Going Solar in Tampa
With an average of 244 days of sunshine a year the Tampa Bay area is a prime location for solar electric systems. The costs of almost year-round air conditioning, not to mention heating your pool, can make your energy bills prohibitively expensive. Installing a solar electric system can reduce, and possibly eliminate your monthly energy bill, all while helping you to lead a more sustainable life, decreasing your environmental footprint.
Now is a great time to invest in solar as prices have plummeted 70 % since 1998. The average residential solar system in Florida costs between $15,000-25,000. Factor the price of running your home with fossil-fuel based energy over the next 25 years, and you’ll find that a solar energy system provides a considerable return on your investment.
What are Your Solar Options in Tampa?
While there are lots of ways to integrate solar technology into your home, the three most popular methods in the Tampa/St. Pete area are:
Residential Solar Panels: Rooftop solar systems are the most popular option for homeowners because residential roofs usually have enough space and are well-maintained for maximum energy production. Your roof should be clear and panels should ideally be south facing for best results.
Solar Domestic Hot Water Heating: There’s no better feeling than hopping in a nice hot shower—except knowing that you aren’t paying a single cent to heat up that water! That’s what solar water heating is all about, and it’s why many people are switching to using solar heating instead of a traditional hot water heater.
Solar Pool Heating System
A solar pool heating system usually costs between $3,000 and $4,000 to buy and install. This provides a payback of between 1.5 and 7 years, depending on your local energy costs. Solar pool heating systems also typically last longer than gas and heat pump pool heaters. By installing a solar pool heating system, you can significantly reduce pool water heating costs, while extending your swimming season year round.
Rebates and Incentives for Floridians
You can receive a federal tax credit for your solar system–up to 30% of the cost of your system with no maximum. Existing homes and new construction qualify for the credit, as well as principal residences and secondary homes. Rental properties are not eligible for the credit. These credits expire on December 31, 2016. Credits are available for both solar panels and solar water heaters.
An additional incentive is that solar energy systems have been exempt from Florida’s sales and use tax since July 1, 1997. Additionally, Florida excludes the value of a solar electric system (includes solar water heaters) from your annual property taxes. So if you install a solar electric system on your home and your property value goes up as a result, you will not have to pay increased property taxes as a result of the increase in value from the solar system. That said, it is always wise to consult with a tax professional or an attorney with respect to any commercial or rental properties to which you add a solar energy system.
How Do Solar Panels Stand Up to Hurricane Season?
Solar panels can actually provide an additional level of protection to your home during a storm. Additionally, if there’s ever a problem with the roof that needs to be repaired, panels can easily be removed. Most solar panels are not attached directly to the roof itself, but rather to a mounted railing system. Installers add sealants to fill in any gaps and often the mounts are surrounded by metal flashing, or coverings that act as an extra barrier from the elements.
Do I Need to Get My Solar Energy System Approved by My Homeowner’s Association?
Yes, and no. Your right to install a solar energy system is protected by The Florida Solar Rights Act. This Act forbids any entity—including your homeowner associations (HOA)—from prohibiting the installation of solar or other renewable energy devices on your home or business. That said, your HOA is not completely without rights. Many HOA’s require consultation prior to your system being installed, and may enforce some restrictions around how the system is installed. Any restrictions must be reasonable and applied in a uniform manner for all association members. Also, any restrictions must not have the effect of impairing the performance (i.e. placing panels under trees or on a portion of the roof that doesn’t receive direct sunlight) or increasing the cost of your solar energy system.