(ANGIE'S LIST) - If you're looking to save money on your home energy expenses, it may be time to go solar. Lower up-front costs and technological advances have made a home solar panel system a realistic option for the average homeowner. A federal tax credit is also about to expire, so the time to act is now.
"If you have been thinking about solar panels, now is a good time to go ahead and install them because there is a federal tax credit in place right now for 30% back on the entire project installation if it's done by December 31 of 2016," Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks said.
Financial incentives helped solar energy projects surge to record levels in 2014. This includes a 51 percent increase in residential systems. The cost of the panels themselves has decreased by 80% in recent years and that's also driving the demand.
According to energy experts, your return on investment can now be accomplished in as little as seven to ten years. Most systems are installed on rooftops, but the panels can also be placed on pergolas, gazebos or even on the ground. Regardless where they're installed, they provide clean energy and are virtually maintenance-free.
Energy solutions expert Jeff Cole says most systems now come with online monitoring.
"The homeowner can get online from any computer in the world and see what their system's producing, and based on a sunny day, this homeowner would expect to get online and see that their system is producing close to 100 percent," Cole said.
Before installing any system, make sure you're in compliance with city ordinances and your home owner association rules. Hicks also says some panels are more efficient than others, so research the differences to understand which ones are best for your home. Finally, make sure you don't forget to have the system installed by the end of next year to receive the tax credit.
For more information on solar panels and renewable energy:
U.S. Dept. of Energy
1000 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20585
Solar Energy Industries Association
505 9th Street NW, Su. 800
Washington, DC 20004