Things to Consider Before Rooftop Solar Panels
Installing a solar power system can be expensive and time-consuming. But there are things you should consider before even starting the process.
Residential rooftop solar installations have been on the rise in recent years, thanks to high oil prices (making it costly to drive) and government incentives. For example, if you install your system yourself, you can receive up to $20,000 in tax credits from Uncle Sam.
But before paying for such an investment with hard-earned cash, take these factors into consideration:
1) Your Roof Needs To Be Sized Correctly
A good rule of thumb is that solar panels should take up between 15% and 40% of the surface area of your roof. A majority of homes fall within this range. But if your roof does not have enough sun exposure to power the home, you could be wasting money on a solar system. If you are not 100% certain about it, you should get in touch with a rooftop solar contractor.
2) You Need A Good Credit Score And Cash On Hand
If you are looking to take out a loan for your solar panels, banks want proof that you can afford to pay them back. A good credit score will help you convince lenders that you can take care of their investment. Also, putting at least 20% down will demonstrate your desire to see the project through.
3) You May Need City Approval
Local government agencies have the right to approve or disapprove rooftop solar installations; however, they cannot reject systems outright (unless it is for health reasons). Cities typically consider things like how the panels will look on the roof, how they will affect neighboring property and if your town needs more energy resources.
Search online for a list of regulations in your area before installing solar panels. You may also want to check with an attorney who handles real estate law and contracts.
4) Your Roof Must Receive At Least 5 Hours Of Direct Sunlight
Solar panels are designed to collect the sun’s rays and convert it into energy that can be used around the home or sold back to utility companies. If you don’t have enough sun exposure, then you’ll need some other type of backup plan for power during cloudy days (like a generator).
5) The Costs Add Up Quickly
Depending on how much electricity your household uses, you could recoup the costs of your solar system in six to 10 years. But here’s something to consider: that doesn’t include your initial investment, which can run from $5,000 to over $20,000 depending on how much electricity you need and where you live (more sunlight = cheaper installation). And if you think your power costs will rise in the future, then it may take even longer for a ROI.
6) You Could Be Eligible For Tax Credits
The government wants people to install rooftop solar panels because they reduce carbon emissions and help create green jobs. As such, Uncle Sam is more than happy to reward those who make the switch with various incentives – including tax credits.
The federal government currently offers a 30% tax credit for residential solar systems, while several states offer additional incentives (some up to 50%). To find out if you’re eligible and learn more about the rebates in your area, contact your local utility company or visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy.
7) You Should Check With A Contractor Before Installing
Even though they may be expensive up front, rooftop solar panels can actually save money over time. As such, it is important to hire someone who does quality work.
When searching for contractors, look at their references and determine how they were paid. Here’s what this means: Solar installers typically get paid by commission – so if you pay them after the job is completed and you’re happy, they are more likely to do a good job.
A contractor who gets paid up-front, however, will have less incentive to make sure your solar panels work properly. As such, you should only pay them after the installation is done and working correctly (or if they agree to pay you back if things don’t go as planned).