Austin isn’t just home to the largest urban bat colony in North America — it also basks in the glow of nearly 300 sunny days a year. For this burnt orange metropolis, solar energy is a burgeoning source of residential power.
There’s a lot to consider before making a purchase, though — especially since you’ll wind up paying over $15,000 for a system. That’s where we come in. Our team spent hours researching financing options, Texas’ incentives, the benefits of solar power, and what to expect in the country’s largest, sunniest state. Keep on reading for all you need to know about going solar.
Freshome’s Top Solar Panel Installers in Austin
Getting a solar energy system isn’t just about throwing shiny new cells on your roof — a new solar setup means additional wiring and strategic panel placement.
The growing market of solar energy companies means that you have plenty of options to choose from — and plenty of details that threaten to overwhelm you in the process. That’s where we come in. With top-notch research on the right companies and the right solar brands, we’ve created your all-in-one resource for the solar lowdown. We made the calls, investigated the options, and determined the three best places you should begin your search for a solar system.
Freedom Solar LLC
Providing what they call a “turnkey” approach, Freedom Solar’s total coverage of your solar needs from consulting to installation all the way through to monitoring (not to mention handling the permit process) makes them one of the bigger solar panel names in Austin. In business since 2007, their clean energy services and top-notch SunPower panels have outfitted quintessential Austin names like Whole Foods and the University of Texas. Freedom Solar’s clean, easy-to-navigate website and A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau instills a healthy dose of confidence in their ability to take the reins on the multi-step switch to solar energy.
Texas Solar Power Company
Since 1995 Texas Solar has been a fixture of the renewable energy sector. One of the longer-running brands that design and install residential solar panels, they’ve earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau and offer a bank of resources on your switch to solar.
What the Revolve Solar website lacks in detailed service specifics, the brand makes up for in emphatic messaging and genuine customer-facing interaction. They clearly delineate what a solar panel installation is going to mean for you financially, logistically and long term offset-wise. Providing the necessities like consultation, design, permit procurement and installation, Revolve Solar radiates a presence and message that seems to shine beyond the personality of their competitors.
Finding the best solar panels in Austin
Shopping for solar panels and a total system that will work for your home shouldn’t be a spur-of-the-moment decision. You want to choose quality panels with a dependable warranty. Go with the cheap kind, and they could very well break. Add a short warranty to that equation and you’re back at square one. Neither option sounds ideal, right? The best bet for maximizing power and panel longevity is to invest in a panel that lives up to the following standards:
Ask your installer about the panels that you’re purchasing, and whether they’re up these essential standards. While the numbers can seem daunting, it’s completely worth it to talk to each company and learn the implications of each system they offer. Here are Freshome’s top recommending brands — you should ask your installer about whether they offer panels from these companies as well.
Solar Power in Austin
Austin’s Solar Policies and Incentives
When it comes to Austin solar incentives, there’s a lot of numbers to take in – which means that the city actually cares about rewarding its residents for going green. To start, Austin Energy offers a $1,100/kW rebate for your panels. This translates to $5,500 back in your pocket for a typical 5 kW system – more than 25% off the cost of a brand-new system. Statewide, Texas homes with solar installed are exempt from property taxes (plus your home value will go up once panels are installed). Plus there’s the 30 percent federal tax credit, known as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The ITC implemented in 2006 to spur the development of solar energy in the United States, and research shows that this credit has contributed to a compound annual growth rate of 76 percent.
Based on the estimated 3.5% future annual rise in cost for electricity prices, you’ll start making a profit on your solar panels after 12 years (and every year after).
What to Expect
In Austin, you can expect two things: 6483 harvestable kWh of sun per year, and a cost of about 13 cents per kW is 13 cents. That’s pretty expensive compared to the rest of the country. In sum, you stand to save hundreds – even thousands – by switching to solar.
How do solar panels work?
It all starts with photovoltaic cells: the cells on solar panels that turn rays into electric energy Often referred to as PV systems in the industry, what sounds like complicated tech-speak can actually be an incredibly simple boon to your energy savings.
So what happens once the sunlight hits? Called “direct current” or DC electricity, it flows to a power inverter, where it’s converted to “alternate current,” or AC electricity. The AC then moves to the breaker box, subsequently powering your lights and home appliances. Whatever leftover energy there is (if any) is either stored by a battery system (if you have one in place) or connected to your city’s utility grid, allowing you to both give and receive energy.
So while it’s a relatively simple concept, with professionals in the area to take the reins for you vis a vis system design and installation, it’s also an incredible source of clean energy that can power your home the way you’re used to, with far less cost and carbon footprint.
Should I go on or off the grid?
Net metering and battery storage are both ways to divert unused solar energy. Net metering takes the energy you don’t use and puts it back on a shared grid (giving you credit towards your overall energy bill), while battery systems store it. In plain terms, the argument for net metering rests on the fact that you, as a homeowner, don’t have to deal with the storage costs of a battery. The regulations associated with net metering and pushback from utility companies, who perceive net metering as a source of revenue loss, make it a slightly more complicated option than battery storage.
Battery storage has indeed improved over the years – in the past, arguments were made that batteries are too costly, are not reliable, and add complications. Technology gains have added myriad options for designing a system with battery storage. You can enable your battery bank on the web to notify you when the battery is full or when they need to be switched out. Some also find the concept of a local storage system to be more reliable than using a shared grid.
The tiered net metering system in Massachusetts stipulates that average residential homes are Class I, meaning any extra solar energy produced and returned to the grid is directly credited to your bill. Different utilities companies have different net metering policies — you’ll want to check in with your panel installer to see what local net metering regulations will apply to your new system.
Does color matter?
Most companies offer panels in a range of options off the black to light-gray scale. The darker panels, as may seem self-explanatory, do the best job of absorbing maximum sunlight. Shinier colors can, in a counter-intuitive move, reflect away the sunlight that you need to power your home.
Will I make a difference?
Whatever company and system you decide to entrust with your newfound energy savings and reduced global footprint, get ready to see the following potential changes in your day-to-day activity and home use.
- Conserve water: more than 16,000 gallons of water annually
- Cut out the middleman: Reduce reliance on foreign and nonrenewable energy sources
- Raise your resale potential: solar systems can increase a home’s resale potential by an average of $5.50 per watt – and certain studies show that homes with solar sell 15% faster than those without.
- Put it in perspective: by installing a solar energy system in your house, you already know you’re reducing your carbon footprint, but how does your new energy usage compare? To the tune of 35,180 pounds less carbon dioxide per year. In order to save the same amount of carbon dioxide, you’d have to plant 88 trees every year.
- Cut the lights: the average 25-year electricity cost of solar is about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour – less than half the cost of your current utility usage.
And it’s all possible because of the sun.
By now you’re fully immersed in some serious solar energy research. So is it right for your home and location? Give our top-rated companies a call and get a quote. They’re ready to built out a price and system that reflects your energy goals.