Go Solar! Homeowner Tips from Better World Betty Founder Teri Kent

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It’s no surprise that Teri Kent, founder of local eco-living resource Better World Betty and C3’s Director of Programs and Communication, is living the smart energy ethos. Her decision to reduce her household’s carbon footprint by going solar was a natural fit. But it wasn’t just a decision based on life values, the dollars and cents had to make sense. She calculates that with the federal tax incentive, she’ll get her return on investment in about seven years.

Installing a solar panel rooftop system is becoming increasingly affordable for homeowners – the price of solar power in Virginia has dropped by more than 50 percent in the last five years alone, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association

Additionally, local and federal tax incentives are also available to homeowners who choose to power their home with the sun, further offsetting the cost of transitioning to solar. The federal income tax credit allows homeowners to deduct up to 30 percent of the total cost of the installation from their taxes. 

Solar energy companies are now also offering compelling loans to homeowners who want to finance the switch, reports Kent. Whether you choose to take out a loan or pay cash up front, “solar power is a tangible investment in your home,” she says. 

And she’s already seeing a return on her investment – her May Dominion Energy bill was only $7! 

With her new system, Kent is now producing either the same energy as before or more than she needs per month, with the excess energy going back into the grid. With the help of a mobile app provided by Signora Solar, the Charlottesville company that installed her rooftop solar panels, Kent can monitor in real-time the number of kilowatts of electricity her home system is producing, as well as how much she is using. The app also calculates her solar power carbon offset in pounds – and translates that number into trees saved.

While Kent knows she will recoup her investment over time, she noticed another financial perk of upgrading to solar. Amidst refinancing her home mortgage, she learned that her appraisal went up significantly. Her home has also since become Pearl-certified, a type of home certification that documents a home’s energy efficiency and performance, and typically increases the value of your home.

Here, Kent offers her top three tips for local homeowners who are interested in reducing their reliance on fossil fuels and switching to solar:

  1. SHOP AROUND. How much will solar energy upgrades cost? Will I see an increase in my home resale value? How much will I save? Many solar companies offer free quotes or consultations. “I would suggest that people have someone come out and run the numbers. It’s a less than 30 minute visit and worth it,” says Kent.
  2. HANG IN THERE. “Be patient, because there are a lot of steps to going solar. They’re not resource-intensive on the homeowner’s part, but rather on the provider, who has to order the panels and go through a process that involves Dominion and City or County inspections,” says Kent. The city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County are SolSmart-designated localities, which, luckily for homeowners, means transitioning to solar is less cumbersome of a process when it comes to zoning, permitting, and inspections.
  3. SHARE THE LOVE. Did you have a positive experience with the transition to solar? Are you already saving money on your electricity bill or seeing your home value increase? Do you enjoy the feeling of having an energy efficient home and reducing your carbon footprint? Tell your neighbors and help them save energy – and money – just like you! “I would say talk it up,” adds Kent. “Maximize the benefits by encouraging other people to go solar too.”
 The Signora Solar mobile app allows Kent to monitor in real-time the number of kW of electricity her home system uses and produces. It also calculates her solar power carbon offset in pounds and translates it into trees saved.

The Signora Solar mobile app allows Kent to monitor in real-time the number of kW of electricity her home system uses and produces. It also calculates her solar power carbon offset in pounds and translates it into trees saved.