Are Home Solar Panels right for me?

How do you know if you’re a good candidate for home solar panels? Here is a list of things to look for if you’re evaluating solar for your home:

Do you have a south facing roof?

  • While east and west solar roofs are ok, nothing beats a good south facing roof if you live in the Northern Hemisphere (the opposite is true if you happen to live ‘Down Under’).
  • If you want the best return on your solar investment (Solar ROI) or the lowest Solar Lease or PPA price per kilowatt hour (kWh), you’ll need an unshaded south facing roof to install that home solar system on.

Is your roof relatively unshaded?

  • Are there any big trees around your home that might shade your solar panels?
  • Does your home have a tall chimney or other structure that might cast a long ‘windshield wiper’ shadow across your solar panels?
  • Is there a mountain range or other geological formation to the south of your home that might dramatically shorten the ‘daylight hours’ your solar system has to generate electric power? Palm Springs and Palm Desert come to mind since there is a large mountain range that runs to the south and west of these cities. While this doesn’t preclude you from installing solar, it’s an important consideration.

How much are you currently paying your electric utility for the electricity you consume?

  • The amount you pay for a kilowatt hour of electricity is the single biggest factor affecting the ROI of a home solar system.
  • Is your current electric bill more than $150 per month? If so, chances are you’ll pay less for home solar than you currently pay your utility. This is especially true if you live in a territory served by an I.O.U. (privately held Investor Owned Utility).

What kind of solar financing is available to you?

  • If you have a credit score of 700 or better and like the idea of hassle free solar, then a solar lease or PPA from Sunrun may make the most sense for you.
  • If you have equity in your home and live in an area with available P.A.C.E. financing like that provided in Sonoma County, Palm Desert, WRCOG HERO (Western Riverside County), or Ygrene and would prefer to own and maintain your own solar system, then this may be the solar financing you’re looking for.
  • Perhaps, your local credit union has a solar loan or you’d prefer a home equity line of credit to finance your home solar panels. If you qualify, these could be a solid option especially if you live in an area where Sunrun and HERO or other P.A.C.E. financing isn’t available.
  • Maybe you have the cash to buy a solar system outright. Combining cash with a Sunrun prepaid PPA means less money out of pocket and hassle free solar for 20 years.

Can you take the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit?

  • When considering the options above, it’s important to know your current tax liability.  The ability to take the solar tax credit reduces the cost of your home solar system by a whopping 30%! HelioPower advises that you consult your tax preparer before meeting with any solar company in order to be best prepared to evaluate your solar options.
  • If you determine that you can’t take the tax credit, then a solar ppa from Sunrun is likely you best option as Sunrun can monetize the tax credit and pass the savings on to you.
  • WARNING: Be very wary of any solar company offering to ‘float’ or ‘finance’ your tax credit using a ‘same as cash’ loan product. While these products aren’t in themselves bad, they assume that you are eligible for a tax credit. Entering into one of these agreements without knowing your solar tax credit eligibility ahead of time could leave you holding the bag – i.e. having to write a large check to the bank or face financing at 22% or more back to the loan’s origination date! Since Sunrun takes the tax credit, you never need to worry about having to ‘settle up’ later with a same as cash lending outfit.

Have you made an effort to reduce your electricity consumption prior to considering home solar?

Every dollar spent on energy efficiency is worth about five dollars of home solar, so you always want to tackle your home’s energy efficiency first. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you have a pool, have you upgraded to a variable speed pump?
  • Are you still using incandescent light bulbs? Swap those out for LED bulbs. LEDs run cooler and use 75% less energy.
  • Have you installed a whole house fan? Whole house fans dramatically lower AC costs in summertime by flushing hot air out of your home and its attic space.Do you get annual AC tune-ups to ensure your AC unit is operating as efficiently as possible?
  • Have you had your ducts sealed to ensure valuable and expensive AC cooled air isn’t leaking into your attic and wall spaces?

Are you contemplating an electric car or do you currently drive a Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, Tesla, Mitsubishi miev, or Ford Energi?

Electric cars can dramatically increase your electricity consumption and your utility bills. Home solar can help.


Other Resources

While there can be many other considerations when evaluating home solar, those are the biggies. To learn more about solar, visit these other informative resources: