Buying a solar energy system is the same no matter where you live, right? Well, yes and no.
While many of the components of a solar energy installation are similar, the rules and even some installation regulations differ from one area to the next. This makes sifting through the different recommendations from solar energy installers a daunting task. Each vendor may suggest different equipment, layouts, and they likely even offer different warranties. Each vendor will offer the “best” option but how can you know for sure?
In this post, I share 7 tips that I found helpful for the hundreds of Pennsylvania residents that have installed solar energy with Paradise Energy. We recommend every PA resident review these tips to streamline their solar energy installation project.
Solar is an Investment
Purchasing solar is not like buying a car. What’s different is you could get that same brand/model car from any car dealership and receive basically the same results. Then that car can be serviced by a dozen different mechanics in your area.
Buying solar is very different. Solar companies come and go. If you work with one of these companies goes out of business, you may find it difficult to get help if an issue comes up or you could lose some of the warranty benefits they offered. This is why you should spend time getting to know the company you are considering and not make a decision to purchase solely off the cost.
The solar buying process is a little like getting to know which investment advisor you want to work with. You may have many decisions to make over many years and want to have complete confidence in whom you choose to implement those decisions. Similarly, you want a solar installer that you know has your back 5,10 and even 25 years down the road.
Determine if you should buy or lease
Leasing was done more in the past when solar was a newer technology and installation prices were higher. Real Estate Agents have found lease arrangements to be very cumbersome to pass onto the new home buyer, making it difficult to sell. Solar Leasing companies get paid either way and are not really motivated to help in this process. We only recommend solar leases for people who aren’t able to use the tax incentives or would prefer to not pay a large sum of money upfront.
Buying a solar system instead of leasing is a much better long term plan because you now have an asset that is generating savings. It also increases your property value making it easier to sell. Who wouldn’t want a property that comes with free electricity?
There are some easy loan options that most solar companies offer. However, most instances you will find better loan options at your local bank. I also recommend having a minimum of 20% cash before purchasing solar. This will make your payment much more attractive and having that equity will benefit you much more in the long run. It’s similar to purchasing a home.
Learn more about solar leasing vs. solar ownership here.
Keep the process of going solar simple
If the company you are working with provides lots of charts and graphs to “help” you understand the outcome, beware! The company you select should approach your project in a consultative manner, helping to make the process simple. Your solar consultant should have the heart of a teacher.
You should research 2-3 solar companies
I recommend getting 2-3 quotes for your solar project. Any more than that will make the process more confusing and frankly take a lot of your time.
Start by gathering recommendations from friends and family who have had some past experience with solar or know someone who has installed a system. Then start researching. Start your investigation online to make sure they have a good reputation. Google, Facebook, SolarReviews.com, and EnergySage are popular platforms that allow past customers to share reviews. After that dive into their past experience, qualifications, financial standing, etc. Remember this is a long term partnership. It’s worth your time to lift up every stone.
Check out this blog post for five tips on selecting a solar installer.
Make sure your roof doesn't have shading
First, you want to start with a new roof or know that your current roof will last for 20 years before it needs to be replaced. Then you want to place the solar system away from any trees. If the trees are too close they will cause shading and diminish the production of your solar investment. Empty branches are just as concerning because of the shadows they will cause. Watch the video below to learn more about how shading impacts the production of a solar panel.
Some of the effects of shading can be overcome with adding micro-inverters or optimizers to minimize the losses but this is not a complete solution. Trimming the trees or even removing them in some cases is really the only way to make sense of solar energy. If you are in the middle of the woods already, I would likely advise you to conserve energy rather than invest in a solar system. Solar is not for everyone!
You need to understand the incentives and regulations
Some states have no incentives for solar while others have grants and/or Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs).
In Pennsylvania, solar owners can take advantage of the solar federal tax credit to reduce the system’s installation cost. The SREC market in Pennsylvania also creates a passive income for system owners. Both incentives can have a huge impact on your financial return and keep the payback period short.
Installation requirements also vary in each location. It can even vary by your utility company as some have limits on how big of a system you can install. In addition, the electrical codes vary by state. All this can be confusing but an experienced, well-informed solar installer can easily help you navigate these any potential challenges.
Make sure you know what maintenance is involved
A well designed and installed solar project can go years without needing attention. But, just like anything else, things can break and will need some attention.
You also want to make sure your original installer will monitor the system's performance. Properly set up system monitoring will notify your installer when something goes wrong so you can fix it before you get a surprise electric bill in the mail.
We recommend having your system inspected every 5 years. Here at Paradise Energy, system inspections are included with our Triple Ten Guarantee. Some other installers also have these inspections worked into the plan from the beginning, but there could be instances where you need to request this service.
If you would like help navigating the solar buying process, our solar consultants are ready. You can schedule a time to chat with a solar consultant. If you’re not ready to speak with a consultant, download our free solar buying guide or continue to browse our educational resources.