You’ve heard about all the benefits of solar power: it’s good for the environment, it’s easy to install, and your utility bill will plummet. But like any renovation in your home, solar panels don’t just happen overnight. There’s lots of decisions to make, researching costs and ways to save, and finding a contractor you can trust. So before you pull the trigger, consider these 10 factors before investing in solar energy.
- How much does solar cost, really?
- Will I need to get a new roof?
- Does it matter where I live?
- Will solar power be my only source of electricity?
- What happens if my panels produce more energy than needed?
- How much will I save with solar panels?
- How long is the warranty?
- How important is choosing the right installation company?
- Is there an alternative to buying solar panels?
- What if I move?
How much does solar cost, really?
There are a few things to take into account. The size of your home and how much energy you use will determine the scope of the project. There’s also a marketplace of solar panels for you to choose from. With all that in mind, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy, the average cost of a residential system will vary from $15,000 to $25,000.
Remember, there are a plethora of savings opportunities! There is a federal tax credit of 26 percent for 2020 to 2022. Different states also offer rebates and tax credits of their own, and even some cities do. Check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE, for the different opportunities available to you.
Will I need to get a new roof?
Your roof will need to be inspected to ensure that it can withstand the weight, especially if you are due for a roof replacement in the next five years. Otherwise, no, there’s no need to tack on a brand-new roof to the project. However, confirm if the warranty on your roof will be affected with the installation of the solar panels. You can find out more details on this by contacting the company that installed your roof and discussing this with the contractor you’ve hired.
Does it matter where I live?
There’s a misconception that solar panels are only going to be worth it if you live in a state that’s sunny all year round. In reality, states like New York and Massachusetts are in the 10 top states who have embraced solar power, and they don’t get nearly as many peak sun hours as Arizona or California. According to Energy Sage, homes in Arizona are exposed to about six-and-a-half hours of average peak sunlight, while Massachusetts gets just four. Even so, this is still enough — the rule of thumb is that solar panels need about four hours per day. If you live in a place where solar panels could use an extra boost, consider looking into higher-efficiency panels.
Will solar power be my only source of electricity?
Not if you don’t want it to be. If you choose an on-grid solar panel system, your home will be connected to your city’s electricity grid to ensure a continuous source of power when needed. This is especially helpful if you live in a place that doesn’t have consistent sunlight or where sunlight is not plentiful many months out of the year. Some homeowners choose to live off the grid, relying on battery storage and generators. This installation will require an experienced solar panel installer who knows how to do this.
What happens if my panels produce more energy than needed?
This is a great problem to have, and the energy doesn’t go to waste. If your home produces extra energy, it’s fed into the city’s grid and you receive a credit on your utility bill. This is called net metering. In the case of homeowners living off the grid, the excess power goes into their battery storage and is saved for when they’re running low on solar power.
How much will I save with solar panels?
The answer to this is dependent on a number of factors, including the size of your solar panel system and the total energy usage. Remember those sunny and less sunny states we talked about earlier? According to Energy Sage, California homeowners see an average of $40,673 in savings over two decades. In New York, it’s $35,436. These are also both states where electricity bills are above average. Either way, you can expect about $1,000 or more in savings per year.
Google created an interactive program called Project Sunroof, which allows you to enter your address to see an estimate of how much money you would save. Not only does it look at your location, but also the size of your home and how the amount of peak sun hours.
How long is the warranty?
There are two warranties. The first is a performance warranty, which is the manufacturer backing the performance of the solar panels over the years, typically 25 to 30 years. The second is the product warranty, which is protection should there be issues with the product, lasting 15 to 25 years. As with any warranty, there are exceptions to what they will cover. Each warranty is going to vary depending on the manufacturer.
How important is choosing the right installation company?
As with any home project, choosing the right contractor to install your solar panels is of the utmost importance. At Modernize, we’ve created a helpful checklist of what you should be on the lookout for when finding the right solar panel installer. Incorrect installation can damage your roof and reduce both the production output and lifespan of the panels. If you have trusted friends or family members who have had solar panels installed, asking for their experience is a great place to start.
Is there an alternative to buying solar panels?
Some homeowners opt to lease the solar panel system rather than purchasing it. They pay a monthly fee for the energy produced, which will be significantly lower than the fees paid to your local utility company. Leasing also means you don’t have to worry about the cost of repairs or routine maintenance. However, through leasing, you won’t be able to take advantage of the savings offered by tax credits and rebates, and the savings in the long run won’t be as great as those who own the solar panels.
What if I move?
Homeowners have a few options when moving. If it’s a short distance away, the installer should be able to handle the reinstallation of your panels on the new home. However, if you’re planning on moving to another city or state, you’ll have to weigh the benefits. It will be costly to have the panels removed, taken to the new destination, and reinstalled. You also need to evaluate how well solar panels will perform in your new home, the permitting rules of that new city or state, and what incentives they have to offer. Some homeowners opt to take advantage of selling a home with solar panels, as this increases the value of the home and is a selling point for many buyers. For those who leased the solar panels, simply call the company to have them transferred to a new location, the new homeowners, or cancel the plan altogether.