solar panels are often installed within a few days once the project has begun. Often, the process's longest "part" is its prep, which consists of the following areas and considerations:

  • Solar rebate consideration
  • Installation incentives
  • Pre-existing damages
  • Electric meter installation

Modern electric meter systems moderate solar panel interconnection. In short, they're similar to thermostat systems. Many are plug-and-play-style electronics, and their wiring is directly integrated between solar panels and household interiors. Following the system installation, panel installation may be completed in less than a week, in many cases.

Solar Power: Lease vs. Buy

Solar power brings with it a wide variety of different benefits that can't be ignored. For many, solar power is seen as a convenient way to do your part to help the environment and to leave the Earth in a better condition than it was when we arrived. For others, going solar is a way to reduce dependence on traditional energy providers and take matters into their own hands.

When you make the decision to switch to solar energy, one of the most important questions that you'll have to ask yourself is whether to lease a system or buy one outright. This can be determined by approaching the situation from a few key angles.

Leasing Pros and Cons

The major benefit of leasing a solar system has to do with the initial costs. It is significantly cheaper (usually between $15,000 to $20,000 cheaper) to lease a system than it is to purchase one outright. Solar panels lease agreements are also ideal if you don't qualify for any of the federal or state investment credits or programs that are designed to help offset some of those initial costs.

If you don't want to get into financing solar panels and are instead looking to lease outright, however, you will also find a variety of benefits exclusive to this plan. You're still saving a great deal of money on electricity versus what you would be paying to a traditional provider. Savings can be anywhere from 10 to 50 percent depending on the area of the country that you live in.

One of the major cons of leasing, however, has to do with the length of solar panels lease agreements. Most lease agreements are for periods of around 20 years. Though many people likely won't have a problem with this, it essentially removes leasing as a viable option at all if you're planning on selling your home before that agreement has expired.

Another disadvantage to leasing has to do with the fact that you're not treating solar panels as the type of investment they actually are. When you buy solar panels, you're essentially earning a return on your investment that can be as high as 30 percent or more depending on the type of state and federal tax incentives that you qualify for. If you choose to lease your solar panels system and not sign a solar power purchase contract, you're essentially leaving all of that money on the table.

Buying Pros and Cons

The most important factors to consider when making the decision to lease or buy solar panels will essentially vary depending on your situation. Buying solar panels is a much higher upfront cost that can't be ignored, but many financing options are available to help make those costs easier to bear over time. In addition to solar financing, cash rebates, federal and state tax credits and other types of incentives are also available to make buying solar panels much more attractive to buyers.

One of the major differences between solar power lease or buy agreements have to do with maintenance issues. When you lease solar technology, the company that you're leasing that equipment from is responsible for any and all maintenance. When you buy solar panels, on the other hand, you own the system outright, which means that you're completely responsible for any and all maintenance issues that occur.

Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

In a Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), a customer pays for the solar systems over a period of years instead of making an upfront payment. In many cases, customers can purchase solar power for little or no money down, which means they can enjoy energy savings immediately. Also, in a PPA, customers agree to purchase all the energy from a solar system over a fixed period of time.

Refusing to sign a solar power purchase agreement and instead taking steps to lease a system will still yield positive environmental benefits, even if you don't maximize the types of financial benefits that are available with this type of decision.

How Much Can You Save?

The cost of leasing or buying solar panels is broken into two different categories. If you choose to pursue a lease program, you're paying a significantly smaller amount of money upfront. You can lease a solar system for around $3,000, though many providers will give you a system for no money down at all. Buying and installing your own system, on the other hand, ranges from $15,000 to $30,000 or more - before rebates and tax incentives are taken into consideration.

The flip side of that argument, however, has to do with the amount of money you're paying for electricity. Your cost per watt will significantly decrease if you choose to purchase solar panels rather than lease them once that initial cost is taken into consideration.

Solar Power Technology

If you've been thinking about switching over to solar energy technology to reduce your home's carbon footprint or to save on your electricity bills, there's never been a better time. Over the past few years, solar power has become more popular in many homes across America while prices have gone down. From the year 2006 through 2013, recent studies indicate a 1,000 percent increase in the number of homes that started using solar power. So how does solar power work?

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), there are three main types of solar – photovoltaics (PV), and solar heating and cooling (SHC), which are primarily used in homes and businesses, and concentrating solar power (CSP), often used by large-scale energy developers. Home solar panels use special batteries to capture and use light from the sun. The light is then converted into energy, which can be used to light your home, heat your water and more. The energy itself is dispersed into your home via an inverter, which transforms it into basic alternating current (AC) electrical power.

A solar-powered home will need solar panels, which are large flat panels made up of individual solar cells, installed onto the home. In some cases, solar panels are installed directly above the ground located within so many feet of the home. Installing a solar roof is much different than adding a regular roof onto a home, and it requires the services of a solar power installation specialist. By acquiring services from a company that specializes in sun solar services, you can have your home running on solar energy in less than a week's time, in most cases.

When hiring professionals to install your solar panels, it's smart to choose a company that offers a carved-in-stone warranty, preferably a warranty spanning at least 20 to 25 years. Additionally, contractors need to install panels that have been manufactured by a company based in the United States; this ensures that your warranty will stay in effect even if the manufacturer were to close its doors. Furthermore, the installation company you hire needs to be both bonded and licensed, and has a good rating from the Better Business Bureau.

Cost to Install Solar Panels

The cost to have solar panels installed on your home will depend on how many panels you need, the manufacturer you purchase them through, the installation provider or company, and the federal and local tax credits that you take advantage of. Other factors that can affect the cost of solar include your available, unshaded roof space, and your current energy usage. On average, you can expect to pay anywhere from $17,000 to $20,000 for solar panels and the installation.

In addition to buying solar panels and having them installed, there are other options to take advantage of. For starters, some companies will allow you to finance your purchase, which is ideal if you are strapped for cash. Another option is leasing the panels; however, if you take advantage of this option, you won't be able to take advantage of available tax credits, rebates, and other incentives.

Regardless of the reason that you're having solar panels installed, whether it's for environmental reasons or to simply to save on your energy bills, the installation process will only take a few days for an average-size home. If you're interested in switching your home over to solar power, make sure that you use a reputable solar energy provider and installation service, and that you do your due diligence before switching over to solar energy.

Solar Tax Credits and Rebate Programs

One of the major reasons that people choose to remain in business with traditional energy providers rather than take steps to convert their homes to solar power has to do with the initial costs of these types of systems. Even though you're saving money on your solar power bill each month, you're still paying thousands of dollars for initial equipment purchase and installation costs. Even if you choose to lease a system instead of purchase one outright, you could still be looking at an initial investment of upwards of $3,000.

The good news is, there are a variety of solar power incentives, solar power rebate programs, and other options that can help ease a bit of the financial burden associated with this important decision.

Types of Rebates and Tax Credits

There are many different types of solar tax breaks and other solar rebates available for people to take advantage of depending on the situation. Some are performance based, for example, including the solar renewable energy credits that are available in almost every state. The performance-based incentive Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) sees a maximum incentive of around $0.50 per kilowatt-hour of electricity generated by the system.

Many states also have their own rebate programs designed to help offset some of the costs of purchasing eligible systems. The state rebate program in the District of Columbia, for example, offers residential solar thermal system owners a maximum incentive of up to $2,000 per system per year. When coupled with solar tax credit programs that can help recoup some or all of the initial investment cost, solar energy suddenly doesn't seem as prohibitively expensive as it once did.

Federal and State Tax Credits

When discussing federal and state tax credits and other rebates, it's important to understand that it is possible for consumers to take advantage of both of these types of programs at the same time. The United States government, for example, allows purchasers of a solar panel system to receive a 30 percent income tax credit on the total cost of the system. North Carolina is an example of a state that offers a 35 percent income tax credit towards the cost of the system. When you claim both of these incentives at the same time, the overall cost of the system begins to quickly decrease in a dramatic way.

Eligibility Requirements and Deadlines

Eligibility requirements for solar energy tax credits and rebates will vary depending on the exact program that you're taking advantage of. To qualify for the state rebate program in Washington DC, for example, your equipment needs to be brand new and must have a performance meter with remote communications capabilities. In addition, the system itself needs to carry at least a one year warranty, must be rated and certified by the Solar Rating & Certification Corporation (SRCC), and must meet other industry performance standards.

Additionally, the project installation must have been completed within six months after the initial approval stage has completed and that a licensed contractor has installed all solar PV or thermal systems. Self-installations are usually not allowed under the rules and conditions of these types of programs.

Deadlines for these types of programs, including personal tax credit programs, vary depending on the situation. However, so long as the program is still running and you are eligible, you may claim the associated credit at any time. The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit offered by the federal government, for example, operates between 2006 and 2016. However, depending on when you claim the credit, you may have to wait until the following year's income taxes to receive that financial assistance.

State Incentives and Helpful Links

Almost every state in the country offers some type of incentive program to help make solar energy more affordable to consumers everywhere. The US Department of Energy's Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE.org, has compiled a helpful list organized by state that allows users to quickly see which programs are offered, how you have to qualify, the deadline to apply and more.

The US Department of Energy has also compiled a page detailing information about residential renewable energy tax credits and savings programs that are available to consumers.

Solar energy tax credits and rebates are designed to help relieve purchasers of some of the costs associated with buying such a system. Between the initial savings and the tax credits received from state or federal programs like those available from the Department of Energy, every type of system becomes economically feasible and all types of consumers can reap the financial and environmental benefits associated with them.