Sustainable Putnam

7. Consider a solar installation

Installing solar panels on your home or business is like building your own little power plant. The initial investment is considerable, but the “fuel” is free. The electricity produced pays for your investment, and produces free electricity thereafter.

 

If you’ve already converted your energy uses to electricity, your little solar power plant could fuel your vehicles, HVAC, and appliances, with free, clean energy.

 

Learn more below.

Is a solar installation right for your building?

As a major home improvement, solar installations require thoughtful consideration and planning. Even though you may love the thought of generating your own rooftop power, it isn’t the right choice for everyone. To make  your decision easier, Sustainable Putnam has developed a decision tree that asks several important questions regarding your specific situation. You’ll be provided one of two responses.

  • Yes, a solar installation is appropriate for your building
  • No, a solar installation isn’t appropriate at this time. 

Don’t fret if the answer is “no” at this moment. First of all, there is another solar option. If you completed Step 1, you’re already purchasing your power from a clean, renewable electricity source, such as community solar, a CCA, or clean energy ESCO. Secondly, situations change over time. A solar installation may yet be in your future! 

You can repeat the questionnaire as often as you like,  to see what might make it work in the future.  Click the blue button below to get started.

Use our Solar Decision Tree

Is a solar installation right for your building? Complete this questionnaire to help you decide. In just five minutes, you can determine if a solar installation would work for you!

Solar Installation: a step-by-step guide

Overview

Solar installations require a financial investment, but they also provide a greater return on your electric bill and your home value. New York State and federal rebates and tax credits will reduce your final costs to about 50% of the total cost. According to Zillow, solar panels added an average 4.1% to a home’s value in 2019. As energy prices increase, that added home value may also increase. 

Over the past 10 years, panel prices have dramatically decreased, and due to improvements in efficiency and quality, they are typically warranted for 25 years. (We’ve seen estimates that they will probably generate power for more than 40 years, with a slight decline in efficiency. We don’t really know, however, because the current generation of panels is still quite new.) 

Know that even if you don’t have an ideally shade-free, south-facing orientation, a solar installation may still be a good investment. Get several estimates to find out. 

Before installing solar, it’s advisable to convert all of your energy uses to electricity. By NYS law, you can’t generate more power than you use (based on past annual usage). That’s why it makes sense to “electrify everything” first. You’ll be able to install the largest system possible, knowing that it will provide the maximum power appropriate for your household or business.  

NYS utilities are required to buy back at the retail price any excess electricity you produce that isn’t immediately used. In effect, your solar system acts like a small power plant, and your excess power flows into the grid, effectively “spinning your meter backwards.” The credits appear on your monthly bill and are deducted from the power you used. This is referred to as net metering.

The Process

As with any major home improvement, you should get estimates from at least three solar contractors. Go online to EnergySage’s Solar Installation page to find companies and receive free estimates, or use the links below to several companies that work locally. 

  1. Croton Energy Group
  2. Empire Solar Solutions
  3. Green Hybrid Energy Solutions
  4. LightHouse Solar
  5. SunCommon
  6. SunBlue Energy 
  7. SunRise Solar Solutions
  8. Trinity Solar

Estimates may be wildly different in terms of how many panels and how much power your system will generate. Don’t be swayed by the more optimistic estimates. In our experience, some solar sales staff are better trained — and develop more accurate estimates — than others. Be skeptical and ask questions. 

  • What brand/model and number of panels will be installed?
  • How much power will this system produce on my roof, with its orientation and shade (if any)?
  • Can I get your engineer’s estimate of power production (not the salesperson’s) before I sign a contract?
  • What rebates and tax credits will I qualify for? Who is responsible for the paperwork? What is the total cost, and the final cost after rebates, tax credits, and other incentives? (Ask for an itemized breakdown.)

Finally, be sure you’re comfortable with the salesperson and engineer/installation manager before you sign a contract. Look at reviews on more than one site. 

Have questions? Would you like an independent opinion about your estimates? Schedule a free consultation with Sustainable Putnam’s Energy Coach

Click the blue button below to download and print a copy of this guide.