10 Things to Know Before Going Solar

Are you thinking about going Solar?  It’s a good time as this is last year to take advantage of the federal tax credit for solar panels.  This was one of my considerations when I decided to go solar late last year.  Aside from the satisfaction of knowing that I’m going green, I was also able to reduce my monthly expense for electricity.  All in all, going solar has been a great experience.

But there are some things to consider before you make the jump.

1. Make sure you understand your utility company’s rates.

If your electricity cost is minimal, then it may not be cost effective to go solar.  But you should be aware of your electrical cost as well has how your company calculates your electricity.

Many areas also have tiered usage formulas, so that the cost of electricity increases as you use more.  Also, in many areas there are time of use rates.  This actually turned out beneficial for me as my electricity company pays for my electricity production at my rate.  In my case, the I was on a time of use plan where my mid-day rate was higher than evening and weekends.  This works well for solar power because I am generating surplus electricity and getting paid at a higher rate.

2. No Rebates for Solar Batteries.

These days, one of the big upcoming technologies is solar batteries.  The advantage with solar batteries is the ability to store the power that you generate.  The idea being that you don’t need to draw as much from the grid in the off hours by using the extra energy stored in your batteries.

But you should be aware that your tax rebate is not triggered unless it’s tied to the grid.  Also keep in mind that batteries are potentially explosive, so you may want to think twice about placing a potentially explosive device in your home.  If you are considering getting a battery, definitely have an in depth conversation with your Solar company.

3. Know How Much Energy Your Home Uses Each Month.

When we got solar, one of the things that our Solar Company needed was our last years electricity usage.  They use this to get an estimate for how many panels our family would require.  They company then crunched the numbers and gave us a recommendation for our usage.  Keep in mind that these numbers are also used in the application process for the electric company.  In our case, we were told that our electric company no longer approved surplus generation, so our system needed to be under 100% power generation.

But it is also important to keep in mind any changes to your family that would increase your power usage.  In our case, we had just began leasing and electric car, which increased our monthly average, but it had not yet been reflected in our history.  Also, keep in mind that if you have any upcoming additions to the family, your electricity usage will go up.  It’s surprising how much electricity an infant can use!

4. South Facing Roof?

Ideally, you want your home to be facing the sun as much as possible.  In the northern hemisphere, it helps to have your roof facing somewhat South.  But Southeast, Southwest, etc will also get good results.  And of course, in many areas you may have long days that give great sunlight.  Your company should conduct a site survey and be able to give you some advice about your production.

5. Will Solar Add to Property Tax

Generally, solar panels should not increase your property taxes as increases are triggered by increases in square footage such as room additions.  Additionally in many states, Solar Panels are exempt from property tax increases.  Make sure you research this potential cost before you install.

6. Cover Your Solar Investment

It’s also a good idea to contact your home owner’s insurance and find out the cost of covering your solar panels.  In many cases, the cost does not increase by much, but it’s good to have peace of mind knowing that your panels are covered to incidental damage.

7. Learn Your Solar Warranties

Your installers should offer a warranty on the quality of their work.  In our case, this mean guaranteeing that the panels would generate a certain amount of power, as well as covering any damage from the installation.  Our company covered any electrical panel upgrades required as well as any roof repairs and the operation of the panels themselves for 20 years.  Keep in mind that this may not cover damaged caused by fire or other accidents, so it’s still a good idea to follow up with your homeowners insurance.

8. How Long do Solar Panels Last

Solar panels don’t have any moving parts, so they should last a long time with minimal maintenance.  Hosing them off once in a while and keeping the leaves off them is about the only maintenance required.  The panels should last 30 years or more, but lose about 0.5% conversion each year.

9. Will Panels Harm my Roof?

There’s no reason for the Panels to damage your roof.  In our case our Solar company was also licensed for roofing, so they guaranteed their work and guaranteed repairs for any damage caused by the Panels.  In fact, our company also guaranteed repairs on any pre-existing conditions on our roof that would be required for the installation.

10. Your Roof Type Can Impact Cost

The type of roof you have may have an impact on the cost of installation.  You should make sure to check with your company to see if there is a cost difference depending on the type of your roof.  Remember shake or tile roofs can be more brittle and this more difficult to install solar panels than a plain asphalt roof.  In our case, the company we used did not charge any more for tile roofs.  But it’s definitely something to investigation.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the things to ask your solar installation company before you begin your installation.  If you aren’t thorough in your research or work with an unreliable company, you could end up paying hidden costs for your project.

It’s always a good idea to do your research and find a trustworthy company before you begin your installation.  Interview a few companies and do your research before you begin.

In our case, we interviewed several companies, checked out their referrals and checked out other installations going on around our neighborhood.  Also, our electric company had a list of companies that worked in the area with the amount of installations going on.  So we were able to see that our  solar company, American Solar Direct, compared favorably to others and also see that they had many customers in our area before we made our choice.