Have you ever thought of going solar at home? In San Diego, where we have a high number of sunny days, more and more people have been following this trend. This post will break down some of the questions I hear most often from clients.
Since 1839 we’ve known light could be turned into electricity but it wasn’t until the 1950s, that the first solar cells were available commercially. Since then, improvements in solar technology have been enormous, as well as drops in cost of going solar. Since 1977, the price of solar panels has gone down approximately 100 times over, and solar power can be cheaper than power from the grid for some.
Paying for the System
Solar systems come with a price tag comparable to a new car. Because of that, most people will need to use a financing option instead of purchasing in cash. There are various ways to finance your solar system, and the difference in savings can be huge.
- Solar leases & Power Purchasing Agreements (PPA): Both are financial agreements where a third-party developer owns, operates and maintains the solar system. The customer agrees to have the system on their property and purchases the system’s electric output from the solar services provider for a predetermined period.
- Loans: Solar loans are available at a number of banks and organizations across the country.
- Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing: This helps homeowners and commercial building owners cover the full cost of installing a system with a flexible repayment plan extending up to 20 years. The system is paid off gradually via higher property taxes.
Owning vs. Leasing
Do you want to own your system or lease it?
- Moving soon?: If you intend to move after a few years and you have a solar lease, you will have to convince the new buyers to take over the lease – which isn’t always easy. If the system is paid for, you can typically roll the cost of the system into the price of the home. More and more buyers are interested in homes with green upgrades like this.
- Lease to own: If you choose the leasing or PPA route, some companies allow you to buy the system for a fair market value once the leasing period is over.
- Longevity: Solar panels are very durable and can produce electricity close to the initial factory specs for many decades. Your long-term savings could be three or four times higher if you buy solar panels rather than lease them for a 20-year period.
Costs & Savings Estimates
Most every solar company has a “solar calculator” on their website to estimate how much a system will cost and how much it will save you. Each calculator will yield different estimates, so compare as many as possible and feel free to ask each company what assumptions they’ve used to come up with their estimates. Here are some ways they estimate cost and savings:
- Electricity costs: Numbers can be based on the national average, regional averages, or based on information you provide.
- Incentives: Calculators may or may not include federal, state and local incentives which, if you’re eligible, can mean big savings.
- Potential generation: Some calculators take a satellite photo of your roof and offer a close estimate of how much electricity you can generate. Some use your regional solar irradiation to create the estimate, and others use the size of your roof or your typical electricity consumption.
- Assumptions: Another key factor is determining which assumptions they use regarding financing (a cash purchase, a lease, a loan or PACE financing).
There are many different solar panels on the market – each with their own benefits and disadvantages. Solar panels used for the rooftop solar market are less varied, but there are still considerable differences between each brand.
- Price vs. efficiency: The biggest price differences stem from variations in efficiency, but efficiency doesn’t usually matter unless you have very limited space on your roof.
- Warranties & reliability: How reliable are the chosen company’s panels known to be – and is the company likely to be around in 10 years?
- Options: Does the installer give you a choice between types of panels, or at least disclose where the panels are manufactured?
Does the company offer service beyond installation?
- Maintenance & warranties: Some companies install the solar panels, provide maintenance, and offer warranties on both the panels and the work.
- Financing: Some companies assist you during the financing process.
- Incentives: Some help you find and take advantage of incentives you may be eligible for.
- Manufacturing: A number of solar installers also manufacture the solar panels and solar cells they use.
Will you be calling an 800 number or get connected directly to someone who can help?
- Dedicated salesperson: Your solar company may provide a dedicated salesperson from day one or after a certain stage in the process – or maybe not at all.
- Post-sale: Ideally, your initial point-of-contact will be available if you need something after sales, but you may be assigned to a different representative at a later time.
- Service fees: There’s a chance the premium service will also come with an additional cost.
I hope this post has helped inform you more about options for going solar. Please feel free to call/text or email me anytime with questions! 760-390-6330 firstname.lastname@example.org Have a great day!