You may have seen them around town-a few up on the rooftops, a few in a nearby empty field. Chances are you thought they were a part of a passing trend or high-pressure sales pitch that someone fell for. 

But have you ever really considered solar panels? 

We haven’t either, but with more and more of them popping up around Athens and the surrounding areas we thought it was time to learn more. 

When solar panels were first introduced to the residential market they were big and bulky and generally a big, ugly distraction from your home’s natural curb appeal. The installation was costly and time-consuming and the overall efficiency and rate of return on your investment was underwhelming, to say the least. 

Well things have certainly changed! 

Today residential solar panels are modern and sleek and a good bit smaller than their previous counterparts.  The black and steel tiles that you could spot a mile away are now a subtle matte black or if you prefer, come in a wide choice of colors for you to choose from.  Panels are not your only option either.  Solar shingles and tiles are a new addition to the roofing industry and can be integrated and installed into your new roof seamlessly. Thanks to these changes, rooftop solar panels for homes have become an energy upgrade that is within reach for the average consumer. 

But do they really save you money?

The answer to this question depends on where you live and how extensive your system is, but in summary, yes, they can.  

Years ago the federal government implemented the Investment Tax Credit.  The ITC gives you a tax credit of 26% of the total cost of your system if you buy it. rather than renting it.

Each state typically offers some sort of rebate as well, and Georgia is no exception, though it does depend on your local electric company as well. 

 Many areas use a system called Net metering. Net metering is an incentive where you receive a credit for the power you DO NOT use from the utility company.  So, when your solar panels produce more energy than you use, that information is sent to your provider and you are credited that amount.  At night or during times when you are not producing, that credit would be used before you are billed for your energy usage from the grid. 

Before you dive right in and order solar panels or a new roof with solar embedded, you should take a look at your current energy usage over a 6-month time span.  You will also need to consider your home’s energy potential. Simply stated, you will need to know how shade trees and the position of your home on your lot can affect your ability to produce solar energy, 

You will also have to look into city permitting and any HOA covenants and restrictions prior to planning your solar project. If you live in a community with an HOA, you will likely have to submit documentation and plans for approval before any work can begin. 

For homeowners who want solar but do not want to change or modify their roof, Ground mount solar installations and community solar gardens are two common ways to access power from the sun without actually installing anything on your rooftop. 

Photo courtesy of White Bear Press

Solar energy has come a long way in the last 20 years, and if you have brushed it off before as something for hippies and folks wanting to live off the grid, you may want to think again. Many solar users see a return on investment in as few as seven years and some claim even less. 

Have you moved to solar energy in your home or business? Let us know! We would love to hear your thoughts!