Solar panels are a green way to generate electricity and save on your utility bill. Especially in Florida, where hurricanes and summer storms can result in frequent power outages, solar panels are an effective way to energize your home.
Do solar systems really produce free energy?
There are some initial installation costs to going solar. According to Consumer Affairs, the average residential system is currently about $3 to $5 per watt, and it typically takes about 15 years for a solar system to break even on residential solars panels installation costs. That’s why the Federal government stepped in and came up with the Federal solar tax credit to help offset installation costs and encourage more people to use this abundant green energy. For instance, in Florida, the average cost of solar panels is $15,480 for a 6-kW system. But when you factor in the 30% Federal solar tax credit, the cost comes down to $10,836. Plus, the peace of mind in knowing you can go “off-the-grid” for a large portion of your energy usage is priceless.
How do you know if a solar panel investment is right for you?
First things first, review your electricity bill.
Solar panels generate their own power and can greatly offset your monthly electricity bill, if not eliminate it altogether depending on the size of the solar field you install. Also keep in mind that electricity rates and usage, the main charges on your electricity bills, are volatile. If electricity prices fluctuate, so could the amount of savings. Also if your energy consumption changes, say for instance you become a multi-generational household, then the amount of savings can vary.
The national average of electricity rates is about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, according to year-to-date 2022 data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That’s a good figure to keep in mind if you intend to be less reliant, or not reliant at all on the power grid.
Take advantage of government solar incentives.
As we mentioned earlier in this blog post, the Federal government is eager to see more green energy usage, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. A federal law passed in 2022 incentivizes consumers to make clean energy enhancements, like installing rooftop solar. A substantial update to an existing energy-related tax break that was set to expire at the end of 2023, the Residential Clean Energy Credit allows taxpayers who have solar (and other approved clean energy equipment) installed to recoup 30% of the cost in the form of a federal tax credit.
A solar setup that costs $15,000 would yield a $4,500 credit (30% of $15,000) that you can take advantage of come tax time to reduce any federal taxes owed. The credit isn’t refundable though, meaning any money left over after your full tax bill is covered won’t be paid out to you. But you may be able to apply the remainder of the credit toward taxes owed in subsequent tax years.
The credit applies to eligible equipment installed after Dec. 31, 2021, and remains in effect at the 30% rate through 2032. It decreases incrementally after that.
Depending on your state, you may receive extra incentives like cash back, property tax exemption, waived fees and expedited permits. In some states, homeowners with solar panels can sell excess power to their local utility companies. Look up credits available in your state by reviewing the database of state incentives for renewables and efficiency.
Fortunately, Florida is very solar power friendly.
n 1980, Florida enacted the Florida Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act (FEECA), requiring the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) to review the conservation goals of each utility. In 2014, the FPSC approved new numerical conservation goals for seven utilities subject to FEECA. In addition to the energy conservation goals, the Florida legislature passed the Florida Energy Conservation and Sustainable Buildings Act in 2008, requiring the use of energy-efficient equipment and design, and solar energy devices for heating and cooling of state buildings2.
In 2008, Florida enacted legislation (H.B. 7135) to require that the Florida Public Service Commission adopt rules for net metering and interconnection for investor-owned utilities for renewable-energy systems with capacity up to 2MW. In addition, it required municipal utilities and electric cooperatives to offer net metering without stipulating standards3.
Most of the Florida’s renewable electricity generation comes from biomass and solar energy. At the end of the second quarter of 2019, Florida had 3,337.04 MW of installed solar generating capacity, ranking fifth in the nation5. Florida law approves the leasing of solar energy devices and also allows for the creation of easements for solar energy systems.
There are multiple options in solar panels to choose from.
Monocrystalline Solar Panels
Monocrystalline solar panels are the most energy-efficient solar panel option and cost $1 to $1.50 per watt, meaning that outfitting a 6kW solar panel system would cost between $6,000 and $9,000.
Polycrystalline Solar Panels
Less energy-efficient than monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels cost $0.90 to $1 per watt. Thus, outfitting a 6kW solar panel system would cost between $5,400 and $6,000 making it a more affordable option.
Thin-Film Solar Panels
Thin-film solar panels are more inexpensive than their counterparts but require a large amount of space, and hence, are primarily used in industrial settings. On average, thin-film solar panels cost between $1 and $1.50 per watt, meaning that outfitting a 6kW solar panel system costs between $6,000 and $9,000. But again, they are not very practical in residential settings.
Care and maintenance of your solar panels.
Solar panels should be maintained at least twice a year, depending on the manufacturer and manual that came with your panels. To help avoid any issues with your power generation or the solar panel’s integrity, it’s a good idea to schedule maintenance services four times a year to stay on top of any potential problems. The cost to maintain solar panels falls between $140 to $180 per service, or $280 to $720 annually.
As you might imagine, anything that impacts the solar panel’s ability to capture the sun’s energy can lessen their efficiency. Pollen, dirt, debris and other grime can lead to a lower energy yield. Cleaning your solar panels costs around $25 per panel or $425 to $525 for an average solar system containing 17 to 21 panels. As stated above, if routine cleaning is part of your four-time-a-year maintenance schedule, you’ll be well ahead of the dirt and grime build-up.
Because solar panels increase your home’s value, you might see an increase in the price of your homeowner’s insurance. The amount that your policy rates increase will vary, but you’ll want to ensure that your coverage accounts for the cost to replace solar panels if your home gets damaged.
Solar system monitoring
Some companies may offer free PV system monitoring, but most installations will require some level of monetary investment into measurement instruments, the internet and other specs. That investment can range from $0 to $400.
Solar panel repair
The cost to repair solar panels falls between $300 and $1,300, on average. Small cracks or chips in the glass fall on the lower end of the price range, while solar panel inverter repairs may cost the most.
The bottom line.
If you live in an area with high energy rates and a suitable solar rating, like Florida, and if you can afford the initial investment, it’s worth the cost of solar panels on your home while the 30% tax break is in place. Plus, it’s as good of the environment as it is for your wallet. But don’t expect to eliminate your power bill overnight. The sunnier your location, the less panels you’ll need to generate the amount of power your home requires, which is an important factor consider when deciding to go solar.
At Sun Harvest Energy, we’ll help you become more energy efficient at the best price. Consider financing with a solar loan if you’d rather spread out the cost over time, which is popular option for many of our customers. Let us help you decide which option is right or visit www.mysunharvest.com for more information.