What You Should Know Before Purchasing Solar Panels for Your Home

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If you’re committed to living more sustainably, solar panel installation can be a quick and easy way to save money on utility costs and decrease nonrenewable energy usage. Generating energy through a renewable resource means contributing to the greater good of the world around you, but investing in solar panels isn’t a decision to be made lightly. Consider the following facets of solar energy before making your purchase and decide if solar panels are the right fit for your home, lifestyle, and budget.

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Get a Property Assessment

Before embarking on any type of significant installation project or roof modification, homeowners should hire a contractor to provide a property assessment. Owners of older properties often find that their roofs need repairing, and in some cases, roof replacement. Solar panels are a major installation and extremely heavy, and should a property have a structural issue, installation could pose a serious risk. It’s important to consider the current state of your property and make any necessary repairs before committing to solar panels.

Varied Types of Solar Panels

Not every solar panel is created equally, and it’s important to research the varied styles of solar panels available before making a purchase. There are plenty of solar panel manufacturers selling varied wares, ranging from heavy-duty models designed to withstand strong winds to solar panels without frames. Thanks to competition between manufacturers and technology advancements, homeowners are benefitting from decreased costs. Always request quotes for varied types and shop around to ensure you find the best deal.

Time is of the Essence: Financial Incentives

Currently, there are numerous rebates, tax credits and other government-based incentives designed to encourage homeowners to convert to solar energy. As solar energy continues to become more popular and costs decrease, it’s likely these incentive programs will peter out. Until 2019, the federal renewable energy tax credit is 30 percent, but is intended to be phased for residential systems after that time. Additionally, many state and local governments offer similar programs that could deplete in coming years. Consider the case of California: The Golden State used to offer rebates up to $15,000. However, as time went on and solar power become more popular, those rebate programs were discontinued. Putting off the adoption of solar panel installation could see homeowners missing out on lucrative incentives like these.

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Leasing Solar Panels

Residential solar systems can be expensive, which has led many homeowners to pursue leasing options. The leasing process for a solar energy system is comparable to leasing a car; most leases don’t require a down payment, but homeowners are locked into a specific rate they’ll be required to pay each month until the debt is paid off. Homeowners who do lease pay an interest rate, often around 10 percent. The problem with leasing comes in the lack of ownership. Homeowners who own solar panels benefit from state and city tax breaks, and may qualify for many of the abovementioned incentives. Whether you elect to purchase or lease, it’s important to get multiple bids for pricing and installation.

Financing Issues

Those looking to own their solar panels struggling to handle upfront costs have recently been presented with different financing options. Some look for energy efficient mortgages (EEM) from the federal government, which credits a home’s energy efficiency within the mortgage. These can be more difficult to come by, as your home must be home energy rated through a professional energy audit prior to approval. Others pursue solar panel financing through Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Programs. In certain states, homeowners can finance solar panel installation through PACE programs from companies like Renovate America. These programs are designed to provide homeowners the money they need, which are paid back through a property tax line item over a certain amount of time. This can be a tempting option for many, as these programs don’t reduce equity in a home. If and when the house is sold, the tax liability is designed to stay with the property—as do the solar benefits. From peer to peer lending to power purchase agreements, homeowners have plenty of financing options to choose from.

If you’re considering taking the plunge into the world of renewable energy with solar panels, keep these facets in mind before embarking on this promising journey towards savings and comfortability.

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