Resources for Residents and Homeowners Assessing Potential Solar Energy Use
Many homeowners are installing solar photovoltaic systems to reduce their energy costs as well as greenhouse gas emissions. There are many things to consider when installing solar such as life of your existing roof, financing, and energy efficiency. Onsite solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal opportunities should be explored after your home is energy efficient.
Federal Government Resources
- The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has developed a suite of Solar Energy Resources for Consumers to assist residents and homeowners with evaluating the potential for solar energy use at their homes. Highlighted resources include:
- The Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar provides a step-by-step list of questions residents should consider when evaluating the potential for solar energy use at their home. These questions range from “Is my home suitable for solar panels?” to “How do I start the process of going solar?” to “Will I save money by going solar?”
- The Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics provides an overview of the federal investment tax credit for those interested in residential solar photovoltaics, or PV.
- The How to Finance Your Rooftop Solar Energy System article provides information about the different options available on financing a solar energy installation including loans, leases, and power purchase agreements (PPAs).
- The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has also developed a checklist to follow when Planning a Home Solar Electric System. These steps include:
The full checklist with additional information can be found here.
- Investigate your home's energy efficiency
- Assess your solar potential and any limitations
- Assess your options for going solar
- Estimate your solar electricity needs
- Obtain bids and site assessments from contractors
- Understand available financing and incentives
- Work with your installer and utility to install the system and set up agreements
- The Federal Trade Commission has published a guide entitled Solar Power for Your Home that provides information for evaluating different approaches for installing solar
- The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has published a fact sheet for Considering a Solar Photovoltaic System. This fact sheet provides an eight-step guide to assist homeowners when thinking about installing a solar photovoltaic system. Additionally, the PUC renewable energy page has additional information about steps to take to pursue solar energy further.
- For those unable to install a solar energy system at their home or rental unit, PA PowerSwitch, offered by the PA Public Utility Commission, provides options on how to purchase solar-generated electricity through an electricity supplier without having to install solar panels on your home.
- Each electric utility operating in Pennsylvania will have different policies and procedures regarding interconnecting solar energy systems into their transmission and distribution systems. Further information for each electric utility can be found on the following pages:
- The Pennsylvania Solar Center provides an online resource hub as a source of unbiased education and information about solar as well as a qualified solar developer directory, solar project map, and solar jobs board
- Finding Pennsylvania's Solar Future: In 2018, EPO identified an initial objective of increasing to 10% the amount of in-state electricity sales that come from in-state solar energy generation. The goal of Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future was to create a shared vision statewide for the most effective ways Pennsylvania can reach its objective of 10% of in-state electricity sales generated by in-state solar energy.
- Solarize Philly is a discount program to help Philadelphia’s home and business owners go solar. The Philadelphia Energy Authority negotiated discounted pricing with pre-approved installation partners. Solarize Philly also features some consumer protections. The program is only open to residents of Philadelphia.
- In Northeastern Pennsylvania, Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support (SEEDS) conducts regular forums on solar energy and solar PV, gathers volunteers for solar PV installation projects, provides free solar energy assessments to members and serves as an advisor to the community on solar energy.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not maintain a list qualified solar energy installation companies. Solar installers operating in Pennsylvania are considered home improvement contractors and must maintain a certificate of registration issued by the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Consumers can verify a home improvement contractor’s registration status through the Home Improvement Consumer Information website.
Outside organizations have compiled lists of solar installers using their own criteria. Examples of these lists are below:
The following incentives are available to Pennsylvania residents who install solar energy systems at their homes to assist with installation and operational costs:
- Federal Investment Tax Credit: Through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the Federal Investment Tax Credit of 30% for residential solar systems was extended through 2032. The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has published a Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics.
- Renewable Energy Credits: In Pennsylvania, Renewable Energy Credits are administered through the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS). The AEPS website provides information about how to register in the system and the process to sell and transfer credits.
- Net Metering: In Pennsylvania, residential solar photovoltaic systems up to 50kW are eligible for net metering, which allows excess electric generation from the solar system to be sold back into the grid with the customer being credited at the full retail rate. For further information about net metering in Pennsylvania, please refer to Net Metering and Interconnection Rules on the PA PUC AEPS Act Page and consult your individual utility (see links above)
For information about additional opportunities, the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE) provides information on incentives and policies that support renewable energy and energy efficiency throughout the country. DESIRE is managed by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center.
Solar Thermal Heating
Solar thermal energy can be used for hot water and space heating. This can help save money on utility bills by reducing energy used for heating water.