COLUMBIA, Mo.– Before investing in a solar-power system, look at the energy efficiency of your home, says a University of Missouri Extension energy specialist.

“I’d want to do an energy audit,” Don Day says. “Plug the leaks and think about your habits in regards to using energy. Be sure your energy use is as efficient as it can be, and then we can start thinking about alternative energy.”

Next, consider how much energy you want to replace with solar.

“Some people want to be off the grid and try to generate all of it,” Day says. “That’s going to have more challenges. They’ll need to have a battery system. Some people want to be connected to the grid and there are rules and regulations that have to be worked out with the utility company.”

Calculating your total energy use and deciding the amount of energy you want to generate is a big part of choosing a solar-energy system.

Day says there are tools and resources to help you decide what kind of system might fit your needs and budget.

One resource is the National Renewable Energy Lab, Day says. “NREL has some tools and programs that provide information on different possible systems. We can choose a size of solar-energy system and it will tell us what the energy potential is, an estimate of the cost and then how much payback we could see.”

Homeowners may be able to recoup a portion of the up-front costs with a 30 percent federal tax credit, and some municipalities offer incentives such as low-interest loans and rebates.

MU Extension is currently adapting some materials from Montana for Missouri, including worksheets that help calculate the total cost of a system, expected savings and other factors that can affect the cost.

For more information, contact your local MU Extension center or see the information and resources on energy that the MU Extension website has to offer.