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Quick Guide to Solar Energy

Project Planning
September 29, 2017

Imagine keeping your home breezy in the summer, cozy in the winter, and bright all year long without having to deal with outrageous electricity bills. Switching to solar can make this your reality.

Learn about the ways solar energy can benefit your home and family using this quick guide to solar panels.

Your Solar Glossary

It's time for a crash course in solar industry lingo—the more information you have, the easier it'll be to find the right system. With these terms in your arsenal, you'll be ready to talk about your solar system needs like a pro with your contractor.

Balance of system: You'll likely hear your solar installer mention the Balance of System, or BoS. This refers to all the parts and components of a solar panel system—other than the solar panels themselves. A BoS may include design cost, system installation, support structures, and maintenance costs, among other things.

Electrical grid: You may hear your installer refer to this simply as "the grid". This is the system that delivers electricity from utility companies to consumers. Electrical grids are composed of generating locations, transmission lines, and distribution lines.

Energy payback: This is the amount of time a solar panel needs to generate the same amount of energy it took to actually manufacture it. According to recent solar power information, modern photovoltaic (PV) panels have an energy payback period of one to four years.

Insolation: This measures the amount of solar radiation energy in an area, and plays a major role in how much energy your solar panels can create.

Net-metering: Net-metering is a billing system that lets homeowners with solar arrays send their unused solar energy back to the utility grid. This excess may turn into bill credit—hello energy savings!

Storage battery: A storage battery is usually only used in off-grid solar power systems. It stores electricity during the day for later discharge and use.

Solar Installation 

Why Should I Go Solar?

Getting solar for your home means unlocking a treasure trove of benefits. Learn how easy it is to make your home a safe and comfortable place to live with these awesome benefits:

Reduce your electric bills

Solar energy may help you reduce your electricity bill. See how these California homeowners saved big on their utility costs with solar panels.

Combat rising energy costs

The cost of energy keeps rising, and it shows no signs of slowing. The price of residential electricity has risen across the United States at a rate of about 4% every year over the past decade. If you don't want your wallet to pay the price, it could be time to switch to a solar energy alternative.

Help your local economy

If helping your community is important to you, you'll be glad to know the solar industry is booming and adding jobs to local communities at a rate nearly 12 times faster than the overall U.S. economy in 2015. Contributing to this industry means creating jobs for your fellow citizen, in both your neighborhood and across the country.

Protect the environment

Are you looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint? Going solar is a great place to start. Here's a key bit of info you may want to keep in mind: The average residential solar panel system can eliminate up to 5 tons of carbon emissions annually—that's like taking a passenger vehicle off the road for an entire year.

Time-sensitive savings

The cost of solar energy systems has decreased over the past few years, but your savings potential may be running out. The clock is ticking on valuable federal government-issued solar incentives. The current solar tax credits are set to expire within the next four years; currently the solar tax credit allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system, but this percentage rate will decrease year by year.

Costs and Savings

You may be able to take advantage of current incentives to get an even better deal on solar energy systems. As mentioned, the Federal Tax Credit for solar energy adoption is on its way out, so time is of the essence. Use this handy chart to guide your timeline:

2016 to 2019

Homeowners can take advantage of the full tax credit, saving around 30 percent of the cost of the system.

2020

Homeowners can deduct 26 percent of the cost of the system from their taxes.

2021

Homeowners can deduct 22 percent of the cost of the system from their taxes.

After 2022

There are no federal credits for residential solar energy systems, but commercial solar energy system owners can deduct 10 percent of the cost of the system.


After you've invested in solar panels, potential electricity bill savings await you. How much you save on your electric bill depends on several factors, including the cost of electricity in your area (check out the National Utility Rate Database to find current rates), your family's energy use, and the size of the system you choose.

Family enjoying solar panels 

After Your Installation

Once your solar panels are secure and your home is connected to the grid (or your solar battery is set up), it's time to reap the energy rewards.

Keeping your solar panels well-maintained

Solar panels are a big investment, so be sure to give them the TLC they need even after installation. Help keep your panels in tip-top shape by performing annual maintenance checks. Professionals can ensure the panels are free of dirt and debris, and look for any cracks that need repairing. They can also teach you how to shut off solar in an emergency or answer any new questions that you may have. Use your contractor as a resource.

Celebrate your solar

Going solar calls for a bit (or a bunch!) of celebration. You've done something great for your home and family, and it's time to sit back, kick your feet up, and let the sun do the hard work for you.

With this important solar information at your fingertips, you're poised to make a fantastic change for your family. Switching over to solar energy isn't always an easy decision, but the benefits are clear—ready to see what solar can do for you?