Most people are aware that solar panels can produce electricity for homes, but there is still a great deal of confusion about how it works.
There is also a lack of education regarding the tremendous government incentives which are now available to homeowners.
When solar panels are installed on a home, you are not "off the grid." Your home is still connected to the power company; you are just drawing less power from the grid and replacing the conventional electricity with power produced at home.
Think of it as a system of debits and credits. On a bright sunny day, the system produces at peak power, so less comes from the power company. At night, your consumption swings back to total consumption from the grid.
The PV panels, Photovoltaic, are very dependable. With no moving parts to wear out, most panels are warranted by the manufacturers for 25 years.
You can dramatically reduce the cost of the system by taking advantage of government incentives. With the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), consumers can receive 30% of the cost of the solar project as a tax credit.
The New York State Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Rebate allows consumers to receive a rebate of up to $8,750 per household. The program offers $1.75 per watt for systems up to 5kW. NY Energy Star homes qualify for an additional $.50 per watt rebate.
Homes producing solar power require a special electric meter that turns backwards. You can actually watch your meter earning credit for any surplus power produced.
Homeowners should be aware that many of the government programs are offered on a first come first serve basis, so if you are considering going Green, now is the time.
If you are a Scarsdale homeowner, you or your contractor will need to have your solar layout approved by the Board of Architectural Review prior to the town issuing a permit.
How easy is it to get Solar Panels approved by the Scarsdale Board of Architectural Review?
Let's not forget, just three years ago, the owners of 22 Harvest Drive were rejected from installing their solar panels.
Neighbors were in an uproar over the possibility, and a signed petition had over a dozen signatures stating, "that it was not in keeping with the character of the neighborhood and would negatively impact the aesthetics of the community."
In reaction, a petition was set up by the owners of the property, and they successfully received 123 signatures by supporters. After months of fighting, and almost $20,000 in delayed construction costs and legal fees to appeal the BAR's decision, the Harvest Drive owners finally received an approval for installation, the first homeowners in Scarsdale to gain approval for solar panels.
Most recently, more homeowners have made the decision to install solar panels as well. Although this is not wide-spread, the difficulty encountered by the Harvest Drive owners has led to clearer directions for new applicants- solar panels need to match the aesthetics of the home, and not be too visible from other homes or streets.
Rose Marinaccio is the Office Manager of Engel & Voelkers, and a Scarsdale resident. She can be reached at 914-723-5555 or Rose.Marinaccio@engelvoelkers.com.
Steve Goldstein is a Licensed Salesperson with Engel and Voelkers, Scarsdale. He is also a consultant to Sunergy Power, a leading developer of solar power projects on the East Coast.