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Schedule Your Free Home Energy Checkup With One of Our Experts. Solar current for house

Schedule Your Free Home Energy Checkup With One of Our Experts. Solar current for house

    Schedule Your Free Home Energy Checkup With One of Our Experts

    Spend enough time living in a sunny state and you’ll hear people boasting about how they cut their electricity bills by investing in solar panels for their home. You may even be tempted to join them. After all, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) finds that the average homeowner pays around 111 per month for electricity. In sunny southern states like Arizona and Florida, this number goes up to 128 per month. That’s 1,500 a year!

    Of course, before you run out and invest in a solar panel system, you probably want to know how much you stand to save. Solar panels require an investment after all, and their return is determined by how much they’ll shrink your monthly bills. Can you power your whole house with solar panels, or will you need to pull some power from the grid?

    Can a House Run Completely on Solar Power?

    The short answer: Yes, you can use solar energy to power your entire house. In fact, some people have used expansive solar panel systems to go off the grid completely, turning their homes into self-sustaining ecosystems (at least as far as energy is concerned). Most of the time, however, homeowners will keep using their local energy provider as a backup for cloudy days or long periods of foul weather.

    In some states, electric companies will still charge you a low fixed charge to remain connected to the grid. In other states, installers can set up your solar panels so that any excess energy they generate gets funneled back into the grid. In exchange, energy companies provide you with credits you can use to draw free energy back from the grid overnight or on cloudy days.

    How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Power a Home?

    The number of solar panels you’ll need to completely power your home depends on several factors: where you live, how much energy you use, how efficient your panels are, and how much power your panels were designed to produce. That’s why a quick internet search will provide a plethora of answers to this question, ranging from as few as 15 panels to as many as 45.

    Instead of listening to the internet pundits and their array of unhelpful answers, we’d recommend reaching out to a trustworthy local solar provider. At FOR Energy, we’ll send a team of solar experts to your house to evaluate how much sunlight you receive and how much energy you consume. Using that information, our Energy Pros will design a custom solar panel system that meets your needs. We’ll also explain how many solar panels you need and why, allowing you to rest easy knowing you’re making the best decision for your home.

    How Much Will It Cost to Install a Solar Panel System?

    The cost of your solar panels will depend on your manufacturer, system size, and where you live. So, once again, we’d recommend reaching out to a trustworthy local solar installer to discuss your needs and the corresponding system costs.

    When you do, it would be worth discussing the various discounts and tax credits available that can help cover the cost of your system. For example, the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) provides you with a tax credit that will help cover up to 26% of system costs after you install your system. Many states offer property tax and sales tax exemptions on solar panel systems, and some states like California, Colorado, and Texas will offer rebates to qualifying homeowners. Finally, states like Arizona and South Carolina will offer state tax credits that help cover part of your system costs. Opportunities like this can make investing in solar panels surprisingly affordable.

    Want to learn more about the benefits you’ll enjoy after investing in a solar panel system for your home? Contact FOR Energy today and schedule a free solar consultation!

    Selling a House with Solar Panels (Guide)

    Life is unpredictable. When you first installed a solar panel system on your home, you looked forward to many years of generating your own electricity and helping the environment. But just a few years later, you have to sell your home. Although you know that solar panels can increase the value of your home, you’re worried they could also make selling your home more complicated.

    Thankfully, it’s easier than you think. With this guide, you’ll learn what you need to know about selling a house with solar panels. We’ll answer any questions you might have, and share the requirements and liabilities to be aware of, based on how you financed your solar energy system: cash purchase, solar loan, solar lease, or power purchase agreement (PPA).

    General Tips for Selling Your House With Solar Panels

    Solar power systems are gaining popularity across the country, especially as the cost of solar panels decreases and solar panel efficiency increases. As a result, the demand for solar-powered homes in the national real estate market is on the rise, evidenced by faster sales and higher sale relative to comparable homes without solar.

    So how do you capitalize on the demand? These tips will help you talk to both realtors and potential buyers about how buying your home with solar panels will be worth the investment.

    Communicate the Financial Benefits of Solar Power

    Although the sale price of a home with solar panels might seem higher than a home without them, solar panels offer buyers both immediate and long-term savings that may offset the initial costs. Talk to interested homebuyers about their savings potential using reasons such as:

    • Reduced energy bills: When your solar panels generate the electricity you use, you could see a smaller electricity bill.
    • Protection from rising energy costs:Electricity rates keep rising each year, so a solar power system can help shield you from future price increases.
    • Net metering credits: If the solar panels generate more electricity than you use, you may be able to send the excess energy to the electricity grid in exchange for net metering credit from the utility company.
    • Increased home value: In case the buyer decides to sell in a few years, solar panels currently improve home values by 4.1% on average, and those savings could keep rising.
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    Note: Net metering is not available in every area. Check with your electricity provider to see how rates are structured for your home.

    Communicate the Environmental Benefits of Solar Power

    Solar panels produce clean, renewable, and emission-free electricity. An eco-friendly homebuyer will immediately understand the value of solar energy, including:

    • Reduced air pollution: Solar panels create clean energy that doesn’t send pollutants into the atmosphere.
    • Reduced carbon emissions: Going solar reduces the demand for fossil fuels, limits the emission of greenhouse gasses, and shrinks your carbon footprint.
    • Reduced waste: Solar panels are durable, and they can last 25 years with low cleaning and maintenance needs. In addition, the vast majority of solar panel technology can even be recycled.

    Communicate the Warranties and Service Agreements

    When selling a house with solar panels, you should directly introduce the buyer to your solar provider to handle the transfer of any contracts, service agreements, warranties, and more.

    For example, Palmetto takes the burden off our customers by helping you, the seller, and your buyer with the process of transferring service agreements and warranties. The following warranties transfer to the new homeowner automatically:

    • Panel product and performance warranty (manufacturer’s warranty)
    • Inverter warranty (manufacturer’s warranty)
    • Workmanship warranty (for Palmetto customers, 10-year)
    • Penetration warranty (for Palmetto customers, 5-year)

    You can also provide the potential homebuyer with your Installation Contract that describes your Palmetto warranty.

    Perform an Appraisal on Your Home

    Getting a fresh appraisal of your home that includes your solar panels will add value to your property. You should work with a real estate agent or appraiser who has experience selling homes with solar panels, based on any of these valuation methods:

    • Income-based valuation: Focusing on the projected income the solar system will generate for the owner over its forecasted remaining lifespan, it’s a practical way to explain the return on investment to potential homebuyers.
    • Cost-based valuation: This method calculates the cost of building the current type of solar system on the home based on the quality of the equipment.
    • Market-based valuation: A method that determines your home’s market value by observing the impact of the system on the home’s value compared to those without a solar system.

    Are Houses with Solar Panels Easier or Harder to Sell?

    Solar panels can increase the value of your home, and there is some evidence that homes with solar sell faster than those without. In general, it can be a smooth process if you understand both the benefits and the challenges of selling a house with solar panels.

    Easier to Sell With Solar

    Solar panels don’t require a lot of maintenance and are likely to offer homebuyers greater value over the long term. These benefits and others should make solar panels a selling point for many homebuyers.

    • Increasingly popular: Current market research tells us that buyers are willing to pay more for homes with solar panels than those without.
    • Lower maintenance: Relieve buyer concerns by sharing that solar panel cleaning isn’t that complex, and when needed, it’s often handled by the solar panel installer. over, solar power systems are designed to withstand the elements so they won’t damage easily.
    • Financial perks: Solar panels can lower monthly energy bills, especially if the homebuyer uses less electricity than the system generates.
    • Helps the environment: An eco-conscious homebuyer will be excited to buy a home with solar panels that can help reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

    Harder to Sell With Solar

    Selling a home with solar panels can be a smooth process, but you may still encounter the following obstacles:

    • Buyer hesitation: Buyers might not understand the benefits of having a solar energy system, so they may be concerned about upkeep, maintenance, and repairs.
    • Agent hesitation: Agents might not understand or want to communicate the benefits of having a solar energy system, so they may scare away potential buyers, making the process harder for you.
    • Seller issues: The selling process can be complex if you can’t produce the necessary documentation about your solar panel system, and you could lose out on that potential extra value.
    • Valuation issues: A substandard appraisal might lack enough data to convince potential buyers why your home with solar panels is priced higher than similar homes in the neighborhood.
    • Solar leases: Buyers might not want a home with a solar lease, since the solar panel system remains the property of the solar installer. Solar leases can also be harder to transfer since the leasing company needs to be involved. (For more information, check out our guide to Solar Leasing vs Solar Buying.)

    Selling Your House With Owned Solar Panels

    If you own your solar panels outright without any financing, it’s the easiest scenario for selling your home. Solar panels that have been purchased and paid for don’t require multi-party solutions to transfer solar panel ownership. In addition, homebuyers are often willing to pay more money for a home with owned solar panels than one with leased solar panels.

    Selling Your Home With a Solar Loan

    When selling a house with a solar loan, the lending institution can help you transfer the solar loan to the new homeowner. However, your selling options depend on how you financed the loan, namely whether it was a secured or unsecured loan.

    • If you bought the financed solar panels using a secured loan, you have to clear the loan before selling your home.
    • If you bought the solar system using an unsecured loan, the solar loan is not tied to your property, so you can sell your property before clearing the loan.

    Selling Your Home with a Solar Lease

    Unlike a solar loan, selling your house with a solar lease could be a liability. This is because you don’t own the solar panels; the solar company does. As a result, selling a home with a solar lease involves selling the house and transferring the solar lease at the same time.

    In this case, you have two options:

    • Buying out the remainder of your lease payments; OR
    • Try to get a willing home buyer to transfer the lease and take over the payments.

    While it’s more difficult to sell a home with a leased solar energy system, it’s not impossible. To avoid any liability issues, the seller, buyer, real estate agent, and solar company should conduct negotiations about the solar panel lease on top of negotiations for the home itself.

    Selling Your Home with a Solar PPA

    A Power Purchase Agreement, also known as a PPA, is similar to a solar lease in that the solar installer owns the panels while the homeowner enjoys the benefits of solar electricity. Selling your home with a solar PPA works the same way as selling your home with a solar lease: You have to sell the house and transfer the solar PPA to the buyer. The seller, the buyer, the real estate agent, and the solar company should conduct negotiations about the solar panel PPA separate from the house itself.

    Can You Move Solar Panels To A New Home?

    You love your solar panel system, but you also want to move. Can’t you pay someone to remove the panels from your current home and install them on your new one? Unfortunately, the answer is most often “No.”

    Not only can it be logistically challenging to remove and transport the solar panels, but there’s a good chance it could damage your panels and/or your roof. Any savings you hope to see by moving your system could be offset by the costs of having to repair the roof of the home you’re trying to sell. While panels are durable once installed, removing, moving, and reinstalling them can dramatically increase the chances of being damaged.

    In addition, your solar system was tailor-made and custom-designed for your current home and consumption habits. Most solar panel installers do not recommend moving your solar energy system from one home to another because the energy needs and roof design are usually different. This could result in poor electricity generation, which means you wouldn’t enjoy the full benefits of your solar panels. Palmetto does not offer this service to its customers, and we will not store or transport any customer-owned solar panel system equipment.

    How To Sell A Home With Solar Panels

    Selling your home with solar panels can be a complicated process, so it’s nice to have a clear guide that helps you understand the steps, so you can enjoy the maximum return on your investment.

    As a home seller, you need to be clear on the ownership status of your solar panels, as that could seriously improve or hamper the sales process. Additionally, you can increase the likelihood of a smooth sale if you can communicate the benefits provided by solar panel ownership to prospective buyers and real estate agents.

    The more information you can provide upfront to your real estate agent and prospective buyers, the better. On the flip side, the more people that need to be involved in selling the house (especially if you have a solar lease or PPA), the slower and less attractive the sales process might be to potential buyers.

    If you’re thinking about selling your home with Palmetto solar panels, you should learn about your options for transferring the warranty and Palmetto Protect service plan to the new owner. You can also contact our service department to schedule an inspection of your solar panel system to verify that everything is up-to-date before you sell your home.

    Determining how many solar panels can power a house doesn’t have to be complicated. From watts to kilowatts and more, these tips will help you figure out how many solar panels are required in a solar system for home use.

    By Melissa Graham | Updated Jan 26, 2023 4:28 PM

    We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

    Q: I’m interested in installing a solar panel system for my home, but I don’t know much about solar panels. How effective are they? How many solar panels power a house?

    A: There are plenty of incentives and benefits for switching from a traditional utility system to a solar-powered one. There are rebates and tax credits, but also the knowledge that you’re helping improve the environment. If you’re wondering, “How many solar panels do I need?” a few essential elements will answer the question. The tips below will help walk you through calculating how many solar panels you need and what factors will affect that number. While calculating these numbers yourself can give you an idea of what kind of solar array you’ll need, know that a qualified solar panel installer will do all of these calculations for you if you proceed with installing solar panels.

    You’ll need to know three things: your annual energy usage, the solar panel wattage, and the production ratio.

    ”How much solar do I need?” is an expected question from a homeowner new to solar systems. To figure out exactly how many panels are required to run a home, you will need to consider your annual energy usage, the solar panel wattage, and the production ratio. These three factors are essential when converting to a solar system. While this calculation will give you a ballpark estimate, consider that other factors will affect the actual number of panels, which will be touched on later.

    If you’re looking to install a designated solar heating system—one where solar panels heat liquid or air and convert it into central heating for a home—you’ll also need an experienced HVAC installer who can convert your existing central heating system to a solar heating one.

    Maybe it’s time to call in a solar energy pro. Get free, no-commitment estimates from experts near you.

    Look at your utility bill to determine how many watts you use.

    Energy usage is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). KWh does not mean the number of kilowatts you use in an hour, but rather the amount of energy you would use keeping a 1,000-watt appliance running for 1 hour. The number of appliances that use power and how often they’re running will affect the usage. Anything plugged into a wall will count toward your energy usage, and bigger appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers use more power than a phone charger. For example, a 50-inch LED television uses around 0.016 kWh per hour, whereas an electric dishwasher will use about 2 kWh per load.

    As of 2019, the average American household uses 10,649 kWh of electricity per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. But the best way to determine how much power you’ll need is by looking at your utility bills from the past year. This will give you a solid idea of your real-life energy needs, especially as power usage fluctuates throughout the year. The amount of energy you use will dictate the size of the system you need.

    While installing solar panels can often reduce or even completely offset your monthly electric bill, remember that electric rates and usage are volatile factors. If the price of electricity or the amount you use drastically changes, your savings could change as well. For example, central to southern California is considered a great place to install solar panels because of the frequent sun—but it also is a state that regularly sees higher electricity prices.

    Once you know your home’s energy demands, it’s time to start looking at panels. Look at different panels and see what the wattages are. The solar panel wattage is also known as the power rating, and it’s a panel’s electrical output under ideal conditions. This is measured in watts (W). A panel will usually produce between 250 and 400 watts of power. For the equation later on, assume an average of 320 W per panel.

    Use your annual energy consumption and solar panel rating to calculate the production ratio.

    You can calculate the production ratio when you have the numbers for your annual energy usage and the solar panel wattage. The production ratio is a system’s estimated energy output over time (measured in kWh) compared to the actual system size (measured in W). To calculate the production ratio, divide the energy output by the system’s total wattage. In the U.S., production ratios tend to fall between 1.3 and 1.6.

    Maybe it’s time to call in a solar energy pro. Get free, no-commitment estimates from experts near you.

    Once you have these three numbers, it’s time to calculate the number of panels. The formula is:

    schedule, your, free, home, energy

    Number of panels = system size / production ratio / panel wattage

    For example, using 10,649 kWh (the average energy usage of an American household), 1.3 (the low end of common production ratios), and 320 W (the average wattage of a solar panel):

    Number of panels = 10,649 kWh / 1.3 / 320 W = 25.6

    From this calculation, you can estimate that a house with these power requirements would need about 25 panels that produce 320 W.

    Take the amount of sun your home receives into consideration.

    Remember that this calculation assumes that the panels are running under optimum conditions. direct sunlight means your home can convert more energy into electricity. In states like Arizona and New Mexico, which are known to produce more sunlight than states in the Northeast, homeowners will likely need fewer solar panels. Nevada, Utah, California, Texas, and Colorado are other locations that usually produce more sunlight. But even if you live in a region or state with long winters or one that’s outside of the Sun Belt, you may need to purchase more solar panels to effectively run the home.

    The size, shape, and material of your roof will also affect the best placement of solar panels. The ideal roof has no shade coverage from trees and large amounts of space facing south, west, or east—these are the directions that receive the most sunlight throughout the day in the northern hemisphere. Roofs with steep pitches make installing solar panels more difficult and can mean that an installer may not be able to fit as many panels on the roof. The same goes for oddly shaped roofs.

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    The number of solar panels you need will also depend on if your home will be on-grid or off-grid.

    Often the more popular option, on-grid solar panel systems are connected to the public utility grid. If there isn’t enough sun to provide full power, the house can pull energy from the traditional grid, so it doesn’t have to go without electricity. On the other hand, an off-grid system is not connected to the public grid and is more common in rural or remote locations.

    Off-grid systems rely on batteries to store power to keep the house running at night or on cloudy days. Off-grid systems will likely need more panels to run the house and store up excess energy. On-grid or off-grid systems can affect the overall cost of your solar power system.

    Figuring out how much solar battery capacity you need is a task unto itself. Not enough capacity and you’ll run out of power in the middle of the night, but too much and you’ll add unnecessary complexity and maintenance costs. The number of batteries you need will also depend on the type of battery you choose. Lead acid batteries are more cost-effective, but lithium-ion batteries have better capacity, efficiency, and lifespan.

    Maybe it’s time to call in a solar energy pro. Get free, no-commitment estimates from experts near you.

    The type of solar panel will affect its efficiency.

    There are three types of solar panels available: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are both composed of cells made out of silicon. The silicon pieces are assembled to form a rectangle and covered with a glass sheet. Monocrystalline solar cells are cut from a single silicon crystal, while polycrystalline cells are composed of fragments of silicon crystals. This difference in construction affects the efficiency and price. Monocrystalline panels are more efficient and perform better, but they’re also more expensive. Polycrystalline solar panel are more affordable, but you’ll compromise a bit on efficiency and performance.

    There are also thin-film solar panels. Like the name suggests, the cells are thinner than monocrystalline or polycrystalline. However, the actual panel itself may not be significantly thinner than other styles of panels. Thin-film panels are more portable and flexible than either monocrystalline or polycrystalline, but they’re less efficient. Different panels will have different pros and cons depending on your home, geographic location, and more, and your solar installer will be able to give you advice on what’s best suited for you.

    While this guide can give you general information about the number of panels, solar panel sizes, and types of systems you might consider, remember that a qualified solar power installer will be able to give you more information that’s specific to your home. Many variables play into how efficient solar systems are, and it can be difficult to take all of those into consideration when you’re not experienced.

    What you need to know about converting your home to solar

    If you live in an area with abundant sunlight—hello, fellow southern Californians—you’ve probably thought about installing solar panels on your roof to save on your electric bill. But with so much information, it can be hard to know where to start.

    Look no further—start here

    Between the different types of panels, financing, inverters, and other jargon, researching solar energy can feel overwhelming at first. That’s why I recommend starting at a solar quote comparison site like EnergySage, Solar-Estimate, or SolarReviews (the latter two are run by the same people).

    Both EnergySage and Solar-Estimate act as educational resources and comparison shopping tools to help you field bids. I’ve been using EnergySage, which is chock-full of articles explaining the technology involved. You can also watch videos, look at their buyer’s guide, or start getting quotes. Their Solar 101 series of articles will help you understand the basics, and when you’re done, scroll through the site’s “Learn About Solar” sidebar to read even more articles that’ll give you a feel for the process.

    To understand what your home requires, though, you’ll need to look up how much electricity you use. If your bill tells you the average amount of electricity you use each month, make a note of that, or calculate a quick and dirty average yourself. The more information you have on your usage, the more accurate an estimate you can get from installers.

    Your energy usage will determine how many panels you’ll need on your roof. Too few, and you’ll still have to pay the electric company for whatever extra power you use. Too many, and you’ll waste money on panels you don’t need—though the electric company will give you credits for any energy you don’t use, should you one day need electricity from the grid.

    Keep in mind your future use, too—EnergySage CEO Vikram Aggarwal says that if you plan on getting an electric car, for example, you may want to add a few more panels than you currently need. My neighbor did exactly that, and he’s glad he doesn’t have to rely on the grid for the increased energy usage his new car requires.

    From there, you can call local installers directly or plug your information into EnergySage to streamline the process. “You tell us about your home, your bill, and we ask you if you have any preferences regarding equipment, quality, or type of financing. Based on that information, you’ll get quotes from half a dozen pre-screened solar companies,” explains Aggarwal.

    Since these quotes contain a number of figures, including a “price per watt,” it’s a bit easier to compare each installer apples-to-apples—rather than just comparing the total cost of each installation that you might get from individual quotes. And, unlike some other solar comparison tools, you won’t have to share your phone number on EnergySage, which is a big plus if you don’t want unsolicited phone calls. (Both EnergySage and Solar-Estimate make money from installers, who pay a fee to list on the site.)

    How to choose an installer

    As with any big project, don’t just pick the first cheap quote that comes along. “Consumers should get three to five quotes from a mix of different kinds of solar companies to truly evaluate their options,” says Aggarwal. That way, you’ll get a feel for the average cost—pay special attention to the price per watt, which is your main point of price comparison—though it isn’t the only factor you should consider when selecting an installer.

    When you find some you like, reach out to the companies and set up a visit to your home where they can create a more detailed plan. You may find that a slightly more expensive installer makes a better pitch for the project. My brother-in-law, for example, liked that his chosen company had a keen attention to detail and helped explain the process to him. Other companies he looked at were cheaper, but didn’t take as much care in helping him decide between products, or determining the most aesthetic way to run the conduit to the electrical panel. So don’t be afraid to get a few on-site visits under your belt before committing. (And make sure a company is licensed, insured, and certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners—you can search their database of companies here.)

    Different installers may carry or recommend different panels and inverters, too. (Inverters convert the direct current from the panels to alternating current for your home.).efficient panels are naturally more expensive, but may be necessary if you can’t fit enough lower-efficiency panels on your roof to cover your home’s electricity usage. If you have a large roof or lower usage, you can go with less-expensive panels. You can also choose between more-affordable inverters mounted to the side of your house and pricier, more-efficient ones that sit on your roof. A good installer will walk you through all your options, so you can make an informed decision.

    The installer should also draw up the plans, get the permits, and install the actual equipment. So while the installation may be fairly quick, the start-to-finish process may take a few weeks to a few months, depending on your situation. Your installer should also tell you if you need to upgrade your electrical panel, which may be required for certain homes.

    Payment and financing

    Paying for your system can feel like a minefield all on its own. There are a ton of options out there, but most of them boil down to two main flavors: you can own your system, or you can rent it from the solar company.

    Owning the system

    Buying everything outright is ideal, since you reap the biggest financial benefits. You can either pay cash, which requires a high upfront cost but nets you the largest long-term savings, or you can take out a loan, which costs a little more in the long run but doesn’t require as much immediate money. Considering a typical solar power system can cost upwards of 10,000, a loan may be attractive. Plus, with a loan, as long as your monthly payment is lower than your monthly electric bill, you start saving money on day one. Purchasing the system upfront means you won’t break even for a few years (though again, you spend less in the long run).

    That loan can come from many places, too. You can go to your bank and get it rolled into your mortgage, open a new line of credit, or get a loan through the installer, Aggarwal tells me. Going through your bank may be cheaper, he notes, but may also require more paperwork than choosing the loan your installer offers. It depends on how much legwork you want to do.

    Renting the system

    Signing a lease, a power purchase agreement, or renting a system through other means is also common, but generally not as financially advantageous. You’ll pay less money, but you won’t get as many of the benefits. “Most of the savings are going to the leasing company,” says Aggarwal. “You may only get 20 to 30 percent.” It can also be a bit complex if you ever want to sell your home—the homebuyer also has to qualify for the solar lease and agree to take over the contract. If they don’t, you could lose that sale, be forced to buy out the solar panels, or deal with the headache some other way. You won’t have to worry about maintenance or repairs, though, like you would with a system you own. If you can’t afford to buy or finance your panels, leasing may be an option, but make sure you’re aware of the downsides before proceeding.

    Crunch the numbers

    You may be curious to know how long it takes before the solar panels pay for themselves (the moment your savings overtake the initial cost of the system), particularly if you’re buying them outright. This depends on the price of electricity in your area, the incentives available in your region, and how much sunlight you typically get, Aggarwal says. In California, where I live, electricity is 56 percent more expensive than the national average, and there aren’t any state incentives. But we get so much sunlight that Aggarwal tells me California’s average payback period is seven to eight years. Most solar markets, he says, typically see payback in less than 10 years.

    That’s pretty good, because most systems are designed to last significantly longer than that. Most solar equipment is warrantied for about 25 years, but can last even longer before you need to replace them, Aggarwal says. The panels do, however, lose efficiency over time, so they may not produce as much energy once you get that far down the road. In addition, the installer’s labor warranty will likely be shorter, so you may have to do a little legwork if you encounter trouble between years 15 and 25, for example.

    Finding tax credits and rebates

    If you choose to buy your solar system, you may be eligible for a number of financial incentives. It can be hard to keep track of what’s available, though, especially considering the federal government has started to phase out tax credits for solar. For 2020, the current federal tax credit stands at 26 percent of the cost of your system. This isn’t a rebate, it’s a tax credit, which means it’s deducted from the taxes you owe next year. If you don’t owe any taxes, you won’t get a check in the mail. The credit goes down to 22 percent in 2021, then phases out for residential customers in 2022.

    There are also state or local incentives, but these can vary by location. Aggarwal recommends checking out the Database of State Incentives for Renewables Efficiency, or DSIRE, to see what’s available in your area. Your accountant may also be able to help you make sense of all this for your specific tax situation—so give them a call as you’re running the numbers to see what your final cost and savings will be.

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