Act While Government Tax Credits are in Effect!
Government tax credits for solar installations are set to expire in 2016. Acting now to install solar panels will enable you to take advantage of the significant tax savings such credits afford you. The value of your solar panels, as an addition to your home, should jump dramatically when these tax credits expire.
Broadly speaking, you have the choice of buying or leasing a solar panel array. This website advocates that you buy the solar panels and enjoy the full benefits of what they offer. Panels are a particularly good investment when you use them to power your electric car, as the savings on gas, oil, and other traditional car expenses leads to a much shorter payback period than if you are simply offsetting your electric bill with solar. Also, by converting your water heater and home heating/cooling to electricity (see my pages about mini split heat pumps and heat pump water heaters), you can save a lot more money, all while dramatically reducing your carbon footprint.
Go for the Max in Solar Panels – Don’t Lease Them – Own Them! Use Microinverters
This website advocates installation of the biggest solar array that your house can handle. This will provide enough electricity to power your car plus other new high efficiency electrical devices. We also recommend solar panel systems that use “micro-inverters,” not string inverters, to convert the DC power from the panels into AC power for use in your house and to feed to the grid. There are several key advantages to using micro-inverters. With old fashioned string inverters if any single solar panel has a problem the whole solar array output is reduced. Also, with old style string inverter systems you can’t identify any problems so quickly and easily. With older style string inverters you may only know you have a problem if you notice that you power bill has gone up. But with micro-inverters, each panel operates independently of the others and if one has a problem the others continue to provide their full power. Micro-inverters allow each panel to be monitored on your home computer through a supplied internet connection. You can log on to your solar array website anytime and check its performance. You can see how each panel is performing, as well as your energy output for the day, week, or any period you want to check.
Another big advantage to using micro-inverters is that if you want to expand your solar array in the future, perhaps by adding more panels to your roof or building a solar carport or an awning on the back of your house, you can simply add more panels with their own micro-inverters and easily wire it into your existing system. If you use old an fashioned string inverter you must change out the old inverter and install one that has more capacity, either that or find more space in your garage to install another string inverter.
Net Metering is Good
In the old days, people had to install batteries in their houses to make good use of their solar panels or wind mills. Now, most utility companies allow “net metering,” which means you feed electricity into the power grid when your panels are generating more than you need, and you buy electricity from the grid when your solar panels can’t meet your own power demands. Your electric meter effective “runs in reverse” when you feed to the grid, so the grid is your “battery.” One effective way of reducing your electricity bill is to take advantage of utility companies’ tiered rate structure. This rate structure charges you more for buying grid electricity during periods of peak demand (like hot summer afternoons) and charges you less when total grid demand is low (like at night). You may sell your solar panel generated electricity to the grid when it is worth $.40 per kilowatt-hour, and buy electricity to charge your EV at night when the price of a kWH is only $.10. This strategy, applied to your EV and other electricity using devices, can zero out your electricity bill even if you still are a net user of electricity. You can save even more if you run appliances during times when rates are low. Some appliances, like newer dishwashers, now have time settings so that you can push a button to make them run during the night.