Solar power is a non-polluting renewable source of energy that can results in lower power bills today, protection from energy inflation in the future and a higher home resale value.
Solar panel prices have declined dramatically in the last several years, and according to a recent survey, Texas has the lowest installation costs in the country – so the time to ‘go solar’ is now! On top of that, the federal tax credit of was extended to 30% of the total costs, meaning systems installed today are generating electricity at rates near current retail plans.*
The decision has 3 primary variables:
“The typical residential solar system in Houston supplies between 25-60% of annual electricity needs”, says Cal Morton, Sales Executive at Texas Solar Outfitters in Houston. “If that range seems wide, it’s because of the numerous variables involved in the optimal design of a system. It’s not rocket science, but there really is no one-size-fits-all solar solution.”
The truth of the matter is, most people considering solar would like to generate ALL their electricity from solar, but only in a small number of cases do the stars align (pun intended), and that goal is achieved. So what’s the best route to net-zero? Efficiency. One of the most used phrases in the industry is, ‘It’s cheaper to save energy than make energy’.
So, spend the money on saving energy first, then call out your local solar installer to knock out the rest!
Here are some of the nuts and bolts about saving with solar.
Q. What is the federal tax credit?
A. The tax credit equals 30 percent of the cost of solar panels or solar water heating. An investment of $15,000 generates a credit of $4,500. (Every dollar credit equals a dollar saved in taxes).
Q. Does the IRS limit the credit?
A. Unlike added insulation or a more efficient air conditioner, where the credit is capped at $1,500, Solar is on a short list with no cap on the credit. It can be taken on an investment in a new or used home, or even on a second home.
Q. Where can I go for more about the rules for credits?
A. A summary of tax breaks for energy investments can be found HERE
Q. Does Texas offer any help?
A. In 2011 the Texas legislature passed a law making it more difficult for a HOA to deny a homeowner the right to install a solar energy device. In addition, there is a statewide property tax exemption for solar installations. Any increase in the value of the house due to a solar investment is not added to the value used to calculate property taxes.
Q. Some cities are now offering tax breaks for low-cost financing for solar electric investments. Is Houston in that group?
Q. I’d love to see my meter run backwards. But what’s the payoff if that happens?
A. Every electric provider is different. Some like Green Mountain, offer a dollar-for-dollar saving up to a limit. Others offer a credit based on the wholesale price, which is significantly below the retail price.
Q. Can a solar power system serve as a backup during a hurricane?
A. It’s possible but most residential systems are not wired that way. It can only be used when the electric grid goes down if a homeowner also installs a battery backup system, which can cost more than $3,000.