Friday, July 24, 2009

Solar power options really do exist in Cincinnati

Cincinnati isn't necessarily known as a hotbed of activity for solar power products, but with available tax credits and other incentives, the available options are more attractive than one would think.

After speaking with a number of vendors in the area, I've identified several solar powered products than can be quite cost effective. The list below shows some of the options and incentives available along with some local vendors to contact for more information.

Solar lighting:

This is a "passive solar" option that acts similarly to a skylight, but is far more efficient in limiting the thermal impact on your home. The "light" can even be controlled and diffused where a skylight is more or less an overhead window. (See a Solatube example). When used in an existing home, they can qualify towards the $1500 tax credit for efficiency improvements.

Solar Attic Fans:

I've discussed these previously, but these fans help move air through your attic much in the same way as an electric fan and passive vents. They operate by using a small solar electric panel to power the fan as long as daylight is available and provide the advantage of free operation. While passive venting is also free, it usually doesn't provide enough air movement to keep the attic as cool as it should be.

Solar attic fans can qualify for a 30% renewable energy tax credit and are not subject to the $1500 limit.

Solar water heaters:

These systems can be a little pricey, generally in the $5000 and up range, but eliminate approximately 50% of water heating requirements from other sources according to Energy Star research. These usually have a gas or electric water heater as backup, but can also be coupled with a geothermal system to produce hot water with nearly no additional utility cost.

Along with the 30% renewable energy credit, some vendors have local incentives such a $30 per 1000 BTU rebate through Green Energy Ohio. Overall, the incentives can take almost half off the total system cost.

Solar electric panels:

Solar panels have been around for a long time, and yes, they are still rather cost prohibitive for the typical consumer. Nevertheless, current incentives and tax credits can make this a cost effective option for some homeowners.

A typical home installation in this area is likely to run $22,000 or more and might eliminate about a third to half of your electric bill assuming average use and ability to place panels in an optimal spot. That might not seem like much, but when you add the 30% renewable energy credit plus a local Ohio incentive of a $3 per watt rebate, then you are getting into the territory of the system paying for itself if built into a mortgage.

Some additional benefits with these installations is that you can arrange for a battery backup system that kicks in during an outage, or tying into existing utility and "selling" electricity that you aren't using during the day. Again - not necessarily an option for everyone, but could be worth a look if your home has good southern exposure.

For more information about products and installation, check the websites of these local vendors:

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