• Ryan M. Pierson

How to Save Money on Solar Power

All right, so you’ve decided to do yourself and the environment a favor and subsidize your energy usage with some solar panels on your roof or in your yard. Congratulations, you may discover that there are more than a few financial perks to having solar power installed, especially if you’re still connected to “the grid.”

I spent five years working for an electric and water utility. During this time, it amazed me how few people actually took advantage of the rebates we offered for solar installations. What was even more surprising was how low the solar customers’ electric bills were. Often, we paid them to use our service. Tens of thousands of dollars in rebates were often overlooked by new solar customers, which could have given them enough savings to make even more improvements on their home.

Here are a few ways to save money on solar:

Call Your Electric Company

Electric companies sell so-called “green” energy at a premium. This is done in part due to expensive contracts they establish with dedicated green energy providers that produce energy through solar, wind, and biological resources such as landfill emission collection. By having solar panels installed on your home, you are actually contributing to the company’s green energy input, which means more money for it as your excess energy is re-sold to other customers. In addition, many electric companies use their solar subsidies as a write-off for taxes, meaning that you’re doing them a favor by getting them to pay for part of your installation.

Call Your Local Government

Whatever your feeling about government subsidies, your local and state government may have programs in place to help you pay for an otherwise costly solar project. In some cases, as in Austin, Texas, you can get up to $40,000 granted to you by the city without having to pay a dime of it back simply for getting solar panels installed in your home. Don’t worry, that money doesn’t always come directly from taxpayers. Often, this money comes from the windfall of venture funds some city governments invest in. This windfall has to be passed on to the taxpayer in some way, since city governments (at least here in the US) have to remain non-profit. Programs like these are put in place for this very reason. In the case of Austin, it’s due to a co-ownership Austin has with several power production plants across Texas including Austin Energy, one of the largest community-owned utility providers in the US.

Consider it an Investment

This isn’t actually a money saving tip, but something to consider when you look at solar as an expensive undertaking. The energy you don’t use from your solar power system is actually sold to your local utility company. It, in turn, will cut you an actual check for the amount it pulled from your residence. Imagine being able to reverse the meter and have the electric company pay you for using its services. That’s exactly what happens in the case of customers with solar and wind generators. In addition, your property value will increase significantly from the installation itself.

Get a Neighbor Involved

This may be a crazy idea, but have you thought about calling your neighbor to see if they might be interested in going solar, themselves? Companies that sell and install solar systems would likely greatly appreciate the close proximity and bulk business multiple customers would bring. Many of these companies are small, and open for negotiations. If you bring two customers instead of one to the table, that tips the odds in your favor of getting a good deal on your installation.

Do It Yourself

All right, not everyone is a certified and licensed electrician, but there are some steps you can take to lower your overhead costs. Scout out better deals on the equipment through other sources and give your nearby companies a call to see if they offer installation services for equipment they don’t provide. Chances are, they do, and you’ll save on their retail markup while enjoying their lower installation fee.

Do your research first when doing this. Buying all the equipment you think you need only to discover that it isn’t what your particular home requires can be a costly mistake.

Over all, plenty of people are saving a significant amount of money each year by switching to solar. If you feel that a system large enough to power your entire home is too costly, don’t worry. You’re still connected to your regular utility, so you can still pull from its service when usage peaks.

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