Attention, Falls Church residents! This program is not too good to be true. And it ends June 30.
It’s Solarize NoVA, the energy program, with a free energy audit, a solar site evaluation, and discounts up to 20 percent.
Plus, if a system is up and running by the end of next year, homeowners can claim a federal tax credit of 30 percent.
And then, there’s the competition with Vienna.
In an energy race, Falls Church Mayor David Tarter and Vienna’s Laurie DiRocco are competing for the most homeowners to sign up for a check-up before June 30. The losing mayor has to take the winner to dinner.
The latest count shows Falls Church running behind Vienna, 96 to 133 since the program launched on Earth Day, April 22 this year, said Angela Hopgood, outreach coordinator for the Local Energy Alliance Program.
She calls Falls Church’s 96 “a really great number,” but Vienna “is hitting the ball out of the park.”
The goal for Falls Church is 300. “We are always hopeful,” Hopgood said.
It’s easy to sign up on the website, solarizenova.org, and read all about Solarize which lists approved, area vetted contractors who offer discounts.
No Falls Church contractors applied for the program, perhaps, Hopgood theorized, because the approval process is long and exhaustive.
The free 90-minute home energy inspection is the first step, and it alone can save homeowners $70, said Robert W. Lazaro, Jr., the director of regional energy planning for the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, a partner with Hopgood and Local Energy Alliance Program.
One Falls Church resident who has already had her energy inspection is Nancy Hartman who lives off Arlington Boulevard.
The energy auditor spent a lot of time at her house studying and giving her tips on insulation.
“He looked in the crawl spaces, the attic, around the house, [studying] how it was insulated.”
He evaluated the condition of the roof, and gave Hartman a verbal estimate on the costs to “go solar.”
(For goodwill, he brought her a power strip and light bulbs, too.)
Hopgood said Admirals Bank has penalty-free and interest-free solar loans for up to 18 months.
Average Falls Church solarize prices run between $12,000 and $30,000, before the federal tax credit, Hopgood said (the website has financing examples), and three “models” are available, from a Ford to a BMW model, buyer’s choice.
The work is warranted, and Dominion Power comes out to inspect the contractor’s work.
Lazaro had solar panels installed at his house in Loudoun County last December and his electrical bill for April was zero.
He expects the same for May.
(Last year the Lazaros’ utility bill ran about $45 for April and $80 for May.)
The Lazaros used fewer kilowatt hours than their new solar panels produced, credits which “roll over” to the next months.
Lazaro expects a “balance due” on his Dominion Power account once his home’s air conditioning starts to hum.
It’s true that Falls Church’s plentiful trees can present solar barriers requiring satellite rooftop evaluations, but “we don’t want people cutting down trees,” Hopgood said.
But aren’t those solar panels eyesores anyway?
On Lazaro’s house, their appearance is absorbed by the roof. And Lazaro said, “My neighbor loves it.”
Hopgood said solar panels are “not as bulky or distracting” as they used to be.
“They don’t attract attention,” and a solar system can lead to faster real estate sales since solar increases a home’s value. Jeff Wu, who sells homes in Falls Church, agreed:
“Solar panels add value in functionality and return on the energy they bring back, plus it’s a forward thinking green feature that many buyers will find very appealing. I would definitely call it a positive in today’s real estate market.
People want to feel good about their home, and their impact – or lack thereof, on the environment.”
Solar panels on a rooftop are “definitely a way to show your participation” in environmentally friendly practices, Hopgood said.
Going solar is “green, environmentally and financially,” echoed Lazaro.
Unlike Maryland and the District of Columbia, Virginia has no state subsidies “to sweeten” the deal, Hopgood said.
Nancy Hartman seems about sold on signing the contract for solar.
The contractor gave her a verbal estimate. She’s just waiting on paperwork.
After signing, the lead time is about six weeks, but installation is expected to only take one to two days, she said.