As a Rockland or Orange County, NY resident, you may wonder whether you’re a good candidate for solar panels. You might also be skeptical about how cost-effective switching to solar really is. Could solar be the answer to ending our dependence on oil, or is it just a passing fad? Find the answers to your top questions here.
What do solar panels power?
Solar energy powers anything that runs on electricity, including:
- Electronic devices
- Air conditioners
- Electric water heaters
- Heat pumps
If you decide to seek a solar panel installation in NY, it makes sense to convert your existing gas appliances to electric versions. This may include upgrading your old tank water heater to an efficient, electric tankless model and turning in your furnace for an electric heat pump. These changes give you the chance to negate nearly your entire electric bill.
What savings can I expect?
The typical solar panel installation in NY is a five kilowatt-hour (kWh) array comprised of 25 panels. If you opt for this size, you can expect to offset your monthly electric bill by about $120. If your bill matches the average amount for Rockland and Orange County residents (about $170 per month), this means you save about 70% with a solar array of this size.
Of course, the savings are really up to you. If you have enough space, you can install a larger solar array to offset even more of your electric bill. Assuming you remain grid-tied, you can even sell back excess electricity through a billing mechanism called net metering and receive a credit on next month’s bill.
How do I know if my home is a good candidate for solar?
As long as you own your home, you have the option to install solar panels. You’ll get the most from the installation if your home meets these criteria:
- The roof is in good condition, is more than 300 to 500 square feet, and ideally has a south-facing side.
- Your electric bill is over $100 per month.
- The weather in your area is cool and sunny many days of the year.
What tax incentives are available for solar panels?
The first financing option is to pay for your solar panel installation in NY outright. Ownership provides the greatest lifetime cost effectiveness and lets you take full advantage of federal and state tax incentives.
Federal tax credits cover 30% of the cost, including installation, with no upper limit. New and existing homes qualify, but leased homes don’t. Tax credits expire at the end of 2016.
New York State tax credits offer even more benefits:
- An income tax credit covers 25% of the cost, up to $5,000.
- You are exempt from paying state sales tax when you purchase solar panels.
- Your property taxes are exempt for 15 years, meaning even as your home value increases following a solar panel installation, your property taxes won’t go up.
Finally, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is giving out cash incentives to 25 kWh-or-less residential installations and 200 kWh-or-less business installations. These incentives are given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
Can I lease my solar panels?
The second financing option is called a solar lease, which is when you pay a monthly fee for access to solar equipment and lower utility bills. The leased panels are installed on the roof for nothing down and the savings begin right away. Leases typically last 15 to 20 years, after which you can either renew the lease or purchase the panels for their residual value.
You can’t claim tax incentives if you choose this financing option, but it’s a great way to start saving and helping the environment if you can’t afford the upfront investment of buying panels outright.
How does the weather affect solar panel performance?
As you might expect, sunny days are optimal for producing the most electricity, but solar panels still work when it’s cloudy. This is possible because solar panels generate electricity, not just from visible light, but from infrared light as well, which filters through the clouds.
Do you know which countries are the world’s leaders in solar energy production? They are Germany and the UK, two places known for foggy, overcast conditions. New York may see its fair share of storms and cold weather, but solar is still a viable option here in the northeast.
As for operating in the winter, you have nothing to worry about. The angle of the sun may be lower in the sky, but solar panels actually work better in the cold than in the heat. This means sunny winter days are some of the most efficient for generating electricity.
With the answers to these questions, you should feel more informed as you pursue a solar panel installation in NY!