Homeowners can either buy or lease solar panels. // Photo: zstock/Shutterstock
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What Las Vegas Homeowners Need to Know About Solar Energy

Las Vegas averages 300 days of sunshine a year, which can make the thought of using solar energy appealing.

Though the average cost of installing solar panels in Las Vegas is $38,000, the long-term power savings can make it an attractive investment, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar panels, which are installed on the roof of your home, have photovoltaic (PV) cells, which harness sunlight and transform it into energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) says. The cells send the energy to an inverter, which converts the energy into electricity to power the home, the lab says.

Because Las Vegas gets more solar radiation than other cities, like Chicago, it makes solar energy much more efficient, says Forbes.com.

Buying or Leasing?

Homeowners can either buy or lease the solar panels, according to Forbes.

If you decide to buy solar panels, you can take advantage of tax credits and rebates, according to CleanEnergyAuthority.com. For example, Nevada homeowners with renewable energy systems receive a property tax exemption of 100 percent of the value of their system, according to the site.

Taxpayers with solar-powered homes receive a 30 percent tax credit until the end of 2016 through the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). In Nevada, homeowners can also take advantage of several rebates and incentive programs, including a tax exemption in the increased value of their solar-powered homes through the Property Tax Abatement, as well as a form of potential income from the Public Utility Commission of Portfolio Energy Credits (PECs). These, along with other available homeowners’ savings, help trim down the average cost of a solar-power investment to $38,000, making it a smart choice for some homeowners.

Homeowners can also check out loan options to help minimize the cost of the system. For instance, the Valley Electric Association in Nevada offers a zero-interest loan with a term limit of nine to 14 years for homeowners utilizing solar water heat.

If you’re not ready to commit to purchasing solar panels, there is another option. Leasing is a way to lower your upfront costs, and the contractor usually pays for repairs and maintenance, Forbes says. The cost is about $100 a month, so you have to figure out how long you plan to stay in the home to decide which option is cheaper, advises the Las Vegas Review-Journal. For instance, a 20-year lease will cost about $34,000, well above the $17,000 needed to buy the panels, Zeb Nagy, of Vegas-based American Patriot Solar, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Installation

Installing a solar-powered system for the home usually takes a few days, according to CleanEnergyAuthority.com. However, total time spent for the entire process, from contract signing to the actual installation, can take up to a few months. It is always best to consult several solar contractors operating in Nevada to address the variety of factors affecting installation. Factors that may affect a project’s lead time in Las Vegas include zoning approval, home location assessment, permit acquisition, and wiring and installation.

For example, in Clark County, zoning approval is required before permits can be submitted for solar power projects, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE).

Backup Power

A homeowner can either go fully “off the grid,” where solar energy becomes the primary source of electricity, or have a “grid-connected system,” where solar energy and regular electric utility are both connected in the home, according to SolarSimplified.com.

Depending on a contractor’s offer, a battery backup for grid-tied systems may allow the home to store solar power for emergency situations, or a generator for both “off” and “on grid” systems may be integrated to work with a solar electric system to serve as energy backup, according to APG Solar, an alternative energy generation provider.

Maintenance

Although manufacturers and installers provide homeowners recommended care instructions for their solar panels, EnergyInformative.org suggests annual cleaning of the solar panels by professionals for proper maintenance. Those professionals can provide price quotes for that service.

Most systems come with a 25- to 30-year warranty, according to Coldwell Banker. As a general guide, a system is expected to lose approximately 1 percent of its power conversion efficiency every year due to wear and tear, Engineering.com reports.

With that said, the overall benefits of having a home with solar panels is worth the investment and is something that homeowners should consider.


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