Residential electricity rates have grown by an average of 25% over the last 6 years. This is one reason that residential solar energy is growing rapidly. The new 30% federal tax credit has created a dramatic boost to the residential solar energy market. Falling solar panel prices have also added to the financial incentives. In some locations, with combined federal, state and local incentives, the payback on the initial residential solar energy investment can be as short as 6-10 years. Since the beginning of 2009, residential solar energy installations have grown by 50%.
With electric utility rates increasing substantially every year, estimates are that the average homeowner will spend over $100,000 in the next 25 years on electricity. With costs that high it makes sense to turn that expected cost into an investment that yields numerous dividends. Returns on a residential solar energy system can be as high as 20-25%. This figure reflects the lower cost of investing in a solar energy system now - combined with the increase in value to your home. According to the National Appraisers Institute, the value of your home increases 20x the annual savings in electricity. So if you save $1,000, your home value increases $20,000 without increasing property taxes.
Most residential solar energy systems will be connected to the grid through a meter enabled for net-metering. This means that when your solar panels are generating more power than you are using, the excess power will be fed back into the grid and your meter will actually spin backwards. Your electric utility will give you credit for the energy you generate, deducting money from your bill. In some locations that are using feed-in tariffs, the utility company is required to pay consumers up to 300% more for the power generated. While feed-in tariffs are not currently widespread, you can see the impact they have on consumer demand for residential solar energy. Ask your solar installer if there are feed-in tariffs working in your area.
When most people think of residential solar energy, they think of electricity and solar panels. Residential solar panel installation can be completed relatively quickly by trained solar installers after an initial consultation and signing of contracts and rebate paperwork. Solar panels can be placed on the roof of your residence or garage, or elsewhere on your property depending on space requirements and shading.
The most cost efficient way to implement residential solar energy is through a solar water heater. Because most household energy is used to heat water for showers or laundry or dishwashing, having the sun heat your water for free is a great way to save money. Solar water heaters don't create electricity - they simply collect the heat from the sun and store it in a tank for later use. Solar heating works the same way the hose in your backyard works when it's exposed to a few hours of sunlight. The water gets very hot - typically rising 10 degrees per hour of sunlight. These systems are also fairly simple mechanically. The solar installer who implements these types of residential solar energy systems has a background in plumbing.
Solar water heating is also a great way to heat your pool and spa.
Another extremely simple use of solar energy for your home is a solar hot air collector. A solar collector made out of thin metal and painted black is fastened to the side of the home and air is circulated through it with a fan. Check out the video of the professionally manufactured solar hot air collector made out of used soda cans on the DIY solar page.
Yet another efficient use of solar energy for your residence is for cooling. A solar attic fan is inexpensive, simple to install and requires no energy to operate. It can significantly lessen the air conditioning required to cool your home in summer by lowering the temperature around 10 degrees.
Solar lights are inexpensive and simple to install. Solar lighting is a great way to get started with solar energy. There are many different types of solar lights for your garden, pool, or to enhance security. Solar lights are unique because there are no wires and can be placed in remote areas that lack existing power sources.
Residential solar energy advocates are always quick to emphasize the benefits of passive solar design. Passive solar is truly free energy. Its as simple as it gets.
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