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Walking On Sunshine: Is Solar Power The Way To Go?

LOS ANGELES ( — For many, solar power is a lot more than just a ray of hope.

No question, there are legitimate benefits to installing solar power in your home.

But does that necessarily mean it's a great idea for one and all?

KCAL9's Jeff Vaughn sheds some light on solar: Who should get it? And how should you get it?

One thing is certain, more people are getting it.

In neighborhoods all over Southern California, the sounds of solar power installation are everywhere.

One such family "going solar"? Jean Ottina's.

"We went to use the sun instead of fossil fuels," Ottina said. "I think that is extremely important."

For Jean, installing solar power at her Sherman Oaks home was an easy call.

She said it's as much about protecting the environment as it is about protecting her future.

"I'm looking for when I retire," Jean said, "to have my utility bills as low as possible. The sun gives us that energy that we can make into electricity so it makes no sense not to be using that if we can."

Making the switch to solar isn't always a no-brainer.

Many homeowners find themselves in the dark when it comes to navigating the relatively new technology.

"I wanted to find my best return on my investment," said Gregg Prosser of Chino.

It took Prosser about two years to weed through the ads and phone calls, and pull the trigger. Initially, he was leaning toward a zero-down lease but ultimately decided to get a loan and buy his $24,000 system outright.

"A lot of the companies will structure a loan that will be equal to your current bill," Prosser said, "then after the eight years, you own the system outright and you don't have to pay a bill."

"There's a lot of different great programs, and the goal is to find both the installer and financing package that's best fits your needs," says Adam Gerza, CEO of Energy Toolbase, a software company that specializes in analyzing the true costs of going solar.

He stresses that homeowners should do their homework. Example? Find out the pros and cons of leasing vs. buying. He also suggests the potential buyer look into incentives and if and how they pertain to you. He also said to get a clear understanding from your utility provider and their methodology when it comes to billing.

"Rates are changing and net energy metering frameworks are changing, so it's another part of the conversation. Making sure that the savings that are being projected and estimated today will be the same going forward [is important]," said Gerza.

As for Prosser and Ottina, both are looking forward to letting the sun shine in.

"My total bill for the month is going to be $9 dollars as opposed to last year it was $360," said Prosser.

"I'm waiting to have that bill lowered," said Ottina.

Most people who buy their solar system outright typically see a return on their investment in less than 10 years.

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