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Tips For Buying Your Solar Energy System

Buying a solar energy system can be an exciting experience. It’s important however, that you focus on facts and not get carried away by false advertising gimmicks. Your solar energy system is something that you’ll be living with for a long time- so make sure you’re happy with it.The following are some tips on what to look for when buying a quality solar energy system.

Ask for Recommendations

Ask friends, family, neighbors or colleagues who have had solar systems installed. Learn about their experiences and perhaps they can alert you to any problems they experienced – ones that you’ll be able to avoid.  Learn more about potential issues in our Guide to Going Solar: Avoiding Solar Energy Ripoffs.

Compare Several Solar Energy Quotes

When you receive multiple solar energy quotes from installers, you can compare equipment choices, financing options, and solar company reviews to find the solar quote that best suits your needs. We have found through experience, that bigger isn’t always better, and by comparing multiple quotes from a variety of installers, you can save up to 50% on the cost of going solar as compared to your state averages. This can not only make or break your decision of going solar, but help you to see a return on your investment quicker.

Go Solar Shopping

Installing a solar energy system is a major purchase with many different components, all of which can impact your financial returns. However, comparing solar system specs in your energy quotes doesn’t have to be complicated. Below are some key points on what to look for in comparisons as you review your solar components.

  • Solar panel brands and models: There are hundreds of different solar panel brands and many models within each brand.  Each panel has specifications related to size, design, efficiency, durability, and warranty, among others. All of these specifications impact solar panel quality. Solar installers should provide you with this information on solar panels. If not, ask to see the specs. By comparing your options, you will be able to find the best solar panel value for your home.  One bit of advice though, DON’T GET TRICKED INTO SALES PITCHES. The biggest sales pitch we see is on the quality of solar panels.  We’ve seen some creative, and also crazy sales tactics to get people to pay double the amount that their panels are even worth.  It’s important to look at the company selling the panels. Even though they offer a great panel with a 30 year warranty, that warranty won’t be worth anything if the company goes out of business.
  • Inverter types and brands: An in is the box between the panels and your appliances that converts DC electricity from solar panels to usable AC power for your home.  It’s important to know that not all solar inverters are created equal and inverter efficiency will have a direct impact on the amount of time it takes for a system to pay for itself. Look at the inverter efficiency before purchasing a system. Obviously, the more efficient the inverter the better – as less electricity will be wasted as heat during the conversion from DC to AC.  Using microinverters have become a new trend recently because they have several advantages over the older string inverters.  Although microinverters cost a bit more than string inverters, they do have several advantages. The biggest advantage being that every panel is independent of the others, so if you have shading or a panel is damaged only that panel will be affected.  Other advantages are that they are easy to install and they meet the latest NEC codes without any additional equipment.

Be Smart in Your Solar Financing Options

Most property owners can’t or don’t want to pay for their solar energy systems in cash, which is where solar financing comes in. Understanding each financing option is essential to finding the solar energy quote that meets your financial needs.  There are three main types of solar financing available:

  • A solar loan, which you can use to finance the purchase of your solar energy system. The pros and cons of a solar loan are: While the homeowner is the one who will take full advantage of all Federal and State tax breaks of the system being installed, many specific solar loans come with higher interest rates because the equity is in the system itself. We have found if the homeowner chooses to pay with a line of credit on their home, this will lower your interest rate, and reduce your monthly payment.
  • A solar lease, in which you pay a fixed monthly payment to “rent” your system from a third-party owner. The pros and cons to a lease is that while your solar payment will usually be less than your monthly power bill, the home owner will not benefit from any tax credits on the solar system. Instead all tax credits and/or rebates will go to the bank or company who owns the lease. Also, make sure you read all fine print in a lease. We’ve seen some pretty sad situations where people are clearly taken advantage of through solar lease agreements.
  • A solar power purchase agreement (PPA), where you agree to pay a low per-kilowatt hour rate for electricity produced by a third-party owned system installed on your property. The advantages of a Solar PPA agreement is very similar to the advantages of a solar lease agreement. Namely, you do not face an upfront cost to go solar and you are not responsible for maintenance.  Disadvantages are similar to a solar lease in that they are very long term contracts and they need to be assigned to a new owner of your house if you decide to move.  Also, they usually have an uplift in pricing each year so that the electricity you purchase from the solar panels on your roof actually goes up in price over time. However, usually this escalation is at a lower percentage than the average annual increase in power prices charged by the utility.  But still, that is an important factor to consider.

Avoid high pressure sales people

Unfortunately, high pressure sales tactics are very common in the solar industry. Try not to make hurried decisions on the spot. Instead, ask the salesman to let you consider the offer. If it’s a good deal today, chances are it will still be a good deal tomorrow. Pressured decisions on the spot often turn out to be regretted choices later on. Do your homework and make sure all aspects fit your personal situation to make it the best choice for you and your future.

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