How to Determine Your Solar Suitability and Affordability?

Sabrina Lopez
October 8, 2015
3 min read

If you are looking to add solar to your home, there are many factors to consider. Your individual energy usage patterns, the age and nature of your appliances, and even the structure of your home itself can significantly impact the size and price of your rooftop solar system. A trained solar integrator will help you investigate these variables, maximize your investment, and help you avoid any limitations that can hurt your overall solar goals.

With all that said, most of the considerations around a solar energy system fall into one of two categories – the suitability of your home and the affordability of your target system. Let’s look at both.

Is Your Home Suitable For a Soar Energy System?

The architecture of your home can have a significant impact on how and where solar panels are installed. First and foremost, your roof must be structurally sound and able to support the weight of the panels, especially during periods of high wind. Your roofing materials should also be in good shape since solar panels have been in place for many years and must be removed and replaced when new roofing is installed.

In addition to structure, the direction of your roof is also important. Here are a few general guidelines:

  • For every 1 kW of capacity, approximately 100 sq. ft. of surface space is needed. So for a typical 5 kW installation, approx. Five hundred sq. ft. of space is needed.
  • In Arizona, solar panels are generally most effective when facing south, but east and west can work just as well, depending on what time of day your family draws the most power. A trained solar integrator can help you examine your energy consumption patterns and determine the best design to fit your lifestyle.
  • Any features that can block the path between and sun and your solar panels (shade), such as adjacent trees or structures like chimneys, must also be considered.
  • The roof surface should be suitable for a long time. While your solar panels can help extend the life of your roof’s surface, they can also impede repair and replacement.

Can You Afford a Solar Energy System?

The truth is that solar has never been more affordable. Right now and through the end of 2016, lucrative federal tax incentives are available that can offset nearly one-third of the purchase price of a solar system. The state of Arizona also offers a flat $1000 incentive. There are also very attractive lease and loan options that can get you into a residential solar system for zero cash out of pocket while offsetting your variable monthly electric bill with a lower, fixed payment. Let’s look at the benefits of each option:

  • Loans: With the recent explosion in residential solar, many options exist to finance part or all of a solar energy system purchase. Programs are available with terms from 12 to 20 years and up to 18 months with no interest or payments. Imagine having free electricity for 18 months and only a small monthly payment afterward. We recommend financing only the necessary portion of the net cost to maximize government incentives.
  • Home equity financing: Standard and special mortgages are available to homeowners who want to finance a portion of their solar energy system. An energy-efficient mortgage can credit the home’s energy efficiency in the mortgage itself. Some options are geared toward new home construction, while others may apply to existing home improvements. Your solar integrator can explain these options in more detail.
  • Leasing: There are many alternatives for leasing your solar energy system at a fixed rate or with predefined increases. There are options for no money down or options with down payments to help reduce the monthly fees. Depending on the system, you can clearly understand your future energy costs throughout the lease term. Leasing does require good credit, but it’s a viable option if you can’t afford the initial investment or can’t take advantage of tax credits and incentives. Unlike full cash purchases, loans, or mortgages, leasing doesn’t equate to ownership, doesn’t give the homeowner full control over the system, and can add complications during the sale of a home.

If you want to learn more about solar suitability and affordability, you can download our complimentary solar evaluation guide. We invite you to download the guide, and if you’re interested, request a custom solar quote from one of our solar experts today.