Figure out your solar investment costs. Sorta.

Wondering how much it will cost you to switch over to solar? A new widget from solar provider SunRun does that math for you.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

OK, so I'm staring out the window and it's bright (lots of snow will do that), but no sun. I know I'm going to be housebound later, so I'm trying to catch up on all sorts of work projects and clean up my inbox. And daydream a little bit, although my to-do list is flowing over onto two pages. Yes, I write it out. Some habits are hard to kill and I am very forgetful.

Anyway, this post has to do with one of the many e-mails I receive every day pitching something green and tech-ish. As you might imagine, I have heard about a LOT of energy efficiency calculators and other fun widgets to help you calculate how much you might save by adopting one efficiency behavior or another for either your home or business. But I don't hear as much about what it will cost you to invest.

Maybe that's because some of the technology companies are afraid to say. For instance, I KNOW that my home state of New Jersey is actually one of the progressive ones out there in terms of solar. But darned if I would know what it would cost me to upgrade, provided my husband would let us mess with the aesthetics of our roofline.

In case you're home for a snow day or you just need a mental break, there's a new widget out there from SunRun, which bills itself as the biggest residential solar power provider in the United States, which is actually supposed to help me with stuff like this.

Here's what the rather simplistic widget looks like. I can't actually embed the live code in this blog for some reason, but you can get to it here.

So, basically, you enter your roof pitch and the shade around your home (I have quite a few old oaks) and supposedly you get a grade for how ready your house is for solar. The grade supposedly takes into account the rebates that you might be able to use in your state. I had trouble getting anything but lower than a B+, which made me suspicious.

Personally, I found THIS calculator to be a lot more useful for assessing the advantages of solar for my individual situation. Here's what the calculations look like for my zip code. I entered my winter utility costs into the equation (which are easily $500 for gas and electric).

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