Tuesday, October 26, 2010

For a Big Tax Break, Hit the Roof

From Washington Post.com:

Within 15 years, the sun could supply 10 percent of the nation's power needs, according to research by the nonprofit group Climate Action. The White House will be part of any such trend, as President Obama announced the return of solar panels to heat water and supply some electricity for the first family.

The president's move has homeowners wondering whether their roofs should be soaking up rays, too. So how do you go solar?

Your first step is to the Web.

Sites sponsored by the Department of Energy and several solar panel manufacturers offer calculators to give you a sense of whether solar is worth pursuing for your home. You enter your Zip code and electrical needs - either in terms of kilowatt-hours from your utility bill or how much you spend per month on power. The program knows how much sun your area enjoys and which tax incentives are available. It will predict how much money you'd save over 25 years, after which most solar panel warranties expire. (The panels will probably last longer than that, though.)

The program doesn't know much about your particular home, and those details can make a difference. Do you have a south-facing roof? Is your roof shaded by trees you're fond of? You'll need to call in some installers for a reality check.

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (www.nabcep.org) has a database of trained installers, and that's a good place to start. Choosing an installer is probably your most important decision. "The installer is the one who's going to design your system and actually drill holes in your house," says John Supp of Solar Depot, a wholesaler that supplies local installers.

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