If you’re considering going solar and you live in or around Flagstaff, Arizona, you’ve come to the right place.
Whether you are wondering about your local utility’s policy, installation costs, or financing, keep reading. We have the answers to all Flagstaff solar installations below!
This post has been developed especially about solar in Flagstaff, AZ, for residents that are served by the electric utility Arizona Public Service (APS). If that doesn’t apply to you, you can still check out the Arizona solar energy state page to learn more about solar in your state.
If you’re looking for a simple yes or no as to whether you should install solar in the Flagstaff area, the answer is definitely ‘yes’, similar to the rest of the state. The sunny weather, cost of electricity, and relatively solar-friendly policies make it no surprise that Arizona has the third-highest installed solar capacity of any state in the US. Read on to find out more!
We’ve all heard how you can save thousands going solar! If you’ve ever contacted a solar company or seen their advertisements, that’s probably what you’ve been told at least.
With all this sales-speak, you’re probably wondering if it’s all really true. And if all of solar’s apparent benefits appeal to you – reducing utility bills, improving home value, and helping the environment – you may still struggle with making the final decision to invest. You just want to be sure that any money you put into solar is a wise investment. Good for you!
To help you out, let’s take a critical eye towards the commonly spouted benefits of solar, both the financial benefits as well as the benefits to the environment and society, and answer that age-old question “Are solar panels really worth it?”
For most people, whether or not it makes sense to install solar is a matter of cost vs savings.
The price of solar has dropped exponentially in the last 10 years. In 2009, installing solar cost $7.06 per watt. How much does it cost now? Well, the National Renewable Energy Lab found that, in 2016, the average cost hovered around $2.93 – a drop of 60%! Wow!
Even with this low cost, the question remains whether installing solar actually makes financial sense.
In all honesty, it depends on your total installation cost, electricity rates, and available financial incentives, especially the availability of net metering.
The federal government, state and local governments, and utilities all offer incentives that drop the price of going solar, allowing you to break even faster and save more money. Be sure to look up your state in our state guides or head over to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency to see what incentives are available in your area.
For each of our state guides we link to above, we work out savings estimates for a medium-sized 5kW installation that takes advantage of all state-wide incentives (like the federal tax credit and any state tax credits available).
To help you get an idea of what kind of savings you can expect from installing solar, here are a few highlights from those guides:
All the states above offer great incentives to homeowners going solar. What about in states without many incentives? Take a look here:
As you can see, for homeowners across the US, solar equals financial savings! (You can read about how we calculated those savings in each of the guides linked to above.)
Energy savings aren’t the only financial benefit to going solar either.
According to a 2015 study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (a research organization funded by the federal government), purchasing and installing solar panels on your home increases the value of your home when you go to sell. Home buyers are willing to spend an extra $4 per watt on average for homes with solar, depending on the age of the solar installation.
At this rate, installing that 5kW installation could, potentially, raise the value of your home by $20,000! The study looked at 22,000 home sales – 4,000 of which had solar installed – in 8 different states from 1999 to 2013. Of course, your specific area and circumstances could vary from the findings of this study, but it bodes well for solar homeowners in general.
Increasing the value of your home probably isn’t first on your mind when you install solar, but it’s certainly a huge glob of icing on the cake!
Now keep in mind, that added value is only for solar installations purchased and owned by the homeowner. According to another study by LBNL of Southern California home sales, solar installations financed through leases and PPAs don’t add any value to a home, though they don’t detract from the value either.
If your time is what you value, you may wonder if solar power is worth the effort to select the panels, talk to installers, and maintain the panels throughout their lifetime. Just sticking to your energy status quo might sound like the easiest route.
You might be in for a pleasant surprise though. With solar booming so much in the last 10 years, solar companies are doing everything they can to differentiate themselves from the pack, and that includes creating streamlined efficient customer experiences.
Most solar companies have the entire process locked-down – from the initial sales visit to installation and city inspections.
If you work with a large company, they’ll typically give you a project manager that helps you along the way and will even fill out all the paperwork for the utility or city on your behalf and simply send it over to you for your signature via email or snail mail.
The whole process is so painless that, for most of the installation, you don’t even need to be home!
Once your system is up and running, monitoring software makes keeping an eye on your installation super easy. Just log online and you can see your energy production trends, energy savings, and whether there are any issues.
A lot of homeowners worry about selling their home after installing solar, and it’s a legitimate concern! Some home buyers are scared of solar installations – particularly if they’re financed through leases or PPAs.
However, most solar companies that offer leases have specific departments dedicated to helping home sales go smoothly. They’ll work with the buyers and realtors to make sure everyone is on the same page and to answer any questions. For the vast majority of home sales, transferring over a lease or PPA agreement goes off with few hitches.
In fact, the LBNL study mentioned above of Southern California homes found that leased solar didn’t negatively affect the home sale at all: the value didn’t decrease and homes weren’t on the market any longer than similar non-solar homes.
Of course, this study was in Southern California, where solar abounds and most people are at least aware that it is a very common investment. If you live in an area without much solar, you’ll likely have a harder time selling your solar home. Hopefully, as it becomes more and more common, solar will be less of a question mark to homebuyers and more of a selling point!
If you purchased your solar outright, selling your home is an easier process, as most homebuyers aren’t as fearful of homeowner-owned systems. You can transfer your loan payments to the new homeowner or simply use the premium the buyers paid for the home to pay off the remaining portion of the loan.
Either way, selling a home with solar just isn’t really a big deal!
Okay, so solar is beneficial from an individual perspective, but what about if we step back and look at society and the environment as a whole? Is solar still valuable?
If you value a healthy environment, then going solar is worth it. Hands down. There’s really no question about it.
Yes, solar manufacturing can get messy sometimes – we’ve all heard the handful of horror stories about accidents spilling hazardous waste into streams or fields. Overall though, solar energy is a much, much cleaner fuel than coal or natural gas (which together account for 2/3 of all electricity generation in the US).
While producing electricity, solar panels produce absolutely zero emissions. Compare this to a typical coal-fired power plant, which puts out an estimated 3.5 million tons of CO2 each year, as well as other air-borne pollutants like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulates, and even mercury.
How much of an impact will you have by installing solar on your own roof? SolarCity estimates that a typical solar roof, over 30 years, offsets the carbon that would come from burning 166,000 pounds of coal or 17,000 gallons of gasoline.
You’re not going to solve global warming by installing solar panels on your home, but there’s strength in numbers. Once millions and millions of homeowners install solar and utilities continue to construct huge solar power plants, we’ll start to see real decreases in emissions.
In fact, we’re already beginning to see this happen, driven mostly by a phenomenon known as the Prius Effect or conspicuous conservation. Like seeing a Prius in your neighborhood and deciding you really need one too, studies find that installing solar on your home influences your neighbors to do the same thing.
In fact, the biggest driver towards the growth of solar in a neighborhood is actually having neighbors that have installed solar. Before you know it, your little choice can make a big impact.
So if the environment is what you value, going solar is worth it.
Solar is great for the environment, but what about the impact of your choice to go solar on the economy?
There’s been a lot of talk in 2017 about resurrecting the dying coal industry, but that industry has been dying for a while. In 1990, the coal industry employed 136,000 people. By 2005, that number had dropped to 72,000. By June 2017, that number had plummeted to just 50,800 people – just a fraction of the total from 30 years ago.
Compare this decline to the solar industry’s insane growth in employment just over the last few years. First off, in 2016 the solar industry employed 260,000 individuals – 2x more than the coal industry in 1990. Now consider that, in just one year (2015-2016), solar employment grew 25%! In fact, solar energy now employs more Americans than coal, oil, and gas combined.
On top of all this, solar is a very hands-on business model. Companies typically need many local people ‘on the ground’ to move projects from start to finish, including installers, project managers, sales staff, and designers.
For many of these positions (save maybe designers), it would be hard to outsource these to remote locations outside the US, meaning your money is going to helping homegrown businesses employing local people. Local job growth in a burgeoning industry? What better way is there to support the economy?
Assessing whether solar is worth it for you is actually pretty straightforward. Obviously, the environmental and social benefits are fairly similar across the board for all homeowners, but the financial benefits change greatly from one home to the next.
To find out whether solar really makes sense for you, you need to create a customized savings estimate. For the most detailed, accurate estimate, you’ll need to talk to a few installers who can measure your roof and figure out exactly how many panels you need.
Before all that though, you can create a basic estimate yourself just to get a rough idea of what to expect. To do this, you’ll need a few basic pieces of information:
Once you have all this information, you’ve got everything you need to calculate your savings! For a detailed description of the process, check out our article How Long Does It Take For Solar Panels To Pay Off? but let’s quickly go over the process here as well:
Now go out and try it yourself!
So in the end, are solar panels worth it? Absolutely yes – as long as it makes financial sense for you! Nobody likes vague answers like this, but it’s the truth. Be sure to calculate your savings and reach out to a few installers to get customized quotes for your own roof.
No matter where you live, try to lower your installation costs as much as possible. Take advantage of all incentives. Look for different financing options. Shop around. One of the best ways to drop your total cost going solar is to simply get multiple quotes! Homeowners who reach out to several installers are typically able to save quite a bit of money, just by giving themselves options!
And don’t just contact the big installers like SolarCity and Sunrun. Oftentimes, local installers are actually about 10% cheaper than the big boys! This can be a great way to drop your overall cost to go solar.
For the vast majority of homeowners, going solar is a great financial investment, just do your homework beforehand!
Making an investment in your home can be a tough decision to make – especially regarding unfamiliar subjects like solar. Homeowners have a lot of questions about the type of panels needed, the quantity, and the installation process. But the most frequent questions we hear are: “Is solar energy expensive”, “Is it worth the money” and “Can I afford it?”.
When you’re shopping for a new home, you probably have a checklist of things to do. First, you walk through the home to see if it fits your lifestyle. Next, you have your real estate agent run comps to make sure it’s a good deal. Lastly, you hire an inspector to check out the house and make sure everything is working well.
Buying a house with solar panels is no different. You need to know if the installation fits your lifestyle (more on that later) and if it makes financial sense for you to purchase, both in the short and long-term.Continue reading
Before the vote was taken at the town meeting, various residents expressed some pretty wild ideas about the mysterious “powers” of solar.
A husband and wife, Jane and Bobby Mann, were the most irrational.
It just won’t work for the solar company, nor for will it work for you as the potential solar customer. Instead of paying less for solar, you could wind up paying even more than you pay now to have to keep renting dirty power by the month from your utility.
But you are the very people who already switched out all the lightbulbs long ago! Surely you deserve dibs on front row seats at our solar future! The irony is that eco-minded electricity misers are the very ones locked out of the solar market. And this is a tremendous market failure, because many of the people who have the lowest electric bills are the best informed and the most enthusiastic about solar.
Now one non-profit organization has found a way to make the sun work for everyone, even those of us in this situation.
You’ve probably noticed that more and more of your neighbors are going solar. It seems like there’s a climate or solar related article in the paper every week. Why?
Net metering, according to Michael J. Sandoval, research associate for the Independence Institute’s Energy Policy Center, is a gift funded by ratepayers that benefits solar companies like SolarCity. But the issue is larger than net metering, and has its roots in the Solar Investment Tax Credit, or ITC, of 2006.
Originally drafted to benefit a wide array of electricity consumers, the 30 percent (investment) tax credit, or ITC, has since become the “sweet spot” for solar firms operating as leaseback entities, for tax equity investors, and for companies who install solar panels using federal, local or regional tax benefits that they can “swap” for additional credit. Originally written to expire at the end of 2008, the ITC – a part of HR6111, passed by the 109th “lame duck” Congress – now “steps down” to 10 percent at the beginning of 2017.Continue reading
Since this is a major home upgrade it doesn’t work well if you don’t own the property (although you can always try to convince your landlord to go solar).
This typically means average to high electricity rates (this is key in terms of system payback time). There are also state-by-state incentives, credits, credit markets, tax bonuses, utility programs, and so on. Don’t be scared off by this, it all gets rolled into the details of a solar estimate and payback time.
Obviously solar panels need sunlight to operate properly, and even a small amount of shade during part of the day can significantly cut power production. The other major factors here can by the type of roof you have (eg Asphalt Shingles vs Spanish tile) and the angle. The type and slant of roof matters for actual installation, eg it may be more difficult for a worker to go about the panel installation on ceramic shingles, which break easily. Roof direction and angle is another huge factor in power output — a south facing roof at an ideal angle will be more suited than something steeper and north facing.
Without going into the details here, the three basic ways to fund home solar are to pay cash, lease the panels (eg lock in lower utility rates but to not own the system), or to get a loan. All three have advantages and disadvantages which your particular circumstances will dictate.
Solar panels will increase the value of your home if or when you decide to sell. It’s important to consider how you’ll pay for the system and what the payback time will be when you consider this. How does adding $5900 per installed kilowatt to your home’s resale value sound?