If you are part of the growing trend among Americans, you have considered converting to solar energy for your home. And why wouldn’t you? Solar energy is unlimited, it boosts the value of your home, and best of all–it has a great return on investment. But not all solar paneling companies are alike. By taking full advantage of the free home consultation offered by most companies, you can determine if this is the right company for you by asking these simple questions.
1. As a customer, will you own the system or will you lease the equipment?
Some solar panel companies will offer you the option of leasing the solar paneling equipment. While leasing lowers the monthly cost of power, it does not allow you to participate in cost savings associated with ownership. “With more and more solar financing options becoming available, in most cases you can go solar for $0 down and still pay less than your current electric bill,” said Shaun Alldredge, co-owner and co-founder of Legend Solar. “In most cases, purchasing the solar panels outright will give you the best return on your investment.”
2. What types of tax credits would you qualify for by installing solar panels?
The cost savings of using solar energy is a huge selling point for paneling companies, so most will be well informed about the tax credits. To build incentive, the federal government will extend a tax credit equaling 30 percent of the gross cost of the system. In the state of Utah, for example, the government will grant a $2,000 tax credit for residential installations and a 10 percent credit for commercial properties that convert to solar energy. But, you need to own the system in order to reap the rewards.
3. Will the solar company handle everything from A to Z?
There’s a lot more to solar that just slapping some solar panels on your house. A reputable solar company will determine your needs for power and balance that with your home’s capability to produce power, which includes your home’s position, sun hours and roof space for the panels. The company should design a plan that’s unique for your circumstances.
The company should also take care of the permitting process and all engineering necessary to be sure the equipment is installed correctly and safely. Some cities enforce certain zoning laws that may restrict the use of solar paneling. Most solar paneling companies will be aware of those codes. Also, if you happen to live in an HOA, some solar paneling companies will handle the approval process for installing panels in these communities as well.
You’ll want to ask the company who will install your solar panels. If the solar company is installing it directly, then they can stand behind that installation. If they sub out the installation to a sub-contractor, then you need to make sure that the subcontractor is licensed appropriately. If they aren’t licensed, you could be jeopardizing your federal tax credit. And having a subcontractor adds another layer of potential problems if something goes wrong.
4. Is there a warranty and what does it cover?
With such a large investment, it’s a good idea to understand the solar company’s warranty—not only on the equipment but also on the power that is generated. The best solar companies warranty their panels for 25 years. You should also ask if the warranty covers not only the reinstall or repair of the parts, but also removal and shipping.
Panels are projected to continue working for up to 50 years—with some loss in efficiency. To make sure your panels are working efficiently, ask if the solar company offers lifetime monitoring, allowing you to watch the live production of your system.
The final thing to consider is if the solar company will be around for the warranty period. And, are there any protections for you if that company goes out of business. Solar is so new that there are only a few companies that have been around to fulfill their warranties. Evaluate whether or not your solar provider will be around for yours.
Most people who have converted to solar energy are thrilled at the economic and environmental benefits of this system. You may be next. By asking about owning versus leasing the system, and exploring available tax credits, understanding the installation process and considering warranty coverage, you will enjoy an enlightening aspect of solar energy instead of being kept in the dark.
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