Look no further—start here
Between the different types of panels, finance, inverters, and other jargoon, researching solar energy can feel overwhelming at first. That ’ mho why I recommend starting at a solar quotation comparison locate like EnergySage, Solar-Estimate, or SolarReviews ( the latter two are run by the lapp people ) .
Both EnergySage and Solar-Estimate act as educational resources and comparison denounce tools to help you field bids. I ’ ve been using EnergySage, which is chockablock of articles explaining the engineering involved. You can besides watch videos, look at their buyer ’ mho steer, or start getting quotes. Their solar 101 series of articles will help you understand the basics, and when you ’ re done, coil through the web site ’ s “ Learn About Solar ” sidebar to read even more articles that ’ ll give you a feel for the process.
To understand what your home requires, though, you ’ ll indigence to look up how much electricity you use. If your bill tells you the average sum of electricity you use each month, make a note of that, or calculate a quick and cheating average yourself. The more data you have on your usage, the more accurate an estimate you can get from installers .
Your energy use will determine how many panels you ’ ll need on your ceiling. Too few, and you ’ ll still have to pay the electric company for whatever supernumerary ability you use. Too many, and you ’ ll waste money on panels you don ’ thyroxine need—though the electric company will give you credits for any energy you don ’ thymine use, should you one day need electricity from the grid .
Keep in mind your future consumption, too—EnergySage CEO Vikram Aggarwal says that if you plan on getting an electric car, for case, you may want to add a few more panels than you presently need. My neighbor did precisely that, and he ’ mho beaming he doesn ’ t have to rely on the grid for the increased department of energy usage his new car requires .
From there, you can call local installers directly or plug your data into EnergySage to streamline the process. “ You tell us about your home, your charge, and we ask you if you have any preferences regarding equipment, quality, or type of finance. Based on that information, you ’ ll get quotes from half a twelve pre-screened solar companies, ” explains Aggarwal .
Since these quotes contain a number of figures, including a “ monetary value per watt, ” it ’ s a bite easier to compare each installer apples-to-apples—rather than barely comparing the sum cost of each facility that you might get from individual quotes. And, unlike some other solar comparison tools, you won ’ triiodothyronine have to share your call number on EnergySage, which is a large plus if you don ’ thyroxine want unasked earphone calls. ( Both EnergySage and Solar-Estimate make money from installers, who pay a fee to list on the site. )
How to choose an installer
As with any big project, don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate barely pick the beginning bum quotation mark that comes along. “ Consumers should get three to five quotes from a mix of different kinds of solar companies to truly evaluate their options, ” says Aggarwal. That manner, you ’ ll get a spirit for the average cost—pay special attention to the price per watt, which is your main item of price comparison—though it isn ’ t the only divisor you should consider when selecting an installer .
When you find some prices you like, reach out to the companies and set up a visit to your home where they can create a more detailed plan. You may find that a slightly more expensive installer makes a better pitch for the project. My brother-in-law, for exercise, liked that his chosen company had a cutting attention to contingent and helped explain the procedure to him. other companies he looked at were cheaper, but didn ’ t take equally much care in helping him decide between products, or determining the most aesthetic way to run the conduit to the electric gore. sol wear ’ thymine be afraid to get a few on-site visits under your belt before committing. ( And make certain a company is licensed, insured, and certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners —you can search their database of companies here. )
different installers may carry or recommend different panels and inverters, excessively. ( Inverters convert the direct current from the panels to alternating current for your home. ) More-efficient panels are naturally more expensive, but may be necessary if you can ’ thyroxine fit adequate lower-efficiency panels on your roof to cover your home ’ randomness electricity use. If you have a big roof or lower usage, you can go with less-expensive panels. You can besides choose between more-affordable inverters mounted to the side of your house and costly, more-efficient ones that sit on your ceiling. A good installer will walk you through all your options, so you can make an inform decision .
The installer should besides draw up the plans, get the permits, and install the actual equipment. so while the initiation may be fairly promptly, the start-to-finish process may take a few weeks to a few months, depending on your situation. Your installer should besides tell you if you need to upgrade your electric panel, which may be required for sealed homes .
Payment and financing
You don’t necessarily need to shell out a bunch of cash up front to get your home running on solar. Alexander Mils/Unsplash
Paying for your system can feel like a minefield all on its own. There are a short ton of options out there, but most of them boil toss off to two main flavors : you can own your system, or you can rent it from the solar company .
Owning the system
Buying everything outright is ideal, since you reap the biggest fiscal benefits. You can either pay cash, which requires a high upfront cost but nets you the largest long-run savings, or you can take out a lend, which costs a little more in the long run but doesn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate ask as much immediate money. Considering a typical solar exponent system can cost upwards of $ 10,000, a loan may be attractive. Plus, with a lend, adenine long as your monthly payment is lower than your monthly electric bill, you start saving money on day one. Purchasing the system upfront means you won ’ thyroxine break even for a few years ( though again, you spend less in the long race ) .
That loan can come from many places, excessively. You can go to your savings bank and get it rolled into your mortgage, open a new line of accredit, or get a loan through the installer, Aggarwal tells me. Going through your bank may be cheaper, he notes, but may besides require more paperwork than choosing the loanword your installer offers. It depends on how a lot legwork you want to do .
Renting the system
Signing a rent, a office buy agreement, or renting a system through other means is besides common, but by and large not as financially advantageous. You ’ ll pay less money, but you won ’ triiodothyronine pay back as many of the benefits. “ Most of the savings are going to the rent company, ” says Aggarwal. “ You may lone get 20 to 30 percent. ” It can besides be a bit complex if you ever want to sell your home—the homebuyer besides has to qualify for the solar lease and match to take over the compress. If they don ’ metric ton, you could lose that sale, be forced to buy out the solar panels, or batch with the headache some other way. You won ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate have to worry about sustenance or repairs, though, like you would with a system you own. If you can ’ thymine afford to buy or finance your panels, rent may be an choice, but make certain you ’ re mindful of the downsides before proceed .
Crunch the numbers
You may be curious to know how long it takes before the solar panels pay for themselves ( the moment your savings overtake the initial cost of the system ), particularly if you ’ rhenium buying them outright. This depends on the price of electricity in your area, the incentives available in your area, and how a lot sunlight you typically get, Aggarwal says. In California, where I live, electricity is 56 percentage more expensive than the national average, and there aren ’ thyroxine any state incentives. But we get therefore much sunlight that Aggarwal tells me California ’ sulfur average payback menstruation is seven to eight years. Most solar markets, he says, typically see payback in less than 10 years .
That ’ second pretty good, because most systems are designed to end significantly longer than that. Most solar equipment is warrantied for about 25 years, but can last even longer before you need to replace them, Aggarwal says. The panels do, however, miss efficiency over meter, so they may not produce as much energy once you get that far down the road. In addition, the installer ’ s labor guarantee will likely be shorter, so you may have to do a little legwork if you encounter trouble between years 15 and 25, for example .
Finding tax credits and rebates
If you choose to buy your solar system, you may be eligible for a number of fiscal incentives. It can be hard to keep lead of what ’ south available, though, specially considering the federal government has started to phase out tax credits for solar. For 2020, the stream federal tax accredit stands at 26 percentage of the cost of your system. This international relations and security network ’ metric ton a rabbet, it ’ s a tax credit, which means it ’ s deducted from the taxes you owe future year. If you don ’ thyroxine owe any taxes, you won ’ metric ton get a check in the mail. The citation goes down to 22 percentage in 2021, then phases out for residential customers in 2022 .
There are besides state or local anesthetic incentives, but these can vary by localization. Aggarwal recommends checking out the database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE, to see what ’ s available in your area. Your accountant may besides be able to help you make sense of all this for your specific tax situation—so give them a call as you ’ rhenium running the numbers to see what your final examination cost and savings will be.
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