Time is ticking on the sun—and homeowners.

For years now scientists have been explaining to anyone who would listen that right now we’re in a sweet spot in the development of our nearest star, the sun. That’s because it’s not too hot and not too cold for our planet.

However, in about five billion years the sun will eventually expand into a red giant star—swallowing the inner planets and creating some deadly serious global warming for any future humans— before exploding and collapsing into a white dwarf star.

Until then, homeowners can take advantage of the free solar energy radiated by the sun by installing a solar energy system. But just like the development of the sun, there’s a certain sweet spot in time that’s best to do the installation.

Homeowners considering installing a solar energy system may want to do so in the next year because a 30 percent tax credit on solar energy systems will be reduced to 26 percent in 2020, 22 percent in 2021 and 10 percent in 2022 and thereafter, says Greg Akers, director of new business development for Solar Power & Light in Miamisburg.

Not only does the solar energy system save homeowners on their energy bills, but the solar tax credit allows homeowners to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing that solar system from federal taxes. “That’s a pretty good (tax) write off,” says Akers.

An average size six- to seven-kilowatt solar energy system for a home may cost about $30,000, says Jim Bustillo, owner of Star City Solar LLC, also located in Miamisburg. “That means there’s a $9,000 tax credit that comes with that,” he says. “So you end up out-of-pocket with a $21,000 investment.” In addition, homeowners typically pay for the remainder of that cost in energy savings in about seven years, says Bustillo.

Installing a solar system on a home can be satisfying, says Akers. “There’s the economics of saying, ‘I want to be my own power producer and save a little money and reinvest it back into me rather than invest it in the utility company,’” he says.

More homeowners are becoming interested in solar energy systems as the price of the systems and installation comes down. Bustillo says even the shipping of the solar equipment has come down in price.

He says when he installed his own solar energy system on his home eight years ago it cost $1,000 just to ship the parts. “Now we pay $300, $400 for shipping,” he says. That’s because the suppliers now have distribution centers closer to Dayton, Bustillo says. 

And even though the Trump administration recently imposed higher tariffs on Chinese-made solar panels, Bustillo says the cost is still affordable. Plus, he says, he needs to use American-made products anyway because of the amount of work he does for people affiliated with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Akers says social media is fueling a lot of the interest in residential solar energy systems. “Social media is really driving the interest of solar because people are seeing other people getting solar on their homes,” he says.

It’s not just solar panels installed on top of a home’s roof anymore. Now, solar panels can be installed in a pergola over a patio, a gazebo, a carport or on the ground. “You can put them just about anywhere the sun’s shining,” says Akers.

Unlike solar energy systems in a remote areas, such as on a mountain or on an island in a lake, most solar systems installed in the Dayton region are tied into the electric grid. That means when a home’s solar panels are generating more electricity than the homeowners are using—such as a bright day while everyone is at work—the electric meter can actually go backward, says Bustillo.

Tying the solar system to the electric grid makes sense because that way no batteries are needed, he says. Batteries are very limited because once they are full no more electricity can be stored in them and because if the sun is shaded behind clouds for a week the batteries may run out of electricity, says Bustillo. Typically a generator is used in conjunction with a standalone battery system, he says.

“So, in essence, instead of using batteries in the house we’re using the grid for our storage system for our electricity,” Bustillo says. “And the grid is far bigger and has far more … and the grid allows you to do a lot more than a simple battery does.”

Residential solar systems are very reliable, he says. “I mean they’re rugged,” Bustillo says. Homeowners don’t have to worry about maintaining the solar system’s components, he says.

In addition, today’s solar energy systems can be monitored remotely via a cellphone application, says Bustillo. The application can tell a homeowner if each module of the system is performing correctly.

If a module is not producing at 100 percent capacity there may be a limb or other obstruction over the panel, he says. “And people like that,” Bustillo says. “People who like the toys like that.” 

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