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3 reasons why now is the time to switch to residential solar

Residential solar is fast emerging as a popular choice for many residents' energy needs, and now is a good a time as ever to make the switch to renewable power.

Talks about high electricity rates and global climate change seem unavoidable today. As the U.S. and much of the world continue to consume high-carbon-emitting fossil fuels, residents feel the brunt of their repercussions.

Take the past winter's record low temperatures, for instance. Climate change has led to major fluctuations in the Earth's environment, which can include spells of extreme heat or cold. The record cold of the last few months created greater strain on the electric grid, which in turn led to higher energy demand. As a result, many utilities increased their electricity rates. For instance, the Utica Observer-Dispatch reported that the New York Independent System Operator more than tripled its wholesale cost of electricity in February.

Fossil fuel power plants produce 40 percent of the domestic greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., which means the energy industry is making significant contributions to the country's carbon footprint. While it is not power plants alone that are negatively impacting the world's climate, they are certainly making significant contributions. In this way, the benefits of solar energy are twofold – they can help cut down on energy costs while also reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Now is a good a time as ever to make the switch, and here are the top three reasons why.

Lower energy costs
The Northeast and the Middle Atlantic regions have the highest electricity rates in the continental U.S. at roughly 17 cents per kilowatt-hour and 15.6 cents per kilowatt-hour respectively in January 2014, according to the Energy Information Administration. Within these regions, some states emerge as more expensive than others – New York and Connecticut both have among the highest rates in these areas.

Owning a rooftop solar installation eliminates the need to pay a monthly utility bill because the system can account for all of a home's energy needs. On top of this, these savings can go toward paying off the cost of the installation. Through a solar lease, an energy customer can lock in a low, fixed rate of energy over a set period of time. This means that he or she won't be subject to the already high energy rates for fossil fuels, while also ensuring they won't see rate hikes in the future.

Reduce fossil fuel dependence
As previously mentioned, the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity is making a significant contribution to global warming. While solar energy was the second largest source of new electric capacity in the U.S. during 2013, unfortunately, natural gas was the largest.

This is due in part to the increase in natural gas fracking in parts of the country like western Pennsylvania. While natural gas is becoming a sought-after commodity among utilities, it is not necessarily a great choice, as a shortage in supplies this summer is what brought about many of these price fluctuations. In this sense, fossil fuels contribute to both price fluctuations and global warming, so by moving away from these power sources, the energy industry becomes more sustainable.

Tax credits may soon expire
At the moment, those who wish to purchase a rooftop solar installation stand to benefit from a 30 percent federal tax credit to bring down the cost of investment. This makes it easier to invest and own a system rather than leasing it. However, these credits are set to expire at the end of 2016.

The price of a solar installation fell by 15 percent in 2013 alone, meaning that solar is more affordable now than ever. This credit could further improve upon the already low price of going solar but this opportunity may not be around forever.

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