It’s no secret that shopping for solar roofs and panels can be daunting, especially since it involves such pricey products. Unfortunately, it’s even more crucial to hit the target when you’re solar panel shopping, much more so than other products because the return process is a much bigger hassle - if there is one at all.
The one surefire way to ensure success is to know what to look for. We’ve taken the liberty of listing several important factors to consider when you’re shopping for solar.
Take a Look at the Fees
Do the fees listed include everything from installation to insurance to the solar panel or roofs themselves? You have to look at what the fees entail in order to decide what the price for your particular needs will potentially be.
There are so many options and pricing plans and even financing available. There are also solar companies that offer leases for their solar panels and roofs as well. Does it make the most sense to finance your roof upgrade with a loan, or should you go with the leasing option just to try them out before you make a permanent decision?
Other questions are regarding signing up with a clean energy supplier or going for free community solar. Or maybe you should just bite the bullet and purchase a solar roof outright and stop thinking too much into it?
Whatever you do and whatever option you pick will impact the fees. Unfortunately, you also can’t take “expert” advice online when you’re shopping for solar and considering fees because every house is unique. The square footage, the climate, the panel quality - everything comes into play.
It’s very difficult for anyone (except solar companies themselves) to give you a concrete answer for how much panels or a whole roof will cost you without a look first. What’s more, solar technology is ever-changing and companies are always seeking new innovations to maximize efficiency and solar power generation, which makes the fees subject to change.
The fees for your solar integration will also encompass the maintenance over time. Since these panels will definitely come into contact with the elements, the quality of the components directly impacts the degradation in the long run, which brings us to our next point.
The Quality of the Components
If you’re going to spend thousands to tens of thousands of dollars on something that will help with climate change, save you money and give you your independence from the power grid, you definitely want to go for something worthwhile.
In other words, buy good quality products. Aside from durability and longevity, there is another key reason to go for top quality products and brands, and that is the efficiency.
Generally, more expensive products are more efficient. The cost correlates to the quality, which ends up helping you save more, which means these babies pay themselves off even faster. Even if you don’t mind the cost per use of the panels taking a bit longer to even out, the increased efficiency is something you won’t want to miss out on.
Branded components, such as Tesla products, usually cost more money. You’re not only paying for the brand name, although the same can’t be said with every other brand, but more money also equates to better support. Big companies like Tesla can afford longer warranties, more advanced technologies and more reliable service.
Keep in mind that this is a generalization, and there are smaller local solar providers that provide outstanding products and services as well.
Make Sure Your Roof is Fully Utilized
Before you can even think about maximizing your roof for solar, you have to be sure you can do it. There are some cases where it’s not practical because of the climate and it won’t make much of a difference to the utility bill or the roof is not optimal for the panels.
Another factor is whether or not you own your house. If you are renting, you need to get your landlord’s consent before you make any changes to his or her house. However, there are ground-mounted solar panels that can give you more flexibility.
Do you want an entirely new roof, or will a few solar panels do the trick? As we said, your type of roof may restrict you from installing anything. Roofs that are not ideal for solar panel installation are ones that face east or north, or ones that are often in the shade.
If you have a tiny home versus a big roof on top of a 3000 sq ft home, you will quickly realize that your roof capacity is not enough to support all of your solar needs. Even so, this shouldn’t stop you from opting for solar power if you are okay with solar power covering just a part of your needs.
Even if it covers a quarter of your costs a year, which is still a significant amount, you will still be doing your part to preserve the environment.
Like we said, if you’re determined to go solar but rooftop panels don’t fit your circumstances, you can always go for mobile, ground-mounted or community solar options.
If you do get solar panels on your roof, make sure you’re maximizing the space. While we’re pretty sure solar providers will already do this, make sure to use as many panels as your roof can allow for the best results.
It’s Okay to Shop Around
Don’t feel the pressure of having to go with the first solar provider you come across. As we mentioned, it’s hard to get the exact price before the solar provider comes and assesses your property, so don’t accept their offer on the spot.
An easy way to help you shop around and compare prices is to jot down a quick checklist. To get you started, here are some valid points to consider.
Does solar make sense for you financially?
Hear what a few providers have to say. Do they all recommend solar and is it feasible for the direction of your roof? Do some believe community solar or other means may be a better choice?
What type of solar equipment suits your needs?
The type and size of the panels, the overall cost to cover your roof, brands and models are all covered in this section. Hear what a few providers have to say. If only one is estimating costs at $15,000 while all the others are closer to $10,000 for the same thing, then it’s safe to say you can eliminate that company.
Should you go for a loan, lease or pay the entire cost upfront?
There are a few ways you can acquire solar power, and they are to apply for a loan if you are short on cash but see the long-term benefits, or you can choose to lease panels if your residence is temporary, you’re just trying it out, or if it makes sense for you financially.
You can also go for the easiest option and the biggest investment, which is to pay the full amount in one go.
Loans are convenient because they give people the option to enjoy solar energy even if they can’t afford the costs straight away. However, to be sure it really is your best bet without paying too much more in the end is to consider the interest rates and the term of the loan.
Leasing is also great because you can save on upfront costs, but you won’t actually own the panels, which is a similar concept to leasing a car.
Ask about ground-mounted or mobile solar panels
If rooftop solar doesn’t work, ground-mounted or mobile panels could be the solution. Ground mounted is comparable to rooftop panels, except they are placed on the ground. These options are more flexible as they are easier to angle, and their placement isn’t contingent on the size of your roof - just your property.
The mobile panels are exactly what the name suggests - panels that are less permanent and portable. Mobile panels are not meant to deliver all of your energy needs (at least not yet), but they can be used to provide electricity for appliances and small devices.
Does community solar make more sense?
Community solar is more affordable and won’t require you to install solar panels on your property. You will basically get a share of a solar panel farm located somewhere near you. This means you’re sharing solar with others, hence the name.
You can either subscribe to a solar garden or purchase your own solar share. How the payment works depends on the solar farm.
How Long Does it Take for Solar Panels to Make Back Your Money?
There are a lot of considerations in and out of your control that will contribute to the time it takes for your solar panels to pay themselves off, but the average time is around 8 years.
A helpful resource for a solar calculator can be found here
Many people’s first impression of solar panels and getting solar energy into your home is that it’s an expensive process. However, there are plenty of financing options that make renewable energy within your grasp. Just make sure you shop around and don’t just accept the first offer you get from a solar provider.