Groupon Goes Solar

6-02-2014 Groupon Goes Solar

What is the Groupon For?

Groupon goes solar!!! SolarCity is now offering free installation of a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system, with insurance and maintenance, along with a $400 discount on Groupon. If SolarCity does the installation, permits, and everything else, then what is there to pay? The deal is for a 20 year contract, where the customer leases the PV system and pays SolarCity for the electricity being generated. Is this offer really a deal?

The Pros

This Groupon costs $1, and has a savings of $399. That sounds amazing, too good to be true, and it is true. The $400 discount equals about 3 month’s worth of free electricity. Installation is one of the most expensive parts of acquiring solar power, so the free installation and everything that is included, makes solar energy more accessible to everyone. The customer could also save a lot of money in the future by having a lower electricity bill every month. The amount saved depends on how much electricity is used, how high the electricity bill currently is, and how much sunlight there is.

There is also the “feel good factor” of knowing that you are making a difference by switching to a clean energy source. Others also benefit from it, as the excess energy generated goes back to the grid, helping to increase the amount of clean energy provided to each home. Even if your electric bill isn’t of concern, this Groupon makes it easier to go solar if you want to.

The Cons

A 20 year contract is a big deal. SolarCity will transfer the contract to the new homeowner if you sell your house. This is great, except a house that comes with a contract may be more difficult to sell. Solar panels are appealing to home buyers, but signing into a contract is not very appealing.

If you are looking to lower your energy bills with this Groupon, then look at the fine print. On the SolarCity website, at the bottom it says:

pricing and savings vary based on location, system size, government rebates and local utility rates. Savings on your total electricity costs is not guaranteed. Financing terms vary by location and are not available in all areas. $0 due upon contract signing. No security deposit required. A 3 kW system starts at $25–$100 per month with an annual increase of 0–2.9% each year for 20 years, on approved credit.

The increase of 0-2.9% is nothing to worry about, as it adjusts for the price of inflation, but look at the $25-$100 per month, and the non-guarantee of savings. If your energy bill is currently $100 or under, then there is little or no financial benefit.

The SolarCity Groupon looks like a great deal, and can be, if the circumstances are right. If you have a high energy bill, a good roof, and lots of sun, then I would recommend considering it. If, on the other hand, you don’t have those three things, then you can’t get it anyway. It is a great way to get a solar system if you don’t have enough for the upfront cost of buying your own, just know that savings will vary.

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