Solar Panels and New Construction: 3 Considerations

This post was going to highlight all the benefits of solar panels before I decided to get off my green high horse ūüėČ because yes,¬†the initial cost of the panels and the installation is not cheap. ¬†But I need to write about something related to solar panels — they were installed last week! ¬†Alas, I will have to wait a while to watch the meter run backwards since Pittsburgh’s dreary winter weather has already begun to set in…

Snowy day in Pittsburgh

Snowy day in Pittsburgh

So, I will talk about my solar calculator.  Here it is: 

My solar calculator

My solar calculator

And do you know how long I’ve owned it? ¬†23 years and counting. ¬†It was a required purchase in 9th grade to complete math assignments and I’ve had it ever since — never changed a battery, never malfunctioned, and never needed to be replaced. ¬†What has this little calculator proven to me? ¬†That solar power works, is free, and will provide free energy for a lifetime. ¬†That is why I chose to install solar panels on my new build.

So, here are 3 things to consider if toying with the idea of solar panels for your new construction project:

1.  Cost

This refers to the cost of the panels and installation because the electricity it generates from that point on is, guess what? ¬†Free. ¬†Free electricity for a lifetime. ¬†In fact, any surplus energy your panels produce go back into the grid and the utility service pays you for the electricity you’re providing them.

Initial cost depends upon the number of panels required to generate enough electricity for a home of its specific size.  Average cost = $1500 Р$2000 per panel including installation.  My house of about 1600 sq ft required 7 panels, to give you an idea.  This will vary depending upon climate and location.

2.  Financing

Cost is not as prohibitive, particularly for new construction, as one would think.  Here are some options:

Energy-efficient¬†mortgages: ¬†buyers qualify for higher loan amounts if the new home is energy-efficient. ¬†The cost of solar panels can be rolled into the mortgage, which translates into a slight increase in your monthly mortgage payment. ¬†For instance, if the house costs $200K without solar panels and $215K with the panels, the increase in monthly payments for a 215K mortgage versus a 200K mortgage is less than $40 per month (ballpark average). ¬†This increase in monthly payments will likely be less than your monthly electric bill without solar panels, so you’re still saving money each month.

 http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=mortgages.energy_efficient_mortgages

РSolar energy lease options:  yes Рyou can lease solar panels, just like you lease a car.  Your electric bill is made of a fixed monthly payment for the panels themselves (about $100/month) plus your electric bill (which is substantially reduced due to solar panels).  Most people say that this combined cost adds up to less than their electric bills without solar panels.

http://www.solarcity.com/residential/solar-lease.aspx

–¬†Tax incentives: ¬†there are several state and federal tax credits this year for installation that add up to about 30% reduction in the initial cost.

http://energy.gov/savings

http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/grants_loans_tax_credits/10395/PA_Sunshine_Solar_Program/821790

3.  Environmental Impact

Priceless! ¬†Think about how we currently produce our electricity. ¬†Over 40% of electricity production in the US is from coal. ¬†Coal combustion contributes to about a third of this country’s greenhouse gas emissions. ¬†Not only that, it pollutes the air with sulfur dioxide and mercury. Natural gas produces over 25% our electricity and it too releases greenhouse gases such as methane into our environment.

U.S.-Electricity-Net-Generation-By-Fuel-2012

The only way to improve the air we breathe and slow down global climate change is by thinking in terms of long-term good. ¬†If solar energy is free, lasts a lifetime, and has no harmful impact on the environment, ¬†then why not? ¬†Especially if you’re building a house from scratch, strongly consider putting today’s technology in today’s home. ¬†This will have a positive, long-term impact on the earth and future generations as well. ..

My solar panels

My solar panels