Latest articles by The Solar Nerd

Keep up to date on industry news and articles relevant to green living and the solar homeowner.

How much do solar panels for your home cost in 2019?
When you buy a home solar photovoltaic system, these are the factors that make up the price that you pay: Hardware costs, which includes panels, inverters, racking, and wiring; Labor; Soft costs, which includes system design, permitting, and customer acquisition costs (marketing and sales); Sales taxes; Incentives (federal, state, and local) These factors vary from state-to-state, and even cities in the same state can have different prices due to local incentives.
Example of a smart thermostat made by Nest.
How to get rebates on a smart thermostat (or even a free one)
Did you know that many utility companies give sizable rebates when you purchase a Nest, Ecobee, or other smart thermostat? In fact, you can sometimes get one completely free. They do this because smart thermostats help reduce energy loads, and dealing with peak power demands is one of the most difficult challenges for a utility. Reducing demand through improved efficiency is the easiest and most economical way to deal with this challenge, and it can help the utilities delay or avoid costly infrastructure upgrades.
This 3d map shows you what 1.4 million solar installations looks like
You’ve heard about the revolution in solar, how plummeting prices means that so many people are now choosing to put solar panels on their homes and generate their own green electricity. But what does that really look like? Well, it looks like our map! Using data from the Open PV project at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, we plotted a three-dimensional map that shows the number of residential solar installations down to the zip code level.
Picture of an Arizona landscape.
Arizona solar incentives and net metering, 2019
In 2016, the Arizona Corporation Commission (the public utility commission for the state) voted to end net metering. What this means for the solar owner is that new systems that are added to the grid will be reimbursed at a wholesale rate for any excess electricity they send into the grid. The upshot of this is that if you consume less energy than your panels produce during the day, and draw power from the grid during the evening, solar will be less financially advantageous for you.
A sunny picture of the Golden Gate Bridge in California.
California solar incentives and net metering, 2019
Is net metering available in California? It depends on your utility. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requires the three private (investor-owned) utilities in Calfornia to offer net metering: San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), and Southern California Edison (SCE). This rule by CPUC does not apply to municipal utilities in the state. However, the largest municipal utility in the state, the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP), does offer net metering to its customers.
Illustration of money and taxes
Solar Investment Tax Credit: everything you need to know (2021 update)
Big news! The federal tax credit for homeowners and businesses that install solar, which was previously set to expire, has been extended for two years. Disclaimer: I'm a solar nerd, not a tax nerd. Please consult a tax professional for authoritative advice on this issue. This tax credit, often called the Solar Investment Tax Credit, gives homeowners and businesses a break on their federal taxes worth 26% of the gross price of a solar photovoltaic system.
Image of a question mark on a blackboard.
Frequently Asked Questions about Solar
General considerationsTechnicalEnvironment General considerations Should I go solar? Maybe. We’re big fans of solar (obviously) but that doesn’t mean it’s right for everybody. While there are options such as community solar that allow potentially anyone to benefit, you’re more likely to see a financial return on investment if some or all of the following criteria apply to you: You own your home, and plan to live in it for at least as long as your calculated payback period.