by Marc Candalaria
In the past ten years the Solar PV industry market has evolved. At first customers were skeptical about solar panels, wondering if they would actually generate enough electricity to power their home. Then they were amazed to see their electric meter spin backwards for the first time.
The concept of solar is much more main stream now, and when it comes to going solar it’s almost the same as purchasing a new family car.
Due to this new demand, we are constantly bombarded with solar marketing. From solar reps at the local home improvement store, to sales people inconveniently knocking on your door, to constant emails, phone calls, repetitive radio ads, Internet and Facebook pop-ups, and snail mail, we are constantly bombarded with someone trying to sell us on solar.
Don’t be pressured and/or misinformed. Yes, solar can be a great way to save money and generate clean electricity and we all would love lower electric bills, but you need to ask … is solar right for you?
Solar radio ads typically say that if you own a home, and you’re paying over $150 a month in electricity, you should call them and they can save you money. The caveat being, that for solar to make financial sense and show a positive return on investment (ROI), there has to be enough space on the property to get the amount of production needed for your home from the solar panels. Keep in mind that an actual electric bill showing the annual KWh usage is the only way to get a true view of your usage and to find out how much the solar will offset your bills.
Deciding How to Pay for Solar
When deciding on how to pay for your solar system, there are typically three options.
1)The best option is if you have the funds or have access to a very low interest home equity line of credit, then you can utilize the 30% tax credit. With a very high electric bill you can start to see a return on your investment almost immediately.
2)The second option would be to acquire an unsecured loan that may have a slightly higher interest rate, but this option would be worthwhile if the payments are lower than your current electric bill and you can use the 30% tax credit towards the principal when you receive it. This way, the solar would pay for itself within a few years and will be making you money for the next 25+ years. Remember that when purchasing solar, you are open to many other financial benefits, and an experienced tax professional can help guide you to get the most out of your individual situation.
3)The last option is a lease or Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). This is an attractive option if you would like to go solar but do not have the ability to purchase or finance and have an electric bill that is out of hand.
Optimum Times to Go Solar
Simply being frustrated with high electric bills isn’t the only time when solar should be considered. For instance, if you need to replace your roof, this is an excellent time to invest in solar, especially since many roofers and general contractors work with electrical contractors that specialize in solar. No one likes the thought (or cost) of roof replacement but installing solar at the same time has many benefits and you can turn that boring roof installation into a moneymaking investment that eliminates your electric bill.
Another optimum time is when installing a new patio or pergola. There are various frameless solar modules that add an aesthetically pleasing top on these structures and can serve as both a shade feature and a power generating structure.
Lastly, if you know a few other neighbors who are in the market for solar as well, it would be beneficial for you all to come together and find a company that’s willing to give you a group discount. A reputable company should be able to save the group thousands of dollars if they are all planning on purchasing in the same way.
Choosing the Right Solar Company
Be sure to hire a company that is a licensed C10 electrical contractor. Many companies listed as solar companies are not licensed to do a complete installation because only a C10 electrical contractor is licensed to do 100% of all electrical terminations for grid tied solar installation.
Another reality is that electrical fires are a serious issue. Most solar electric systems carry up to 600v DC so make sure whoever you hire is properly trained and certified for the safety of your home and family.
When making the decision to go solar it’s important not to be rushed into signing just because the salesperson is saying that if you don’t act now, all the tax credits and benefits will be gone. Many companies are using this scare tactic, but the truth is that the 30% federal tax credit will expire at the end of 2016.
Make sure to take the time to acquire several quotes from different companies to guarantee that the investment you’re making is right for you. Solar is a big investment and each system should be specifically designed and engineered for the owner’s particular needs and with future plans in mind.
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