Click here to start at the beginning! )
|Source: SolarPros, a great site for solar information!|
If you don't like paying the electric company, then the answer to whether solar is worth it is yes.
But let's tackle the affordability issue, since solar has suffered from a "bad rap" that it's way too expensive for us Average Joe's. I certainly thought that and you can see the numbers on the graphic up there. But the proverbial planets have aligned and now is actually a really great time to get solar installed for free or somewhere close to it. In fact, the window is closing and we may not see this opportunity again in our lifetime.
Federal Tax Incentives of 30%
If there's anything good that came out of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, it was the extension of the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit and removal of the $2,000 limit. Through 2016, any taxpayer can claim a credit of 30% of the installed costs of renewable energy systems and there is no limit on how much you can get back. You can claim this credit on any property that you own (not just your primary home) as long as it's installed before December 31, 2016.
So....right off the bat, you can get 30% of the cost back. But there are some gotchas here:
- You have to pay the money for the installation up front.
- You have to have enough tax liability. In other words, if your 30% of the install comes to $4,000, then your total tax liability would have to at least be that. That's not what you owe or are getting - it's the total tax you have paid over the year PLUS whatever you still owe.
- You don't get your money back until after you file your taxes.
But don't despair...there are other ways to get this paid for.
Question: Are state or utility rebates considered taxable income by the federal government?
Answer: No! However, the amount you can claim back from the federal government is reduced by the amount of the state\utility rebates. In other words, if the total solar cost is $30,000 and you get $22,000 back from the utility, then you can only claim the 30% federal credit on the difference ($8,000). So this is truly free money to help with your installation.
Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs)
This doesn't apply to Missouri, but many states have adopted standards that require a portion of the state’s electricity mix to come from solar energy. Illinois and Michigan are just two examples. In states with SRECs, you can get paid above and beyond just the value of the power generated. Again, check the dsireusa.org website for information specific to your state.
Can I earn money from the power generated by a solar system on my home?
- You sign over all rights to your federal, state and utility rebates to the installer.
- You're still paying for electricity!
- Install it yourself. Labor is about half the cost of the system and, if you're at all handy, you can do this yourself. I'm going to be sharing lots of resources that will help out DIYers and I'll be documenting our own DIY installation as well.
- Take out a home equity loan to cover the cost. You'll get back most, if not all, of the cost and can pay off the loan quickly.
- Check with local banks, your city or your state. Many of them offer grants or special short-term loans just for solar installations.
- Consider buying a smaller solar system and adding on as you have the funds.
Okay, we've established that going solar is worth it and some options for how to pay for it. In our next post in this series, we'll talk about how to decrease your energy usage to save money on the electrical bill (and buy a smaller solar system!)
Click here to go to my next post about our solar project.