Going Solar? Here’s What to Think About First
For decades, solar panels have been going up on roofs across America, meaning that nowadays a roof can help protect you from the elements and help insulate you from rising electric costs.
For some, the environmental benefit of renewable energy is an added draw, as is the potential to sell excess power back to the utility company.
Clearly, there are a number of reasons to consider going solar, but it isn’t right for everyone. So, before you start dreaming of $0 power bills, ask yourself these eight questions to help determine if solar power is a good fit for you.
- Does my home even get enough sun? You may be surprised – you don’t necessarily need a south-facing roof, as is commonly believed. Professional installers can estimate how much power you can expect from solar panels. They’ll measure shade and determine the optimal arrangement, giving you figures on total available energy.
- Can I get tax breaks or assistance to help pay for my system?
In many instances, yes. From federal tax credits to state and local incentives, including rebates on systems, it’s very common for homeowners to realize savings on the solar installations themselves in addition to their energy bills. Your installer should know about current programs.
- Will it be worth my investment?
Take a look at what you spend on electricity now, as well as your future needs. For example, if you live in an area with inexpensive power, such as from a hydroelectric dam, you might not benefit as much from solar as someone in a remote area with higher electric costs. But, don’t limit yourself to the here and now – think ahead, too. If you have a growing family, your energy costs are likely to grow as well. Conversely, if your kids are almost ready to leave the nest, your costs could be headed down already.
- Do solar panels require a lot of maintenance?
A yearly inspection and regular cleaning will help keep your panels operating efficiently. Be sure to discuss the recommended cleaning schedule with your installer if you plan to own your own system. It will vary depending on the specifics of your locale. If you lease the panels, you likely won’t be responsible for maintenance. Likewise if a third party, such as a utility company, installs, owns and maintains the panels on your behalf – this is often in exchange for discounted electricity rates.
- When will I start saving?
That depends on the option you select. Buying a system yourself means that you’re making a large investment that should pay off over time, while leasing one or entering into a different agreement may provide you with more immediate, but smaller, savings.
- How long does a system typically last?
Depending on the panels you select, you may receive a 25-year or so warranty. Inverters often are guaranteed for 5-10 but may last much longer.
- How do I choose an installer?
Look for positive online reviews, get recommendations from friends and neighbors and check with the Better Business Bureau.
- Will solar panels increase my insurance costs?
Solar panels increase the value of your home, so you may need to increase your home insurance coverage, too. Talk through your needs with us before you install any system so that if your policy doesn’t already cover solar panels you can amend it to include your new system. And, don’t forget to add your system to your home inventory, too.
There are a number of great reasons to go solar, and perfectly valid reasons to stay on the grid, too. Whatever you decide, make a commitment to using energy efficiently and responsibly – that will benefit everyone, as well as the planet!
Top image by Flickr user Kate Ausburn used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 license. Image cropped and modified from original.