Over the last decade there has been incredible growth in the solar industry. The number of panels erected atop homes across the U.S. has absolutely exploded. In the past 10 years it has seen an annual 49% growth.
Along with its massive growth, the solar industry has experienced an evolution as well. Many solar providers that were built on door to door sales have transitioned to other avenues of promotion and marketing. The number of options for homeowners to fund their solar installation has also increased.
Understandably, many people are skeptical of solar. Maybe they heard a horror story from a family member or read about a negative experience on social media. We’ve heard about overzealous salesmen, low quality installations, faulty equipment, or all of the above from solar companies looking to just inflate their bottom line. These experiences are important but they do not reflect most interactions between homeowners and solar providers, our brand was founded on empowering people with our product. Being informed about options within solar will empower the homeowner to feel most in control of their plan and help their experience and also help them get the maximum value out of their investment.
I've heard the sales pitch and it seems too good to be true.
Everyone who has had to listen to a pitch from a salesperson for solar has felt the allure of a “too good to be true” deal,
“Just sign on the dotted line and all your wildest dreams will come true, you won’t pay a thing. We’ll take care of everything.”
Anyone with a healthy amount of real world experience will immediately have sirens start going off in their head. The old adage goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, and those are good words to live by. After all, when was the last time someone needed to go door-to-door to sell something that fantastic? Obviously, it is not that simple.
Now, the cost of a home solar power system has decreased significantly in the past several years, more than 70%! It can still cost over $20,000, which the vast majority of homeowners don’t have just sitting around the house.
At Skyline Solar we are proud to offer financing options for solar installations with $0 down and nothing out of pocket. This means you do not need a large down payment in order to make the jump to renewable energy.
Like any product someone is selling, from computer software to a house, it must be paid for. In today’s day and age, there are several options for how that payment will be carried out. In each payment option to follow, it is worth noting that a solar payment will almost definitely stay constant, as opposed to a payment to an electric utility like Black Hills Energy or Xcel Energy which year over year could increase as it has over the last several years.
The goal of a solar power system is to effectively trade a mandatory bill to a power utility, for a bill for your solar power usually in the form of financing. This can also increase the value of your home through addition of the solar array.
Here are the ways
Some solar companies offer leasing options for their customers to lease the solar equipment required to generate electricity. Look out for leasing options packaged in customer friendly names like “solar subscription” or “BrightSave Monthly”. In this case, much like leasing a vehicle, the homeowner does not own the equipment and must pay a monthly payment directly to the Solar provider every month as long as the agreement is in place.
This can be a very cost effective solution for many homeowners and could be a great option for some. However, complications can arise in cases when a homeowner chooses to cancel their agreement, where heavy costs can be incurred. There can also be issues if you decide to move, there are several options available to the homeowner including trying to transfer the lease to the new owner of your home or moving the system to your new home. These are often not beneficial to the homeowner and can be costly.
As is the case of entering any contractual agreement, read through it very carefully and ask many questions.
Financing works much like the mortgage on a home or financing a car. The homeowner receives a loan for their system either from the installer or an intermediary financing company. There are several financing organizations that specialize in loans for solar installations. Here at Skyline Solar, we work with several solar financing companies, but do not issue loans to homeowners ourselves.
Loan lengths can range anywhere up to 20 years. Interest rates depend on a variety of factors including credit score and one’s debt to income ratio. However, when the terms of the loan are complete and it's paid off, the homeowner is free and clear and can continue to enjoy the benefits of their system for years to come.
It’s as simple as it sounds, just purchasing the solar power system outright. Homeowners who choose this option benefit from enjoying instant benefits of generating your own power for your home to use.
Unfortunately, this simply is not something most people can do. The cost of a system depends largely on its size and the materials used, some people may need a small system which in turn will make it more affordable.
How do I know my solar panels will work long enough to be a good value for me?
One concern that increases the apprehension of potential solar owners is the inevitability of the panels degrading and eventually breaking all together. Also, many homeowners are averse to adding another fixture to their home which will require maintenance. Caring for a home is tedious enough, you don’t need something new on your list of chores.
Similar to any appliance in the home, using solar panels everyday creates wear and tear which makes it less efficient. Even if a refrigerator runs for 30 years, it's incredibly unlikely it still runs as well as it did when it was new. This is true of solar equipment, over time there will be a degree of degradation which will cause decreased output.
There are several ways to shore up against this problem. Not all equipment is the same. Panels made by various brands are made with different materials and have different standards of quality. Manufacturers apply warranties that protect the homeowner from defects in the product to ensure their experience with the product is a good one. The length of a warranty is a good indicator of the quality of the product. A product with a 5 year warranty will likely have a much shorter life than one with a 25 year warranty.
Here at Skyline Solar, we use equipment designed for the area they will be installed. For instance, several of the areas where our crews are located have a high propensity for hail. So we install panels with the highest resistance to hail damage.
Solar panels have no moving parts, therefore they degrade slowly over time barring damage from outside the unit such as from debris or extreme inclement weather covered by your homeowner’s insurance. For a well built system, even after about 20 years, the system will average around 84% efficiency. When a solar installer designs the system, they will often compensate for degradation so the system remains effective for providing enough energy for the home for years to come.
Will I have to do maintenance on my panels?
Solar panels are built to be very durable and be out in the elements. They require minimal maintenance and typically do not require cleaning or other maintenance.
What happens when I sell my home?
One of the first questions almost all homeowners have after learning about solar is something to the effect of “What if I want to move?”. This makes perfect sense given the vast majority of homeowners will only live in a home for a few years even if they have a mortgage on the property. As many homeowners use financing to pay for their solar power system, the terms of which could extend up to 20 years, it merits questioning.
If considering a leasing option, it is very important for someone to ask their solar provider what their options are before agreeing to the terms. Companies have varying policies on the matter and it could be costly or even make a home less desirable to buyers if they have to take on your lease to move in.
In the case of financing or buying the panels, it is actually quite simple. The system belongs to you, so you are welcome to sell them with the house as is most common. As they are a fixture of the home, they are factored into its value. The home is sold for a higher price and the selling party is able to pay off the remaining principle while the new owner gets to enjoy the benefits of solar energy owing nothing to the financier of the system. In theory, the cost of the system is factored into their mortgage as the value of the system is factored into the price of the home.
Making the switch to solar is a big decision for anyone. Making such a long term commitment can be daunting. Solar energy is a great option for many homeowners and it's absolutely worth investigating. In order to maximize value homeowners should be ready to ask a lot of questions, until they feel confident with their decision.
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