Free Solar Panels in NY: Do You Qualify?

Solar energy is an enticing concept for anyone wanting to save on their utility bills and do their part for the environment. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners across the US have switched to solar, and you can join them.

Perhaps the biggest reason you haven’t gone solar yet is because the upfront cost is too restrictive. But have you heard about the chance to get free solar panels in NY?

While truly free panels aren’t necessarily attainable, you can qualify for rebates, tax credits and incentives to slash upfront costs. Then you can look into opportunities to keep operating costs down and shorten the payback period. Financing is even available to let you get started with $0 down!

Keep Upfront Costs Down

The first trick to achieving nearly free solar panels in NY is to bring down the initial investment cost. Here are four powerful ways to do just that.

New York Solar Power Rebates

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has a goal to support the installation of 3.175 gigawatts (GW) of solar panels by 2023. To encourage this, the NYSERDA is providing lucrative cash incentives to approved solar installations in the amount of $700 per kilowatt (kW) up to 25kW. For the average residential 5kW solar array, this amounts to $3,500 in rebates.

The available rebates are even higher if you qualify as a low-to-moderate income household. In October 2015, New York passed a rule stating all households that earns up to 80% of the median income for their county qualify for twice the rebates. This means a family of four living in Orange County, New York qualifies for $1,400 per kW if they earn $69,360 or less.

Find out if you qualify for twice the rebates by visiting the New York State website.

Keep in mind that these rebate amounts will fall as the 2023 program expiration date approaches. In fact, rebates are expected to decline sometime in 2016, so the sooner you act, the more rebates you will enjoy.

Federal Tax Credit

In an attempt to encourage more homeowners to install solar panels, the US government is currently offering a tax credit for 30% of the purchase and installation cost with no upper limit. This amount is calculated after any rebates you qualify for are applied. Remember, tax credits aren’t exactly free money, but they reduce the amount you owe in income taxes, increasing your tax return next April.

It’s easy to apply for these federal tax credits. Both existing and new homes, principle residences and vacation homes qualify. The solar array must also remain grid-tied to qualify. Rental properties do not qualify.

If you want to take advantage of the federal tax credit, act fast. It’s due to expire in December 2016, and unless the deadline is extended, you won’t be able to cash in on this lucrative credit if your solar panels are installed after that date.

New York State Tax Credit

By living in New York, you qualify for another tax credit from the state. This one amounts in 25% of the purchase and installation cost with a $5,000 maximum. As with federal tax credits, this credit is applied after subtracting any rebates you qualify for from the total cost.

This tax credit is directed toward single and multi-family installations. Systems up to 25kW qualify, though most residential solar arrays are much smaller. Your array must remain grid-tied and net metered to qualify. Currently, the New York State tax credit has no expiration date.

Sales Tax Exemption

Since 2005, New York State has exempted solar panel purchasers from paying sales tax. This may not seem significant, but consider that many other states only offer a partial exemption or no exemption at all. This helps to further keep upfront costs down so you can achieve nearly free solar panels in NY.

Keep Upfront Costs Down

Lowering upfront costs is important, but to speed up the payback period, you also need to decrease costs associated with owning solar panels over the next several years. Here are two great opportunities to keep operating costs down.

Net Metering

This billing arrangement ensures you are reimbursed for any excess energy your solar array generates. In essence, you get the chance to sell extra electricity back to the utility company at the same rate you’re charged to use it.

In some states, you can choose to receive credit for this electricity on your next month’s utility bill.  In New York, excess electricity generation is reconciled once per year. Thanks to a recent policy update, you get to choose when this reconciliation takes place. This way, you can ask for the payout to occur in the summer when retail electricity rates are higher.

Property Tax Exemption

If you install solar panels or make another energy-conservation improvement to your home, New York State promises not to punish your upgrade with higher property taxes. This is a tremendous money saver over the next 15 years, which is how long the tax exemption lasts.

It’s estimated that a 5kW solar array increases property value by more than $20,000. Under normal circumstances, this kind of increase would raise your property taxes. But with this exemption, you can enjoy the benefits of higher property value without paying the associated taxes.

Finance Your Solar Loan

Even with rebates, tax credits, tax exemptions and net metering, there still isn’t such thing as free solar panels in NY. If you want to get started with truly $0 down, you need to finance your purchase. Here are two options to consider.

Solar Leasing

There’s nothing more satisfying than the chance to start saving with solar while putting no money down. Plus, with a solar lease, you barely have to lift a finger. Your home acts simply as a solar power plant, but the installation company retains ownership. This means you hand over all repair and maintenance needs to the company, all the while enjoying lower utility rates and benefiting the environment.

It may sound too good to be true, but this is the way many New York residents have been able to afford solar. Here’s how it works:

  • Sign a lease, which usually lasts 20 years.
  • Have solar panels installed with $0 down.
  • Pay a fixed monthly rate to use the power generated by your solar panels. These rates remain consistent and predictable, no matter how electricity production and energy rates fluctuate.

Solar Panel Loan

Another option for practically free solar panels in NY is to take out a loan. Again, you pay $0 down. Plus, since you own the panels, you get to claim tax credits and other incentives to bring the total loan amount down. It works like this:

  • Take out a 5- to 20-year loan with no down payment required.
  • Enjoy full ownership of your solar panels, even with $0 down.
  • Gradually repay your loan and enjoy discounted utility rates at the same time. Pay off your loan faster if you want with no penalty.
  • Enjoy low utility rates for decades to come, long after you make your final loan payment.

To learn more about qualifying for free solar panels in NY, speak with a New York solar company today.

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