You’ve driven by the homes in your community boasting sleek solar panels and, boy, do you admire them. Not only can these smart panels help to lower electricity costs and reduce taxes, but they’ve also been shown to increase home value and reduce your environmental footprint.
All around, solar panels seem like a wise investment… but how can you know for sure?
In this post, we’re exploring how the everyday homeowner can get started researching solar to see if they have the means and money to make the transition.
1. Decide Between Roof or Ground-Mounted Solar Panels
There are two methods for installing solar on your property: placing panels on your home’s rooftop or elevated on a grounded mount. Both, of course, have their perks and drawbacks.
“Ground mount solar panels cost a bit more than rooftop solar on a per-watt basis because of additional labor and permitting that may be required for the installation,” EnergySage explains. They also obviously eat up valuable acreage in your yard and can be considered the less aesthetically appealing option over discrete, space-conscious rooftop panels. Yet, in situations where someone cannot properly install the panels on their roof, this is a feasible alternative.
Assessing Your Roof
Why wouldn’t you secure solar panels on your roof? Well for starters, your roof material affects your cost, with asphalt shingles usually the best to work with while tile, metal and rubber costing more for panel installation. Age is another big factor, as the roof needs to be in good condition to support the panels— preferably less than 10 years old and without significant wear.
Even if your roof material and age meet the requirements, the position of your home plays a huge influence on the efficiency of your panels. “Typically, solar panels perform best on south-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees,” according to Energy.gov. Tree locations and shading are other lofty considerations, as some large trees can cost thousands of dollars to uproot, in and of itself. For these reasons, some homeowners prefer or are forced to install ground-mounted panels.
Curious as to if your roof would fit the bill for solar? Check out Energy.gov’s Solar Rooftop Potential resource.
2. Evaluate How Long You Plan to Live There
While solar panels can pay for themselves in time, it can typically take 7+ years to earn back your initial investment from the product and installation cost.
“Solar shoppers who compare their options in the (EnergySage Solar) Marketplace can achieve payback on their solar investment in about 8 years,” according to data from EnergySage. After that, solar users have the perk of free electricity for the rest of the life of their solar system— many of which are rated for up to 35 years.
Simply put, homeowners who plan on moving within a decade may not reap the financial benefits of their investment. But for those who make the decision to stay long-term, it’s often one smart choice.
Determine Your Kilowattage
Curious as to how long it might take you to pay back your installation cost? The first thing you need to figure out is your kilowatt hour (kWh) usage for twelve consecutive months, which you can divide by 12 to see your monthly usage average.
Learn more about calculating your kWh here. You can save this figure with your installation quote to determine how many years it’ll take for you to break even and eliminate future electricity costs.
3. Calculate Your Installation Cost
Before moving forward with solar panel installation, you’ll want to get a sense of the overall cost.
A solar panel installer will take measurements of your roof and determine the best placement for your panels, as well as the number of panels required to meet your kilowattage needs.
Get Quotes from a Few Professional Suppliers/Installers
It’s best to request quotes from more than one installer before making a decision. Before beginning, confirm that each installer has the industry-standard certification awarded through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), qualifying them to professionally work with solar panels. You can’t assume every installer you find on a Google search has the accreditation, so be sure to ask directly before starting a relationship.
Most setups will include the solar racks, the panels themselves, and an inverter to convert DC power to AC power. Each of these should have their own clearly marked price, as well as an installation quote. Be wary of companies who only give a flat rate without disclosing individual costs or brands, as this doesn’t give you the transparency you need to compare costs elsewhere.
Check for a Solar Tax Credit
You may qualify for state or federal incentives based on your household income, some of which can reduce your federal tax bill by up to 30 percent. A good place to start is DSIRE’s website, a trusted source operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Based on your ZIP code, you can see if any financial incentives and policies apply to your home and if you qualify for assistance. Learn more about the federal investment tax credit (ITC) here.
Research Solar Campaigns
There are a few programs out there that work with homeowners to make solar upgrades more affordable. These campaigns can allow for groups of homeowners to rally community interest in solar, allowing the cost of installation to decrease as more residents participate. Here’s an informative resource from the US Department of Energy all about residential PV systems.
4. Potentially Apply for a Solar Loan
Once you have your estimated cost for the panels and installation, you can start thinking about financing options. There are things called “Solar Loans,” which work a lot like home improvement loans.
The good news is, “in most cases, monthly loan payments are smaller than a typical energy bill, which will help you save money from the start,” according to Energy.gov. If you need a little extra help getting started with solar, this could be your golden ticket.
Solar Panel Installation You Can Trust
For over 30 years, Brittania Electric has been serving the Fort Myers area and beyond. We pride ourselves on our high-quality work and fair, honest prices.
Curious to get started with residential solar? Start a conversation with us on our Electrical Services page, today.