BY JENNAH DENNEY
Your local electric cooperative should top your list of project contacts if you’re considering residential solar. Iowa’s electric cooperatives are well-versed in both the pros and cons of solar installations. They can help you make an informed decision and navigate the process of connecting your system to the electric grid.
Do your homework
For many homeowners, solar installations are considered an investment. As with any investment, you need a clear understanding of your final investment costs, the expected annual energy production, its corresponding value, and the ability to determine how long it will take before you achieve a return on your investment.
To successfully install solar, you must first overcome location obstacles. Choosing an unobstructed, sunny location to install solar panels on your property is essential. The choice between a roof or ground-mounted system is also important. The cost for roof installations can vary with different roof designs, just as the location of a ground-mounted array can vary based on soil types and the distance an array is from the interconnection site.
Your home’s average energy use will be reflected in your bills from the previous year, and certain factors may change your use over time. For instance, a growing family will use more energy, but the departure of college-age children can reduce energy consumption.
Careful consideration and addressing your home’s energy efficiency may reduce the size of the solar array you will need. Many electric co-ops offer energy audits to help identify opportunities for savings.
Installation and payment
Selecting a professional installer, the right system and best payment method are equally crucial considerations.
Solar installations may be purchased with cash, loans or leases. An upfront purchase will help you save the most money over the lifespan of the solar panels, but you need the cash upfront. A lease means someone else owns the solar panels and sells you power at a reduced cost each month, but you won’t save as much over time. With a loan, the system is yours, but you make monthly payments plus interest.
Installing solar is a significant decision. You need a reputable energy partner to help you decide. Remember to contact your electric cooperative first. They’re ready to answer your questions and help you make an informed decision.
Jennah Denney writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.