Data collected by Statistic Brain tells us that 8.2 million quads of solar energy hit the earth every year, yet only 400 of these quads are used globally during the same timeframe. What’s even more astonishing is that this minuscule amount of solar energy used is still enough to save 75 million barrels of oil and 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
In addition to offering these types of resource-saving benefits to Mother Earth, many penny-pinching households are deciding to enjoy the cost savings related to running household appliances using solar versus electricity. If you’re contemplating doing the same and you live in the great state of Florida, here’s everything you need to know to help you get started.
The Power of the Sun in Various Florida Regions
The Solar Foundation reports that, as of 2016, Florida was one of the top five states when it comes to solar jobs, highlighting the growing number of people in this particular sector of the United States deciding to use this form of energy. In fact, Florida ranks number eleven when compared to the other states in the area of “solar market attractiveness” says the Florida Energy Systems Consortium. However, some geographical areas in this state offer more solar power than others.
For instance, according to Sperling’s Best Places, a website dedicated to providing valuable information on locations across the U.S.—such as cost of living, crime rates, house prices, and more—if you live in the Orlando area, you’ll see approximately 233 sunny days per year. Live in Miami, about 240 miles south of Orlando, and that number increases to 248 days. Go north 141 miles instead, to the Jacksonville area, and your sunny days will lessen slightly to 221, providing a little less solar power than some of the locations to the south.
While these numbers aren’t guaranteed, it’s fair to assume that the more southern cities in Florida, on average, will see more sunny days than the ones to the north. Don’t feel bad if you live in northern Florida though because it could be worse. If your home was in Detroit, Michigan, for instance, your sunny days would reduce to only 183 per year, which is a lot less.
Average Savings When Using Solar Energy in Florida
One of the major benefits of using solar energy in your Florida home—regardless of the exact number of days of sun—is that making this switch can ultimately put money in your pocket each and every month.
Admittedly, it may not feel that way at first when you’re paying money to install your solar energy system, but Energy.gov reports that the systems themselves have dropped in price by half since about 2010, with the panels costing 60 percent less than when offered less than a decade ago. So, that’s a positive trend.
But the monthly savings are particularly important to Florida residents as the Florida Energy Systems Consortium notes that the annual electricity expenditures of homes in this region (which they estimate to be roughly $1,900) “are 40% higher than the U.S. average, according to EIA’s Residential Energy Consumption Survey.” So how much of the sun’s power can you harness at your house specifically?
Project Sunroof has partnered with Google Earth imagery, making it easier than ever to know. Simply go to their website, enter your home address, and they’ll tell you how many hours of usable sunlight you have per year, the square footage available for solar panel installation, how much money you can save, recommended solar installation size, and more.
Solar Legislation Affecting Florida Residents
And it isn’t just Florida residents who see the value in solar energy; the legislators have spoken on this issue as well. For instance, House Bill 0193 (CS/HJR 193), which was signed by Officers and filed with the Secretary of State in March of 2016, added this important section directed toward solar energy users:
“The assessed value of solar devices or renewable energy source devices subject to tangible personal property tax may be exempt from ad valorem taxation, subject to limitations provided by general law.”
Put simply, the government has exempted you from paying state sales and use taxes on certain solar energy products and/or systems if you live within the state of Florida. This can save you some serious cash with the Florida Department of Revenue indicating that the general sales and use tax rate is six percent, with some rates actually being higher than that based on what it is you’re buying.
Solar Rebates for Florida Residents
In addition to a hefty federal tax credit, and to not having to pay sales tax, install a solar energy system in your Florida home and you may just qualify for some rebates too. Here are a few of the ones that may be available depending on which installation company you use as well as your geographical area:
- JEA’s Solar Incentive Program – Convert your electric water heating system to a residential solar water heater and have JEA (located in Jacksonville, Florida) do the work and you may be eligible for a $400 rebate.
- Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) Solar Thermal Rebate Program – Install a solar system on your Orlando-area home and you may qualify for OUC’s $900 rebate. Make sure you read all about their process first though as they do recommend that you get three quotes (preferably from OUC Preferred Contractors), get all of the required permits, and more to actually receive the money.
- Clay Electric Cooperative Energy Smart Rebate Program – Clay Electric (based out of Keystone Heights, Florida) offers a few different rebates, depending on which solar products they install on your behalf. For instance, one is a $0.44 per square foot rebate for solar (window) shade screens which maxes out at $440. Another is a $0.01 per output BTU rebate for solar water heating (with a maximum rebate of $600).
- City of Tallahassee Solar Water Rebate – Live in the City of Tallahassee and buy a solar water heater and you may qualify for a $450 rebate which is applied as a credit on your regular utility bill.
- Beaches Energy Services Rebates – Beaches Energy offers up to $500 back when you install a solar water heater and as much as $100 in rebates if you purchase window film solar screens.
Although it really isn’t a rebate, if you live in or around the Lakeland area and use Lakeland Electric, they do offer some of their customers the option to join their Solar Hot Water Service. This program involves paying a flat fee of $34.95 per month with no up-front or maintenance costs. (One caveat is that your residence must “use average amounts of hot water” to qualify.) So, while you won’t get any money back per se, this type of program could save you money monthly should you use it.
Solar Loan Options for Florida Residences
Sometimes you need some help up-front to update your current energy system and make it solar. If that’s your goal, here are a couple loan options to consider:
- City of Tallahassee Energy-Efficiency Loans – The City of Tallahassee offers residents currently using electric or natural gas “5-percent interest financing for more than 25 energy-efficiency measures,” some of which are solar in nature, providing you savings when financing your new solar appliance or system. As a bonus, some of the solar improvements expand the loan financing options from five to ten years, giving you more time to pay off your balance.
- Clay Electric Cooperative Energy Conservation Loans – Qualify for this loan and you can borrow as much as $7,500 to purchase your solar thermal water or pool heater. They do have some requirements to receive the money though, so be sure to check them out before you apply.
EnergySage provides a fairly comprehensive list of solar energy system financers servicing the Florida area. Simply go to their site, filter by state, and you’re provided options ranging from Admirals Bank to Green Sky Credit to Provident Credit Union, and more.
Solar Energy Companies in Florida
If you’re ready to transition your Florida home (or just some of your appliances) from electric or gas to solar, you also have a couple of options when it comes to companies to use. Here are some of the ones with the highest customer ratings:
Solar Energy Management – Select this solar energy company which touts that it has “impeccable references” and experts in zero energy home design and energy storage solutions, and you can potentially power your home with solar for no money down and/or enjoy low interest financing. Based out of Tampa, their solar energy systems can be mounted on the roof or the ground (if you choose the ground option, they state that they do adhere to Florida hurricane code requirements). Additionally, their 5-step process involves: 1) free consultation, 2) proposal and financing, 3) system design and permits, 4) system installation, and 5) system maintenance and warranty.
Installing in: Tampa, St Petersburg, Clearwater, Gainesville, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Jacksonville, Naples, Brandenton, Ft Myers, Destin Ocala, Orlando, Sarasota, Tampa Bay Area
Superior Solar – This company has an impressive 4.9-star rating on Google. In business since 1984, Superior Solar also shares on their website that they were named “the #1 Solar Contractor in Central Florida by Solar Power World.” They offer solar electric, solar pool heating, and solar hot water services. Contact them and request their free energy audit.
Pure Energy Solar – Although Pure Energy began in Gainesville, they now cover the entire state of Florida, providing services such as a Photovoltaic Feasibility Study (required by some money lenders), a Solar Site Assessment to determine your options, and solar system design, installation, and maintenance as well. They can also help you relocate your solar system if that is your need, or simply help you upgrade if that’s the step you want to take next.
Solar Source – Another highly rated solar energy provider in the state of Florida is Solar Source, a licensed solar contractor headquartered in Largo. Choose them and you can add solar to your house in four different ways: 1) solar electricity, 2) solar water heating, 3) solar pool heating, and 4) solar attic ventilation fans. They can even help you finance your system, offering rates as low as $29 per month for pool systems, $39 per month for water heating, and $89 per month for solar electricity.