Thanks to advancing technology and the rise of renewable power, solar panels have become a real viable option for homeowners who want to reduce their carbon footprint and electricity costs. If you live in Vermont and are considering going solar, here are nine important questions you should ask yourself to help determine if solar is right for your home.
HOW MUCH ENERGY DO I CURRENTLY USE?
Understanding your current energy usage is crucial when determining the size of the solar system you will need. By analyzing your monthly energy bills, you can estimate your average annual consumption and ensure the system is appropriately sized. If your energy needs are minimal, you might consider joining a local Community Solar Array (CSA) if this is an option with your electric utility. Most Vermont residents, however, need to install a system at their home, and a solar installer can help with this process. In either case, do your homework and be prepared with a recent power bill when calling to ask for a quote!
HOW MUCH SUNLIGHT DOES MY PROPERTY RECEIVE ANNUALLY?
A professional solar installer will conduct a comprehensive site survey to assess your property’s solar potential accurately. During this process, the installer will evaluate several factors to determine if your property receives enough sunlight for optimal energy production. The site survey typically involves the following steps:
Sun Path Analysis: The installer will analyze the sun’s path across your property throughout the year. This analysis considers the angle and position of the sun at various times and seasons. By mapping the sun’s trajectory, the installer can identify potential shading issues caused by nearby structures, trees, or natural features.
Shade Analysis: Utilizing advanced tools such as shade measurement devices or computer models, the installer will assess the impact of potential shading on your property. This analysis helps identify areas where shadows from trees, neighboring buildings, or other obstructions may reduce solar exposure. If significant shading is detected, the installer will explore options like trimming or removing trees or adjusting the system’s placement to maximize sun exposure.
Roof Assessment: If rooftop installation is being considered, the installer will evaluate the condition and slope of your roof. They will determine if the roof is structurally sound, consider dormers, vents and other obstacles, and determine if it is suitable for solar panel installation. Additionally, the installer will assess the roof’s orientation to position the panels to capture the maximum amount of sunlight.
Other Factors: The installer will also consider other factors impacting solar potential, such as nearby buildings, terrain, and local weather patterns. They may consider the impact of seasonal variations, potential snow accumulation, or any other factors specific to your location that could affect solar energy production. You should also consider if you plan to electrify other areas of your energy consumption – adding a whole-home battery backup system, heat pumps, and Electric Vehicle (EV) charging equipment can all add to your electric consumption so you should ensure that you size your system appropriately.
Based on the site survey findings, the solar installer will provide you with an accurate assessment of your property’s solar potential. By conducting a thorough site survey, the installer ensures your solar system is designed and positioned to achieve optimal energy production and long-term savings.
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ARE COMMUNITY SOLAR ARRAYS (CSAs) A BETTER FIT?
CSAs provide an excellent alternative for those who cannot or do not want to install solar panels on their property. A CSA consists of a solar array hosted on a local property. Participants purchase a share, or participate through another ownership structure, in the CSA and receive a corresponding percentage of the electricity generated by the array. They can vary in size, from small neighborhood arrays to larger utility-owned installations.
WHERE IS THE BEST LOCATION TO INSTALL SOLAR PANELS?
Solar panels provide an excellent solution for harnessing renewable energy by either being installed on rooftops or strategically mounted in areas on your property that offer optimal sun exposure. It is crucial to consult a professional solar installer who can assess your property and recommend the ideal location for your panels, considering both aesthetic considerations and efficiency.
Additionally, it is important to note that certain towns and neighborhoods may have specific guidelines regarding the visibility of solar panels, especially in historic areas. Moreover, it is worth mentioning that there may be other permit issues to consider, such as setback requirements for roof-mounted panels and costly utility upgrades that may be required in your area. Therefore, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with any such requirements to ensure a smooth and compliant installation process.
WHAT INCENTIVES ARE AVAILABLE?
Vermont offers various solar incentives to encourage renewable energy adoption. One notable incentive is the federal government’s Investment Tax Credit (ITC), providing a 30% tax credit for qualifying solar and other related projects, such as whole-home battery backup systems. The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August of 2022, cemented this incentive until 2032, in addition to providing further incentives for energy efficiency purchases. However, consulting with a tax professional is important to stay updated on the current credits, grants, and incentives available for your specific project. The solar installer you select will likely include an estimate of the incentives you may receive in your initial quote.
HOW DOES NET METERING WORK?
Net metering allows grid-tied solar customers to receive credits for their excess solar energy. Vermont’s net metering regulations require utilities to provide compensation (known as a “solar adder”) for the electricity generated by solar arrays during the first ten years. Green Mountain Power, for example, offers a credit for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar energy produced. However, it is crucial to check with your electric provider to understand their specific net metering rates, policies, and any grid technology constraints that may require upgrades to allow for additional grid-tied solar.
WILL INSTALLING A SOLAR ARRAY INCREASE MY PROPERTY TAXES?
Vermont has enacted property tax exemptions for solar photovoltaic systems. In 2013, systems up to 10 kW received a 100% property tax exemption, and in 2014, the exemption was expanded to include systems up to 50 kW. These exemptions relieve homeowners of property tax burdens related to their solar installations. However, it is worth noting that net metering regulations are subject to change, potentially affecting property tax calculations.
WHAT ARE THE FINANCING OPTIONS FOR SOLAR INSTALLATIONS?
While incentives and tax credits can offset the cost of solar installations, many homeowners still require financing. Some solar providers offer financing options, and local credit unions or banks may provide solar loan programs. Energy Improvement Loans with extended terms and discounted rates are often recommended. Leasing options are available, but it is important to carefully read contracts to ensure you understand the long-term benefits and drawbacks, as well as consider your financial situation. If you can benefit from the 30% federal tax credit, then owning your system will result in a smart investment in clean energy.
WILL SOLAR ULTIMATELY SAVE ME MONEY?
Determining the long-term financial benefits of solar power requires a thorough evaluation, and this process begins by gaining a clear understanding of your current electricity consumption. By carefully assessing the installation costs, subtracting available incentives and rebates, and considering various financing agreements, you can estimate the time it will take to recover your initial investment.
To get a more accurate understanding of the potential savings based on your unique circumstances, it is advisable to consult with both your chosen solar panel installer and your financial institution. They can help you calculate the anticipated savings and provide valuable insights into the financial viability of solar energy in your specific situation. By conducting this comprehensive evaluation, you can make an informed decision regarding the cost-effectiveness of solar power and determine whether it will lead to substantial savings for you.
As you embark on your solar journey, asking these essential questions will help you make informed decisions and maximize the benefits of solar energy. Remember to stay updated on the latest solar incentives and regulations to ensure you leverage all available resources.
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