How much do you save?
You may have heard that solar panels are being installed on the roof of the White House. Not only is Washington offering you a tax rebate for energy efficiency, they’re practicing it, too. While solar energy sounds good in theory, does it really save money both short- and long-term? What are the upfront costs, and how long will it take to break even?
There are many types of solar power cells, and the type you use will determine how much money you’re saving based upon the efficiency of them. While standard crystalline silicon cells can convert as much as 23% of the sun’s light into electricity, and highly efficient cells, such as those used on satellites, can have efficiency levels of up to 50%. Both types are extremely expensive. The cells that are affordable enough for consumer use, which you’re seeing all over town, have power efficiency of just 15 to 18%.
In addition to both federal and state rebates, there are other economic benefits of solar panels. Did you consider the increased value of your home, should you decide to sell it? For a home-buyer, getting a home that already has solar panels can be a real benefit. Additionally, your electric bill could become a thing of the past. If your system produces more energy than you need, you can sell that surplus energy to your local utility providers.
If you have an electric car, or are considering the purchase of one, you’ll save on charging the car, too.
There are companies that will install solar panels on your home for free (or almost free). But, of course, nothing is ever really free. In exchange for their services, these companies require that you agree to give them a cut of the extra energy that’s produced (which you can also sell to your local utility company), all government rebates, and signing an equipment lease. If you opt for an arrangement like this, be sure to read anything you sign carefully, and make sure you understand you’re agreements.
Upfront costs, monthly savings, and your break-even point will depend on how large your system is and how much energy you use. While the price on photovoltaic panels has dropped more than 20% since 2010, it’s still a big expense. You can estimate your costs, and how long it will take to break even, here: http://www.solar-estimate.org/?page=solar-calculator
Consider saving money on installing solar panels by leasing them instead of buying them, getting them second hand on eBay or Craigslist, or possibly even building your own.
Yes, you can make your own solar panels out of wood and solar cells, if you’re so inclined. While it may sound simple, read up on how to do it before getting started. Here’s one place you’ll find information: http://www.dsireusa.org/suhttp://www.slideshare.net/homeenergysolution/heres-how-easy-it-is-to-make-homemade-solar-panelsmmarytables/finre.cfm
You can also see what rebates are available by state here: http://www.dsireusa.org/
Of course, solar energy is not just about saving money. If you feel strongly about going “green” or being less dependent on utility companies, that’s another reason to go solar which may just make it worthwhile.
About Unity One Credit Union
Established in 1927, Unity One Credit Union is the oldest credit union in Texas. A member-driven and not-for-profit cooperative, Unity One CU served the employees and families of the BNSF Railway for 70 years. However, after transferring its corporate headquarters to Fort Worth in 1998, the credit union expanded its field of membership to include other non-railroad companies, organizations and individuals.
Today, anyone who lives, works, worships or attends school in Fort Worth, Blue Mound, Saginaw, Haslet, Keller, Colleyville, Bedford, North Richland Hills, Southlake, St. Paul, MN and Kansas City, KS may apply for membership. Unity One CU has nine branches to serve over 28,000 members nationwide. For more information about Unity One Credit Union, visit www.unityone.org. Think outside the bank.™