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 City Buying Guide for Seattle
A common misconception is that Seattle is too cloudy for solar power production. The fact is Seattle receives more sunshine than Germany, the world’s leading solar market. Seattle residents are beginning to realize the benefits of solar power and installing the equipment in their homes in increasing numbers. Property owners considering a solar panel or water heater purchase will find valuable information in this solar buying guide designed to help you integrate solar into your life. The information below provides a brief introduction to solar power as well as types of solar power, contractor selection, financing options and cost-cutting rebate and incentive programs available to Seattle residents.
Components of a Grid-Tie PV System
A typical grid-tie PV system includes the following components:
- PV Panel — also referred to as a solar panel, produces direct current (DC) power. Multiple PV panels installed together are called a PV array. Typically, solar arrays are mounted to rooftops but can also be ground based.
- DC Disconnect — a manually operated safety device designed to interrupt the flow of power running between a solar array and the rest of the system.
- DC/AC Converter — required to convert the DC (direct current) electricity produced by the solar panels to AC or alternating current to power the building.
- Production Meter — measures the amount of electricity or energy output in kilowatt-hours produced by the solar panel system. While this component is not critical to energy production, it is necessary in order to take advantage of Washington State’s Production Incentive Program.
- Building Breaker Box & Standard Utility Meter — the power generated by the PV system enters the building. It is also referred to as circuit panel or electrical service panel. When electricity is needed, PV system electricity is used first. If your PV system cannot meet electricity demand, utility grid power is automatically pulled into the building. When the PV system output is more than the demand, the excess flows back into the grid. You earn credits for the excess power created by your PV panels. The process is called “net metering.”
Solar Permits in Seattle
Electrical permits are necessary for all solar electric systems and must be secured by the team doing the work. In most cases, this means your solar or electrical contractor. Property owners with the necessary planning and installation skills can install their own system and obtain the permits on their own. Permits are issued by the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections, located on the 19th – 22nd floors of the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue, Suite 2000 Seattle WA 98124-4019. Hours of operation are Monday thru Friday, 7 A.M. to 4:30 P.M. For more information, call the Applicant Services Center at (206) 684-8850. In addition, you may apply for a building permit online by clicking here.
Solar System Costs in Seattle
A typical PV system depends on several factors specific to the structure such as the complexity and condition of the roof. Typical residential systems in Seattle average approximately 6 kilowatts in size with an average cost (equipment and labor) of $4,500 per KW for a total cost of $27,000.
Solar Incentives in Seattle
Net metering allows solar customers to receive retail electricity rates from their utility company for the excess power produced by their PV systems and sent back to the power grid. Most often, the rates are received in the form of credits on your standard electric bill.
Federal Income Tax Credits
Individuals and businesses can claim a 30% federal income tax for the cost of solar system installations and related equipment. Since the program is set to expire at the end of 2016, your PV system must be placed into service before that date to qualify for the credit.
Washington State Sales Tax Exemption
Through June 30, 2018, all solar electric systems less than 10 KW in size are exempt from the state sales tax.
Choosing a Solar Contractor in Seattle
You must do your due diligence when hiring a contractor. Since your solar contractor will control the installation and quality of the entire project, hiring one with the necessary credentials and experience is crucial to your projects success. Ask these basic questions of potential contractors:
- How long have they been in business?
- How many solar electric systems have they installed?
- Are they licensed to do business in the state of Washington?
- Are they licensed for the applicable work?
- Can they provide references?
- Can they verify their insurance coverage?
When comparing bids be sure to consider warranty service, installation price including all labor and materials, system size, permit costs, and predicted energy output. You can verify their license by checking the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries website or by clicking here.