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If you’re considering installing solar panels on your home, one of the first questions is, do you need a permit? The short answer is: Yes, in most cases, you’ll need a permit to install solar panels. However, the specifics of the permitting process can vary depending on where you live and the type of solar…
Going solar is appealing to a growing number of homeowners, thanks to benefits like potential energy cost savings and more independence from the power grid. While it’s still a big decision, solar incentives and tax credits have put a solar panel system within reach for more people.
That said, going solar isn’t necessarily for everyone. Fortunately, we can help! Let’s talk about what to know before installing solar panels.
1. Is my home a good candidate for solar?
There are certain characteristics that make a home suitable for a solar panel system. It’s essential for you to confirm that yours meets them before you make the decision to go solar. A Solar Energy Specialist can go over them with you — and in the meantime, we’ve laid out some of them here for you.
Solar might be right for you if…
- Your roof faces south, or it faces directly east or west and receives some direct sunlight.
- Your home consumes a lot of energy and/or you wish to reduce your electric bills.
Many homeowners have watched in frustration as their electric bills have gone up in the last few years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cost of electricity is projected to continue increasing. (1)
But there’s a solution. You can potentially reduce your monthly electricity bill by going solar*. Ways to do this include using solar energy instead of electricity to power your home during the day. As your electricity use decreases, so will your electric bill. You also have the option to participate in net metering, if your utility company offers it. Through this program, you can “sell” the excess energy your solar panel system produces in exchange for a credit on your electric bill**.
Solar might not be a good fit for your home if…
We could sing the praises of solar all day long. That said, at the end of the day, our top priority is making sure you can benefit from it. And there are some cases where a solar panel system simply isn’t a good fit for a home.
- A roof that’s small in size and/or has a steep slope
- Obstructions like buildings or trees that block the roof’s direct exposure to sunlight.
- A homeowner and family that use a small amount of energy.
- Low electricity rates in the area where the home is located.
If your home or family falls into any of these categories, you might want to rethink going solar.
Regardless of your situation, an ADT Solar Energy Specialist can help you make the best decision for your family.
2. Local climate and weather conditions
While solar panel systems work in many different climates and weather conditions, some are more beneficial for solar energy production than others. That’s why weather is one of the things to know before getting solar panels.
Ideal conditions for producing solar power include:
- Abundant sunshine
- Moderate temperatures
- Low humidity
- Infrequent rain and snow
Sunlight is arguably the most important factor determining how well your solar panels perform. After all, sunshine is their power source. The more direct sunlight they receive, the better. However, indirect sunlight works, as well.
You might be surprised to learn that solar panels can thrive in cold temperatures. In fact, cold weather is actually more beneficial for solar than hot weather. As the temperature rises, the efficiency of solar panels starts to degrade. This is the reason why the performance of a solar energy system declines on hot days.
Don’t worry if you live in an area that doesn’t have ideal weather conditions. There’s a good chance that your solar panels could still perform well enough to generate the amount of power you need.
3. Is my roof suitable for solar?
As we briefly touched on before, some characteristics of a roof are better for solar panel performance than others. It’s all about ensuring that the panels get enough sun exposure.
Your roof might be a good fit for solar if…
- Some traits of a roof improve its ability to receive sunlight, including:
- Being unobstructed by neighboring buildings or surrounding trees.
- Facing directly south instead of southwest or southeast.
- Having a pitch range of 15 to 40 degrees.
Why does pitch matter? A solar energy system generates power when sunlight strikes the panel as close to perpendicular as possible. (2) Therefore, the best angle is one that gives solar panels the most access to direct, perpendicular light.
Your roof might not be a good fit for solar if…
Just as certain characteristics make some roofs suitable for solar, other characteristics are unfavorable for solar panel performance. They include:
- A steep angle
- Insufficient or small space
- A complex design
- Significant damage or aging
- North facing
If you’re unsure of whether your roof is a good fit for solar, don’t worry! One of our Solar Energy Specialists, who also have roofing expertise, can help.
4. Choosing the right solar panel system
When it comes to getting a solar energy system installed, picking the right one is essential. It’s easy to assume that these systems only consist of the panels you see on people’s roofs, but there’s far more to them.
Components of a high quality solar panel system
The equipment that allows a solar installation to do its job includes:
- Monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels — Composed of silicon solar cells, panels collect sunlight during the day.
- Microinverter — This important piece of equipment converts direct current (DC) electricity into usable, alternating current (AC) electricity.
- Solar battery backup — An optional add-on, a solar panel battery stores the excess energy generated by your system during the day for use at night or during power grid outages1.
High quality equipment is important, of course, but you also must be able to afford your solar panel system. Below, we take a deep dive into solar costs, savings and incentives.
5. The cost of a solar panel installation
One of the most asked things to know before buying solar panels is how much it costs. We understand why, as solar is a significant financial investment. That said, using solar at home does offer many benefits, which we think makes it worthwhile for many homeowners.
Factors that affect cost
So, what’s the cost? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for everyone. The amount of money you pay for going solar depends on different factors, including:
- Installation location — The direction the roof faces affects how many solar panels it’ll take to achieve your energy goals.
- Permits — You’ll need to pay permitting fees, to make sure that your installation meets building and electrical codes, before the work begins and before using your system.
- Labor — Leaving the installation work in the hands of an experienced, highly capable solar installer is key to a solar panel system that performs as it should.
- Equipment quality — As with well-done labor, high quality equipment is essential to the performance and longevity of your solar energy system.
Ways to save on costs
Many states and localities offer solar incentives that can help offset the cost of your solar panel system. And there’s at least one incentive that’s available on the federal level.
- Federal solar tax credit – You can claim a credit on your federal taxes worth 30% of the cost of your solar installation2.
- Net metering – Get a credit on future electric bills by “selling” the excess energy your system produces to your utility company**.
- Solar panel rebates – Some utility providers offer customers solar rebates to help them with the cost of going solar.
Financing your installation
Working with a solar installer that offers financing options gives you some flexibility when it comes to paying for the costs of going solar.
- Solar loans – The benefits of paying for your installation with a solar loan include a low upfront cost, long-term savings and savings on your electric bill.
- Leases and power purchase agreements – You’ll never own your system if you lease it, but you’ll have a lower upfront cost than you would if you purchased it with cash. Plus, the leasing company will maintain the system for you.
One fact to consider about a lease or power purchase agreement is, since you don’t own your solar energy system, you can’t take advantage of state or federal tax credits. Additionally, if you have a high monthly payment to make, it could offset any savings you get on your electric bills.
6. Terms of the installer’s warranties
As with any big investment, you should make sure the warranties on your solar panel system protect you. Don’t just skim the warranties or dismiss them entirely. Read the fine print closely. A good warranty will:
- Cover all the equipment and labor done by the installation team.
- Remain in effect for many years.
A well-made solar energy system like the ones installed by ADT Solar can last 30 years or even longer. While you shouldn’t experience many issues with high quality equipment, things like inclement weather can affect it. The terms of the warranties should take this into account by covering the system long enough to adequately protect you.
These are just a few reasons why, when shopping for a solar installer, you should include warranties as one of the things to know before buying solar panels.
7. Choosing the right solar installer
When it comes to the longevity and performance of your system, choosing a highly skilled and qualified solar installer is essential. The best equipment in the world can’t do its job if it’s not installed correctly.
You also want to go with a solar company that’s been in business for a long time and has a good reputation. The rising popularity of solar, while it’s a great thing, has resulted in some fly-by-night solar installers that probably won’t be around to service your solar panel system in 10 years.
Here’s a quick check list of what to address when speaking with solar installers:
- Verify whether they’re licensed and certified by reputable institutions.
- Find out which solar panel manufacturers they use for the systems they install.
- Confirm that they offer both labor and equipment warranties.
- Discuss the approximate timeline of the entire process, from start to finish.
We recommend comparing quotes and offers from multiple solar companies to get an accurate idea of your options. Don’t jump at the first installer that gives you information, even if what they offer sounds amazing. You can always go back to them after you’ve spoken with other reputable companies.
Choose wisely with a little preparation
It might take a little longer to make a final decision, but when you address what to know before installing solar panels, you position yourself to make the right decision. This is major, because you’ll use your solar energy system for a long time and on a regular basis.
And you don’t have to go on the journey alone! An ADT Solar Specialist would be happy to answer any questions you have and provide you with all the details you need to help you make your decision. Contact us to get started.