Ever thought about outfitting your home with solar panels? We’re here to tell you it’s now a viable investment option, thanks to increased incentives and new technology. The initial cost can be daunting (about $20,000 or so), but don’t let that stop you from investigating your options. Financing options are aplenty, and having a solar system instantly puts a little extra cash in your pocket each month thanks to decreased energy bills.
Before you start shopping, you need a good grasp on the basics. That’s where we come in. Keep on reading for a list of our recommended local solar installers, an introduction to the technology, and information about Federal and State incentives. We also have a great example of how much money you could save with as few as 5 to ten panels on your roof.
Freshome’s Top Two Solar Panel Installers in Kansas City
Choosing the right company is just as important as choosing the solar panels themselves. Since you will be potentially doing business with said company for 25 years or more, it’s important to prioritize not only good products, but great customer service as well. That’s why we took the time to carefully scrutinize each cateogry by researching each installer’s website, reaching out for quotes, and finally interviewing a representative over the phone. There were only two companies that stood out to us during our research, but we feel confident that between the two, you’ll get a wonderful experience. Take a look at our detailed breakdowns of both companies below.
Santa Fe Wind and Solar
Santa Fe Wind and Solar has been installing quality solar systems for over 9 years, but their parent company, Santa Fe Air Conditioning, has been in business since 1987. Shortly after emailing the company, its CEO, Duane Wood, gave us a thoughtful, informative response that thoroughly answered all of our questions. Although it took us a few tries to get in contact with a representative to answer some follow-up questions over the phone, once we did, they were eager to provide us with all the information we needed.
Santa Fe Wind and Solar prefers installing Solar World panels (which happens to be our top pick) but also installs panels from LG; it does not offer solar leases or power purchase agreements. While the length of the warranty on the panels will vary by manufacturer and model, the labor done by Santa Fe Wind and Solar is warrantied for 2 years. Projects are expected to be completed in 1 to 4 weeks.
Missouri Sun Solar
One of the largest and fastest growing solar companies in Missouri, Missouri Sun Solar was the quickest to return our phone calls and emails. Though it’s only been in business for 4 years, it has already been named the top solar company in Missouri in 2014 by Solar Power World. When we spoke to their PR and Marketing Director, he provided clear information in a genuine and friendly manner.
A few of the brands of panels that Missouri Sun Solar offers are Jinko, Q Cells, and Canadian Solar (one of our top picks) which are each warrantied by their respective manufacturers. Missouri Sun Solar stands by their work with a 12 year warranty on their installations which happens to be one of the best installation warranties that we’ve encountered. If you want to do business with this company, you will have to get in line as their completion dates for new projects are 90 to 120 days out. They currently only install panels that are purchased by the customer and do not offer solar leases or power purchase agreements.
Finding the best solar panels in Kansas City
We recommend resisting the urge to buy the cheapest solar modules on the market, as that approach usually tends to backfire. Not all solar panels are created equal, so we did a bunch of research into industry standards and found 3 criteria to help you make sure your investment pays off in the long run. We recommend only buying solar panels that have a minimum efficiency of 16.5, a minimum max wattage of 230W, and a 25 year warranty.
Rather than being specifically affiliated with a manufacturer (think buying a new car), most local installers are simply contractors that will install your choice of solar panels. While not every company will install all brands of solar panels, most will have a wide variety to choose from. This may lead to a few headaches as you try to sift through all your options. That’s why we came up with four top brands that we can highly recommend. Ask your local installer if they offer any of these four, and if they don’t, make sure that those they do offer meet our minimum requirements. To read more about our process and a full review of our top pick, Solar World, go here.
Solar Power in Kansas City
What to Expect
While Missouri isn’t doesn’t have the massive amount of energy pouring into it that states like Arizona or Nevada can boast, the Sun still pumps out enough sunlight to make installing solar panels on your home a lucrative investment opportunity. Kansas City receives about 1500 harvestable kWh per year with the average price per kWh at 11 Cents which is about 1 penny below the national average.
Depending on how much energy you use, here’s how much you could save in a year if you were to install solar panels on your home in Kansas City:
Missouri’s Solar Policies and Incentives
The reviews for Missouri’s solar policies and incentives are mixed. Let’s start with the bad news: Several common sense policies that other states have put in place are conspicuously absent. This means that you will still have to pay sales tax on your solar panels and you won’t be receiving any state tax credits for installing a solar system on your home. Another negative is that the rebate program ($500 per kW) offered by Kansas City Power & Light is currently no active.
It’s not all bad news, though, as there are some great policies and incentives that you can take advantage of which make going solar an even better investment. Here are the breakdowns:
Federal Investment Tax Credit
The federal solar Investment Tax Credit (referred to as ITC) is the single greatest incentive that you can take advantage of. It provides a whopping 30 percent tax credit on your federal income tax that you can use over the year you buy the system, as well as the following year if there’s any left. What that means is that if your system costs $20,000 you will be receiving a $6,000 tax credit. The credit if set to expire in 2017 unless it is extended by Congress, so if you are planning on going solar, now is the time.
Property Tax Exemption
Since installing solar panels on your home instantly adds a ton of value to your home, it would really stink to suddenly have a big jump in the amount of property tax that you owe. Thankfully, the state government agrees and has put a property tax exemption policy into place. When calculating the value of your home for property tax purposes, they won’t be taking your solar panel system into account.
Renewable Portfolio Standard
Missouri does have a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) which means that they require power companies to source, in this case, 15 percent of all their power by means of renewable energy. If the power companies don’t meet this requirement, they must pay hefty fines to the state. This motivates them to provide incentives to those installing solar panels on their house. While 15 percent isn’t huge number, there are plenty of states that have no RPS at all, so that puts residents ahead of about half the country in this regard.
Net Metering refers to the group of rules governing how a consumer sells back the excess power they don’t use to the power company. Missouri does a good job of making sure there aren’t too many unnecessary hassles with having a grid-connected system (more about this later). For example, as long as your system is under 10 kWh (5kWh is an average size) you won’t have to pay for extra insurance.
The unfortunate part of this policy is that it only requires the power company to pay you for the electricity you generate at the “avoided cost rate.” That means that even though you pay $.11/kWh, they will only pay you what it costs them to produce that energy at around $.03/kWh. That’s why we recommend you don’t purchase a system that’s going to produce a bunch more electricity than you consume. Your local installer should be able to help you determine the right size of system for you. If you play your cards right, you are still avoiding the high cost of electricity and are saving a ton of money over the next 25 years as the cost of electricity continues to climb.
How do solar panels work?
While many people today generally understand the concept that sunlight can be turned into energy, you may not know exactly how this process works. Thankfully, it’s relatively simple. There are three major parts that come into play: the solar panels themselves, which are made out of photovoltaic cells (“photo” means light and “voltaic” means “electricity”), the inverter which turns the DC into AC that can be used by your home, and the optional batteries that serve as back-ups.
Here’s what happens: the sunlight hits the photovoltaic cells in solar panels which jars loose electrons and creates electrical flow. The electricity flows from the solar panels into the inverter, and from there either into the batteries or into the grid (“grid” is a fancy term that is referring to the “grid” of power lines that inter-connects your neighborhood together with the power company).
Should I go off-grid?
Unless you have a compelling reason (such as location), we recommend staying on-grid. The major reason for this is the cost associated with battery back-ups. When your solar panels aren’t producing power, then the electrical grid will be there. If you purchase a system that will provide the roughly the same amount of power that your home uses, then it will all balance out and you won’t end up owing your power company very much money at all.
If you were to go off-grid, you would need to purchase battery back-ups to provide your home with power when the sun isn’t shining. The cost associated with purchasing enough batteries to run your entire house (things like your freezer and furnace eat up a lot of juice) is prohibitive. One local installer said that, unless you just get a few batteries that will only be running a few light switches, the cost of your system could double. That means that instead of $20,000 you would be paying $40,000. Since it’s likely that you use more power during certain times of the year, you would have to purchase enough solar panels to power your home during whichever season you consume the most amount of power. Those on-grid can depend on the grid during that time and it will all usually balance out. On top of all that, if something were to go wrong with your panels (even if they are covered by warranty), you would be out of luck until they could be fixed or replaced.
What are my financing options?
Here in Missouri you have several great options that can turn your roof into a money maker. Which you choose will depend on whether you are looking for a long term investment or just want to save some money on your electric bill. While if you’ve saved up $15,000 to $20,000 you could just go ahead and buy your system out-right (of course, you will get the biggest profit margin that way), most will have to choose between securing a low-interest loan or going with a lease or PPA (power purchase agreement).
If you are interested in a 25 year investment with no money down that could bring in over $10,000, all you need is around $17,000 of home equity. A HELOC (home equity line of credit) is by far the best way to make the most money out of your solar panels since you can usually secure a HELOC with under 5 percent interest. After getting back your tax credit, your monthly payment will usually only be slightly more expensive than your energy bill savings. Once you pay your system off (usually in 15 years) then all those savings go directly into your bank account.
Don’t have that much equity? Well since Missouri is one of the states that allows solar leases, there are two great options that will save you money on your electric bill without costing you anything. If you go with a solar lease you pay a fixed amount of money each month for the solar panels and equipment, and you get to keep all the power produced. You save money because the amount of electricity that is produced lowers your average yearly bill by more than the cost of your lease over that same year. Of course, the more power your panels produce, the more you save.
A PPA is pretty similar to a solar lease, however in this case, you are simply agreeing to buy all the electricity produced by the panels on your roof at a lower price than you would pay your power company for the same amount of electricity. Either way, you could end up saving around $3,000 over 20 years. And since you won’t actually own the equipment there is much less risk as you don’t have to worry about the costs of maintenance or equipment failure.
What’s the installation process like?
Unless your home requires a specially designed system or custom manufactured equipment, the installation process is relatively quick and easy. After deciding on a local installer and a brand of solar panels, representatives from the company will usually come out to do a design consultation and figure out the exact details. Once those are finalized and you have the final price financed. Your solar company will secure the necessary loans and get to work installing your panels. From start to finish, you can usually expect your brand new solar panel system installed within 3 to 4 weeks.
Does color matter?
The color of your solar panels only affects power output in a small way, but it’s still very important. With all different options out there today, you don’t have to settle for clunky eye-sores that look like they came straight out of the 90’s (unless of course you are into that kind of thing). For instance, companies like Solar World (our top pick), effectively combine sleek, beautiful panels with reliability and efficiency.
Street appeal is very important if not for the simple reason that something that you spend that much money on should always add to the attractiveness of your home, rather than make it stick out like a sore thumb. You also need to consider the possibility that you may need to sell your house at some point, and, while solar panels are a great asset and increase the value of your home, if they don’t look good on your roof, there may be a whole lot of people who decide not to give your home a second look.
Despite a few beneficial state policies that are MIA, Kansas City is still a great place to turn your roof into a solar power-making, money-saving machine. With plenty of sunlight and several great financing options, now is a perfect time to install solar panels on your home. Since the future of the federal ITC is uncertain, don’t wait! Take a look at our top picks for solar panels, and contact one of our recommended local installers listed below.