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 State Buying Guide for North Carolina
North Carolina’s support for solar power has made the state a leader for homeowners and business owners seeking to convert to green energy. With a plethora of incentives available, it makes sense to invest in the future with solar systems that will pay for themselves and provide a healthy return on investment in the years to come. You’ll find helpful in formation in this basic guide to help you get powered up with solar.
North Carolina’s Climate for Solar Power
North Carolina’s climate works well for solar power, which is one of the reasons the state supports and offers multiple incentives to residential and commercial property owners. With an average of 213 sunny days each year, North Carolina offers plenty of solar power to draw from.
Types of Solar Systems in North Carolina
Solar panels are available in three types: Grid Tie, Battery Back-up and Grid Tie Plus Battery Back-up. A Grid Tie system uses the net-metering option of selling back excess power generated by your system for a credit to your monthly bill. While your system works to generate power for your property throughout the day, at night or on days when the system does not generate enough power, your property taps into the grid.
With an Off-Grid system, all of the power necessary for your home is generated by solar. Your property is not connected to the grid. To cover nighttime and off days, the excess is stored for later use in a battery-powered backup system.
The Grid Tie and Battery Backup system provides for times when there is an outage and the grid is down. When this happens, the backup system will generate power to select areas of the home using a designated panel. This may include lighting, refrigerator, washing machine and stove.
There are two main types of solar water systems; active and passive. With an active system, you have the option of a direct or indirect system. The direct system uses pumps to circulate water through solar collectors into the home. This type of system is good for regions with minimal freezing. The indirect system uses a non-freezing fluid to circulate through its collector along with a heat exchanger. At this point, the water is heated and moved into the home. For areas that experience freezing conditions, the indirect system is the best choice.
With the passive water heating system, there are integral collector-storage or thermosyphon systems. The integral systems are ideal for homes with heavy water usage and areas where temperatures falling below zero are rare. The thermosyphon system uses a collector and a storage tank and are generally more expensive than the integral-collector passive system.
Considerations for Installation of Solar Systems in North Carolina
Prior to installing a solar panel system you must first, determine if your roof is structurally suitable. This means the roofing material must be in good shape and the structure of the building is capable of sustaining the weight of the system.
Second, the roof should receive direct sunlight year round from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest. Ideally, the system should be face south from its rooftop location. If, after inspection by a certified contractor, it’s found your roof is not suitable for the solar system, the alternative is installation of a ground-mounted system on your property next to your home as long as the area is unshaded and receives direct sunlight.
Solar water heaters have an estimated life span of 20 years. Systems purchased through Energy Star are certified by the EPA. With their long life, solar heating systems outlast traditional electric and fuel water heater models. If you choose a thermosyphon solar water heating system, the roof design is important due to the weight of the storage tank.
Solar Contractors for North Carolina
It’s always a good idea to verify your contractor’s license. By doing so, you know the person or company you’ve hired has the credentials required by the state to do the job. In North Carolina, use the NC State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors to verify a person or business. When you get an estimate from 2 to 3 contractors, ask for their license number so you can input this into the search field on the website. You can also check with your local Better Business Bureau for information about a contractor or private company representing themselves as a solar contractor.
North Carolina Solar Permits
Permits are required for North Carolina cities whenever solar systems, including solar water heaters, are installed. Check with your city’s permitting department for information on the type of permit needed, how long it’s in effect, fees, and how to schedule an inspection.
Generally, your contractor will take care of getting the permit but you can find out what’s involved to ensure you have what’s required prior to starting the project. Fines are imposed on property owners who fail to get a permit. The worst case scenario is the inability of an inspector to verify that the solar system was installed according to code resulting in the work having to be removed so it can be inspected. This would be a costly error so be sure to have the appropriate permits before work begins.
Benefits of Solar Power in North Carolina
One of the biggest benefits of solar energy is the ability to cut the cost of your monthly utility bill by as much as half. With monthly savings over its lifetime, the system can pay for itself. If you use the services of a utility company that offers net-metering, you can sell the excess power generated by your system back to the company. The excess power is routed to the main grid for other users. You’ll receive a credit each month.
Additionally, your property value will increase without affecting your property taxes (see below), and your home will be more marketable if you sell. Choosing a solar system is also the environmentally responsible choice. The sun’s power is free. Using solar power helps protect the planet from depletion of natural resources, toxic gas emissions, and lessens your carbon footprint.
Solar Information and Resources for Tax Credits and Incentives in North Carolina
- The Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy website funded by the Department of Energy (DSIRE) has a listing of current programs available to residential and commercial property owners. The programs include grants, rebates, incentives, loans, and financing options. North Carolina currently has 104 programs to choose from.
- If you are installing a solar water heater, Energy Star products are eligible for a federal tax credit. The current rate is 30 percent of the cost and has no upper limit. The tax credit is available through December 31, 2019. In 2020, the credit will decrease to 26 percent and for 2021, to 22 percent until it expires on December 31, 2021.
- The Rural Energy for America Program works with small businesses and agricultural producers with guaranteed loans and grants.
- North Carolina homeowners installing a new renewable energy system – which includes solar – are eligible for a state tax credit that covers 35 percent of the cost of the equipment and installation. Credits range from $1,400 to $10,500.
- Residential and commercial customers installing PV (photovoltaic) systems and connecting to the grid receive will receive an incentive for excess power produced by the system. You will need to agree to and sign a power-purchase contract with your utility company and NC GreenPower.
- With the installation of photovoltaic (PV) systems and solar water heaters, residential and commercial property owners receive a tax reduction of property taxes. The tax exemption is 80 percent of assessed value of the system.
- For residential homeowners, Energy Efficient Mortgages (EEM) are available allowing homeowners to fund a renewable energy system either fully or partially.
- The Clean Energy Authority website provides more information on incentives, tax credits, financial options, and more.
Estimated Cost of Solar Products in North Carolina
Estimating the cost of a solar paneling system is calculated using the amount of square footage of the property to determine the number of panels needed to provide more than enough power to the property. Based on a 4KW system and an average electric bill of $250 per month, the estimated system cost is $26,000. After deducting federal and state tax credits of $16,900, the net cost is $9,100. Over the 25-year lifetime of the system, you’ll save $16,507 which results in a 5.4% ROI.
With solar water heaters, the climate is a factor determining the purchase of an active or passive unit. For both projects, your contractor or the sales person where you’re purchasing the products will do the calculations and guide you towards the appropriate system.
Do your research and ask questions before purchasing any solar products to ensure you know what steps are required, what building permits are necessary, the estimated cost, and the amount of time for installation which can take from 2 to 4 days. Once you have all the pieces in place, you’ll make an informed decision that will not only save money but also lessen your carbon footprint.