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Solar Panels for Residential Dwellings I had solar panels installed on my roof in December 2012.

It took one day; the installers arrived around 9 am and finished around 5 pm. Right now, there are great incentives that cover up to 30-80% of the total costs, depending on the size of the energy system and location of the residency. Federal Tax Credit Through 2016, the federal government is offering a direct tax credit for 30% of the total panel costs when filing income taxes. Use form 5695; then enter the credit on line 52 on the 1040 tax form. For many people, employed receiving a regular paycheck, this may mean paying this cost up-front and then waiting for a tax refund after filing taxes in April. For selfemployed people, it can likely mean reducing pre-paid taxes.

Energy Efficient Credits Currently for District of Columbia residents, the District Department of Environment (DDOE) is offering renewable energy incentive program rebates in support of installing a photovoltaic system. Rebates, which can change from one year to the next, are now calculated at $0.50 per watt up to 20,000 watts total. We were able to install 24 panels, covering approximately 51% of my rowhouse roof, going around the skylight, chimney, A/C units and leaving an access path. At 250 watts per panel, total 6,000 watts, this equals a $3,000 rebate. Residents outside of DC will need to check with their local or state governments for similar credits or rebates.

Carbon Off-set Credits Many states offer solar renewable energy credits (SREC) to help off-set carbon dioxides released each year into the atmosphere. Currently DC has a favorable market for SREC credits ranging between 25-30% of total costs, but these credits can vary greatly from state-to-state. Homeowners can pay for these credits up-front and then sell them on the SREC market, or participating installation companies can holdback and sell the credits. Conceivably, homeowners will obtain a better rate by selling their credits, but I opted to have the installation company holdback the credits, thus providing an additional savings of about 29%.

Solar Panel System The total wattage size and number of panels should be calculated based on yearly electricity use, and then sized to be slightly under that total usage as there is no benefit to producing more electricity to send back to the power grid at this time. Standard solar panels, 3x5, range in capacity to produce between 230 and 260 watts per panel. It is ideal to maximize the watts per panel, yet this also increases up-front costs as installation costs are based on a unit price per watt.

Installation Requirements The installation firm provided a complete package that included a plan layout showing panels on the roof, engineering and permits to complete the project. They also submitted the necessary paperwork to Pepco for the new meter and DC for the rebate. On rowhouses, panels generally are installed on small I-beams anchored on top of the owners half of shared walls on either side of the house. Because I have a semi-detached rowhouse, I requested for that side of the anchoring system to be attached to the inside of the parapet wall, thus providing a visual shield from the street. The installers explained and showed to me how they sealed the bolt penetrations into and anchoring boards onto the roof membrane to prevent rain and moisture from entering. Finally, a continuous conduit or homerun cable (or two cables depending on the size of the system), is required from the owners electrical panel to the roof. For existing homes, the solar panel companys electrician often installs this cable on the outside of the house along an exterior inside corner or other less visible location. Obviously, during new construction or renovations, this cable can easily be installed inside the house either by the panel company or by the owners electrician. Final Costs and Benefits Once the solar panel installation is complete, the electric supply company, Pepco, in DC, will change out the standard meter for a reverse and record meter. This allows the electric company to track and record the overflow of electricity produced during the day and off seasons when electric usage may be lower, and then apply the wattage credits towards electricity used at night and during peak usage seasons and times. In the first month of record and reverse electricity, my electric bill dropped dramatically from the same month in the previous year. Energy Produced Many installation companies are able to provide a monthly report listing the energy produced each month (with carbon offsets), thus allowing the homeowner to track and compare the energy produced against energy used in previous months as shown on the back of the monthly electric bills. In the DC area, the lowest solar panel output occurs in December with a bell curve producing as much as 3xs that energy in June and July. Installation Company I am very happy with the company that installed my solar panel system. They helped me with each step along with way and with minor follow-up issues such as tracking when Pepco changed out my meter. Below is their contact information. Solar Solution 4700 14th Street, NW Washington, DC 20011 Contact Robert Valette 202-674-0514 c