To properly plan and prepare to power your home with solar energy, there are a few steps to follow. Going solar can require a high upfront investment, so take the right steps when buying solar panels for your home. Follow these 7 steps, for the best way to buy solar panels for your house:
Will going solar reduce your home’s electricity cost? The primary reason most people look into solar is that they are trying to reduce the cost of their electricity bill every month. The first step of going solar is to determine if solar will benefit you by looking at how much you’re paying for electricity on an annual basis.
It is expensive, it keeps going up, there aren’t a lot of alternatives, and we have to have it.
Therefore the first step towards going solar is to determine if it could potentially benefit you financially. Therefore, before even considering going solar, it essential to ask yourself the question, “are there easy ways that I can increase the energy efficiency of my home?” There may be easy and low-cost ways to reduce your total electricity usage. It is an incredible feeling to be able to see a dramatically smaller electric bill. So consider implementing some inexpensive and simple efficiency measures before choosing solar.
Investigating your home energy usage and can help you understand where your home is costing you money in terms of electricity usage and what steps to take to improve the efficiency of your home. (Energy Audit Guide)
Use your home appliances like your dishwasher, dryer, A/C more efficiently, or consider investing in energy-saving appliances.
Switch to energy-efficient lightings, such as LED lighting, because they will leave a smaller carbon footprint. They will also last much longer than a standard bulb.
If your heating, ventilation, and air condition (HVAC) system uses electricity, the number of solar panels you will require to offset the amount of power it consumes will be significantly impacted. Efficiently heating and cooling your home will reduce the amount of electricity you need to produce with solar.
Some homes may be on special programs that heavily subsidize the cost of electricity. If you are on a medical baseline, or low-income you may be able to qualify for special pricing from your utility company.
The benefit your solar energy system will be able to provide is heavily dependent on your home’s roof. Because solar energy can capture sunlight from the sun and convert it into energy, places like California with a lot of sunlight is an excellent place for solar electric systems.
Several tools are available to help homeowners determine their home’s solar energy potential, like Google’s Project Sunroof. These calculators can help you how much sunlight your home may be able to capture based on the location of the property. But there are other services as well that provide information on an estimate system size, the potential cost of going solar, and the amount of savings a home or business could receive.
These tools are a fantastic starting point and can help you determine whether your home can truly maximize the benefit of solar energy. As informative as these general tools are, a solar company will have more refined tools that will consider all of the variables that are needed to properly build and design a solar energy system personalized for your home. A solar installer can provide an accurate assessment of your solar potential as well as detailed recommendations, estimates, and solar equipment.
As the solar industry has started to mature, there have been more and more options to make it easier for both homes and businesses to go solar.
Purchasing to own a solar energy system fully is no longer the only option available for homes or businesses looking to go solar. With a solar loan, pay a monthly loan amount that is typically 30 – 50% less than your electricity bill. By installing solar panels excess electricity that your solar energy system generates is sold back to the grid.
Below are the most common options available for accessing solar energy at home; check with local solar installation companies and your utility company for programs available in your area.
Buying to own a solar energy system is the best option for those looking to maximize the financial benefits of installing solar panels. By purchasing a solar energy system with either cash or a loan, you can take advantage of existing residential and commercial federal tax credits and increase the market value of your home.
Buying to own a solar energy system is a good option if one or more of the following apply to you:
By purchasing a solar energy system with solar financing, you can take advantage of the existing tax incentives for going solar and increase the market value of your home. But many homes are unable to purchase the system outright because of the high initial cost. If you’re unable to buy your solar energy system upfront, another option is to finance it. Solar financing programs. These programs provide homes and businesses purchasing power to buy their solar system at a level that fits their needs and budget.
Consider financing your solar energy system purchase if one or more of the following apply to you:
If you lease your solar energy system, you can use the power it produces. But someone else—a third party—owns the solar energy system. The home or business owners pay to lease the equipment. Solar leases often involve a little or no initial cost and fixed monthly payments over a set amount of time. Under a solar lease arrangement, the homeowner will pay a monthly fee for the solar energy system. This cost is based on the estimated amount of electricity that the system will produce. This monthly cost is 10 – 30% lower than the average electricity bill. Getting a solar lease is a fantastic option if you:
Learn more about solar lease agreements.
Similar to solar leases, Solar Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) allow homes and businesses to create a financial agreement with a solar company to install and maintain a solar energy system on a home or business’s property at little to no cost. The biggest difference between a solar lease and a solar PPA is that with a solar lease, you are paying a fixed monthly payment for the solar energy system. With a solar PPA, you are paying for the solar power that the panels produce. This production amount will vary from month-to-month. The residential or commercial building owner agrees to purchase the power generated at a fixed rate. This fixed rate is less than what the local utility company charges for electricity.
For Southern California Edison customers (SCE) on Time-of-Use (TOU), their retail electricity costs will range from $.19 /kWh to $.43 /kWh. With a solar PPA, you can get a fixed-rate at $.13 /kWh - $.17 /kWh.
With a solar PPA, the solar company you work with will help you from the design of the solar panels on your roof, to permitting, financing, and the installation of solar panels on your roof with a small or no upfront cost. A Solar PPA can be an excellent option if you:
Learn more about solar power purchase agreements.
Learn more about the differences between a solar purchase vs lease.
To help your solar provider provide accurate recommendations for your system’s type and size, gather information about your home and electricity use.
When researching solar installers, be sure to find insured, qualified, and skilled professionals with the proper certification to install solar panels on your home roof. You should also ask friends and family members who have recently gone solar for references and check online resources for reviews. Before you make any financial commitments, ask your potential solar installer for proof of their license, and investigate their online reputation.
There are a few online resources that can help highlight key features of which solar installer to choose. Be sure to get quotes from reliable solar companies that you’ve researched on reputable sites like Yelp and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) vs. a solar pay-per-lead marketing website that sells your request to participating solar companies. Be careful with the types of solar companies you work with, learn more about the various types of solar companies you may interact with when going solar.
Obtain a minimum of three quotes for solar panel system installation and make sure the quotes are based on the same characteristics to ensure an apples-to-apples comparison. For example, ask each solar installer to give you a quote for a cash purchase on a 7kWh solar energy system. This will help properly compare solar companies you’re evaluating.
From signing the solar installation contract to, obtaining building permits, and receiving permission-to-operate (PTO) can be long and meticulous processes. Ensure that the solar installer you work with is familiar with local regulations, utility companies, and city permit offices will ensure that your system is installed and connected promptly.
By working with a local solar installer, who truly knows your local utility should have a high first-time inspection pass rate. There are always unforeseen issues that could occur during an inspection. We have a checklist to ensure that we are prepared for every city’s unique rules and regulations.
Nothing beats an excellent recommendation from a previous customer. By talking to former customers of the solar companies you plan on work, you can quickly learn about their experience installing solar panels on their roof, challenges you could potentially face, and how the solar company resolved them. Or check their portfolio of completed solar panel installations near me.
Solar energy systems should be installed on your roof by a fully licensed company. With how large of an investment going solar can be, ensuring that the solar installation project is done by a properly licensed professional is a worthwhile investment. Most solar installation companies have an electrical background because these are essentially a personal power system on your roof. This means that the solar installer or subcontractor should have a C-10 electrical contractor’s license. You can check your state’s electrical licensing board to check whether your contractor has a valid electrician’s license. California’s state electrical licensing board, for example, is called managed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB). By working with a local solar installation company, they will be able to know which types of projects they can and cannot work on based on their license.
Solar equipment, like solar panels, comes with their warranties, typically 20-year warranties for solar panels and ten-year warranties on solar inverters. Ensuring that a reliable guarantee backs the solar energy system is often an indication that the solar installer is using quality equipment. Solar installation companies will also have workmanship guarantees and warranties, can provide additional peace of mind that the work will be completed properly.
For homes and businesses who buy their system, they are fully responsible for any solar repair and maintenance. That is why it is crucial also to see if your solar installation company also provides workmanship warranties to help repair the solar energy system.
For homes and businesses who have a solar lease or a solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), the solar company that owns the solar energy system will be responsible for the system maintenance, repair, and performance.
As with any project that requires the expertise of a skilled contractor, proper due diligence is highly encouraged. Be sure to check the state electrical board can tell you about any judgments or complaints against a state-licensed electrician. The BBB is another source of information to see if there are any active or pending complaints or issues.
The solar quotes that you receive should clearly state the maximum generating capacity of the system—measured in kilowatts (kW) or megawatts (MW). Request an estimate of the amount of electricity that the system will produce on an annual basis.
The solar quotes you receive should include the total cost of getting the solar energy system up and running, including the solar equipment, installation, connection to the grid, permitting, sales tax, and warranty. A cost/watt and estimated cost/kW are the most useful metrics for comparing prices across different installers, as installers may use different solar equipment which impacts wattage and brands, or offer quotes for systems of various sizes.
Home solar energy systems are eligible for a 26% federal tax credit through 2019. The tax credit decreases to 22% in 2021, then to 22% in 2021, 10% in 2022 and expires December 31, 2022. For commercial solar energy, systems will be able to leverage a 10% Federal Tax Credit.
Note: For homes or businesses go solar through a solar lease or solar power purchase agreement, will not be eligible for this federal solar tax rebate since you do not own the solar energy system.
For homes or businesses in California who are considering a solar battery backup, they may be eligible for the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). The SGIP provides a rebate incentive for the installation and management of qualifying distributed energy systems.
Be sure to explore all available solar financing options to ensure that you are getting the best fit for your goals. Being in a position to get the best choices possible to best match your situation is ideal. Be sure to check out the Solar Installation Guide for more financing options.
After you pick your solar installer, your solar installer will walk you through the necessary steps to install solar panels on your roof. From completing the necessary permitting, get permission-to-operate (PTO), and finding you your local incentives.
One of the keys to maximizing your experience when going solar is to determine the appropriate size of your solar energy system accurately. The size of your solar energy system will be based on your electricity needs (determined in step 4) as well as the following:
Your solar installer will also ensure that all solar equipment from your solar panels to solar rails are installed correctly and oriented to maximize how much electricity your solar energy system generates for the next 20 years. Factoring in daily electricity generation and seasonality to ensure that you maximize how much your solar energy system makes across its entire lifetime. Achieve the best way to buy solar panels for your house.