Solar panels, slowly but surely, are becoming part of every day life.  They slap those babies on everything: lanterns, phone cases, tables, pools, fans, hats, pants, etc., etc.  Literally anything that will take a solar panel, they give them one.  It might be a weird fashion trend and I don’t see people switching to solar powered pants anytime soon, but it just shows the motion towards solar energy.  What should really be focused on is harnessing that solar energy to power the much larger things in our life.

Sono motors, a German start-up, is crowdfunding to create a self-charging car.  It has integrated photovoltaic solar panels into the design of the vehicle, which allows the car to charge up to 18 miles a day just by sitting in the sun.  It allows for the traditional form of charging as well, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Ford has also created a concept hybrid vehicle, the C-MAX Solar Energi concept.  It’s a hybrid car with integrated solar panels, which would then potentially be able to charge the lithium battery without the traditional plug in.  As of now, both cars are just a concept, so we have to wait a bit longer till we can hop into a car powered by the sun, but what isn’t out of arms reach is solar panels for our house.

Home Solar Photovoltaic System

First, let’s define photovoltaic (PV).   It is a method of converting solar energy into direct current electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit the photovoltaic effect, a phenomenon commonly studied in physics, photochemistry and electrochemistry.  Did that clear things up?  Simply put: It uses solar panels made of solar cells to supply usable solar energy.   Obviously, the definition can be way more drawn out and explained more thoroughly, but for what we’re talking about, we just need the very basic definition.  So these solar panels allow us to basically absorb the sun’s energy and use it to power our homes.  Pretty cool.  It’s easier on our wallets and easier on our environment.  It’s too bad it’s so expensive to install…or is it?

CaliforniaFIRST is a program that works with homeowners of all kinds to help them get financing for energy efficient home improvements.  What exactly does that include?  Well in short, it includes energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water-saving upgrades.  For the full list of improvements they’ll help fund, click here.  So there’s help with the upfront costs, but installing them can also benefit you when tax season comes around.

Federal Investment Tax Credit (FIT) : this is the amount you’re allowed to deduct for your taxes, which reflects an amount you reinvest in yourself.  That means, you get a tax break for spending money on yourself, cool right?  Right now is the time to take advantage of this because the tax is 30%, and will remain that high until 2019.  Then it will gradually decrease until it gets to 10%.  So say if you spend $12,000 on solar panels, you’ll get a $3,600 tax reduction, but if you wait too long, you’ll only get a third of that return.  But remember, that initial $12,000 is being funded by the CaliforniaFIRST Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, so you’re seeing no out of pocket costs AND at $3,600 tax break.


With benefits like that, I’m sure you’re wondering how you can take part in this awesome program.  Let me give you some more details and then you can check your eligibility.  So basically, they fund your energy/water efficient project by loaning you the money and then they add the loan to your property tax.  They’ll finance up to 15% of the property value and you can choose to pay it back in a 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 year agreement, depending on what you’re comfortable with.  They allow you to transfer the payment to the new homeowner if you choose to sell the house (but let’s face it, if you’ve just installed new solar panels, do you really want to sell it?! :P).  And this financing option will in no way effect your credit.

To be a part of this program, check your eligibility by clicking here, and then contact a CaliforniaFIRST registered contractor.