Solar energy saves money in Athens

By Tony Purcell

Gov. Sonny Purdue signed a bill (HB670) which allows a 35% State tax credit for Georgia Residents who install solar on their homes. With the 30% Federal tax credit already in place, a total of 65% of the cost of installing a solar system is covered. This makes solar quite appealing for homeowners.

There are two types of solar available in the market today. One is Photovoltaic, or PV. PV solar panels generate electricity for your home with light from the sun. The other product is solar thermal. Solar thermal panels heat water the same as your existing water heater for domestic and space heating uses. Both qualify for the State and Federal tax credits.

Solar thermal is an affordable way to start saving money using the sun. Georgia has an ideal climate for solar systems with an abundance of sunlight to naturally heat water for your home. “On average, if you install a solar water heater, your water heating bills should drop 50% - 80%. Also, because the sun is free, you’re protected from future fuel shortages and price hikes,” says the U.S. Dept. Of Energy EERE Consumer’s Guide.

Solar thermal panels are easily adaptable to most existing residential applications. The systems can be installed most anywhere; however, homes with a south-facing roof and an unobstructed view of the sun for at least six hours per day notice the greatest savings. Take this example:

A typical four-person household with two teens uses a lot of hot water. For this household, a system with 60 square feet of solar collectors and an 80-gallon solar heat exchange tank would be used. The average installed cost for this system is $6,520. After tax credits this system's cost would be $2,967. This household should see savings on their water heating cost averaged over the year of $20 per month.

A solar thermal water heating system works. We get plenty of sun here in Georgia, so why pay for hot water if you don’t have to? My solar thermal customers have been noticing an immediate savings on their energy bills. I work closely with Power Partners Solar, a local manufacturer of solar thermal water heating systems, to sell, install and service their product. I have also developed a class for do-it-yourselfers and professionals to learn how to install these systems.

The U.S. Dept of Energy website www.doe.gov has a lot of in depth information available (see this page for solar thermal data), and www.dsireusa.org can tell you more about the State and Federal tax credits.

Tony Purcell is a green builder and the owner of Complete Resources Building & Repair, Inc.


AShafer said...

As much of a fan I am of solar energy it is still not cost effective. Even with the tax breaks and monthly savings, it would still take almost 13 years to break even with the cost of purchasing the solar heater. I am interested in the future of solar panels/heaters when they will be more cost effective.

Polusplanchnos said...

The cost-effectiveness comes in throught the aggregate effect it has if multiple households in an area are using them. As more and more homes become solarized, this means that the energy production taking place from the power plants is over-generating, creating more energy than is needed. A greater supply along with a reduced demand should reduce the cost of energy production itself, a cost that may be passed onto consumers (as with the reduction in gas prices whenever supply slightly outpaces demand). This means that the rate you are saving will be in addition to the direct savings you have from home energy savings.

It is in a community's interest to solarize and find more energy efficient means of survival, much more than an individual's.