Solar Power Straight Talk

Solar power is one of the most discussed “green” sources of energy, especially given the federal and state solar tax credits available to help defray the costs of a new system. Before “going solar”, however, there are a few things to take into consideration.

The first piece of information you should have is an understanding of the amount of electricity your house uses on a daily basis. Until a house is as energy efficient as possible (airtight building envelope, effective insulation, high SEER HVAC system, Energy Star appliances, etc.), spending money on solar energy will be a waste and it will provide only a small percentage of the overall energy needs.

The ideal situation for installing solar includes choosing a south facing roofline that can be the potential location of a solar array. No trees or brush should block this southern exposure. Leave ample room in the attic below this area to install inverters, solar water heater equipment or other equipment that may be a necessary part of the photovoltaic system. Plumbing pipes can be installed and capped for later use with a solar water heater. It is important to find out the covenant restrictions of the neighborhood to see if solar panels are allowed on the fronts of the roofs. Consult South Coast Solar at (504) 529-7869 when you are ready to install the renewable products. This is not a do it yourself project.

Solar Water Heating

Solar water heating provides the fastest payback of any solar system you may install in your home. Solar water heating is the most efficient method of heating your home’s water supply. Investigate the viability of this option to reap 15% to 20% savings on your monthly utility bill. State tax credits are currently available for renewable energy improvements. Solar water heating can provide almost all, if not all of your hot water needs. This can save up to 20% on your annual utility bills and can offer a payoff in 5 to 7 years. Consider the ProgressivTube System in your home.

TCT Solar’s ProgressivTube system is a “Passive” solar water heater. ProgressivTube is a preheating system, requiring no pumps, controls, mechanical equipment or electric utility power to operate. It provides hot water to your home, requiring only water pressure to operate and sun to heat. It lowers utility costs today, and has no future utility cost increases. ProgressivTube is designed to supply a significant percentage of the daily hot water heating load during the spring, summer, and fall and during power outages. This water heater has a 10 year limited warranty.

Solar Power Installations

Solar power arrays come in one of two configurations – stand-alone or grid-integrated. Installing a hybrid system that has both battery backup and grid availability is very complex and expensive.

Stand-alone systems provide power for the entire house. Battery backup (usually costs extra) is required for power supply during nighttime hours. As noted above, a house must be as energy efficient as possible for this to be worthwhile.

Grid-integrated systems receive power from both the solar array and the existing utility company. Any excess power generated by the solar array is “returned” to the grid. Because of the integrated circuitry, the solar array will also quit providing power during a grid outage. This negates the purpose of having a backup system during storms and outages.
Tax Credits on Solar

Both Louisiana and the federal government are offering tax credits on solar systems (i.e. solar panels, etc.) and solar water heaters

The federal government is offering a 30% tax credit on these systems with NO CAP. This means that consumers will collect 30% of their investment back from the federal government on each of these items listed, not to mention the energy savings they will reap over the years to come.

The state of Louisiana has a very progressive tax credit that offers a 50% tax credit on each renewable energy systems which include Solar systems (i.e. solar panels, etc.) and Solar Water Heaters up to $25,000 (i.e. the maximum credit received would be $12,500). This tax credit is in addition to the federal tax credit.

Consumers can actually collect up to 80% of their initial investment on these products, depending on price-points, etc. You should speak with your accountant to make sure you qualify.

This blog was written for Paul LaGrange’s BuildWrite website and was originally posted on July 24, 2009.


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