Prices for photovoltaic (PV) systems have been dropping steadily, making the investment in residential-sized arrays more appealing than ever. Lower prices and a decision in Congress to extend the federal investment tax credit means that ever larger systems are within reach of more homeowners.
But what about homeowners whose construction budgets strictly limit the size of the PV system they can realistically afford? They are people like James Timmerberg, who is building an all-electric house in Ohio and would like to invest in solar — if it makes economic sense.
Writing in a Q&A post at Green Building Advisor, Timmerberg explains his situation this way: “I’m building an all-electric home. I am currently paying 7.22 cents per kilowatt hour. I’m poor, but could possibly budget $5,000 for solar power, if 30% of that $5,000 is returned to me as a tax credit. Would investing that $5,000 in solar power make sense? (This question is premised on the cost to me, after the tax rebate, being $3,500.)
“Or,” he continues, “would my $5,000 be eaten up by installation costs, and leave me generating enough electricity to operate an LED light fixture? It doesn’t matter what I could do for $15,000 or $20,000. I don’t have that much money to spend on solar power, unless I want to live in a garden shed.”
Should he spend the money on solar? That question is the focus of this Q&A Spotlight.
What you get for $5,000
The cost of a PV system can vary a good deal depending on where you live, as previous studies have found. But for argument’s sake, Stephen Sheehy has picked $3.50 per watt as the cost of a typical system, and Timmerberg won’t be buying much electricity with that.
Sheehy suggests that Timmerberg get in touch with a local installer,…