Save money and save the planet? It might sound too good to be true, but rest assured that cutting back on your bills and carbon footprint simultaneously is not as crazy as it sounds. Between Federal and state tax deductions, new technology, and decreased energy payments, solar panels are more affordable than they’ve ever been. All you need is 100 square feet of unshaded roof space and the sun’s rays are yours for the taking.
But how do you decide what solar panels are best for your home? And what about the best financing option — spending anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 on a system is a lot to consider. We spent hours poring over the jargon, state and federal laws, numbers, and basic science behind switching to solar so you don’t have to. Keep on reading for Atlanta’s most reliable solar panel installers, the basics of solar technology, and an estimate of how much power you could produce with just 5 panels.
Freshome’s Top 4 Solar Panel Installers in Atlanta
Our team evaluated the solar panel companies local to the greater Atlanta area. For the most comprehensive analysis, we researched and called each company, evaluating them on their customer service experience, along with the thoroughness and breadth of their offerings. We evaluated the professionalism and usability of the website, too, because the last thing you need when diving into the world of solar energy is to get overwhelmed on a company’s homepage.
Solar Energy USA of Atlanta
Solar Energy USA of Atlanta is an accredited Better Business Bureau company with an A+ rating. It services the entire metro-Atlanta area, helping thousands of residents save money of their Georgia Power, Cobb EMC, or Flint Energy bills.
It doesn’t take long to realize this company is all about personalization and education (the website even includes a solar glossary to help acquaint you with the vocabulary of solar energy). It also showcases a great understanding of the varying needs of homeowners by offering partial solar systems for those who don’t have enough unshaded roof space for a full system.
In sum, Solar Energy USA of Atlanta is super passionate about solar energy, easy to talk to over the phone, and equipped with all the best-in-class products to outfit your home to start saving on energy fast.
Southern View Energy
When it comes to solar electric systems, Southern View Energy takes a comprehensive approach tailored to the needs of residents all across north Georgia. Customers receive a custom-built system designed by trained installers — all of whom have obtained NABCEP certifications (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners).
Southern View Energy uses two of our recommended solar panel brands: Kyocera and Canadian Solar. It also specializes in off-grid solar electric systems, solar thermal hot water, building conservation and more. So if you’re interested in taking a solar-powered home to the next level, this is the company for you.
What’s more? Southern View Energy has incredibly nice representatives. We got a call back within 24 hours of our initial inquiry and can vouch for its A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau.
Soenso Solar is a great local option. Launched in Marietta, Georgia over 10 years ago, it’s a full-service installer that has a plethora of stellar Yelp reviews from Chattanooga, TN, Georgia, and everywhere in-between. We like Soenso because they include the added benefit of a web-enabled data-logging system. You can take advantage of this communications tool to record the operating data of your solar photovoltaic (often referred to as PV) system.
One thing to consider: The brands of solar PV systems Sorenso Solar offers aren’t included in our best solar panel list below. It works with Schuco, MAGE, Conergy, Evergreen, and Sharp brand solar PV cells. That’s not a deal-breaker by any means; just be sure to double-check the panels against our three quality standards (a 25-year warranty, 16.5 percent efficiency, and a max wattage greater than 230W).
DaSolar Energy is a national company with a solid comprehension of the industry. If you’re looking for options, it’s one of the strongest contenders on the market. DaSolar offers pretty much everything: monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels, and thin film solar panels.
What does this mean? You can go for pricier and more efficient (monocrystalline), customizable and cheaper (thin film), or somewhere in the middle (polycrystalline). The thin film will also come in a variety of colors, though the efficiency varies based on color.
DaSolar also offers solar panel kits, which are new modular solar panels that you can assemble yourself. DIY solar is a new but growing industry, and if you want to give solar a try but aren’t ready to commit, it’s a good way to go. If that’s not your style, they will send a professional solar panel installer to consult with you about a personalized design for your home.
Finding the best solar panels in Atlanta
Solar panels are a home-improvement investment, just like remodeling your kitchen or refinishing your hardwood floors. That means you shouldn’t settle for cheap panels just because they offer a 25 year warranty. You want to receive the most energy from high-quality panels — replacing your panels is a lot more expensive than shelling out a few extra bucks on your initial purchase. To help you determine the proficiency of a solar panel, we set the standards at a minimum efficiency of 16.5 and minimum max wattage of 230 watts. Below you’ll find Freshome’s top picks for best solar panels in Atlanta.
Solar Power in Atlanta
Atlanta’s Solar Policies and Incentives
There is good news and bad news when it comes to switching to solar power in Atlanta. The good news: you will save money if you install a solar energy system. The bad news? It will take longer to receive your return on investment, and, depending on which financing option you choose, you may pay slightly more per month in the short term.
Everyone in the United States is eligible for the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit, a 30 percent dollar-for-dollar tax reduction in the income tax of the company or person who applies for the credit. A lot of times, the installation company uses this credit to keep their costs low. Other than that, though, Georgia has done very little to incentivize switching to solar power.
The problem lies in Georgia’s lack of a Renewables Portfolio Standard, which requires the state to source a certain percentage of electricity from clean sources. The lack of an RPS means the state just isn’t motivated to promote solar energy use. Fortunately, they did recently pass the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, which gives you options on solar leasing, loans, and power-purchase agreements.
These financing options mean that you can lease your solar panels from the installation company if you don’t want to shell out for a solar system upfront. Because utilities are comparatively cheap in Georgia, your monthly payments will typically be a bit larger than the reduction of your electricity bill. You will save money in the long-term, as your interest rate will typically be lower than the yearly increase in utility cost.
If you can afford it, buying your solar system upfront is the most cost-efficient way to go in the long run. You’ll qualify for the tax credit and be saving on your electricity bill from day one.
What to Expect
Atlanta receives about 1715 harvestable kWh per year, and the average residential price per kW is 11 cents — that’s 2.36 percent lower than the national rate. We made some conservative calculations based on those numbers to see just how much power you might produce in a year, and as you can see, 15 or more panels can earn you a nice chunk of change.
How do solar panels work?
Don’t let scientific-sounding words like “photovoltaic” scare you. Harvesting the sun’s rays for your energy needs is actually a pretty straightforward process. Solar panels are comprised of photovoltaic (solar) cells which collect the sun’s rays and convert them into electricity. The photovoltaic material is typically comprised of either monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, or thin film.
Whatever the material, the sun’s rays cause the electrons within the solar panel cell to escape and create an electrical current. An inverter then converts that direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), which flows into your home’s fuse box. Any surplus of AC power is sent back to the utility company and in turn you receive a fiscal credit which amounts to cheaper electricity bills.
Can solar panels withstand the weather in Atlanta?
Solar panels are about 3 feet by 5 feet with 3.2mm thick tempered solar glass. The glass is designed to withstand hail and high winds. All in all, they should be able to handle any weather Atlanta throws at them. Regardless, don’t forget to ask your homeowner’s insurance provider if it covers solar panels because many companies do include coverage.
What is net metering?
Your solar panels are catching the sun’s rays throughout the day, and you’re not always home to reap the benefits of the surplus of mid-day sun. Net metering allows you to store that surplus energy for use at a later date. Think of it as a solar piggy bank — it allows your meter to spin backwards so you have energy to use when the sun goes down.
How long does the install take?
Installation takes anywhere from three days to two weeks. However, the solar panel installation company will need to get the required permits and approvals from the city of Atlanta before installation — that process can take anywhere from one to three months. Sometimes it’s shorter, but it’s important you know what to expect. Either way, your installation company will walk you through the approval process in full.
Does solar panel color alter their efficiency?
In the past couple of years, solar panel companies have upped their game and now offer panels in a variety of colors. Take note, though, as these aesthetic choices come at a cost — some colored panels are less efficient than others.
Navy are typically made of polycrystalline, while black are made of monocrystalline material. Monocrystalline is more expensive but also more efficient. We recommend asking your solar contractor about whether the added efficiency will be enough to cover the upfront cost of black panels.
How do solar panels benefit the environment?
The impact of solar panels on our environment writ large is huge. Think about it: The sun’s already beating down on us anyway, so we might as well harness it for our own devices. The typical SolarCity solar power system counterbalances 178 tons of carbon dioxide over a 30 years time span. Need a frame of reference? That’s the equivalent of planting 10 football fields with trees. Whoa.
In short: Solar power is a great investment, as long as you can stomach the initial cost. And while the state of Georgia’s tax incentives are lamentably paltry, federal tax credits and reduced energy bills mean you can still save money in the long run. Give your local installers a call to get a quote for your home — they’ll help you find the perfect system for your budget.