Federal solar tax credit will expire next year


If you're looking to save money on your home energy expenses, it may be time to go solar. Lower up-front costs and technological advances have made a home solar panel system a realistic option for the average homeowner. A federal tax credit is about to expire, so the time to act is now.

Brett Johnson loves his home and plans to be in it the rest of his life. He also loves saving money, which is why he decided to invest in a rooftop renewable energy system.

"We decided to put in the solar panels primarily because the price of electricity is something I don't see as ever going down, and this is a hedge against that," he said.

"If you have been thinking about solar panels, now is a good time to go ahead and install them because there is a federal tax credit in place right now for 30% back on the entire project installation if it's done by December 31 of 2016," said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks.

Financial incentives helped solar energy projects surge to record levels in 2014, including a 51 percent increase in residential systems. The cost of the panels themselves has decreased by 80 percent in recent years, also driving the demand.

"What we're looking to do in most cases is maximize the ROI, so how fast can I pay this system off? So we generally design with that major, with that in mind rather," explained Jeff Cole, an energy solutions expert.

According to energy experts, your return on investment can now be accomplished in as little as seven to 10 years. Most systems are installed on rooftops, but the panels can also be placed on pergolas, gazebos or even on the ground. Regardless where they're installed, they provide clean energy and are virtually maintenance-free.

"Almost all systems that are installed come with online monitoring," added Cole. "The homeowner can get online from any computer in the world and see what their system's producing, and based on a sunny day like today, this homeowner would expect to get online and see that their system is producing close to 100 percent."

"I'm happy with what we did. I like the idea that it's something that you pay for once that continues to produce and doesn't degrade at a particularly quick rate," explained Johnson.

Before installing any system, make sure you're in compliance with city ordinances and home owner association rules. Angie says some panels are more efficient than others, so you should research the differences to understand which ones are best for your home. And don't forget, the systems have to be installed by the end of next year to receive the tax credit.

For more information on solar panels and renewable energy:

U.S. Dept. of Energy
1000 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20585
(202) 586-5000

Solar Energy Industries Association
505 9th Street NW, Su. 800
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 682-0556