Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ

Tax Credits

Tax Credits

1. Are the solar tax incentives credits to your taxes or an actual tax refund?

The Louisiana residential solar tax incentives are credits to your taxes for the year and are also refunded to you in the form of a check. The tax credit first pays the tax that you owe that year and you receive a refund for the remaining balance of the credit, just as you would if you overpaid. See the Tax Credit page for more information.

2. How much are the tax credits?

State Tax Credits – Since 2008 the state of Louisiana has given a 50% state tax credit on each residential system that is installed.  These are currently capped at a one-time credit $10,000.00 per residence.

Federal Tax Credits – The current federal tax credit is a 30% credit on residential and commercial systems with no cap. It may be taken each year and is set to expire in 2021.

3. When do the tax credits expire?

The current federal tax credit expires at the end of 2021.

There is now a set expiration date for the Louisiana state tax credit of 2017.

4. How do the tax credits combine?

The tax credits combine by taking the state 50% credit (capped at $10,000) and federal credit 30% (no cap) off of the top of the final cost of your system.  You will be responsible for federal taxes on the refunded portion of your state tax credit, as always.

5. Can I buy multiple systems?

Yes. You can buy multiple systems, but you can only receive the 50% state tax credit on the first $20,000 that you purchase.  For example, if your system is $50,000 then you will receive$10,000 from the state and $15,000 tax credit from Federal, for a total of $25,000 off!  You may buy the systems in the same year or separate years and continue to get the 30% Fed, but not the state credit.

6. How can I optimize the solar tax credits?

As of July 1, 2013 you may take the Louisiana tax credit of 50% (maximum payout of $10,000) on your purchase of solar equipment and the installation.  In addition, you still get the 30% federal tax credit. A $20,000 solar installation will maximize the available state tax credit.

7. Can apartments receive the tax credits?

Apartments, townhouses, condos, etc. used to be considered residences and receive the 50% Louisiana tax credit and for the 30% federal tax credit, but unfortunately, due to changes in the 2013 legislature, only detached homes are eligible.  We hope to overturn that in the future.

8. Does the 50% credit only apply to homeowners (and not apt. dwellers)?

The 50% tax credit applies to whoever purchases the system (the “taxpayer”), regardless of who the owner of the property is.

Photovoltaic Energy(solar electricity)

Photovoltaic Energy(solar electricity)

32. Are Solar Shingles An Available Product For Installation in Louisiana?

They are not available in Louisiana.  When they are, they will be available through roofers only, not solar professionals.

We install high-efficiency SolarWorld solar modules on a rack system just an inch or so above your roof that shades, cools, and protects your roof while providing more solar power per square foot than any “solar shingle” technology.  If you are concerned about aesthetics we have black solar modules also available.  The darker colors get hotter on your roof (like solar shingles) and are less efficient in our hot Louisiana summers but at least have air space under them to keep them cooler.

35. Do you always orient south facing? I have a west roof, what’s the penalty?

South facing gives the highest output annually so it will be the first choice.  If your roof has an average pitch of 30 degrees and your available roofs are SE or SW you will only produce 4% less annually.  If we install on your E or W roof the annual output will be 16% less.

10. Do you need to come out and see my house?

We first like to analyze your electric bills and take a look at your roof from Google Earth.  If you can provide us with 12 months of bills and your address we can get started!  Either scan and email your bills to us or request them electronically from your utility company and forward them to us.

11. Why do you charge for a System Design Package?

A “system design package” is a part of a premium service we call a “SDP”. It is what we recommend to our customers if they are looking for an in-depth analysis of their site. Included in the package is a site visit and analysis by one of our site analysts. They will take roof measurements, check for solar exposure, determine equipment locations and design a custom system tailored to meet your energy needs. In addition, we provide a written report that includes costs, recommendations, system sizing, payoff analysis and specifications.   The cost of your SDP is also credited toward the purchase price of your system.

12. Can I order a system without a site visit?

Absolutely! If you have a shade-free, south facing roof large enough for your system and you have a quote from us, you may send a 50% deposit and we will place your system on order. One of our site analysts will come out to verify your site prior to installation.

13. How do I get the system on order?

We can get you set up with our “same as cash” program (call or email for details) or you may provide a deposit at time of sale.  If it is new construction we coordinate with your architect/builder to let them know of any special requirements.

14. How much solar electricity do I need?

Solar electric panels typically generate about 10-12 watts per square foot and the panels are typically mounted on your rooftop. The maximum amount of solar electricity that can be efficiently generated usually is determined by the amount of south facing roof exposure available which remains completely unshaded most of the day.  Just provide us with your current electric bills and let us know what part of that you would like to be solar power.  Even 10% is better than doing nothing and the payback is fast thanks to the tax credits and lower solar prices.

Solar electric systems produce power intermittently because it only works when the sun is shining. This is not a problem for solar electric systems connected to a utility grid, because additional electricity you need is automatically delivered to you by your utility. Use this calculator to see what your system will cost.

15. Is solar electricity less expensive than utility supplied power?

Solar electricity is currently more expensive than conventional utility-supplied electricity but there is no guaranty that utility prices will remain the same as they are now. Improved manufacturing has reduced the cost of solar to less than 5% of what it cost in the 1970’s.

Unlike electricity purchased month by month from a utility, solar electric power comes with a somewhat high initial investment. This means that buying a solar electric system is like paying years of electric bills up front. Since solar lasts for 25 years+ the system will pay for itself many times over.

16. Does my electric meter really spin backwards?

When a grid-tied net-metering solar electric system generates more power than the appliances within the home are consuming, the excess electricity goes back to the utility grid.  Excess power going back into the grid “spins” your meter backwards (and indicates reverse flow if digital) and your neighbors are using your excess clean quiet solar power. This is called “net metering” and allows the utilities customer to only be billed for the “net” electricity purchased over the entire billing period.  Typically a 4kw solar electric system will power a house in the daytime, send excess power back into the grid and this excess is used at night. In effect the utility grid is an infinitely sized free battery. In Louisiana a 4 kw system will provide about 20 to 50% of the power needs of an average home (less air conditioning). The maximum grid-tied system allowed in the state of Louisiana is a 25kw for homes and 300 kW for commercial.

17. Do I need to modify my electrical system to accommodate for “net metering”?

There is no need for you to make any modifications to your existing meter or connection to the grid or have a power outage.  Typically we will need one spare circuit breaker in your main panel for you to sell back your excess solar power.

18. Isn’t it easier, cheaper, simpler to run the cables inside the walls while building the house?

No. 90% of our current installations are post-construction. We typically mount the solar inverted outside next to the meter and drill one hole for the power line to the main panel (if it is inside) and send one wire up into the attic for the modules.

19. How do I know if my home a good place for a solar power system?

Do you have a south facing roof free from shading by trees, nearby buildings, or other obstructions?  Solar panels should face as close to south as possible and have a clear “view” of the sun for most or all of the day.  Shading will substantially reduce the amount of electricity produced.  Let us check it out for you.

20. Why should I have GSS install my system?

Our company started installing solar in 2003 and has many years of experience working with all types of solar power systems, design, and installation.  We specialize in custom systems and solar with battery backup.   We are very committed to the integrity of our work and we love helping people utilize the benefits of solar.  We were the first company in LA to have NABCEP certified employees and our owner is NABCEP as well.

21. What would happen if I were to relocate? Are the solar power systems portable?

To recieve the tax credits for your system, the system must stay on your Louisiana residence for at least five years. After the five years the system can be moved anywhere. The systems are relocatable.  However, if you sell your house you may want to offer to the buyers the option of keeping the system installed. Then you can call us and we will put the latest and greatest solar technology on your new home and you can claim BOTH the state and federal tax credits for your NEW residence.

22. What does it mean that a system is “5 kilowatts”?

A 5 kilowatt “5kW” system refers to the photovoltaic peak power in watts at standard temperature. For example, 20 –  250 watt panels = 5000 watts. When you multiply this times the average hours of sun in a region (New Orleans = 5 hours) you get the watt-hours/day.  In this case it would be 5kW x 5 hours which would be 25 kWh.  (This is before you calculate system losses)   Multiply by 30 and you get watt-hours/month which is the same units shown on utility bills for comparison.

23. No one is home during the day. How is the power saved for later use?

A grid tied solar power system uses the grid for storage. During the day you generate power and if there is excess it is returned to the grid where you get a credit.  You get billed for the net usage per month. The excess amount generated will be credited to your next month’s bill.

24. How many solar modules (panels) can I install on my roof?

The width times length of your south facing roof will give you the square footage.  As a rule of thumb, divide by 10 will tell you how many watts of solar will fit.  Typically modules are 270-285 watts so that gives you the number that will fit.

25. Does our roof support structure need to be changed?

Almost all modern roof structures are constructed to building codes which will handle the added weight. The solar mounting structure (racking) actually bolts through the roof to the rafters and is flashed and sealed with a 30 year leakproof sealant. If you have a standing seam metal roof, we can use a non-penetrating mount.

26. What is the approximate cost of a solar power system?

Solar, like many things gets cheaper the more you buy.  Large commercial solar farms can be installed relatively inexpensively compared to small residential rooftops.  A reputable solar company that has been around a while (like us – 10 years!) can give you an accurate estimate based on your utility bills and your roof information.  Quotes are free so give us a call or email.

27. Would the installation of solar panels weaken the roof in terms of hurricanes?

No. They will be flush mounted to the structure and possibly shield your shingles from wind damage. They are made to withstand winds of up to 180 miles per hour.  The modules are tested against hail damage.

28. Are there additional insurance costs due to the installation of the panels?

Contact your insurance agent and inform them of your addition like you would with any addition to your home.  They should add your solar investment to the value of your home for full coverage.

29. What is the difference between a Grid-tie, Stand-alone, and Hybrid System?

Grid-tie means you are back feeding the utility system and you have no power storage capacity. It is the most cost effective home system (dollars per watt). Stand-alone means you charge batteries by day and draw the power from the batteries by night and does not net meter. A hybrid system charges batteries first then sends the excess power back to the utility company. The hybrid system requires more equipment “batteries, cables, etc.” therefore it has a greater cost compared to the grid tied system. However, this system provides emergency backup power. Stand alone systems can have a manual disconnect switch where you can select grid power or solar power per electrical circuit for an additional cost (approximately $100/circuit). This allows maximum flexibility.

30. Why should I buy a solar electric system?

People decide to buy solar electric systems for a variety of reasons. Many want to preserve the earth’s fossil-fuel resources and reduce air pollution. Others choose to invest in an energy-producing improvement to their property than to send money to a utility. Some people like the security of reducing the amount of electricity they buy from their utility, because it makes them less vulnerable to future rate increases in the price of electricity. Finally, some people just don’t like paying utility bills and appreciate the independence that a solar electric system provides.

33. How much do the homeowners save when they install solar?

How much homeowners will save is completely dependent upon the size of the system, site conditions (shading, roof pitch, and orientation) and the energy usage patterns of the family. On our typical 6-7 kw system, we see energy savings anywhere between 20%-80%. If you would like to find out how much solar can save you, let us get a quote started for your home.

Solar Hot Water

Solar Hot Water

31. Can I still get the tax credit on a Solar Hot Water and Pool Heaters?

No. As of 2013, you can no longer claim tax credits for a solar hot water system or a solar pool heating system. The tax credit only applies to Photo-voltaic (PV) Solar installations.

Wind Turbines

Wind Turbines

34. Are wind turbines viable in Louisiana?

Sometimes. Wind turbines function better in some microclimates than others due to differences in sustained wind levels. For example, coastal areas generally have higher sustained wind levels, thus making wind turbines more viable. Gulf South Solar uses a Wind Data Logger to determine if your site receives enough sustained wind to properly power the wind turbines. Please contact Gulf South Solar if you think you would like to install wind turbines, and we will make an appointment to do a wind evaluation.

Logo Design, Website Design and Development by The Web Craftsmen