Saving more money. It’s always a popular New Year’s resolution. If that’s one of your goals this year, you should be aware of the latest trends in home improvements that can boost your home’s overall energy efficiency. Read on to learn how you can get the most value for your dollar.
Consider Whole-Home Energy Efficiency
Solar panels are an excellent way to reduce your utility bill. But simply adding a bunch of solar panels to your home can be pricey. To recoup your investment faster and increase your overall savings, you need to examine your total energy use.
For instance, if your home still has single-pane aluminum windows, you’re sending a lot of your heat in the winter and your A/C in the summer right out the window. Old windows mean your home has a leaky thermal envelope, leading you to spend more money than you should on your heating and cooling bills.
New double-paned vinyl windows are the solution—they create a tighter thermal envelope and are better insulated to keep you warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Plus, vinyl windows can help cut down on outside noise to keep your home quieter and more peaceful.
Insufficient insulation can also drive up your bills, especially if you have an uninsulated attic. In the winter, your heater has to work overtime to warm up that chilly void. In hot months, heat can get trapped in the attic and cause the temperature of your whole home to rise. The result? Higher utility bills. Adding insulation strategically can improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Even if you have solar panels, you’re not maximizing your system’s cost-saving potential if you don’t address overall energy efficiency. And if you’re planning to get solar panels, fixing these power sucks first may mean that you can install fewer panels to meet your energy needs.
Get the most value for your dollar by: Replacing outdated windows, adding insulation, and addressing any other energy wasters.
Understand the Drawbacks of Solar Leases
It might seem like a sweet deal. Instead of bearing the whole cost of your solar panel purchase and installation, you contract with a big solar company and get started with only a small down payment, or even nothing down.
The problem is that if you choose a solar lease, you won’t save as much money on your power bill as you would if you owned the system. And you definitely won’t be able to take advantage of the Solar Investment Tax Credit, which provides a dollar-for-dollar tax credit of 30 percent of the amount you paid for your system. Since you’re leasing, you’re out of luck.
If you’re thinking of moving to a new home before your solar lease is up, a leased system may wreck havoc with your plans. Either the new buyers will have to qualify to take over the lease, which may be tough if they’re already stretching to get a home loan, or you’ll have to end the lease early and pay the penalty. We’ve heard that some customers are being charged tens of thousands of dollars to remove their panels early.
When it comes to home sales, a trend has emerged: Leased solar panels are seen as a liability, not an asset. If you own your system, that may boost your home’s appraisal by several thousand dollars, or as much as 50 percent of the cost of the system. If you lease, those panels won’t add any value and may make it much tougher to sell your home. Deals can—and do—fall out of escrow because of leased panels.
Get the most value for your dollar by: Buying, not leasing, your solar panels.
Get to Know the New Net Energy Metering Rules
The utility companies in California lobbied hard for a major fee increase for solar customers, but the California Public Utilities Commission recently took a more moderate approach in voting on new rules.
While some costs will rise for new solar customers—for example, they’ll pay a one-time connection fee estimated at $75 to $100 for tying into the grid—the PUC didn’t go as far as the utilities wanted in imposing an electricity transmission fee.
NEM 2.0 will take effect on July 1, 2017, or when utilities reach certain caps, whichever comes first. The good news is that existing customers are grandfathered under current rules for 20 years from the date of their system installation.
That means there’s still time to have your solar system installed and be grandfathered in under the existing NEM rules—as long as you act fast.
Get the most value for your dollar by: Starting your solar panel project now.
If you want more information about how energy efficiency trends may affect you, or you want to explore your options for saving money on your utility bill, contact us. We offer a no-pressure, hassle-free consultation—free of charge.
We’ll assess your home’s current level of energy efficiency and make recommendations customized for the way you live. We’ll discuss all the benefits of buying your solar system instead of leasing, and we’ll talk about your financing options. We’ll even help you understand NEM 2.0.
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