When thinking about making the switch to solar, one of the biggest factors into deciding yes or no is the pricing. While the price tag on a solar energy system ranges from house to house, the good news is that adding solar to your home, no matter the system size, is an investment that starts putting money back in your pocket on the very first day. There are also short-term federal and state incentives currently available that can cover more than 30% the price of a solar energy system. Both of these factors have made solar a no-brainer for countless families across Arizona who are turning sunshine into savings. But, time is running out as incentives slowly diminish over time.
So while you're conducting your solar research and gathering a few quotes from reputable solar installation companies, there are some questions you should ask them. Fully understanding what goes into the pricing of a solar energy system and that company's specific proposal will help you get the best value for your new solar system. We cover the 5 most important questions to ask a solar installation company below.
1. What panels are they quoting?
When it comes to solar panels, you have many options to choose from for color, warranties, and production efficiency, all of which will affect the overall pricing of your system. Depending on what qualified solar company you choose to work with, homeowners typically have the choice between dark blue panels with a visible grid, black panels with a visible grid, and solid black panels with no visible grid. Some people have a strong preference, and others don't, so it comes down to your personal aesthetics you desire.
The bigger factor to take into consideration for the panels on your quote is the panel efficiency and warranty. More efficient panels produce more electricity from the same amount of surface area, but they also cost a bit more. So, if you have shading or limited roof space, a more efficient panel is probably better. Most panels have warranty periods that are available up to 25 years, depending on make and model. Be sure to also check on this as a good warranty can help you maximize the savings potential from your solar energy system for years to come.
2. Are they focusing their proposal on kilowatt size (kW)? Or kilowatt hours (kWh)?
5kW is not the same as 5kWh. Your system's size (kW) is less important than your system's production (kWh), which is a measure of the electricity produced in a given timeframe under ideal sunny conditions. A good analogy to understand the difference between system size (kW) and production (kWh) is an automobile engine. Engine size is generally presented in liters or number of cylinders (3 liter, 5 liter, V6, V8), where as production is generally measured in horsepower. Not all panels produce the same amount of electricity in a given timeframe, and understanding this can help you choose the appropriate panels for your situation.
3. What kind of financing options do they offer?
There are basically two ways you can acquire solar panels and become energy-independent: purchase or lease. The most important thing to understand about each option is that when you lease your solar panels, the leasing company owns your system and is therefore able to collect any available tax incentives. When you purchase solar panels, you get to keep the tax incentives for yourself.
You can purchase a solar energy system either with cash or a loan and retain all of the tax benefits that come with going solar. We recommend only financing the necessary portion of the net cost after incentives to get the best payback. Leases are a great option for those who don't have a tax liability and therefore cannot claim any tax incentives from it anyway. A qualified solar installation company will be able to walk you through their various financing options to determine which one works best for your unique situation.
4. Is there room to expand your system if your electricity needs increase?
Most solar energy systems are designed for your current energy usage and don't necessarily take into consideration future factors, like a growing family or adding an electric car. That's not to say you can't request a larger system in preparation for these life events, but most opt to go for a system optimized for the current usage, while adding the necessary options for a system expansion later on.
If you think your electrical demand will increase in the future, you should discuss with your solar consultant how much space you'll have for future panels should you decide to expand. Panel efficiency plays a big factor in this consideration—the more inefficient the panel is, the more panels you will need to reach a certain energy production level, leaving less room in the future if you need it.
5. Is your payment going to stay the same, or will it go up?
Sadly, every industry has bad players, including the solar industry. Many less-than-reputable installers practice a "bait and switch" kind of approach to leases, offering a low-down payment to get you into a contract. This appealing up-front cost is admittedly attractive, but if you look in the fine print, you might notice a mandated escalator after a few years. Most reputable solar companies have the option to keep the payment level for the duration of the contract. The difference is that you will always know upfront, and never be surprised.
With the 30% ITC coming to an end, 2019 is surely the most important year for solar in more than a
decade. Contact one of our qualified solar integrators to start your solar project today!