Solar powered homes use natural power – exactly why so many are looking to convert from conventional to solar powered homes. Have you been thinking about solar powered homes but wonder about the cost and benefits of harnessing sun power? Here's some important and relevant information on just what going green with solar really means for you, your home and our world.
Renewable Energy Revisited
It's no big news that energy prices continue to rise and by their very nature, are unstable. In general, your electric bill can double every ten to fifteen years. Price hikes can become even more drastic much sooner because two of our main sources of energy, coal and oil (and it's gas derivatives), both stem from finite resources. In fact, we still have a myriad of coal-fired power plants that produce the majority of all sulfur dioxide emissions in the U.S. alone.
By comparison, solar energy is 100% clean, 100% renewable and can be produced, serviced and installed by businesses that are 100% domestic.
Oil availability is dependent upon international affairs and politics; the sun’s power is inexhaustible. Fossil fuels are subject to availability; the sun’s energy is abundant. Gas prices are tethered to the wax and wane of the market; the sun is its own boss. Nuclear power presents its own challenges, as seen in the recent nuclear disaster in Japan; all you need for sun protection is sunscreen.
Obvious Benefits of Solar Powered Homes
You've heard most of these before so here's a quick review…
- Solar powered homes use solar energy which is completely sustainable and renewable. Use all you want; there’ll be plenty for your children and your children’s children.
- Solar powered homes use solar energy and produce no waste, no bi-products.
- The elimination of fossil fuel usage will drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere (considered the leading cause of global warming). According to several providers of solar powered homes, one million homes using solar electricity would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by an incredible 4.3 million tons per year (which is about the emission rate of 850,000 cars).
- Solar powered homes greatly reduce your monthly energy bill.
Not-so-Obvious Benefits of Solar Powered Homes
- Adding solar power to your property may increase the value of your home. According to a NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab) 2011 study, homes with solar panels can sell 20 percent faster than non-solar homes and are likely to get a 17 percent higher asking price. The NAREA (National Association of Real Estate Appraisers) reports that the value of your home can rise by as much as 20 times your annual energy savings for each dollar you save annually on your energy bill when you have solar power.
- Once an initial investment is made, your energy expenditures become fixed. Comparatively, utility bills have gone up 5% per year on average for the past 30 years. That's only the average – some areas of the country went up five times 5 percent in just one year. With solar energy, your annual cost not only doesn't increase, it decreases and becomes stable.
- You can not only save, but also give back. By joining with a compatible energy company through “net metering” whereby your own solar power system is connected to the electric company’s grid, the power generated by your system that isn’t used is pumped into the grid, earning you a credit. This agreement not a given, as it is a contractual option that must be established with the energy service provider. However, if you produce more electricity than you use (which is highly likely during some months) it seems your electric meter can run backward!
Yes, There Can be Some Disadvantages…
Efficient solar energy needs… of course, sunshine. Even though a smaller amount of energy can be collected even on cloudy days, those cloudy days can mean that not as much energy is collected, and don't forget that no energy is collected at night.
Your geographic location makes a difference as well. So if you happen to be living in the wettest place on earth that doesn't see a lot of sunshine (that would be the mountains of Kauai, Hawaii) solar probably doesn't make sense for you. But if you are living in sunny Tucson, Arizona, the sun is indeed a powerful energy source. There are lots of variations between these two and how the sun works for you depends on your needs, your home, your goals and the type of solar power system in which you invest.
How Much Do Solar Powered Homes Really Cost?
For many, the cost is seen as a disadvantage of solar energy, because it takes several years to recover the estimated initial 10 to 20 thousand dollar investment. But this figure is before rebates and incentives offered by federal, state and local government. And although 10 to 20 thousand is an average range, the size of your home, the pitch of the roof, and other factors can substantially increase your initial investment.
Solar Energy Authority reports that the Federal incentives compensate for 30% of the out-of-pocket cost, with no cap, and appear as an actual credit, not a deduction on your tax forms. State and local programs offer incentives as well, and these vary greatly (you can check out your state and local rebates, credits, etc.. at http://www.dsireusa.org/solar/index).
Depending on the size of your home and property and where you live, the initial investment can at first seem daunting. But once you consider the rebates and credits, and the long term savings, the return on investment makes more and more sense.
There are many considerations when it comes to home solar power, and it's best to speak with the experts in your area about types of systems, costs, expected savings, sun power collection and energy company compatibility. But in an every increasingly fragile and depleting energy environment, nothing makes more sense than tapping natural energy sources.
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