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How Much Can You Save By Switching to Solar Power?

Solar Energy - Not Just for Pools and Spas Anymore

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It is quite common to find homeowners using solar energy to heat pools and spas. With energy prices continuing to rise, more an more are turning to solar power to heat their home's water and even provide electricity. Business too are following the trend to save money on electrical costs with solar energy.

Findsolar.com provides a nice calculator for home and business owners to estimate their savings by switching to solar energy, and the best part is the calculator is free!

Selecting your State

Currently, the findsolar calculator is only available for people living in the United States and its territories. There is a disclaimer on the bottom of the page stating that they Do not yet cover Canada and its provinces[/] which leads me to believe that there are plans in the near future to provide service to these areas.

The site starts out by explaining that their solar energy estimator is meant only to give an idea of price, savings and system size recommended for the individual home and business. The results are actually a calculation and prediction based on data entered by the user. The basic survey can be tweaked in any variety of ways once the results are given to gain an excellent comparison.

To start, the user simply selects his or her state from a drop-down menu on the first page.

Broken Down by County

Delving further into the survey, the second page asks the user to select the county where the home or business is located. Not sure what county you are in? They even provide a link for each state that displays county lines.

After selecting the correct county, the user is taken to the Solar Rating page. Each area of the country is broken down by three categories; OK, Good, and Great. These categories are then broken down into three levels themselves. This rating is based on the {link url=od/energyefficientappliances/g/kilowatt_def.htm]kWh[link] per square miles each day.

Now is where the survey begins to get more specific. The user is now asked to choose their utility supplier from a drop-down list. Next, they are asked if this survey is for a home or business. Finally, the user can choose if they would like a solar system for; electrical, hot water, pool/spa, or space heating/cooling. (It is important to note that as of this writing, October 10, 2006, the space heating/cooling is not yet available with a promise to be operational by mid-2006).

The Results are In - How Much Will Solar Energy Save You

After clicking the Estimate button, the user is taken to a results page. This page can again be adjusted based on user preference. For example, if a home user choose to calculate a water heating system, he or she could then change the amount of water used per day, electricity or gas as a power source, and other items like the average cost per kWh[link].

The payoff not only comes in an estimated savings, but in an extremely thorough report demonstrating where these savings occur. Sticking with the water heater example, the user is presented first with the estimated size and cost of the unit. If the local power company offers any solar rebates, that is listed next, followed by any state rebates or tax credits. Next come the federal tax credits allowed for the specified unit. This is followed up by the estimated net cost.

That is not all the report gives though. As one scrolls down the page, they are provided with figures explaining the energy produced over a year, the amount of energy saved, an increase in property value estimate, the first year savings estimate, monthly savings estimate, return on investment percentage, years to break even, and the amount of greenhouse gas saved.

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