Regardless of where you stand on the global warming issue, you’d really have to be living under a rock to not accept the reality of what we humans are doing to harm this planet. (You know. The only planet we have on which to exist!) But even if global warming and the horrific issue we are creating with all of our waste doesn’t motivate you to “act locally,” we can all agree that saving money is a good thing, right?

This week a friend of the newspaper from Randolph wrote in with some great information about solar panels. It prompted me to do a little digging of my own and explore this technology a bit further.

I’ve now lived in two homes that have had solar in place. The first used the panels, situated just behind the house, to heat the water for the home. This handled the “forced hot water” furnace, the hot water for our living needs as well as the hot tub (another living “need” if you ask me!). The second home solely used the panels for electricity, but that also handled the furnace, hot water heater, dryer and yes, the hot tub! (I have been spoiled.)

When I built the house over in Lincoln, I considered going the solar route. After consulting with a couple “solar people,” we determined that the home was not in an ideal situation. Selfishly the primary driver here was ROI. The panels would have worked nicely and provided some supplemental energy. At the time of construction, though, it just wasn’t in the budget and wasn’t going to be cost-effective in the short time frame I had.

Today, just a decade later, the panels have become more efficient, more affordable and even come with some other incentives we’ll touch on later.

If you are considering adding solar to your home, there are a few considerations to be mindful of. The first, and likely most important, is sunlight (derr!). You can figure out which way your home’s roof faces by using something like Google Maps. But don’t be discouraged if your home is not facing due south. There are many creative options like adjustable mounts to help with the angle or even pole-mounting (like our reader did!) to gain the optimal direction. Of course, states like California have more sunlight to work with, but regardless of where you live, solar panels will most likely save you hundreds of dollars a year on your electric bills.

The federal government (current cabinet notwithstanding) actually does recognize that our fossil fuel consumption is way out of hand. With that in mind, you can actually get some rewards for going solar.

Currently (until December 2019) taxpayers can claim 30 percent of the installation costs of their solar solution. Beyond that, each state will also have its own incentives. In New Hampshire, there are local property tax exemptions, net metering (credits on your power bill), and low-income energy assistance programs, as well as a reimbursement for small (under 10 kilowatts) systems. These vary by city, so do some digging of your own and see what you qualify for.

Solar panels are not going to provide short-term ROI. That’s something you just need to accept going into this project. The average family spends $1,500 per year on electricity. By going solar, you could save up to $100 per month. That all depends on how much power you are producing (and using!).

“Vacation homeowners benefit from their solar panels year-round,” notes Badger Realty agent Ralph Cronin. “Since the energy usage is so low when the home is not in use, they can really take advantage of the net metering options,” he continued.

There have also been studies showing that homes with solar panels sell 20 percent faster than homes without, and for as much as 17 percent more money (as always, take national stats with a grain of salt).

As New Englanders, we take great pride in our resilience and self-reliance. Having a wood stove and a gas-powered stove means staying warm (and more importantly — hot coffee) in the face of losing power during a storm. Adding solar to the mix simply increases your functionality based on the size of your power reserves (battery). It is very reassuring to know that your home can sustain itself for a number of hours or days, regardless of how quickly the repair crews are able to work.

Solar panels also are longer-lasting than you may have thought. Most good-quality solutions come with a 25-year warranty (just like your roof shingles!). Also like your shingles, you will most likely get more life out of them than the warranty span. Remember that most of us don’t throw our cars away after the manufacturer’s warranty runs out!

And they are always improving. In fact, right now at Michigan State University, researchers have developed a window that creates solar energy! In the future, all the appropriately facing windows in your home could be working for you. Those kinds of innovations are what get me really excited about solar. The easier it is for us to use, the more likely we are to use it.

Solar is a fantastic option to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce your reliance on fossil fuels. It is relatively clean energy and actually pays you back! I’m not an expert on global warming, but I am not naïve enough to believe that we humans are not having a significant impact on our planet. Solar is simply one of the easier ways we can “act locally” and make a difference.

I encourage you to do your own reading and exploring and see how it might be able to save you money and “keep the home fires burning” in the face of an emergency. At the very least, you’ll be able to make coffee! (Speaking of which…)

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