It’s easy to take for granted the ability to flick on the lights or have a hot bath in the evening. But open up your bills at the end of the month, and you may need a cold shower to revive yourself from the sticker shock. That’s where the sun comes in: With solar electric and solar thermal systems from Malcarne Contracting that create the ability to harness those rays, investing in the future could mean freedom from costly electric and hot-water fees altogether.

Most people have already heard of solar electric, also known as PV or photovoltaics. The sleek, futuristic-looking panels on the roofs of houses gobble up the sun’s rays, converting it into electricity to power your home’s appliances, lights – and everything in between. What you may not know is, through the use of solar electric panels’ grid-tied system, energy you harness from the sun is stored up for a rainy day – literally! While the panels capture the sun’s energy, if they absorb more energy than your home uses, the grid-tied system puts the energy back into the grid, making your meter actually spin backwards. When the sun goes down at night, you’ve got more than enough power to last you until the next rays shine.

The downsides? Solar electric requires a specific area of installation with extremely good southern-sun exposure all day, year-round: Those shady trees in the yard may be nice on a hot day, but if even a part of the panels are covered, it significantly affects its output – by as much as 75 percent. And, even with the trend to go green with solar electric, it’s still a costly system – but one that’s worth it after crunching all the numbers. After all, electricity rates typically rise between four and seven percent a year – but sunshine is always free. Plus, Malcarne experts are trained to evaluate the kilowatt hours your home uses each day, based on a year’s worth of your electric bills. With that information, the proper amount solar panels necessary to make your household function are installed – no more, no less – saving you the time and cost of setting up too many. Since you keep your traditional electric company along with adding solar electric, panels can always be added later, so you’re always working within your budget – but the savings add up with each reduced bill.

Also, if you’re like most people, the rising cost of heating your water cause just as much frustration as the electric bill – but there’s a sun-based solution for that, too. Solar thermal systems – such as “solar walls,” which can be installed on the side of a home, where they catch the sun’s rays, warm the air behind it, and use a fan to circulate this heated air into your home – can heat your house. However, these panels, similar to solar electric panels, only larger, typically heat water by absorbing the sun’s energy to warm the contents of your storage tank.

Again, Malcarne professionally evaluates your home to learn how much hot water you typically use – and installs the right-sized system for your house and family. Best of all, you’ll see your investment pay off relatively quickly with a solar thermal system: While you’re likely to see a payback from solar electric in a little more than a decade, solar thermal takes only about five to seven years, giving you twice the energy value from each dollar you spend. It’s why Malcarne typically recommends giving solar thermal systems a try even before considering a solar electric one.

Plus, unlike solar electric panels, if your home is a bit shady, it’s not likely to make a big difference in a solar thermal system. But, regular yearly maintenance and inspection of the system is necessary. Pumps that carry your solar energy to your home’s hot water system need regular professional visits: Solar electric panels, with their more simplistic inner-workings, are easier to keep up.

Still, if out-of-pocket expenses seem too scary of an investment, available tax credits make the cost a bit easier to bear: Three forms of funding include a 25 percent state tax credit (capped at $5,000), a 30 percent federal tax credit (with no cap) – both of which can be used until 2016 – as well as incentives available from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). If that’s not enough convincing, imagine saving 65 percent of your water bill – and 100 percent of your electric costs. “Fun in the sun” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning – especially when it’s helping to manage your family’s expenses in a big way.

It’s easy to take for granted the ability to flick on the lights or have a hot bath in the evening. But open up your bills at the end of the month, and you may need a cold shower to revive yourself from the sticker shock. That’s where the sun comes in: With solar electric and solar thermal systems from Malcarne Contracting that create the ability to harness those rays, investing in the future could mean freedom from costly electric and hot-water fees altogether. Most people have already heard of solar electric, also known as PV or photovoltaics. The sleek, futuristic-looking panels on the roofs of houses gobble up the sun’s rays, converting it into electricity to power your home’s appliances, lights – and everything in between. What you may not know is, through the use of solar electric panels’ grid-tied system, energy you harness from the sun is stored up for a rainy day – literally! While the panels capture the sun’s energy, if they absorb more energy than your home uses, the grid-tied system puts the energy back into the grid, making your meter actually spin backwards. When the sun goes down at night, you’ve got more than enough power to last you until the next rays shine.