Smart Switch
Aztec Solar Power makes your home friendlier to the environment and your wallet
by Alina Makhnovetsky

It seems just a few short years ago, green living was a mere concept, global warming was debatable and conservation and recycling were words only tree hugging types uttered. Today, thinking green is a rallied cause with recognizable benefits, not only for the environment, but also, it seems, for our checkbooks.

No one knows this better than Aztec Solar Power. The turnkey solar installation company, headquartered in King of Prussia, has risen to become one of the leading firms on the East Coast, all by making the switch to alternative energy a simple task. With Aztec, you can have a system installed on your roof within two weeks from the start of construction. Unlike other solar photovoltaic (PV) installers, Aztec’s process is comprehensive, and they do not have to hire subcontractors. Aztec’s own team provides a free assessment, crafts a personalized system for your property and installs it.

“PV is the hottest thing going right now,” says Nick Baker of Aztec Solar Power. “We feel like pioneers.”

Currently, Aztec is also developing their own solar panels, which they expect on the market later this year. This will significantly decrease the cost of construction materials, while also creating jobs here at home.

“Most panels are currently made in China, so the more jobs we create here, the more positive impact we can have on our local economy,” Baker says.

Return on investment

The biggest misconception halting mass conversion to solar energy is the price tag. Placing solar panels on the roof can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $75,000. However, with added home value and the available incentives, that final cost could end up being lowered up to 65 percent.

“The systems are expensive, but it’s a worthwhile investment both for individuals and businesses,” says Joe McKeever, Aztec’s vice president of construction. “This is a product
that will literally pay for itself three times over before the warranty expires.”

Steve Mohr lives in the Lehigh Valley and spent serious time considering the costs before adding solar panels to his home last year.

“We didn’t have the cash in our pocket,” he admits. “An average Joe just can’t afford to do this without the incentives.” For Mohr and his wife, it was an environmental decision, as both saw their respective employers going paperless and decided it was time to do their part.

Before deciding on Aztec, Mohr spent months researching available funding and debating between several solar panel installers. “I definitely shopped around,” he says. “In the end, Aztec offered more value, they were more knowledgeable.”

Aztec’s advisors offered to create a system which did not have to cover Mohr’s entire roof, as initially assumed. As promised, the system proved to be beneficial when last October, Mohr received an electric bill with a zero balance.

“It’s incredible to see the meters go backwards,” he says. “You’re creating your own energy and helping the environment, but you also know in the back of your mind, it’s going to be a lower bill. Eventually it’s going to pay me up to $5,500 a year. We like Florida, so we think that’s where we’ll use the newfound trip money.”

Aztec’s team works with your budget and completes all of the necessary paperwork for those federal and state incentives.

The federal government offers a 30-percent tax credit to homeowners and business that choose to install solar systems. Meanwhile, Gov. Ed Rendell pledged $650 million to the Alternative Energy Fund and created the Pennsylvania Sunshine Program, which provides rebates of up to 35 percent for solar system purchases.

Moving in the right direction
In the past two years, Aztec has expanded its staff from three to 30, hiring locals to be part of what is undoubtedly the wave of the future. Aztec’s efforts are environmentally responsible, in addition to being financially smart for its clients.

“What’s looming on the horizon is that we can expect the cost of electricity to rise,” says Baker. A rate cap has been in place for the last 11 years in Pennsylvania to keep electrical companies from charging miscellaneous costs to bills. But the Public Utility Commission predicts a rise anywhere from 1 percent to 37 percent, depending upon the market prices once the cap officially runs out.

Now more than ever, installing solar panels in your home or business may be a wisely timed switch to the green side. With a company like Aztec willing to shoulder all the heavy lifting and paperwork, making the switch is hardly a difficult journey, and the destination is a brighter future.

Alina Makhnovetsky is a freelance writer living in Philadelphia.