Solar switch may save you green but there are questions you should be asking first

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - With the hottest months still ahead of us, many people may be dreading high cost energy bills and looking to alternative energy options.

If you think solar power is an option there are some questions you should be asking before you go ahead and purchase that pricey option for your home or business.

"You need to make sure the person installing your panels are certified," said Chris Shearburn, owner of Southern Solar Systems, a Huntsville company that has been installing systems for the past seven years.

Shearburn echoed other suggestions the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama has for consumers.

BBB offers the following tips when investing in solar energy:

Discuss with your energy company.  Due to the high costs associated with the initial investment of solar power, it is important to conduct a self energy audit to determine if solar energy is right for you. Usually, if your monthly bill is less than $100, consider other ways to save energy that cost less.

Solar energy requires the sun. Keep in mind that solar energy requires the sun, so find out on average how many sunny days your home sees annually. As with every product or service, comparison shop with several businesses to make sure you are getting the best deal.

Inquire about tax credits.  Find out the amount of tax credits you will receive for the amount of energy that is generated. Ask about the length of time you will receive tax credits and if you will be taxed on the credits.

Settle the details. Be cautious of installers that promise no out-of-pocket costs prior to reviewing your specific situation. Be wary if an installer suggests obtaining credit for the full amount of the system even though they are promising very low or no costs due to rebates. Ask what will happen if the business promises a certain percentage of savings from your utility bill and the amount of savings is not achieved.

And finally, make sure the roof of your home is equipped to sustain a solar panel system. Even though a properly installed solar system will not damage your roof, make sure your roof is in good condition before you begin the installation to avoid any future problems.

In Alabama state rebates are not available right now but there is a federal 30 percent tax credit and a depreciation tax credit available if you choose to go solar.


Geothermal Power Options

Shearburn says many consumers are looking at green energy options that combine solar and geothermal to help them save money.

If you are swapping from a traditional heating and cooling system to a geothermal system, the savings that you'll experience are hard to hide.  Shearburn says for every unit of power that the system uses, you get back 3 to 4 times that much output. Traditional systems normally see an efficiency of around 0.7 to 0.9. This means that for a usual fossil fuel furnace, you're without a doubt losing out on the power you're spending.




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