App gives homeowners a peek into solar power payoff before investing in it for their homes

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Does the prospect of going solar leave you with the same doubt-filled feeling as the idea of getting more exercise or boosting your 401(k) contribution? You know doing it will ultimately be good for you, but it’s hard to get excited about it because the benefits are long-term, rather than immediate. But what if you could get a bit of instant gratification by glimpsing the probable benefits of going solar? Would you be more inclined to make the investment in solar power for your home?

A group of MIT software developers are betting you would. They’ve created an online app that allows users to project exactly how much energy their homes could produce if they were to install solar-collection systems.

Users in certain cities can enter their street address into Mapdwell and the app will instantly calculate the building’s sun exposure, the estimated cost of a system, the federal tax credit homeowners could expect, and the average monthly revenue the system will produce. It calculates just how long it will take for the system to repay homeowners the cost of installation and tells them how the switch will impact their home’s carbon footprint. The app can also help users design their system and even scale the design based on how much money the homeowner wants to invest in installation.

For example, the First Family could utilize the White House’s 70% sun exposure to install rooftop collection panels and reap nearly $30,000 in monthly revenues, according to Mapdwell’s calculations. Their investment of about $1.8 million would pay for itself in five years, and reduce the building’s carbon footprint by the equivalent of 14,000 trees!

Right now, Mapdwell has data for Boston, Cambridge and Wellfleet, Massachusetts, as well as Washington, D.C. and Washington County, Oregon. The company plans, however, to expand the number of cities its app can service. It would take homeowners a massive amount of research and legwork to find Mapdwell’s information on their own – if they even could. By making it easy to see the probable cash results of investing in solar energy, Mapdwell makers hope to inspire more Americans to explore the idea of going solar.

Mapdwell CEO Eduardo Berlin told FastCompany: “Solar energy has all this baggage, in a way. Solar panels have been out there for 30 to 40 years, but most homeowners still believe panels are complicated, expensive, not-for-me kinds of things. The challenge is: How can you get people interested? How can you get people informed and excited with all these little things that we can do … You can really empower change within a community when people have all this information – if you manage to get it to them.”