How to Use the Solar Calculator
The best way to learn about local rebates, your home’s energy potential, and your eventual return on investment is to use our ModSun Solar Cost Calculator (see above). Enter your home address in the box, then click Check My Roof. You’ll get an instant picture of your roof’s productivity, your average energy expenses, and installation costs in your area—whether you decide to buy or loan. We’ll also provide system size recommendations and information about rebates and incentives you may be eligible for. Just select More Info under each purchasing strategy to learn more, and then connect with a solar pro.
Solar in Birmingham, Alabama
With over 210 sunny days a year Birmingham is a great place to live if you’re considering incorporating solar technology into your home. Solar technology can provide you with significant savings on your monthly utility bill, while helping you adopt a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle. Additionally, if you’re planning to sell your home any time in the future, studies show that solar technology, such as solar panels, can increase your home value by 3-4% while also helping your home to sell twice as fast as homes without solar technology.
Is Solar Right for You in Birmingham?
When considering investing in solar energy, some issues to consider include:
- The location of your home: Make sure you have a location with maximum sunlight and no shading between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. In terms of panel placement, ideally you’ll want to install them on a south facing surface, tilted at an angle approximating the latitude, which is 34 degrees in Birmingham, Alabama.
- Check your local zoning ordinances, as well as the guidelines of your homeowners’ association, for any restrictions. Solar advocates have made significant strides in preventing local communities from creating roadblocks to solar technology, but there still may be some guidelines regarding placement and size of panels, etc. as it relates to the neighborhood aesthetic.
What Types of Solar Tech are Most Popular in Birmingham?
Two of the most popular types of solar technology among Birmingham homeowners are solar thermal technology and photovoltaic systems:
Solar Thermal Technology uses the sun’s energy, instead of fossil fuels, to generate low-cost, environmentally friendly thermal energy that can be used to provide residential water heating. These systems differ from solar photovoltaic systems which are used to generate electricity rather than heat. A solar water heating system requires collectors to absorb the sun’s energy and a storage system to hold the energy until it is needed. The collectors are large, flat panels that are most frequently mounted on your roof. The storage systems look and acts like conventional water heaters. Pumps are also part of the system and are used to circulate the heated water. Which pump system you choose, a direct or indirect circulation system, depends largely on the climate in which you live. For instance, direct circulation systems work well in climates where it rarely freezes, which could make them a good fit for homes in Birmingham. A residential solar water heating system is usually designed to meet 50-80% of a home’s water heating requirements. Typical solar water heating systems range from $5,000-$8,000.
Photovoltaic (PV) cells are used to convert solar energy directly into electricity for use in your home. PV cells are typically found in panels that are made up of individual PV cells and are joined together to form a PV array which is used to generate electricity. The PV array is installed on a roof or in a sunny location to maximize the sun’s rays. When the sun shines on the array, the sun’s energy is converted into electric current that can be used to operate appliances and other household devices. Once installed, a PV system requires little maintenance and can produce power for more than 20 years.
The costs for a 5kW system ranges from $18,000 – $25,000. The installed cost varies because of a number of factors such as whether the system is to be ground mounted or roof mounted and the amount of site preparation required. Assuming that you take advantage of the 30% federal tax credit, you should recoup your investment in approximately 10-20 years.
Are there Financial Incentives to Adopt Solar in Birmingham?
Yes! If you install an Energy-Star approved solar power system prior to the end of 2016, you can claim 30 percent of the cost as a tax credit for the year you installed it. This credit can be subtracted directly from your tax payment, rather than as a deduction from your taxable income. You can claim the credit for your primary residence, a vacation home, and for either an existing structure or new construction. There’s no limit to the dollar amount of the credit.
In addition to the federal tax credit that can help offset the initial cost of solar installation, once your system is up and running, Alabama Power offers net metering. Net metering is a system in which residential renewable energy generators are connected to a public-utility power grid. When your home system generates more electricity than is needed to power your home, surplus power is transferred onto the grid, allowing Alabama Power customers to offset the cost of power drawn from the utility (in the form of credits or cash, depending on whether or not you are enrolled in the Rate PAE plan) for months when your solar technology does not meet 100% of your energy needs.
Additionally, a new Alabama solar program, Mission: Net Zero, has been created to help drive down solar costs and increase solar installations. This partnership allows non-traditional solar companies to enter the market in a low-cost, low-risk way and provides traditional solar companies with a more consistent sales engine built on trusted relationships.
Ultimately, work with a licensed solar installer to ensure you maximize all available incentives to get the lowest price on your solar technology system.