Off the Grid: Solar Panels

Sustainability has been an increasingly popular topic over the years and isn’t something most American consumers have been concerned with until now. As a homeowner, it is a certainty that your home will have bills. But now, there are more and more options to make homes more energy efficient and either reduce or eliminate bills. Some upgrades, like installing new windows, can offer savings and are very attainable. Other big ticket items like solar panels can eliminate heating and electricity costs, but everyone seems to think they are too expensive. While you may think solar panels are out of reach, we recently listed a completely off the grid home on 20 acres, and it is amazing. And it got us thinking, can anyone really have solar panels? 

In the state of Tennessee, we enjoy relatively low electric rates compared to the rest of the country. This can make the installation of solar panels seem unnecessary due to the low cost we typically pay. However, there is the option of net metering. Net metering is a system in which solar panels are connected to the public-utility power grid. The surplus power is transferred to the grid, allowing other customers to use the power and lower their own electric bill. If your solar panels produce more power than you need or use, it can be sold back to the grid and local power company. Not only does this lower your bill, it could mean that the utility company is paying you! 

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) offers incentives so solar panel users through the Generation Partners Program for residential and commercial properties. In addition to premium rates, new customers will also receive a $1,000 bonus and reimbursement for surplus power produced in the form of credit. The Federal Government also offers a 30% tax credit for the entire cost of an installed solar panel system. For example, if a solar panel system costs $20,000, you could save $6,000 just by applying for the tax credit, lowering your overall cost to $13,000. Tennessee offers sales tax exemptions, so you can also include another 6.25% – 8.25% savings. 

Installing solar panels can take up to three months. An installer will inspect your property prior to purchasing or signing a contract for solar panels. The installer will help you choose the system size you need, as well as the placement of the solar panels (angle of the roof, amount of shade you home gets each day, type of room). An engineer will also inspect your home from a structural standpoint – can your roof support the panels? They will also take a look at your electrical panel to see if the system needs upgrades prior to installation. The installer usually handles most of the paperwork process, but it is up to you to file a building permit and incentives/rebates. Once the inspections, upgrades (if necessary), and paperwork have been completed, the solar panels can be installed and connected to the grid. 

And is it really worth it? No one can answer that but you. We have considered installing solar panels on our home as our renovation looms ahead. The process is time consuming but only because it is new and unfamiliar. Solar panels and similar upgrades don’t always add value, so if you’ll be moving in the next 5 or so years, they are not for you. If, however, you will own your home or business for years to come, it could be a worthwhile investment. 

“If we want to reduce poverty and misery, if we want to give to every deserving individual what is needed for a safe existence of an intelligent being, we want to provide more machinery, more power. Power is our mainstay, the primary source of our many-sided energies.” – Nikola Tesla

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