Investing in solar energy is a great way to show your commitment to the community and the environment, and save money on your utilities for years to come. But it can be costly at first, and there are so many options! Where do you even start?
At Modernize, we salute small business owners and residents who are trying to take the plunge into greener technology. If you’re thinking of using solar energy to power your home and business, here are some different ideas to consider.
Photovoltaic Solar Cells
This is the system most people think of when you mention solar power. These panels are placed on rooftops to absorb sunlight, which they direct back to an inverter to power your building.
While the sticker price can be steep (think several thousand dollars), the savings on electricity can really stack up. It depends on your location, the size of your system, and whether or not you stay tied to the grid, but the average savings after 20 years are around $20,000!
And keep in mind, you’ll probably qualify for some local, state, and federal tax incentives, too, which can help balance out the startup cost. Incentives vary by location, so you’ll want to do a little research first. For good place to start, check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s savings database.
But if plunking a couple thousand dollars down seems unthinkable right now, you have other options. In some states, commercial business owners can qualify for financing through private energy investment firms. Some even offer zero dollars down plans. And if you’re thinking of installing solar in your home, you could qualify for a bank loan. Or, you can lease-to-own a system with little to no money down. This is a great option if your taxes are already low and you wouldn’t benefit from a tax rebate. As a bonus, when you lease, the company that owns the panels performs all regular maintenance on them throughout the duration of the loan.
Solar Water Heaters
It takes a lot of energy to heat up water. An 80-gallon tank powered off the electric grid can easily cost over $500 to operate annually. Enter solar water heaters.
Solar water heaters are a great choice if you run a business like a salon, restaurant, or bed and breakfast, or if you have a home where dishwashers, clothes washers, and sinks are in high demand.
They work by circulating water through sunlit areas to warm up, then storing the heated water in an insulated tank. When the water is needed, it’s pumped out from the storage tank and into your sink.
It’s estimated that a solar system could save you up to 80 percent on your water heating bills. And, if you live in certain areas, you could be eligible for a rebate from your utility company on your purchase, so there’s a lot to love about these systems.
Radiant Heating and Cooling
You can double up on your energy efficiency and your utility savings by installing a radiant floor heating system to go along with your solar water heater. With radiant floor heating, a network of hot water tubes is installed beneath the floor of your business. The great news is, if you’re already going to purchase a solar water heater, you can use the same tubes carrying heated water. When the tubes heat up, so does your building.
Radiant floor heating can really knock down those utility bills because it’s much more efficient than other systems. It’s a great option if you live in a colder area with higher heating needs. Since heat rises, a traditional vent installed in the ceiling or high on the wall isn’t all that great at keeping the area below it—the area where you and your customers are—hot. Heating from the floor up, however, ensures that the energy is getting used at maximum efficiency, keeping the air warmer where you work and dream.
Most systems allow you to control the system by individual rooms, so if you have areas that you don’t often go in, you can keep these cold to reserve your heat. And in the summertime, you just switch off the heating for all the rooms and let the water heater work on its own.
Purchasing Green Power
If you’ve crunched the numbers and really don’t think you can afford another piece of expensive equipment, another way to go is to purchase green power from your utility company.
This is energy that comes exclusively or at least in part from renewable power sources, like solar, wind, or geothermal energy. You’ll want to check with your local utility company to see if they offer green power as an option, or try switching to an alternative electricity provider.
Going green is all about deciding what’s right for your business’s needs and your home’s budget. But no matter what way you decide to go, it’s one sure way to invest in the earth’s future—and in your own!
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