Is Rooftop Solar a Good Choice for You?

rooftop solar

5-10-2015 Is Rooftop Solar a Good Choice for You?

The cost of rooftop solar installation and solar panels have dropped. Many Americans are going solar and saving money on their energy bills. You wonder, “Why can’t I go solar? I want to save money, too.”

Before you contact a solar installer, you should consider a few factors that will help you determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for rooftop solar.

Your State’s Readiness for Solar

Ideally, you want solar panels to make electricity for a lower cost than what you pay a utility for electricity. That’s about the only time it makes financial sense to invest in rooftop solar.

Right now, there are only a handful of states that have reached the place where rooftop solar is cheaper than the grid. Sunny states that also have high electricity rates, like California and Hawaii, have recently seen an increase in rooftop solar installations.

However, states that have high energy prices and slightly less sun still make sense for rooftop solar. In New England, it’s not uncommon for energy customers to pay almost 20 cents per kWhr for electricity. Even though New England doesn’t get as much sun as California, it still makes sense for residents to go solar because of the steep energy prices.

rooftop solar grid parity

Union of Concerned Scientists

Your Roof’s Solar Feasibility

If you happen to live in a state in which solar is cheaper than the grid, that’s great. The next thing you should do is consider your roof.

A normal residential rooftop solar installation is 4 to 5 kW. Most times, the surface area covered by the panels needs to be at least 270 square feet. The panels don’t have to be in a perfectly rectangular arrangement, but they will require plenty of open space.

Solar panels also require a lot of sunlight, so if your roof is shady, that’s a problem. If there are any tall trees in your yard that cast shadows on your roof, they’ll probably need to be cut down in order to make solar feasible.

In an ideal world, solar panels would be placed on a large southern-facing roof. However, most homes don’t have spacious roofs that face south. The good news is that this doesn’t have to be a deal breaker.

If you have a large section of roof that faces west, you can probably have solar panels installed there. The drawback is that the panels will lose about 20 percent of their potential energy.

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Your Financing Options

Rooftop solar installations aren’t cheap. The price of installation can range from $15,000 to $60,000, depending on the system and any available rebates or tax credits in your area.

If you have the spare cash lying around, go ahead and pay for your system in full. You’ll reap the benefits of solar without having to worry about a monthly system payment.

However, if you’re like most Americans who don’t have an extra $15,000 to $60,000 to spare, you’ll have to look into financing options. The two major forms of financing in the solar industry are loans and leases.

Loans are relatively new to the solar financing world, and they’re generally more complex than a typical loan you’d get for a house or a car. Some companies or lending institutions may base the loan payments on when tax credits are earned.

Despite the rapid growth of solar loans, leases still remain the popular financing choice. Under some leases, it’s possible for homeowners to go solar without having to put any money down. The drawback to solar leases are that homeowners don’t get any tax credits or rebates because they don’t own the system. The leasing company gets the credits and rebates.

For more information about buying or leasing a solar system, check out this article.

Ready for Rooftop Solar?

If you’ve determined that you’re a good fit, the next step is to call a contractor. You can either choose to use a national chain of solar installers, or you can find a few local installers to check with.

One of the most helpful resources on your quest for a solar installer will probably be the Solar Energy Industries Association’s (SEIA) database of solar installers. Check it out and find local installers to compare.

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