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In recent years, the power grid supplying customers of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has been increasingly pushed to its limit. The energy-sapping habits of Angelinos has forced the city to make concessions, including installing new street lamps in many neighborhoods that are considerably dimmer than their predecessors. While many residents are conscious of their power usage, there are some who have turned to sustainable energy to preserve resources.

How It Works
Our favorite star, the sun, is capable of far more than making perfect conditions at the beach. It also creates and emits solar energy, which can be harnessed as a source of powering our homes. Once limited to a tiny window on the top of calculators, solar panels are popping up on roofs in many Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Bright Benefits
There is no doubt that there are benefits of owning a solar panel system, with both state and federal governments offering incentives and the reduction in residential power costs. But, as in the case of any additions made to your home, there are a few aspects of the photovoltaic panel installation to consider in determining whether this type of energy will suit your family’s needs.

Managing Initial Costs
Cost is a major factor in a homeowner’s decision to install solar panels. Although harvesting solar energy can offer savings for most homeowners, the manner that the project is financed will be the determinant. Using the economics principal of “long run” and “short run,” those who can afford to either pay cash for the system using the 30 percent federal tax credit, and any government and utility rebates, will save the most upon installation. Those who have to finance the installation through a bank loan will have to agree to the institutions parameters, which are similar to those of a home equity loan. They will benefit from the savings in the long run. As a third option, companies such as REC Solar have partnered with some utility companies to lease systems for payments that are traditionally lower than your current power bill.

A Spot For The Panels
It is also important to consider whether the location of your home will provide efficient access to solar rays. Because of the temperate climate, Los Angeles and other California cities are in prime locations to gather solar energy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) created a map that will assist you in calculating the levels of solar radiation in your area. It is advisable to calculate the amount of energy that your home utilizes per month, which can normally be found on your utility statement. Based upon the determined outputs and usage, you can calculate how many solar panels that your home would need in order to be efficient.

Sustainable Alternatives
If you are not ready to take the leap into full home solar panels, there are some handy (and relatively inexpensive) gadgets that may interest you. Single panel kits cost around $200 and can power small electronics such as televisions and computers.

Below are some local businesses that can help you get started.

California Solar Engineering
820 Cynthia Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90065
(323) 258-8883

California Solar Engineering utilizes the expertise of physicists, architects and engineers to guarantee that your solar panels are operating at the best levels possible and that they look appealing after being installed.

Perma City
5570 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(323) 692-9265

Perma City employs both experts in green living and sustainable energy and works only with the best solar equipment suppliers in the business.

REC Solar
13012 N. Saticoy Street #1
North Hollywood, CA 91605
(818) 255-5462

REC Solar specializes in solar installation and design, and even allows you to take advantage of its “solar savings estimator” to give you an idea on how much you can save by utilizing their services. The expert staff can also walk you through rebates and financing options.

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For more great tricks, tips and advice about your home, visit CBSLosAngeles/YourHome.

Heather Gill was born and raised under the ubiquitous sunshine of LA. An admitted tabloid enthusiast and shopaholic, Heather is always on the prowl for the latest and greatest that Los Angeles has to offer. Heather is an avid writer and blogger, and her work can be found on Examiner.com.