10 Questions to Ask Before Going Solar

Going solar should never be an impulse buy. In fact, for most homeowners, going solar will be one of the largest purchases that they make over their lifetime, after a home and a car. With that being said, homeowners thinking about going solar should take the time and effort to determine if solar is a smart investment… Unfortunately, that is easier said than done as the majority of Americans are unfamiliar with the complexities of the solar industry. So, to help homeowners get a better idea of whether solar is right for their home and circumstances, we’ve created 10 questions to ask and answer when considering solar.

1. Why should I go Solar?

Well, that’s technically up to you, but the majority of homeowners choose to go solar for the electricity bill savings. While this might be the initial attraction of going solar, many homeowners don’t realize that solar also allows you to control your power bill as well as increase your property value. In some states, solar owners can even get paid for excess energy that their panels produce! Other non-fiscal related reasons to go solar are that it reduces carbon footprint, helps create and sustain hundreds of thousands of American jobs, and promotes the future of renewable energy. No matter the answer, it’s important to determine why you’re going solar as it will heavily influence your answers to the rest of the questions on this list. 

2. Is my house right for solar?

Because the answer to this question directly affects the cost and the savings of your system, it is the most important question on the list. For the most part, it is hard to determine on your own whether solar is right for your home, but there are three things you can look at to get a basis of whether you should even consider investing in solar:

  • The amount of sun that your roof receives. If there is lots of shade, solar might not be a viable option.
  • The direction your roof faces. Southern facing roofs spend the most time in the sun in the northern hemisphere and can allow you to purchase less panels while still producing enough energy for your home.
  • The cost of electricity in your region. The higher the electricity price, the more money you’ll be able to save by going solar.

If your home checks the boxes for these three verifiers, solar likely will be a wise investment for your home, but there are a couple other factors that can push you away from going solar.

3. Is my electricity bill high enough to justify going solar?

Although you might have the ideal home to go solar, a low electricity bill might turn you away from buying a new system. Even if you live in a state or city that charges expensive rates for power, if you don’t use that much power, solar might not be worth it. As a rule of thumb, we prefer that our customers have an energy bill higher than $75 dollars for solar to make sense from an immediate savings standpoint. Like we mentioned in the previous question, the more you pay for electricity, the faster the panels will pay themselves off. Thus, homes with low power usage won’t save large amounts of money by going solar.

4.  How should I finance my panels?

There are a variety of ways to finance your solar panels. At Blue Raven Solar, we exclusively offer ownership packages (cash or loan financing) because we know that it’s the best way to take control of your electricity and save money by going solar. Other solar companies offer Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) and leasing deals, which allow homeowners to go solar without paying any money out of pocket or down the line. The problem with these deals is that the homeowner does not own their panels and will pay the solar company for electricity rather than a utilities company. Like utility companies, solar companies who offer these deals will bump the cost of electricity up through price escalators every few years, cutting any savings the homeowner was once getting. These solar companies also benefit from receiving all local and federal incentives like the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar. All in all, it’s important to understand all the financing options and make a decision based on your budget and your desired solar savings.

5.  How much does solar cost?

Outside of PPA and lease deals, a new solar system that offsets 100 percent of the average American household energy usage will typically cost around $22,000. However, the cost is directly affected by how much energy your home uses, which means your home could need a system that costs well above or below that price. Therefore, it is difficult to estimate the cost of a system without proper information. Most solar companies can build out an accurate estimate of how much your system will cost by using your last six months of energy bills and a sun tracking software to determine the necessary size of your system to generate 100 percent of your power usage. With that said, you don’t have to purchase a system that offsets 100 percent of your energy bill. Although it is recommended, you can easily customize your solar system to produce anywhere from 25 percent to 100 percent of your electricity bill. The price of solar can also be affected by the provider. If you are curious to see who offers the cheapest prices or has the highest reviews, we recommend using a resource like BestCompany.com or SolarReviews.com to get an unbiased opinion on the best solar company in your neighborhood.  

6. How much money will I save with solar?

It’s hard to be happy with the price of solar if you’re unable to determine how much it will allow you to save. Luckily, solar companies always calculate how much a homeowner can save by going solar. Your savings are determined by several factors. Firstly, if you decide to own your system, you are entitled to the federal solar tax credit. The ITC allows you to take 26% of the total cost of your system and apply it as a tax credit in the following year. So, if you purchase a $20,000 system, you’ll be able to take $5,200 off your taxes the next year. Another factor that influences your savings is how you finance your system. A lease or PPA deal will only allow homeowners to save a couple bucks a month, while a cash purchased system will usually put 100% of your power bill back into your pocket. If you purchase your panels with a loan, the loan payment would ideally be lower than your monthly power bill, allowing for automatic monthly savings. All in all, after ownership, the typical system on an optimal home will pay itself off in 6-8 years.

7. What type of panels should I be looking for?

Solar panels are continually changing in size, power production, and efficiency, so it’s important to know what is available on the market. Homeowners usually have more preferences regarding the look of the panel rather than the technology within the panel. As far as aesthetics go, there are a variety of options, like black panels, blue panels, mounted panels, and solar shingles to name a few. As for brands of panels, typically Jinko, Trina, Heliene, Seraphim, Longi, LG, Tesla, and Samsung offer the highest quality and most efficient options. All panels will have a kilowatt-hour (KwH) number that is listed with them that shows how many kilowatts a panel will produce per hour in the sun. Typically, the higher the number the more expensive the panel. Luckily, you don’t have to worry too much about the quality of panels because all accredited solar companies will be up to date on their product and want to provide the highest quality options for their customers.

solar panels leaning on a fence

8. How long will my solar panels last?

Because solar panel technology has improved so much in the last decade, it’s hard to know exactly how long your panels will last. For the most part, the majority of solar companies claim that their solar panels will produce at a profitable efficiency for at least 25 years. This means that over time your solar panels will suffer a slight degradation, which is about 0.8-1.2 percent per year of original efficiency. The degradation is often caused by dirt, pollen, and other external factors, so it is important to remember to clean your panels every once in a while. Although your panels will become slightly less efficient over time, it’s important to remember that the degradation won’t be significant until after several decades of high efficiency production. 

9. Do solar panels have a warranty?

Most accredited solar companies will offer energy, workmanship, and panel warranties upon purchasing your new panels. At Blue Raven Solar, we offer a 24-month production guarantee, which means that if your panels don’t produce as they should over the 24-month span, we will cover the difference. We also offer a 10-year workmanship warranty, which means that we will fix any improper installs or damage to your solar array up to ten years after purchase. Lastly, we include a 25-year panel warranty that allows our customers to replace any defective panels free of charge.

10. How do I know which solar company to trust?

One of the most difficult decisions when considering solar is which company to trust. If you’ve already considered solar and put in some research, you know that there are thousands of solar companies to choose from. Price shopping takes time and effort, and you never know whether you’re getting the best deal possible. Although price is important and should be a significant factor in determining who to go solar with, Blue Raven Solar believes that the partnership that the homeowner and solar company make is just as important. With over 2,000 five-star reviews across Google, Best Company, Solar Reviews, Energy Sage, and other reviews platforms, we prioritize our customers and make sure that they have a pain-free solar experience. So, before you go looking for every price available on the market, be sure to get a free savings estimate with Blue Raven Solar and become a part of our lifelong team as well as start saving thousands on your solar journey.

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