8 Things to Know Before Installing Solar Panels

by Mother Huddle Staff

Going solar has exploded in popularity in recent years. It’s for a good reason: studies show that you can save up to around $40,000 over 20 years when you make the switch, depending on your area of the country.

The long-term savings potential and the appeal of reducing one’s carbon footprint are two huge advantages of solar energy. Add to that the curb appeal of an increasingly popular energy source and it’s easy to see why so many people are installing solar panels on their homes.

However, before you decide that making the switch is a no-brainer, there are some things to consider. 

If you’re curious about switching to solar power, follow along for 8 things you need to know before going for it.

1. Roof Matters

When was the last time your roof was done? Removing solar panels from a roof for maintenance is not a simple process. Before installing solar panels, you’ll want to be sure that your roof is in good enough condition to last about 20 years or more.

The type of roof you have makes a difference, as well. Composite roofs are particularly good candidates for solar panel installation, for example. Clay tile roofs are more difficult for solar projects.

In some cases, it may make more sense to install a solar array on the ground. A solar installation company can help advise you about your roof and the complexity of a solar project. 

2. Do You Get Enough Sun?

This is one of the first questions to ask when deciding if solar is right for you. The advantages of solar energy fade quickly if there’s no sun to power your panels!

First, do your own assessment. Is your property shaded? If you’re stuck behind a taller building or surrounded by trees, solar might not make sense for you.

Second, you can check out the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) global solar irradiance maps. These show how much sun intensity (and therefore solar power potential) different regions receive.

Finally, one last tool you can use to figure out whether you have the right sun exposure is Google’s Project Sunroof. It analyzes the sunlight you receive at your exact address and estimates your 20-year solar panel savings. 

These measures can give you an idea of how realistic solar is for you, but be sure to double-check with your solar panel company. They can assess what options make the most sense for you.

3. On-Grid vs Off-Grid

In some cases, you may be able to disconnect your home from the municipal electric grid by switching to solar power. This might be appealing to some homeowners.

However, in most cases, you’ll remain connected to the grid. This can have its perks.

If you have a sufficiently robust solar setup and monitor your energy consumption mindfully, you might produce more energy than you need for your home. In these cases, you can actually provide electricity to the grid. Some cities have incentives for this called net metering, meaning that the power company will pay you for your excess electricity.

If you aren’t producing that much electricity, being connected to the grid covers your needs at those times when your solar array doesn’t.

4. Cost of Installing Solar Panels

While the long-term savings are one of the major benefits of solar panels, it’s worth considering the up-front costs. Installing a solar array can be pricey.

On the other hand, there are incentives. The federal tax rebate for solar panel installation in 2021 is 22%. This has decreased steadily in the last few years and is set to expire after this year, so there’s no time like the present to switch to solar.

In addition, there are local incentives that vary across the country. Check out your local incentives to determine how much you can save on the cost of installing solar panels.

5. Buy, Lease, or Power Purchase?

You can typically buy or lease your solar array. In some cases, you can also enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with your local solar company. Each option has its pros and cons.

PPAs are arrangements in which a solar company arranges the design, financing, installation, and maintenance of a solar array on a customer’s property. The power produced is then sold to the customer at a predetermined rate. This can be a good option for reducing your carbon footprint and lowering your electric bill without investing in ownership of a solar array.

Buying your solar panels generally provides the greatest return on investment. Because of national solar power incentives, aggressive loan financing options are often available.

Finally, leasing can be an attractive option if you don’t want to commit to ownership or can’t find a loan or PPA that suits your needs.

6. Solar Panel Maintenance

Maintenance is a concern homeowners often voice when considering switching to solar. The good news is: it’s very easy!

Simply brushing or squeegeeing the panels off every once in a while is all you need to keep them operating effectively.

7. Going Solar if You Don’t Own Your Home

If you’re in a situation where you either don’t own your home or you can’t install solar panels on it, community solar can be an option for you.

Community solar involves installing a solar array designed to be shared by multiple properties. This can be a good solution for condominiums or housing complexes.

If you can get neighbors or your property manager on board, community solar can be an especially cost-effective way of switching to solar energy.

8. Resale Value

What if you don’t plan on living in your house for the next 20 years? Even in this case, investing in residential solar power can still save you money.

Real estate surveys have shown that solar panels increase home resale value by over 4% on average. Depending on the cost of your home, this can add tens of thousands to your selling price.

Making the Switch to Solar

Installing solar panels on your home has a number of benefits, from financial to ecological to aesthetic. However, before jumping on the decision, make sure to consider these 8 factors to ensure that you’re making the best call for your situation. Get in touch with your local solar installation company to have a full assessment done.

Have experience with solar installation or questions about it? Leave us a comment below!

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