The demand for energy in Iowa has steadily increased, requiring more electricity. Coal, wind, and natural gas provide options for many communities in the state. However, more residents are turning to solar energy as their preferred sustainable power source. Iowa’s population increased by 13% between 1960 and 2016. That may sound small until you consider that per-resident energy consumption more than doubled. Residents need affordable options to power their homes and businesses.
The cost of solar energy in Iowa has decreased by 32% over the past five years. The state has invested over $2 million in the industry, with enough solar installed to provide power for 11,581 homes.
The average solar system requires at least 4 hours of peak sunlight to work reliably. Most of Iowa sees an average of 5 peak sun hours, making it an ideal location to collect energy. Des Moines averages around 4.7 peak hours, with over 6 hours during June and July.
While many households still rely on other methods, there is a strong push for solar to move to the forefront across the state. It’s clean, renewable, and provides ways to save on monthly utility bills.
What can you do to maximize the benefits of living with solar energy in Iowa?
- Check for Federal Tax Credit Eligibility – The federal tax credit for solar panels was extended in 2015 to remain at peak value through this year. Residents who install in 2019 can receive a 30% credit for systems that cost over $10,000. That amount will lower to 26% in 2020. It will drop again to 22% in 2021. No tax credit (0%) is planned for residential solar installations in 2022 and after. [UPDATE: Legislation was passed in late 2020 to extend the 26% solar credit, or ITC.] Now is the time to contact an installer if you plan to take advantage of this time-sensitive government program.
- Take Advantage of Net Metering – Net metering is another way solar energy users can save money. Iowa enacted its net metering policy back in 1984, making it one of the first U.S. states to do so. Any excess power your system generates can be fed back into the grid, earning you cash back on your energy bills, applied as a credit over subsequent months.
- Use the Iowa Tax Exemption Benefit – Iowa also offers its residents another opportunity to cut costs with renewable energy. Residents who purchase a solar system for their homes can receive a full sales tax exemption, which is applied immediately when the equipment is purchased.
Alternatively, residents can instead receive a 100% property tax exemption for five years. This can significantly increase your overall savings by switching to solar energy in Iowa.
- Perform an Energy Audit and Follow-up Audits – An energy audit will provide a snapshot of your current consumption. A professional can assess your usage and show you the areas that use the most power. They will also advise you on how to improve your efficiency to lower overall consumption.
An initial audit is beneficial. Consider having future audits conducted to ensure that all recommendations are in place and to identify any changes that might affect your usage. Contact MOXIE to schedule your energy audit.
What else can you do about the cost of energy?
- Use LED Lights Instead of Incandescent Bulbs – Light technology has improved over the years. One of the best options are LED bulbs. This type of lighting consumes the least energy, does not contain mercury, and offers a broad spectrum of color choices. Many LEDs provide up to 50,000 hours of use. That’s 50 times longer than the standard incandescent bulb and 8 to 10 times longer than a CFL. They do not emit radiation and remain cool, which will take some of the strain off your home’s cooling system. LED lights cost more to buy but will help you save money in the long run.
- Turn Devices Off Instead of Using Standby Mode – Many electronic devices and appliances now offer a standby mode. This mode allows the device to remain on while reducing the energy it uses. It may use less than when the device is fully on, but it still consumes power without providing any benefit. Televisions, computers, DVD players, microwaves, and more often have this feature. The average household with 10 standard appliances wastes as much as $90 annually on electricity used in standby mode. The best way to conserve is to turn appliances off completely until you need to use them.
- Run High-Consumption Appliances During the Day – Run your higher consumption appliances like the washing machine, dryer, or dishwasher, during daylight hours. Doing so consumes energy during times when your solar panels are generating significant output. You can also install timers on these devices to ensure that they only run during peak sunlight hours.
- Switch to Energy-Efficient Appliances – Buying new household appliances can be expensive, but it can also be worth it. Older models are less efficient with fewer features. If you are using an old appliance, now is the time to upgrade. Look at the energy guide label on the packaging to see the estimated yearly operating cost and electricity consumption. Don’t forget to compare brands and models to see who offers the best quality, features, and efficiency before investing in a new appliance.
What if the power goes out? Can I get a battery backup off the grid?
Households that want to rely more on solar or plan to go completely off-grid will need a storage method. You can harness the sun’s energy, which is abundant but only during certain times. A battery will allow you to collect and store that energy and use it after dark.
- Install a Lithium Battery to Bank Your Energy – Energy storage will give you more flexibility when relying on solar. The cost of lithium batteries went down by over 40% between 2014 and 2017. A battery will bank excess power so you can use it later.
- Talk to Your Solar Installer About Warranties – Solar panels and battery systems are often sold with warranties. Ask before installation. Most last about a decade but may vary from one manufacturer to the next. A MOXIE expert can provide information on solar panels and their warranties.
Join the Solar Energy in Iowa Movement
The solar movement is growing in Iowa. Sunlight is abundant, and there are many opportunities to cut utility bills and become energy independent. Federal tax credits and state tax benefits are at their peak, making it a great time to invest in residential solar panels.
Get started by contacting MOXIE and telling us about your energy needs. We can assess your property and usage and recommend a solar solution that will power your home for years to come.