Home solar panel systems are becoming more popular in residential areas as panels become more affordable and accessible. Since 2008, the number of home solar installations has increased from 1.2 gigawatts to an estimated 97.2 gigawatts, providing enough energy to power almost 18 million homes. If you’re considering investing in a home solar power system, ask yourself — and the solar company — the right questions before you decide.
Questions About Solar Panels to Ask Yourself
Do I Have the Right Location for a Home Solar Panel System?
A south-facing roof with some shading from trees or adjacent buildings is the best location for a home solar panel system. To maximize the amount of energy your solar panels produce, the sun should hit your roof for at least five hours per day.
Is There Enough Space?
You’ll need about 20 panels (or 350-plus square feet of roof) to power the average residential solar system. To install the panels properly, the area where your panels will be going should be free from obstructions, such as chimneys.
What Is the Condition of My Roof?
Most solar panels come with a 30-year warranty. Installing new solar on an old roof could add to your long-term costs. In time, your aging roof will need to be repaired or replaced. For this, your solar panels will have to be removed. It’s best to install a home solar panel system on a new or recently repaired roof.
How Much Energy Do I Need?
The size of the ideal solar array depends on your energy use. The U.S. Department of Energy has a calculator that lets you estimate the potential performance of different solar installations. This tool can help you determine how much energy your solar array could produce in a year.
What Is the Cost of Electricity?
In areas where power costs less, it can take longer to see a return on investment in solar panels. In areas where power costs are high, your investment will start to pay off sooner. Ask your local utility provider about the price of power in your area, or check the U.S. Energy Information Administration for electricity rates to see how yours compare to the national average.
Can I Sell Back Extra Power?
If your solar panels generate more power than you use, some utility companies will purchase overages. This process, called net metering, allows you to further reduce your utility bills. Currently, 41 states and the District of Columbia offer net metering. To see if your state participates, consult the National Conference of State Legislators.
Does it Make Financial Sense?
Nationally, the typical solar panel system costs about $20,000 after tax credits. On average, it takes nearly 9 years to break even — that is, to save enough on power to recover the cost of the panels. Not all states offer tax credits to homeowners for installing solar panels, which could mean an even higher price tag. Check to see if your state offers tax and non-tax incentives, including rebate, loan and grant programs.
Questions to Ask the Solar Company
Solar panels are a big investment. Before you commit to a vendor, make sure you do your due diligence by asking these questions about the solar panels they offer.
What Type of Solar Products Do You Use?
There are three types of solar panel systems for homes, and not all panels are created equal. Monocrystalline panels offer the highest efficiency ratings but tend to cost more than other types. Polycrystalline panels are less costly but also less efficient. The third option, thin-film solar panels, are large and better suited for commercial buildings.
How Much Experience Do You Have Working with My Local Utility Company?
Local utility companies all have different rules about how home solar energy systems will connect with their grid, and installers with experience know how to make sure things are done right to ensure that process goes smoothly.
Do You Subcontract Work on Your Systems? If So, How Do You Manage Quality Control?
Many solar energy companies use subcontracted roofers to attach solar racking systems and master electricians to do final connection of the system to the electrical panel. Trustworthy solar companies will be upfront and forthcoming about who they work with and how they monitor that work.
What Brands Do You Use?
Most installers use high-quality panels with good warranty coverage and longevity, but it always pays to double-check. Warranties should provide at least 25 years of coverage for power production and 10 years of coverage for workmanship.
How Many Systems Have You Installed?
Make sure to pick an installer with a good deal of experience under their belt and don’t be afraid to ask for references. A reputable company should be able to provide at least three satisfied customers. And don’t forget about the basics, like checking to make sure they’re licensed to work in your area and insured against liability.
If you decide to go solar, call your Farm Bureau agent to make sure your panels and home have the protection you need.