Solar power IN the roof, not on it
But solar power isn't just for the Sunbelt. It can make just as much sense
in Boston as in Albuquerque, N.M. "Photovoltaics produce 25 percent more
power in Albuquerque, N.M., but Boston's electricity rates are much higher, so
the savings are about the same," Kaye says.
Figuring out if it makes
sense for your home can be complicated. The time it takes to recoup your investment
in solar power varies by region, but some basic rules apply everywhere.
instance, solar power does best on a south-facing roof. Electricity production
falls about 15 percent if the roof is facing east or west. And the more you pay
for electricity, the less time it will take to recoup your investment. There are
online calculators to help you crunch the numbers for your neighborhood.
may seem like common sense, but working solar into your home-improvement schedule
can save money, too. If you need a new roof anyway, or if you're building an addition
onto your home, installing BIPV instead of traditional roofing can be a good option,
Dougherty says. The price tag is comparable.
"But if your existing
roof is in good shape, it doesn't make sense to replace it," he says. If
your roof has a few more years of life left, traditional rack-mounted solar panels
might be a better choice.
Net-metering standards also come into play. Most
solar roofs are net metered, meaning they are tied to the traditional electricity
grid. Net metering allows homeowners to buy traditional electricity from the power
company when their solar system isn't producing enough. When it's generating more
than the homeowners need, they sell electricity back to the power company. Not
all states allow net metering.
Installation costs vary as well, due to
local labor costs. BIPV isn't quite a do-it-yourself project yet, but installation
is simple. The pieces can be installed by just about any qualified roofer, and
are then tied into the utility grid by an electrician.
you're on the fence about solar power, it could pay to wait a year or two. In
the near future, solar options might make more economic sense to more people. Solar
power systems cost about 90 percent less than they did in the 1970s, and prices
have been dropping about 5 to 7 percent each year, according to the Solar Energy