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Solar is not free 

The ability to generate your own renewable energy at home is an amazing thing. The concept of free energy from the sun is appealing, but solar power isn’t actually free. 

Installing a residential solar system doesn’t equal $0 energy bills. Prices for the solar system and installation vary, but typically come with a five-figure price tag. Solar systems provide power only when the sun is shining. You still rely on your electric utility for power at night and when the skies are cloudy. Most electric utility rate structures include a set monthly service fee. Unless you plan to disconnect from local electric service completely, you will still have a monthly electric bill. 

If you are considering solar on your home, think about taking these three steps: 

First, make your home as energy efficient as possible. It doesn’t make sense to put a solar system on an energy-wasting home. Recommended efficiency updates before installing solar include insulating and air sealing your home and upgrading to efficient appliances—especially the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. 

Second, check with your electric utility about the requirements to install solar and how it will impact your bill. If you decide to install solar panels, working with your utility will be essential, as you will need to take important steps, such as signing an interconnection agreement to ensure the system is properly connected to the electric grid. 

Third, get at least three quotes to compare each contractor’s recommended system design, equipment and cost. It’s a significant investment, so you want to know your options. 

Investing in solar is one way to support the transition to renewable energy. Before you make the leap, improve your home’s energy efficiency and empower yourself by thoroughly weighing the costs and benefits.

MIRANDA BOUTELLE writes on energy efficiency for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association 

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