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Solar Power Rocks

Clear info on home solar power rebates, tax credits, and other benefits

5 Reasons to Get a Solar Installer Quote Once a Year

Note to Self… Find a Solar Installer….

If you’re visiting at Solar Power Rocks, you’re probably here because you’re curious about getting solar installed for your home or business.

And yet, we know that a lot of people who visit our site meander away without ever checking to get a free solar quote, even though it’s, you know…free. Well, here are 5 pretty damn good reasons why you should get a solar quote once a year, starting with, you know, now:

1) Solar panels are getting commoditized.

Like oil and orange juice, solar panels are now becoming a commodity. Due to an oversupply in the world, solar panel prices have come down 40% to 60% in the last year alone. We’re talking a price drop in parts, not labor, but that parts discount might have made solar finally within your reach. But you won’t know that unless you get a quote.

2) Solar rebates and solar incentives change every year, sometimes several times a year.

States, utilities, and cities can all offer rebates and tax incentives. Sometimes these rebates run quickly out of funding. Other times, they’re brand new rebates that nobody had last year. Also, there are states like California where rebates are reduced incrementally as more people go solar. How these incentives affect your solar budget cannot be predicted without getting an individual quote for your home’s energy needs.

3) Energy prices and utility rates are rising.

As sure as death, taxes, and sunrises, electric rates are going to go up. You will never see them go down. Never. With solar, however, once you buy the system through a home equity loan or PACE program, that’s it. That monthly payment is locked in. So every time electric rates go up, no worries. In fact, that’s money in your pocket that you can invest or use to buy something else, like beer, or a Mini Cooper. Please drink and drive responsibly….separately, I mean.

4) Net metering laws change. So do solar policies.

If you don’t know what net metering is, well, fine. Learn about it here. I’ll wait….Now that we’re on the same page, just know that this law is not set in stone. For example, California almost lost its net metering a few months back, and that would have made solar a lot more expensive and killed a growing green industry. A solar installer giving you a quote could warn you about net metering changes, or new financing programs like PACE. But you don’t know unless you ask.

5) It’s good to benchmark your solar costs once a year.

As we’ve seen, solar panel prices have dropped, rebates rise and fall, and energy prices will rise every year. Therefore, if you know what solar cost you last year, you’ll be able to show yourself and your family that the price has really come down, and now’s the time to go solar. Finally. Or not.

But either way, by getting a quote once a year, you can have the solar facts, and not just guess.

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New Solar Group Purchasing Programs in San Antonio. Here’s the Solar Beef.

Photo:  San Antonio’s River Walk by Flickr/DCWriterDawn

Return visitors to may notice that we’ve got some new links that say “Find Solar Group Purchasing Programs in Your City.” What does this mean and why should you care? A valid question. We shall explain.

What’s Solar Group Purchasing

It’s a simple concept. The more people who buy solar, the easier it is for a single solar company to give volume discounts. Our new partner, One Block Off the Grid, (, pre-negotiates a no-haggle, low price for solar with a large installer in a particular city. All you have to do is sign up, and get the discounted deal.

There are many cities where has active solar deals. The latest two are in Northern New Jersey and San Antonio, Texas. We recently highlighted the tremendous rebates available in Northern New Jersey, so let’s shine a solar powered light on 1bog’s new San Antonio campaign.



  • The lowest price Solar Fred has ever seen. At $4.80/DC Watt, I have to say that I have never seen a price that low for a residential installation. Seriously. The average price for solar around the U.S. is around $6 to $7/watt. That $1.20/watt discount is going to save you thousands of dollars. For say an average 5000 watt system, $1.20 x 5000 adds up to…. $6000 off! To see how much solar will actually cost you, 1bog has created a very simple to use estimate calculator. Use it after you read the rest of these bullet points. Or come back. I’ll wait.
  • 1bog keeps it simple. They do your homework for you and deal only with the most qualified solar installers in your area. For San Antonio, 1bog chose Standard Renewable Energy, a national installer that’s been around the block with solar many, many times. In Texas alone, they’ve installed 200 kW a month for the past six months. That’s about 40 homes a month, so you know they’re going to do it right with all of that experience.
  • You get quality solar panels. 1bog ensured that you’re not getting cheap no-name brand equipment for their low price. Depending on your needs, you’ll get either SunTech or Sanyo panels. That may not mean a lot to an average consumer, but Solar Fred knows panels, and these brands are highly rated with a long track record. Same with the inverter. Xantrex is a very well known, quality brand.
  • It costs you nothing to get a quote or for 1bog’s discounted pricing. Unlike Costco, Sam’s Club, or other group purchasing programs, 1bog’s big solar discount service is free. There’s no annual membership or hidden fees. Instead, 1bog collects a referral fee from Standard, who is happy to pay it for 1bog decreasing their marketing costs. So all in all, it’s a win-win-win for everyone.

Honest, this San Antonio program really is a great deal that’s difficult to match, but you can certainly do your own homework and try. Just keep in mind that you need to sign up for this program before April 23, 2010. If you miss that deadline, bummer, but sign up anyway, and 1bog will let you know when the next San Antonio campaign starts.

Any questions, please let us know, or check out 1bog’s San Antonio site for the full beef.

How much can you save with a solar roof in ?

Profit from your roof space: find local deals on solar in , eliminate your power bill, and join the solar revolution.

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The cost of the “lets wait and see” solar buying reaction

Neon Limo

I replied to an email I got this morning from one of our readers who requested to get quotes from solar installation companies a few weeks ago. He was just curious whether there was any new solar technology out there he wasn’t about to miss the boat on by going solar right now.

This is a common reaction among people considering solar. In other realms, it’s referred to as “cognitive dissonance”. People need to feel they are getting the best available option all the way through the buying process.

That’s why whizbang reports of newfangled solar technology can confuse people into thinking installing solar on their roof is now unwise. Continual “solar breaking news” makes it easy to hear the rumble of progress around the corner – even though nobody has seen any of it with their own eyes.

Sometimes I compare this “lets wait and see” solar reaction to someone who is looking to get to a once in a lifetime symphony performance. You have the opportunity to leave now and get there 15 minutes before show time with your friend who drives a Honda, or you could wait some indeterminate amount of time longer for this super sleek hydrogen powered neon limo to roll by and pick you up. After all, a flyer from the sky informed you earlier in the year the hydrogen limo is on pace to cruise by your house around now to give you a supersonic ride anywhere you want to go. Of course by waiting, you risk being late or missing the show.

Investing in solar panels may not seem like you’re biting into the latest nectar filled bosom of solar technology the internet is all aflutter about, but you can rest assured those panels will perform admirably for decades, kinda of like your buddy’s Honda. That neon hydrogen limo might not make it around the corner.

If arriving on time to the once in a lifetime symphony above is equivalent to your payback time on the solar energy system, I can only speak for myself, but I’d rather be in the Honda.

How much can you save with a solar roof in ?

Profit from your roof space: find local deals on solar in , eliminate your power bill, and join the solar revolution.

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A Solar Fred Feedback Request

Dear Solar Fred Readers,

Thank you for visiting. I’ve provided a lot of easy-to-read info here about solar and the various ways to finance it, and I hope you find the information you’re looking for.

I know that people have different reasons for coming to this site, as well as different reasons for considering Solar. With that in mind, I’d like to ask you to comment about one small matter:

What’s stopping you from getting a solar quote and seeing if solar is right for you? Quotes are free, so I’m just curious.

For me, I’m a true believer, which is why I write this blog. But I want to help as many as I can, so I’d like to get a sense of what’s holding people back. If I know, then perhaps I can provide the answers and write more targeted posts to answer your concerns.

So, if you would take a little time to lend me your thoughts, I’d really appreciate it.

Thanks again for visiting, and I sincerely hope the information that already is here helps you or your business to go solar.

All the best and think solar,

Tor aka “Solar Fred.”

How much can you save with a solar roof in ?

Profit from your roof space: find local deals on solar in , eliminate your power bill, and join the solar revolution.

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Solar Fred Insights: All Solar is Local

Today, someone from Gambia visited my site. Where the heck is Gambia? Turns out that it’s a tiny sliver of a country in Africa. This visit reminds me that all solar is local, especially when it comes to the costs.

How local is solar? It’s not just your city, your little town, or even your house. In some ways, the cost comes down to your head, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

First let’s take solar costs from the broadest perspective.

Your country matters . Most visitors to this website are from the good ol’ USA, which currently provides every tax paying entity a 30% Federal tax credit towards their solar purchase. That’s not cash to a tax payer who doesn’t owe anything in taxes every year, but it’s great for those who do owe taxes. However, if you live in Germany and Spain, it doesn’t matter what tax bracket you’re in. Those countries have gone gonzo for solar because of legislation and incentives that pretty much pays people to get off coal and buy solar, making solar very affordable for anyone with the right solar conditions.

Your state matters. Your state matters not so much because it gets or doesn’t get a lot of sun. Geographical location certainly is a cost and payback factor due to sunlight, altitude and temperature, but not as much as you might think. Germany and Spain and Canada all receive less average hours of daily sunlight than the U.S. Yet those 4 or so hours a day are plenty to make solar worthwhile because of their incentive programs. So, the real reason why your state matters is not sun, but solar friendly laws and solar friendly subsidies. How do you know if your state has subsidies? See this government sponsored website or better yet, just get a free quote from a local dealer who will know what’s coming to you.

Your utility matters: The other element that differs among states and local utilities is “Net metering.” Net metering is the most important law a state can have for solar because it allows you to go solar without batteries. Instead, you remain connected to the grid. Your utility keeps track of any extra energy you produce, then credits you on your bill. At night, the utility gives you back the power you banked with them. In some states, you can sell your daytime “peak” power to the utility at a high rate, and then buy it back at a cheaper night time rate. That’s called Time of Use. Another variable factor is what happens at the end of the year. With some utilities and states, if your solar panels have generated more power than you’ve actually used during the year, you get paid a wholesale rate for your extra solar power that you never really used. In other states, the utility is only required to zero out your bill. These laws also differ between utilities within states. So clearly….

Your city and and town matter.
Your town or county or city can deter solar or help solar through subsidies and loan programs, of course. But they can also deter or inspire solar through enforcing archaic building codes that don’t apply to solar. They can require high permit fees…or low ones. They can require extra, more expensive equipment that aren’t used in other towns and states…and may not be necessary. They can require aesthetic requirements, forbidding solar panels to be visible to the street. In many cases, these codes and laws are passed and enforced out of ignorance…or because the town is influenced by politics and anti-solar businesses…. like the coal fired utility who wants to keep you as a steady customer, not a part time solar customer.

Your home matters. Here in the U.S., solar panels are most effective when facing South, South West or South East. Your roof’s angle and any shading will also effect cost, not to mention the type of roof that you have. Of course, the biggest home cost factor is the amount of energy you and your family require. Obviously, the more power you need, the more expensive your system will be–up front. Ironically, if you buy a lot of solar panels to offset your high electric bills, the payback of your system from reduced electric bills is much faster than someone who only needed a few solar panels to offset lower power needs.

It matters what’s in your head. I said solar is local to your head, and it’s not because you’ve got more or less hair. It’s because only you can decide to spend an afternoon to get a few quotes from some local solar people. Many feel they can wait until prices come down. The truth is that as prices come down, so do many state subsidies, so the consumer will still pay about the same amount. It’s just that the price won’t be as subsidized by state and local governments. Others feel the technology will get better. It will, that’s true, but not significantly in the next 10 years. Solar’s not like computer chips and Moore’s law. Trust me. You’ll be losing out on saving the planet and saving money as electric rates rise if you wait until solar technology is significantly better than it is now. Solar Fred wouldn’t lie to you. Really. I wouldn’t.

So remember: All Solar is local…and always will be. Now that you know that, might as well get a local solar quote, no? Yes. Click me here.

How much can you save with a solar roof in ?

Profit from your roof space: find local deals on solar in , eliminate your power bill, and join the solar revolution.

Calculate my savings!

Am I Right For Solar? 10 Key Tips

As much as I love solar, solar is not right for every home for one reason or another. For some, it’s not worth the money because they don’t live in a solar friendly State. For others, they have too much shading.

So here’s a list of 10 tips to find out of you’re right for solar.

Solar Fred Tip 1. It’s best that your roof (or your garage’s roof) is oriented toward the South, Southwest, South East, or flat. Having some sunny back yard space will also do nicely as well.

Solar Fred Tip 2. Make sure your roof won’t need replacing in the next few years. If it’s older than 7 years, you might want to wait until it’s reroofing time to get your full money’s worth. Many installers also subcontract with roofers or are roofers themselves.

Solar Fred Tip 3. If you have a home owner’s association that says you can’t put solar panels on your house, be sure to check city and/or state laws that prohibit HOA meddling. For example, in California, The Solar Rights Act (California Civil Code 714) prohibits cities and HOAs from restricting solar panel installations unless they pose a risk to the health or safety of nearby residents. That’s unlikely. Nevertheless, there have been some suits, even in California. If there are no laws, I would try to find common ground about a) fostering energy independence, b) the health and future of our children, c) that solar raises home values by $20,000 for every $1000 saved in electricty costs, according to the Feds, d) that may be able to use BIPV (building integrated photovoltaic) tiles that look like regular shingles (although these are usually more expensive, so payback will be longer than regular panels.)

Solar Fred Tip 4. Got lots of shade from trees? Bummer. Could you use some firewood or have a large back yard or garage that doesn’t have as much shade? Ask an installer(s) for their opinion about what to do to get you the most sunlight. It doesn’t matter if you live in a Northern state. San Francisco is huge with solar and they get lots of rain. Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and even Toronto, Canada is ramping up solar. Alaska…not so much. But snow, rain, are all doable. The main thing is that the less sun hours you have on average per year, the longer the payback. But remember that most solar panels are warrantied to produce power for 25 years and last even longer!

Solar Fred Tip 5. Before calling the installer, gather a year’s worth of electric bills. This will be important for estimating the size of your solar system and any utility rebates. If your monthly average is under a $100 a month, you probably won’t get a quick payback on your solar investment. Of course, you could just do it anyway for the environment, your kids, and the general welfare of polar bears.

SolarFred Tip 6. Check the “DSIRE” website. This has nothing to do with “desire,” but will inform you how much your particular State, utility, or town will give you as a cash rebate or tax credit towards your solar system. An experienced solar installer should know this info too.

SolarFred Tip 7. The Federal Government is also offering 30% tax credit for anyone who buys a solar system between now and 2016. If you owe less in taxes than the actual rebate (perhaps $3,000-$10,000 on a typical system) the balance of the credit can be carried over until next year,up to 5 years. So if you typically don’t owe a few grand in taxes, the solar panels will pay for themselves over a longer amount of time. Check with your tax person about all of this. AMT payers used to have issues with this, but this was fixed in the stimulus package.

SolarFred Tip 8. Don’t owe taxes? Can’t afford the up front cost or have no home equity? See if there is a lease program in your area or a residential solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). Leases and PPAs are VERY variable and not in every state. But they’re getting more common. Home equity loan financing is almost always more cost effective. I’ve got no real beef with solar leases and solar PPAs, but again, I’d first get a free solar quote and see about owning.  Buying, solar can pay for itself in 5 to 13 years, depending on the size of your system and your location and tax status. Leasing and PPAs for the same size, save you money off  your electrical bill, but not as much money as buying. It’s a big difference, but again, you do save with either buying or the leasing way.

SolarFred Tip 9. Think your ready for a quote? Ideally, the installer should have one person on staff who is be certified by NABCEP or some other State authority. He or she certainly should have a contractor’s license, especially as an electrician. A NABCEP certified installer means they’re not just a roofer or an electrician with a pretty face. They have at least 2 years of experience and have seen your situation before. Regardless, of NABCEP certifications, ask for references. Go see their houses. See if the installer will give you their number or email. If those customers are happy, chances are you’ll be happy.

SolarFred Tip 10. Get 2 or 3 quotes and don’t be afraid to ask your installer questions. Each installer should be able to tell you when you’ll see a pay back for your system, how much money you’ll save over the life of the system. On a national level, they should be charging somewhere around $5.50 to $8/watt DC, installed, BEFORE rebates. Competitive markets like California and Colarado will be on the lower side and perhaps even in the $5’s. I can’t tell you how much that $5-$8/watt will ultimately cost YOU because every home is different, but that’s why you should get at least 2 or more quotes.

Hope that helps. Have any questions, please contribute to our lovely and convenient comments section below and share. We also have our famous Ye Old FAQ page and our even more famous Top 10 Solar Myths. Enjoy.

How much can you save with a solar roof in ?

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Calculate my savings!

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