solar panel installation

What to know before paying to go solar: 8 important things

Bethany Ramos Home Improvement, Homeowners

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One smart reason to make the switch to solar? Beyond the benefit of decreasing your impact on the environment, installing solar can improve the value of your property. A recent Zillow report found that solar panels could get you 4.1-percent more, or an extra $9,274, once it comes time to sell.*

You might also save money in the meantime. For the average homeowner, this may range from an estimated $10,000 to $30,000 in long-term savings.

Should I go solar? 8 answers that every homeowner needs

In response to some of the most common solar questions, these go-to guidelines can help you decide if the time is right:

1. Solar success depends on location.

Google’s Project Sunroof lets you input your address and see your potential for solar savings. The benefits of installing solar can depend directly on your roof size, amount of shade, weather patterns, and local costs for solar and electricity.

Also:

  • Solar panel installation rules and regulations can vary by state: Check here for your state’s report card on “solar friendliness,” including nationwide rankings and average solar payback period.
  • Shade variables — or the amount of sunlight a property gets — are normally the primary factor in determining eligibility for a solar system.
  • Solar panels are ideally installed on the Southwest-facing portion of a roof, though South, West, Southeast, North-Northwest, and East-facing may work as backup alternatives.

Stoked about solar? That’s just one of the many ways homeowners can upgrade. Click here to learn more about using a renovation loan to reduce out-of-pocket remodeling costs and improve the value of your property.

2. Pre-solar roof repairs might be needed.

It’s all about the roof when it comes to solar savings:

  • Solar panels can be installed on most roof materials. This includes concrete, asphalt, composite, metal, tile, tar, gravel, torch-down, foam, and wood shake.
  • Roof materials can determine price: It typically costs more to install on tile or shake than asphalt shingle, for example.
  • If your roof is closing in on the end of its lifespan — with wood shake offering up to 30 years of use — you’ll be better off replacing, or at least repairing, before installation. Otherwise, you may find yourself paying thousands in solar panel removal and reinstallation if future roof repairs are required.

3. Not all suppliers offer the same panels — or warranties.

In order to begin producing your own energy, you’ll need a fully-equipped solar power system made up of racking, or mounting; an inverter, used to convert energy into usable power; and solar panels that absorb the sun’s energy. Some recognizable solar brands include Panasonic, Hyundai, SunPower, and LG, and a provider’s selection can vary.

Solar systems are pretty straightforward, but solar companies can differ in their service:

  • Payment options for solar normally include leasing, a PPA (power purchase agreement), or purchasing the system upfront. Buying all at once gives you access to incentives and rebates and can offer bigger savings.
  • Nationwide brands may charge up to $5,000 more than local providers. Large or small, it’s important to look for a supplier that’s North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Solar PV Installation certified.
  • Workmanship warranties may fluctuate by supplier, ranging from 1 to 10 years. Solar panel manufacturers also offer different warranties, as well as extended options, that may be categorized by product warranty, power warranty, combined product/power warranty, and performance guarantee. Longer-term power warranties (at up to 25 years) are preferable.

4. Once installed, panels require little maintenance and produce lots of electricity.

Roof panels harness power using solar photovoltaics (PV). By absorbing photons found in sunlight, solar panels produce an electrical field and generate a flow of electricity.

Then:

  • The amount of power produced, as well as your short-term and long-term savings, can be better estimated by the solar provider you select. You can also get a general idea by plugging your info into PVWatts, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s estimator.
  • Constructed from tempered glass, solar PV panels are made to last — and to withstand the elements. Washing or cleaning is unlikely, and the panels may also shield your roof from excess damage.
  • Most solar panels provide 25 to 30 years of peak electricity and degrade slowly thereafter; this time frame usually falls under a manufacturer’s power production warranty (see above).

5. Connecting to the grid is easy.

After your panels are up and running:

  • You’ll probably connect to a grid-tie system. The exception to this is remote properties, requiring pricier, off-grid solar for power delivery.
  • A grid-tie system is the one that helps cut down on the cost of electricity, allowing you to connect directly to the local utility grid.
  • Your solar supplier should take care of any paperwork needed to connect to the local grid. In cases where your panels produce more electricity than your home can use (normally in peak hours from 11 AM to 4 PM), it’ll get sent back to the grid. Depending on the state, your account could be credited through “net metering.”

6. Your panels will start paying for themselves in several years.

The return on solar doesn’t kick in immediately. But:

  • You could expect to see your investment recouped in as few as 6 to as many as 21 years, based on the “solar friendliness” rankings mentioned above.
  • The price of solar installation has decreased annually since 2009. Solar has become more affordable, and costs may be returned quicker.
  • The average price for the installation of a 6kW solar panel system sits at $18,500 with the potential to save hundreds of dollars a month, dependent on the local cost of electricity.

7. Tax credits and rebates can add to your savings.

Every little bit helps to reduce the cost of installing solar:

  • Local energy companies and government organizations offer different solar incentives and rebates, shortening the time you’ll wait for your return on investment.
  • Incentives also come from the IRS in the form of a tax credit: While 2019 was the last year homeowners could claim 30 percent, 26- and 22-percent tax credits for the cost of purchase and installation are still available for 2020 and 2021.
  • Average state and local rebates may decrease solar expenses by 10 to 20 percent; solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs), bought back from utility companies to meet local requirements, and performance-based incentives (PBIs), used instead of or with net metering to pay out a credit for electricity produced, can also cut down on installation expenses.

8. Over time, your home’s value may also increase.

Not only might solar panels add 4.1 percent, or nearly $10,000, to your home’s asking price but having renewable energy may help your house sell even faster.

And:

  • Many homebuyers are searching for eco-friendly upgrades for the same reason homeowners install them. Solar ROIs can range from 5.8 to 8.16 percent, and significant long-term savings are likely.
  • Cities like New York, Orlando, and San Francisco rank with above-average returns, with solar-equipped homes selling for up to 5.4-percent higher.
  • The most recent REALTORS® and Sustainability Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) showed that the majority of agents (at 70 percent) found energy efficiency to be “very or somewhat valuable” in promoting listings.

Solar loans, similar to home improvement loans, can offset upfront expenses. Some mortgage programs also allow homebuyers to bundle solar into their loan, as home renovation financing. An Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) — used for improvements like solar installation, furnace efficiency upgrades, new or added insulation, storm doors, and more — can keep the cost of making energy-saving updates manageable.

Ready to renovate? We’re ready to help

The right reno project can give your home more value in the long run – and set you up for success when it’s time to sell. Exterior updates, repairing wear-and-tear, opening up a living area, and installing smart home features are all great examples of totally-worth-it home upgrades. Connect with a local loan officer to find out how to offset the costs of home renovation.

*”Homes With Solar Panels Sell for 4.1% More.” Zillow, April 2019.

For educational purposes only. Please contact your qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

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