As the summer months begin and families switch gears from work and school to camp and vacation, there is another way we can “Choose to Shine” (dad humor alert).
How would you react if I told you there is now an opportunity to increase the value of your home as well as reduce some of your ongoing monthly expenses? You would likely say, “Great! Who is going to pay for it?” Hint, it is not Mexico. Even less expected is to hear that our federal, state, and local governments are going to pay for nearly 70% of the cost. The rest will be covered by the savings in monthly expenses. In six years, all of the bills will be paid in full, and the total savings and improvements to the house are yours to keep.
So, what are we talking about, and what’s the catch? New York City is on a mission to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Part of that plan includes generous funding for homeowners to install solar panels on their rooftops, reducing the dependence on the Con Edison electrical power grid for their energy needs. New York State and The United States government offer similar incentives at present. A typical 10 kilowatt (9.9 kWh) installation of 33 solar panels (300 watt hours each) will cost about $36,000. The Federal government will pay about $10,000 of that in tax credits. New York State kicks in another $5000, and New York City will cover another $7000 as a property tax credit. There is also a New York Sun Rebate of about $3,000. The remaining $11,000 can be covered by a low-interest loan, which is paid back in full within six years. Ideally, the majority of the previous monthly electric bill will cover the payments for the low-interest loan. In short, it’s like paying your electric bill for six years, then never again. There are a few minor monthly charges to remain connected to the grid, but these are negligible. Free electricity can also improve the market value of your home.
What happens at night, when no energy is being generated? This is the brilliant part. The electric meter actually runs backward during the day, storing up credits for use at night. Did you know that the daytime rate in Brooklyn is between 10 cents and 23 cents per kWh? The nighttime rate is about a penny and a half. I had thought I was well informed, but I never realized this.
Why is the government so generous with homeowners who are willing to invest in solar, and how long will these incentives last? Aside from greenhouse gas concerns, the energy grid must be able to meet the exact demand for electricity at every instant. The power grid here in New York City first went online in 1882. The city has grown exponentially, and the need for power has grown as well. While energy-saving measures like LED bulbs and Green Buildings have helped to curb our growing demand, there are still rolling brownouts during peak usage. This happens when we cannot source enough energy to meet peak demand.
Last year, Governor Cuomo reached a deal with Entergy to close the local nuclear power plant at Indian Point. That currently generates cheap electric power to our grid. When that goes offline in 2021, the supply of electricity will nosedive. Demand, however, is not expected to fall. We all know what happens when supply is low and demand is high. Prices go up. Or worse, we suffer brownouts or even blackouts.
This is an ideal time to look into converting your home to solar power. I have already begun to research this for use in my own house. Despite having a “flat roof” and partial shade, I did find a local company which can handle all of the paperwork and installation for me. (I am no longer that guy who goes up on a ladder with a screwdriver in hand.) It is because of the savings as well as the limited time incentives that I wanted to dedicate my monthly column to sharing this information. I do not personally sell solar power systems, but I have done the legwork and would be happy to share what I have learned. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.