Solar: Take the plunge cautiously…

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My conversations with people who have already taken the plunge into solar electric power go one of two ways. The vast majority are proud of their decision, eager to tell others about their experience. Willing to share most any detail.

More often than not, their solar results exceed the original projections. I regularly hear that people are expecting to pay back their original investment a year or two earlier than expected.

For the minority of those conversations, people have run into an issue, generally unrelated to their solar system performance. For some, it is problems with their roof, requiring the solar system to be removed and reinstalled at a significant cost.

Other times, it is a lease or power production agreement with an escalation clause that has resulted in additional cost, instead of savings, a few years in. Some needed to sell their property and had to pay an early cancelation penalty to buy out the leased system as a condition of sale. No fun whatsoever.

Poorly matched solar system size to actual consumption is also a complaint I hear. Same with panels placed in a less than optimal location, like a north-facing roof. Ugh, not good. Or that they never received the tax refund they were told they would receive. In these cases, the owners were in a very low tax bracket.

I know, I know…you think I’ve gone way off-topic. No, this is to make a point.

Every complaint I have heard about solar was as a result of making the wrong decisions when acquiring solar. And often the person didn’t even know they had a decision to make. They just accepted what was offered. Education is key.

So here is what you need to do to make the right solar investment decision:

  • Understand the last 12 months of utility bills, your electrical consumption, and what contributed to that consumption
  • Consider how your electrical consumption could change in the future – household growing or shrinking, replacing an old AC unit, new Energy Star appliances, or buying an electric vehicle
  • Have your roof inspected and complete any necessary repairs, before installing solar, so that it will last the life of your system
  • Know that not every property’s orientation allows for the economic offset of all of your utility consumption – a smaller system might be the optimal system
  • Consider if you will pay sufficient taxes in the next five years to receive the full government solar tax credits with the purchase or financing of a solar system
  • If financing, be assured you will save at least 20% more than your monthly payment in reduced utility bills
  • If entering into a leasing or power production agreement (PPA), ensure that this is because you are unable to take advantage of the solar tax credits
  • Make sure lease or PPA payments are less than the current utility bill savings expected
  • Never enter into an agreement that requires payments to escalate every year
  • Know what the cost will be to end any financing, lease or PPA early
  • Ensure that solar contributes to your future wealth and is not a financial burden

Follow these points to make the right solar investment decision. Ensure that you feel every question you ask has been honestly and accurately answered. Talk with family, friends, and neighbors that already have solar.

Appreciate that this is a long-term devotion to solar, and well-executed, it will bring you years of satisfaction, not just financially, but also through cleaner living, energy independence, and security. Envision how the savings will contribute to education funds, vacation plans, or grow retirement savings.

There should be pride, excitement, and a sense of doing good associated with the opportunity. Proceed when all feels good and right.

Like our first plunge into a pool, we might have been a bit hesitant at first, but afterward, exhilarated. By carefully and cautiously considering the plunge into solar, your outcome will be equally energizing!


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