What to Avoid and How to Avoid It
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”Albert Einstein
Learning the ins and outs of solar can feel like a full-time job, and for me it is, but it doesn’t need to be for you. Here is a list of ten critical pitfalls you need to avoid to ensure you have a smooth experience with residential solar.
Mistake #1: Confusing Off-Grid with Grid Tied Systems
The great thing about solar is that it allows you to generate your own energy. The three things you can count on in life are death, taxes and the sun rising in the east and setting in the west. And while solar might not help you with the death part, it can certainly reduce your taxes and take advantage of the energy and predictability generated by the sun. By focusing your resources on generating your own power, you can reduce or eliminate the need to source power from the utility grid. Anyone who pays for electricity knows that energy companies are anything but fair and predictable. The costs seem to go in only one direction, up! What’s more is that because they operate as for-profit entities when inflation goes up, the costs go up even more so they can continue to maximize profits for their shareholders and board of directors.
Going solar means taking back control of your energy, but it doesn’t mean doing it alone. Often when people think about going solar and with their own rooftop power plant, they assume that means they are going off the grid. In reality, most people choose solar to maximize their return on investment in their own energy and for that, a grid tied solar system is best.
Generating solar energy requires that you have a means to store that energy when not in use. Solar systems overproduce during the periods of most direct sun, so that you can draw on it later when the sun has set or the rain clouds have come. The distinction between off-grid and grid tied systems is that with a grid tied system, you can use the existing infrastructure of the utility system to store that energy through a process called net metering. What this means is that when your solar system has an overabundance of energy production, that energy will be sent through the power lines for other people to use and they will credit you for that production. Later, when you are producing less energy than you need to run your home and appliances, you will draw on that energy credit and the electricity you generated will be returned to you.
Doing it alone and being completely self-sufficient is a romantic thought that dates back to the first settlers traveling across the US in covered wagons. And while that same drive for self-sufficiency might still lurk in the back of your mind, it’s an idea of the past that’s best left there. Let’s discuss some benefits of relying on the system that has maintained power in the US for the last 100+ years.
First, with a grid tied system, you never have to fear snow covering your panels or extended periods of inclement weather disrupting your home and lifestyle. You don’t need to be overly ambitious in your attempts to rein in energy usage by becoming the household light sheriff that yells at the kids every time they forget to turn off a bedroom light. Nor must you pretend to live in the Sahara and keep your house at uncomfortably warm temperatures in the summer and arctic climates in the winter. You can simply live as is most comfortable for you and your family.
The second and most important reason to stay grid tied is that you can save on the cost and maintenance of a large at home battery to store energy. While the monitoring and maintenance of a battery is small when tied to a grid, when it becomes your family’s only source of power, you need to keep a much more watchful eye on how much energy is stored and where it’s going. I think solar energy storage with batteries is amazing, however as with any electronics, it’s not impossible for something to go wrong can disrupt your daily life. On their own solar panels, if properly installed, have almost zero issues or malfunctions. But, the more components you add to the system, the higher likelihood that one of those components will fail you, and often when you need it the most. By remaining grid tied, you can still enjoy the benefits of having a battery backup for times of power outages that affect your neighborhood. You will still have power to keep the lights on and the fridge running, and can be the hero who hosts that backyard party when everyone else is living by candlelight. You just never need to worry about any of the downsides that might happen when a battery backup is your only source of power.
As a solar consultant, I believe that if you can afford it, a battery backup is a great addition to a residential or commercial solar system. But as much as I would love everyone to stick it to the energy monopolies and become self-sufficient, in most cases the current storage capacity of batteries is not great enough relative to cost to justify it for long-term dependance. That said, if you have deep pockets and a desire to practice self-sufficiency with your electricity, there are certainly plenty of options to help you achieve that. It’s just that for the average homeowner, a grid tied system fulfills all their needs without additional expense. And for the homeowners with additional money to invest into a home energy system and the desire to have a backup for emergencies, a grid tied system can provide that without having to worry about the downsides that come with being off-grid.
Mistake #2: Not Accounting for Drop in panel efficiency - .5% - 1% a year
I believe that solar is one of the greatest technological advances that we have seen in modern years. When compared to the other recent inventions like social media and food delivery that lets you never leave the couch, solar is the clear winner in my eyes. But solar is actually not that new of an invention, rather the massive investment in solar by public and private sources over the last few decades has made it a more viable option for personal energy production. They invented solar back in 1954 at Bell Laboratories, but early versions were not yet practical for real meaningful use. Solar has come a long way from my childhood of solar powered calculators and I believe that in 30 years it will be even better than it is today. That said, I think the advancements in solar technology will become more gradual rather than the large leaps in efficiency that marked decades past.
Presently, affordable residential solar panels operate at around 15% - 25% efficiency. I say affordable residential because the record for efficiency is almost 40% and was created by; you guessed it, the US government and is obviously not available for purchase. One reason that the efficiency is lower than you might expect is because the semiconductors within the panels themselves can only capture a fraction of the light they receive from the sun. Sunlight’s composed of photons with different energy and wavelengths. You might remember learning about the terms ultraviolet and infrared light in middle school science class. Solar panels can easily convert visible light to energy and a large portion of infrared as well. Presently, very few panels can use ultraviolet light as an energy source. They make much of the actual panels themselves from naturally occurring materials and to become more efficient would require advances in the semiconductor properties through more synthetic and not necessarily environmentally friendly means. That’s not to say that future panels with great efficiency will be bad for the planet, just that currently solar panels are extremely carbon friendly now.
You might think that if you purchase solar today, it will generate the same amount of energy for the life of the panels, but that’s not the case. Let me explain more clearly how panel efficiency degrades. If you would put a solar panel on your roof today, it would convert usable sunlight at around 20% efficiency. So we could say that a particular panel is operating at 100% efficiency of its expected use (because we only expect it to convert around 20%). Each year that panel sits on your roof that operating efficiency of 100% will reduce by .5 - 1% a year. Meaning that after about 20 years your panel will operate a little better than 80% of expected use. 80% is a good benchmark, because many solar panel providers will guarantee that amount of energy production relative to the day they installed it after 20 years.
For that reason, when you’re purchasing a solar system from a knowledgeable solar consultant, they will help you not only plan for today’s energy production, but account for a drop in production 20 years out. We refer to this as solar energy offset, and we try to build systems that provide about 120% of the annual energy you need from day one. This ensures that a decade or more down the road, you are still generating enough energy to fulfill the needs of your household. It’s probably safe to assume that in the future our electronics and appliances will continue to improve energy efficiency as each manufacturer knows that is something that consumers want and the government monitors. But even if your appliances never become more efficient than they are today, you will still have enough energy production for the life of the panels, which is believed to be 30-40 years (they could be much longer we simply don’t know yet). It’s safe to assume at least a 25 year lifespan for solar panels because most solar companies agree to warranty them for that long and would not do so at the risk of losing money.
So when you decide to take the plunge and switch to clean renewable energy from the sun, don’t be shocked when the solar energy offset is over 100%. That simply means that the person you’re working with is doing their job and is looking out for not only your needs today, but your needs in the future as well. But just because they are planning for your current and future energy needs doesn’t mean they can read the future, they also need your help.
Mistake #3 - Not Planning
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail” and with predicting future energy usage, it’s an apt quote. Before getting started with going solar, you need to look at your life now and where you expect it to be in the future. And this isn’t just your life, but also the lives of your family and what they’re planning for down the road, too. Are you newly retired and will spend more time at home watching TV and chatting with the grandkids over Skype? Perhaps you’re still single but hope to meet that special someone and start a family? Does that future family have children in it? Now I’m not advocating leading your first date with satellite photos of your home’s overclocked solar system that’s perfect for “when she’s ready to settle down and have kids”, but it’s good to prepare for expected or unexpected changes in the future.
If you’re part of an ever-growing family, it’s a good idea to picture the best (or worst) case scenario of careless teenagers skyrocketing your energy with constant internet usage, TV marathons, virtual classroom instruction, never turning off lights, and repeated visits to the fridge they forget to close. Adults typically use less power than the average teenager for a variety of reasons, and with the push to keep our kids technologically wired, that won’t change anytime soon. It’s worth considering the additional strain on heating and cooling with more people in the house, more rooms being used, and more doors being open and hopefully shut again.
The second thing to decide upon is if you think an electric car might now or in the future make sense. This is especially important as the current electric vehicle technology is only in its infancy and will get better and more advanced over the next few years. Add to that the unknown variable of just how expensive gasoline prices could get as oil supply contracts and an EV vehicle may look more attractive in years to come. If that’s the case, perhaps building your system to account for the ability to fuel up from your rooftop power plant might be a savvy move. What about smaller electric purchases like a riding mower that plugs into the wall and doesn’t need gas? Take a few minutes and really decide if the energy you are using now will be enough to power the things you might drive in the future.
Lastly, do you plan on picking up any new hobbies? Perhaps you have plans to build a workshop in an unused portion of the garage and will have tools, appliances and equipment that will drain energy. Often, many of the things we use for hobbies can become electricity vampires and continue to use resources by simply just being plugged in. This would include updating the family fridge and moving the old one to the garage to hold beer! Often, older appliances are recycled within the home and may not have the same efficiencies as newer models. It’s also important to consider if aging relatives may someday come to live with you and what their needs might be. Building an in-law suite is often a much more affordable and desirable option (depending on your family) than a care facility and if that is the case, you’ll find that your energy usage will rise in direct proportion to the number of Golden Girl reruns your mother watches.
Planning for future energy use helps protect you from needing to install additional solar in the future. While your roof might have extra space and additional panels may not be out of the question, the cost will certainly be lower to do it all at once rather than have a construction crew back out years later. If the choice is between a system that works now and one that will give you an abundance of energy for the future, it’s best to err on the side of caution and go for a larger system.
Mistake #4: Not buying because you think it’s a bad investment
I know that solar isn’t cheap, it’s a five-figure home improvement investment. Solar is without question, however, an investment that will pay dividends for decades to come. Paying to rent your energy for the utility monopolies isn’t cheap either, it just seems that way because they don’t show you a 20 year cost for your energy but a monthly cost that most homeowners have accepted as status quo. If homeowners received a comparison bill from the utility company that listed both the costs of owning solar compared to the cost of renting electric from a for-profit corporation, the choice would be much more clearly defined.
Here are the facts:
Every single year, the price you pay for energy will increase because of:
• Natural Inflation
• Repair cost to an aging energy infrastructure
• Shareholder dividend expectations
• Management’s fiscal responsibility to continuously increase profit
• Because of a lack of competition within the marketplace
Current Government solar incentives will not last forever
• Currently, there is a strong and bitter fight with fossil fuel companies and their government lobbyists against green energy and its government supporters.
• No matter who wins, there is simply not enough economic incentive to the government to keep incentivizing solar adoption as more people make the switch to cleaner energy
Inaction is still a choice, just a bad one
• Each month you pay to rent energy is a month you are not paying down your solar
• Each month you pay to rent energy is a month you are not adding value and equity to your largest investment
• Each month you pay to rent energy is a month you are missing out on potential energy savings
• By not going solar, you cannot invest what you save into paying off debt, saving for retirement, or having extra spending money for you and your family to enjoy
• Without solar, you have no hope of predictable energy bills because of external factors beyond your control
Solar makes your home more attractive to potential buyers and usually results in:
• Shorter time on the market
• More money when you sell your home
Solar helps preserve and protect the planet
• We already know that fossil fuels are dirty, but they are one of the most common forms of energy production
• Solar reduces the carbon footprint of your home by offsetting thousands of gallons of Co2 annually that would otherwise end up in the air we breathe
Solar is one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy and is creating millions of jobs
• Solar provides almost a quarter million jobs with more being added every single day
As far as investments go, solar panels are one of the best ones you can make for a variety of reasons. First, let’s look at some incentives:
• Federal Income Tax Credit - Helps reduce federal income tax liability (available to those paying taxes, i.e. not retirees living off social security)
• State Tax Credits - Similar to federal tax credits but at the state level
• Solar Renewable Energy Certificates - (Not available in all states)
• State Level Incentives - Visit dsireusa.org for your specific state incentives
• Low-Interest Loans - These can come from state, local utility, and other non-government sources
• Property Tax Relief - Some states exempt solar systems from property taxes
• Performance-Based Incentives - Some utility providers provide flat rate payouts for each kilowatt of energy created
These are just a few of the top level financial benefits that are available to those that go solar. Check out dsireusa.org for a specific list for your state and area. Here are some of the other benefits that homeowners switching to solar can expect.
Monthly Energy Savings
This is the difference between what your current energy payment is and the monthly financing cost of paying for your residential solar panels. The worst-case scenario is a bill swap with the cost of solar equalling the current cost of electricity you rent from the utility conglomerate. With the best-case scenario, you can save up to 50% a month financing a solar system compared to what you are paying to rent energy. That money you save can speed up the payment of credit card or student loan debt. It can help you pay off your home or vehicles faster. Or the money you save can help give your family a more comfortable lifestyle each month. The choice is yours, but I can think of no other time when a reasonable adult would choose not to save money when presented with the option.
Savings of Fixed Pricing
You no longer have to worry about the annual 4-9% electric increase. Your monthly payment is stabilized and predictable, allowing you to more accurately budget monthly household expenses. No more unexpected price hikes you can’t control. Each year, when the average cost of energy increases for your neighbors, you can feel secure knowing that it won’t for you.
Increase in Property Value
Your home will increase in value anywhere from 4 to 6% of total value. According to the real estate marketplace Zillow, “Homes With Solar Panels Sell for 4.1% More”. This isn’t simply my opinion. It’s backed by independent research and when you think about it, it makes sense. Anyone in the market for a new home would think twice about a home that saves them each month on energy versus one where they receive no energy savings. Buying a home with solar feels like a no brainer to some and a necessity for others.
Ability to Put Money to Work
Let’s talk about the time value of money as it relates to solar home improvements. If you could save just $50 a month through switching to solar, that’s $600 a year (and many people save much more than that). If you invested the monthly savings in a simple index fund for the next 30 years, that $50 a month you might save could equal almost $60,000. That’s $60,000 at no additional cost out of pocket for simply adjusting who you pay for energy. What’s more is that after you have finished paying for the cost of your savings, the savings become infinite. If you are paying $200 a month for energy now, in 20 years, that could very well be double that cost or more. When your system is paid off, you will benefit from the total savings that others in your area pay for energy compared to not having to pay for anything more than the cost of enjoying the benefits of a grid tied system.
Faster Sale of Your Home
Houses with solar sell faster, which can make an enormous difference in competitive markets. Imagine knowing that you have positioned your property with the best chance to sell quickly, no matter how tight the housing market is. As I write this book, we are in a sellers market where homes are selling quickly regardless of condition and price, however I have experienced other times in my life where it was a buyers market and sellers were forced to take massive action and provide incentives to move on from a property. Rooftop solar will help you sell your home faster no matter the market conditions you may face at the time you decide to move. It can also be a great benefit to rental properties, as potential renters will be much more likely to move into a home that will have lower energy costs each month. For landlords that can be the difference between a property sitting vacant for several months and getting several applications from potential renters all fighting to live in your property.
Turning a Bill Into an Asset
No matter what you will need to power your home for the next 30 years, what if instead of giving that money to the electric company each month, you invested it into the equity of your home? In 30 years, you could have either spent $60,000 with nothing to show for it or saved $60,000 PLUS increased the equity in your home? That is a major swing to your overall net worth that requires no additional lifestyle changes or modifications. Best of all, it’s a passive savings that’s worth more than earning that same amount because you will not pay any additional taxes on the money you’re saving. That savings continues each month passively and like clockwork.
A More Comfortable Living Environment
You will never again need to worry about not keeping the temperature of your home where you want it. When you design your system, you can account for the energy you want to use, rather than the energy you currently use. This means no more fights with your children because the house is too hot in the summer, and no more dirty looks from your wife because she wants to crank up more heat in the winter. You can make your house as it always should be comfortable, without feeling like you’re going to get slapped with an enormous utility bill.
Protection from Inflation
No matter what happens in the economy, your price is locked in and will not adjust with inflation. This means each year you are paying the same fixed amount even if inflation is 10% a year. Your money will go farther, while those paying for energy will continue to lose money. Inflationary protection helps insulate you from some of the economic threats that are beyond your control and prepares you for the unexpected. It’s just one more thing you don’t have to worry about cutting into your income and sometimes that peace of mind is more valuable than money.
I hope that after reading this list you realize that solar is never a bad investment. The only question for you is how good of an investment you can make it? That will depend on how you buy your system and who you work with to make it happen. Working with the right company and with a consultant will help put your mind at ease, because they will answer any questions you have and provide numbers to back up their claims in writing. If they are unable or unwilling to provide you with written documentation of the numbers they provide, it’s best to find someone who will. Any solar company worth their salt will happily stand behind the investment you are making in them and give you the peace of mind to know you made a positive decision for you and your family’s future.
Mistake #5: Trying to build your own system with mismatched parts
Now, as we already discussed, I am not a big proponent of DIY solar builds for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is because if everyone did it on their own solar consultants like me could be out of a job and with savings of anywhere from 30 to 50%, why am I not worried? Well, solar is really complicated, even if you have the technical knowledge and skill set to build a system yourself and will assume the liability that goes with that there is still one major issue. That issue is compatibility of the components and the potential to void any warranty by not using professional installation. Let’s talk about mismatched systems and why they can be real trouble for the aspiring DIY solar installer.
Many people are hesitant to purchase and spend the money for a professionally installed build for many reasons. It could be because they lack the credit for financing a system or because they would rather pay for it in cash overtime searching for the best deals on eBay or other avenues. Perhaps they simply believe that solar is too overpriced and would simply like to cut out the middleman. All these reasons are valid in some situations, however one of the quickest ways to get into trouble is by not doing enough research and deciding to purchase components yourself. The same way that with enough research and guides, you can build a computer from scratch in your garage, you can put together a DIY solar system as well. And like building a computer from parts, just knowing what to do and having the materials to do it is often not enough. If the parts you purchased are not optimized to work correctly, you risk damage to the equipment or worse, damage to your home, the power grid, or yourself. What are some things that can go wrong when designing rooftop solar systems?
First, there is the roof itself. Mounting brackets when incorrectly installed can become loose overtime break and fall to the ground, presenting a hazard for anyone unlucky enough to be underneath. You could also inadvertently damage your roof, voiding the warranty that your roofer provided you with and creating water damage to your home. And of course the obvious safety issue of falling off your roof, while trying to maneuver heavy solar panels on a ladder.
Faulty electrical wiring can cause a fire hazard to your home and property. The wiring itself can put you at risk of electrocution as the photovoltaic array generates electricity as soon as it’s exposed to the sun. Then there is the issue of wiring all the panels together, wiring it correctly into the inverter, and then safely wiring it to the energy grid. In addition, you will need to make sure you have the proper monitoring system set up to the control module so you can keep an eye on the actual output the system is generating and troubleshoot any issues that might arise.
All that is assuming you purchased the correct components meaning the inverter is the right size for the power input, the panels and hardware have compatible connectors, solar panels that are a consistent size and fit correctly on the racking system, the power center not missing any important parts, etc. If any parts are missing, are you well enough versed in the process to identify it before trying to power on the system? Last, are you good at troubleshooting any potential issues on your own, as most component manufacturers will be hesitant to provide any support when dealing with multiple brands they might not be familiar with?
If you can answer yes and remain undeterred, I would recommend you purchase all the components at once from a single point of origin or a kit for the best chance of everything working together correctly. By doing that, you also have the best chance for a bit more technical support since most companies do still care about their reputation. Last, figure out who you need to contact and what is the permitting process for installing your own solar. Often you will still be required to have it inspected by a professional and you will still be at the mercy of however long an approval process takes in your area. Most brands that sell solar as a DIY kit will not sell to you until you have spoken with someone who verifies that you are buying the right product to suit your needs.
Installing solar is a difficult process, but it’s not impossible. I have just found that most times it becomes more of a headache than it’s worth for the savings you receive and the time you and your friends need to invest. My best advice is to make sure you have quality helpers with you and you do not attempt it alone. The components are too large and heavy to maneuver without help, and you will be thankful for an extra set of eyes and hands throughout the process.
Mistake #6: Assuming you will receive a 1-1 credit from the electric company on grid tied systems
One detail usually overlooked by both solar consultants and homeowners is the policy of the particular energy company you will be grid tied to. While many companies that offer net metering offer a 1 - 1 credit for energy your panels produce when it comes time to draw on them, not all do. To that point, not all have reasonable fees for net metering a grid tied system either. Many times it’s as low as $10 a month, but other times it can be significantly higher.
Rather than go blindly into the process, why not ask the company you’re working with to find out the credit that you receive and the monthly cost of net metering your system? Better yet, find it out yourself so that you don’t have to rely on getting the information secondhand. People have many reasons for deciding to go solar, but among the top reasons is predictability. It’s important to understand what you will and will not be expected to pay from your energy company and what you can and cannot expect from them in terms of net metering credits.
Mistake #7: Blindly Believing Solar Misinformation
As I have said before, there are many, many people, companies and politicians that have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo and keeping you shackled to the utility companies and fossil fuels. If you don’t believe me, take a look at any advertisement from a solar company that makes its way to Facebook and read the hate, lies and nonsense people write on it. Much of the reason is because green energy has become politicized as an ideal that represents the ideology of one party over the other. What people cannot grasp while fighting tooth and nail against a cleaner world and a greener planet is that, to most people, that’s not the main reason to make a switch to solar energy.
One of the biggest reasons to switch to solar is to take back control of your power and finances all while saving money and doing your part for the planet. If solar was just for the rich or those that enjoy having the moral high ground with others, I wouldn’t be in the business of selling it. While I love the planet and do indeed want to do my part to preserve it for my children, I take great pride in helping homeowners find a solution to a problem they might not immediately recognize. That problem is a lack of control over something that’s as necessary as food and water. Having a safe place to live is more than just a roof over your head. It’s being able to turn on the lights or run the air conditioner on a day that’s too hot. It’s making sure your alarm system is working and the baby monitor has the power to notify you if something is wrong in the nursery. Energy is an essential part of life and until now it suffered from low competition, high prices, and no alternatives.
Just like I would rather know the farm that grows my food and support the farmers growing it, I believe it’s important to support people who are trying to make a profit by doing good for the planet rather than harming it. Solar is the only win/win that I can think of to benefit a company’s bottom line while helping consumers in multiple ways. It supports the local economy by starting with the local contractors and installers who make a living doing the hard work many are unable or unwilling to do themselves. It provides income for the teams that are in billing, human resources, sales, and maintenance of the many domestically owned and operated solar manufacturers. When you make the choice to go solar, it is a good thing that helps you and more people than you realize.
Now with everything, it’s important to recognize the good and the bad and solar is no different. I have come across unscrupulous people in this industry, just like you find in any other. Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between who wants to help you succeed and who is only looking out for themselves. If you ever want a second opinion or an additional set of eyes without the high-pressure sales tactics, visit me at solarturnsmeon.com and I will be happy to answer questions you may have. I will even build a solar savings report to help you compare with what someone else might be offering. That last thing I will mention is that words and promises matter, so it’s crucial you work with someone who will put into writing the things they say.
Mistake #8: Thinking the cheapest system will be the cheapest over time
Cheap is good, but is good cheap? The cheapest quote you receive for a potential solar project is not always the best. Similar to any home renovation you might accept bids for, the lowest bid might be a screaming good deal. Or the cheapest solar quote you get may have reached that price by using panels that do not perform as well as other options. It should go without saying that the panels you pick are essential to the overall performance of your system. You are looking for a mix of longevity, price, and performance backed by a warranty.
In addition, you also want to ensure that the system is designed correctly for the specifications of YOUR particular roof. It must account for the things that make your roofline unique. It must also correctly calculate shade or obstructions that might otherwise reduce your system’s efficiency and overcome that. Often the mark of a professional solar consultant is under promising and over delivering and they do this by staying conservative with the calculations. The last thing anyone wants is to be stuck with a system that doesn’t do what it was designed to do.
Another factor that is crucial is to understand exactly who you are doing business with. Are you working with a large corporation that will be around for years to come, but designs cookie cutter systems that aren’t fully optimized for your roof? Or perhaps you’re dealing with a local mom and pop business that might not be around in a few years to make good on any issues that could arise? The best solution is a combination of the two where you have a national solar company that can leverage economies of scale when sourcing equipment, but will use local installers to ensure that the person working on your roof understands the unique attributes of your neighborhood. Larger companies will often have a slightly higher overall price because of the higher cost of overhead. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because a company that has larger overhead may have that because they have a larger team with better oversights and quality controls. If picking between a large corporation and a smaller local team, this is one of the few times in life it pays to go big. With the life expectancy of solar panels running for decades, you want to work with someone who will be there to back up their work years down the road. If you can find a company that has a larger footprint but uses local installers, you will be in the best position.
Mistake #9: Not understanding your warranty
Solar warranties come in all shapes and sizes, but the most important thing is that they do what you need them to do. The second most important thing is to understand the warranty before agreeing to any installation. A warranty protects the product and gives you the peace of mind of knowing that nothing further needs to come out of your pocket for the project. In an ideal world, you would have:
1. An extended warranty of up to 30 years
2. No upfront premium or deductible
3. Coverage for all parts and labor
4. A quick and easy registration and claims process
5. 24/7 zero-hassle claims and on-site service
6. Transferable to new homeowners
Armed with a warranty offering those particular features, you can feel secure in your purchase and know that you are ready for the unexpected. Besides those features which come standard from many solar providers, there are additional features that might be offered as well. Look closely at what is and is not covered under warranty and investigate any additional warranty add-ons that might provide coverage for the gaps.
You will also want to review your homeowner’s insurance to ensure that your home and solar panels are covered. Typically, your homeowner’s insurance will extend to the solar panels on your roof as they are permanent attachments to the home. Issues can arise if you are lacking enough overall coverage to account for the addition of them to the home, so the first thing to do after installation is to speak with your insurance agent and have them review your current coverage.
Mistake #10: Not researching SREC or state and local tax incentives
SREC - Solar Renewable Energy Certificates
Many states have Solar Renewable Energy Certificates or SREC for short. These are state driven incentives to allow producers of solar energy, such as you the homeowner, to profit from the energy you produce. Many states require utilities to produce a certain amount of energy from renewable sources such as solar and thus to meet the threshold of energy production, they will buy the rights to count your production as their own. This does not mean that the homeowner cannot use that energy for themselves. It simply means that the utility company will pay you to say that they purchased renewable energy that you’re producing.
SREC’s are a great way for homeowners to earn additional income from their system every year. Let’s say a homeowner has a 10 Kilowatt system that powers their home, that is equal to around 10 Renewable Energy Certificates and a state like New Jersey might pay up over $200 per credit on a marketplace like srectrade.com. So besides all the benefits of solar that you receive and we have discussed, in some states you can receive enough income through credits that it almost pays your entire yearly cost of energy production. Currently, 7 states have SREC programs: New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington D.C., Delaware, and Ohio. If you live in one of these states, investigate how much additional income you can earn from your system’s production.
Here is an average of each state’s SREC in 2022:
• New Jersey - $234
• Massachusetts - $289
• Pennsylvania - $40
• Maryland - $79
• Washington D.C. - $400
• Delaware - $400
• Ohio - $6
So if you live in any of those states and are considering solar, ask your representative about how to maximize your earnings with these credits. As a homeowner, take the time to educate yourself on all avenues of savings so you can fully take advantage of the amazing opportunities the solar market has for you and your family’s finances.
By simply avoiding these major mistakes you are already far ahead of the crowd. When it goes right, it’s tough to beat solar, however sometimes it doesn’t work out because of mistakes and poor planning. Much like purchasing a house, the savings and planning you lock in when you buy will have the biggest impact on the future success of your system.
Let's discuss your energy goals and find out if solar makes sense for you with a short virtual meeting.
- Solar for $0 down
- Save up to 50% on your energy bills
- Increase your home value
- Get clean renewable energy
- Get a 30-year warranty
- Customized proposal and best value
Let's talk about going solar!
Jon Nelsen | Solar Consultant