Solar energy provides an exciting opportunity for residents living in Houston and her surrounding communities. This technology allows you to save substantial money on your electric bills, all with very little maintenance. Given the wide range of configurations available, solar energy is very affordable, and financing a system is possible for virtually any budget. If you’re considering a switch to solar in Houston, here are a few things you should know.
1. What Your Current Electric Bill Means
Every utility company has a predetermined billing cycle (in most cases, once a month.) On the same day each month, you receive a bill for your electricity usage from the prior month, based on your kilowatt hour reading between two dates. In the case of traditional billing, you’ll receive a bill based on a set cost per kilowatt hour. If you use budget billing, they’ll estimate based on your usage last year and adjust accordingly.
Your electric bill charges for more than just electricity, however. Look closely at your bill, and you’ll see additional fees, service charges, taxes, and even a delivery fee. These pay for worker salaries, the maintenance of the grid, building upkeep, and more. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, your true cost of electricity is between 10 and 20 cents per kilowatt hour.
2. How Solar Panels Works
A solar energy system is comprised of several photovoltaic (PV) panels and their underlying infrastructure. PV cells absorb energy from the sun throughout the day and turn it into direct current (DC) electricity. Since most electricity in the U.S. is alternating current (AC), it must pass through an inverter before your household can consume it. This electricity powers your home and any extra passes into the community grid.
A 5.5-kilowatt system will produce about 8,750 kwh per year under ideal conditions. Ideal conditions include south-facing panels, a tilt of 20%, clean panels, and other factors. For reference, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that an average American household uses 10,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year, but use ranges from 6,000 to 15,000 depending on geographic location.
3. How Solar Saves Money
A solar array can cost from $10,000 to $35,000, depending on your configuration. There are several ways, however, to mitigate the costs of a solar system. For example, the federal government recently extended a tax credit until 2019 for residential and commercial solar system purchases. Depending on your tax liability, you could receive as much as 30% of your installation costs, and you may qualify for extra incentives and rebates. The state of Texas also offers a property tax exemption for solar power
A system also begins delivering an immediate return on investment. A recent study revealed that customers save an average of $44 to $187 a month in their first year of ownership. Over 20 years, you could save up to $64,000 – no small sum.
4. Suitable Roofs for Solar Energy
Earlier we mentioned that an ideal condition was an array tilt of 20%. While “ideal” parameters for solar panels do exist, you can install a system on a variety of roof styles. Most roofs in Houston and greater Texas are suitable for solar panels because we live in an ideal climate. Consider the following:
Houston boasts an average of 204 sunny days annually.
Our climate is classified as “humid subtropical.”
The average summer daytime high is 90 degrees.
Because of these numbers, Houston is the most air-conditioned city in the United States and pays some of the highest electric bills as a result.
Thankfully, you can install solar panels on many types of roofs. Metal, standing seam roofs allow for the easiest installation, but it’s also possible for composite or asphalt roofing. Unfortunately, solar installations aren’t recommended for mission tile or slate configurations.
5. Purchasing Options for Solar Energy
Many people are surprised to learn that buying a system is not their only option – solar energy systems are also available for lease. Here’s what you need to know about the two different options:
Buying a system is the fastest way to install solar. If you don’t want to or are unable to buy a system in full, you may qualify for a solar loan with little to no down payment. Just like a car loan, your monthly payments will be at a fixed rate.
Remember, buying solar panels can qualify you for a 30% tax credit, and you’ll begin seeing your return on investment immediately. Expect to save 40 to 70% on your electricity costs over the life of your system.
Leasing may be a good option if your tax liability isn’t large enough to qualify for a credit. Like buying a system, you’ll see a return on investment immediately.
Solar energy provides a return on investment while providing a safe, clean, and truly sustainable source of energy. If you’re interested in saving money on your electric bills while saving the planet, a solar energy system might be right for you.