Solar Homes in Northern NH: With energy costs rising, is it time to consider solar?

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Should You Consider Solar?
As energy costs rise, is it time to take advantage of solar?


Everyone has heard of solar power, but how many people really understand it? At least, as a home investment?

Many people think you use solar as a backup system or to get off the grid. While both of those are possible, the majority of homeowners use it to reduce their electric bill or help mitigate their carbon footprint.

It typically works like this: You have a solar system installed. During the day, sunlight is converted to energy. That energy is back-fed into your electric utility's wires. They issue credits for uploaded electricity against your monthly bill. The bill is lowered. You pocket the savings or use them to offset any solar project financing.

While it can vary depending on several factors, the average homeowner will recoup their entire investment in 6-7 years, after taking tax credits, etc. Most home solar systems are install on a rooftop.Then your investment saves you money for decades to come! And business owners get an additional advantage: they can depreciate their system and installation costs!

Owner Kim Frase, of Frase Electric in Sandwich reports the typical NH home installation is a 5,000 - 8,000 watt system. A 5,000 watt system occupies as little as 360 square feet of roof space. Certain systems are more efficient, and can therefore occupy less space on your roof for the same output.

What does going solar cost? A good question. The answer is, it all depends on where you live.

Before rebates and tax credits, an average 'on grid' solar system costs roughly $3.00 per watt, installed. But then it get interesting. The state of NH will give you a rebate of seventy-five to eighty cents per watt. The federal government will give you a 30% tax credit of the overall cost. If you receive your power from the NH Electric Cooperative, they'll give you an additional 25% of costs. There are some payout ceilings for residential customers, but for businesses, there are virtually no caps. This means net system costs can be as low as fifty cents per watt.

After rebates, incentives and tax credits, a typical residential system can be as low as $10,000 or a little over $3.00 per watt.

Your contractor will review area meteorological data and your historical power consumption, your roof's slope and compass orientation to give you an accurate forecast of savings. He'll also consider your roof's condition before giving you an estimate. If your roof needs replacement soon, he may recommend a ground installation if you have the space. Ground systems allowing passive tracking can also add 30-35% additional power yield.

Depending on the locality, the permit process varies as do the property tax impacts. In some area towns it's tax neutral. In other towns helping to save the planet will cost more property taxes.

Aiman Alawa, CEO of NuWatt Energy, recommends that you also carefully consider manufacturers' and contractors' warrantees, also the likely survivability of the manufacturer. With a PhD in Engineering, Alawa cautions that many manufacturers have gone out of business, and some others are struggling.

With panels from the USA, Germany, Japan, South Korea and China all being available in NH, be sure to do your homework. With no working parts solar systems are very reliable, but with your luck, you'd be the guy needing warrantee service!

Update 12-18-15: Both at the federal and state level pending government regulations may change the solar credits and net metering significantly. You should double check available credits with your solar contractor before committing. You should also consider local tax regulations. Some communities do not add the value of a solar installation to your property tax value, others do. If you have a warrantee on your roof of any kind, you should also contact your roofing contractor to insure a solar installation is handled pursuant to the terms of your warrantee.


Articles:
Home Solar Installations: Things to Consider
Planning a Home Solar Electric System
5 Things to Consider When Building a Solar-powered Home

 

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