Solar energy has been used for thousands of years, from using the heat of the sun to dry clothing, to harnessing the energy of light to grow food. Only recently, have we been able to use this resource to generate power. With new advances in technology, as well as the social movement to “go green,” solar energy systems are now more common than ever in private homes. Additionally, considerable financial incentives and options make owning a solar energy system possible for the average homeowner.

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Although the initial capital to install a solar energy system in the home is high, financing has never been easier. In fact, it is easier to finance the installation of a solar energy system than any other home improvement project. This is largely due to the fact that solar energy has the potential to generate revenue through grants, federal and local tax credits and utility savings. Given these benefits, many financial institutions will approve loans for solar energy systems with highly attractive terms.

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In addition to easy financing, there are many financial incentives associated with owning a solar energy system. For example, the Maryland Energy Administration provides $1000 grants for residential solar installations, many Maryland counties recognize up to a $5000 property tax credit to install solar panels. Federal tax credits are also available, worth 30% of the system cost which delivers a true dollar for dollar credit, it’s not a deduction. When combined, federal, state and local incentives, as well as individual utility bill savings, make the investment in a solar power project very attractive.

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These days, you can buy into solar power much like you own a new car. Solar leasing has helped the residential solar market grow significantly, and has made solar energy more accessible to homeowners who would rather “rent” than own their energy. The problem with solar leasing is that while it may initially save customers money on their electric bill, the long-term cost might actually be higher than the cost of ownership. With a solar lease you cannot capitalize on available grants and incentives because you do not own the solar system. The leasing company assumes most of the benefit and will own the system that you’ll be making payments on for the next 15 - 20 years.

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Owning a solar system can dramatically raise your home’s value and provide additional dividend during resale. If you lease a solar system, you create security interest on your home that a potential home buyer might not want to assume or can’t qualify for the lease assumption. Early termination of the lease agreement can come with hefty penalties or buyouts required to sell your home.

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Overall, solar energy systems provide homeowners a chance to invest in their homes and in their futures. This investment can improve your quality of life by saving you money, and protecting our natural resources so that future generations can continue to thrive. When making your investment in solar, work with your installer carefully to determine the best solution for your home’s current and future energy needs.