Buy Solar Panels
If you buy your own solar panel system it is often referred to as system ownership. That purchase and ownership can be through an outright cash purchase, or through financing with a solar loan which will eventually be paid off.
Solar.com recommends these two methods of ownership over any other method of acquiring a solar system, because when you own the system you become eligible for associated incentives.
6 Reasons the Decision to Buy Solar Panels Makes Sense
Every homeowner has their own personal variables to consider when deciding if a solar panel system is right for them. However, there are six main reasons we recommend purchasing (not leasing) a solar panel system. Typically a combination of these factors plays a role in the final decision to buy solar panels.
1) Reducing Monthly Electric Bill Costs/Increase Lifetime Savings
Most homeowners first take an interest in solar when their monthly bills spike. That could be due to air conditioning, a larger home, a new member of the household, etc. The desire to reduce monthly energy bills is the number one reason people cite for looking into solar.
If you choose to finance your solar system, there are variables to consider. Depending on the terms, length, APR, and other specifics of your loan, you may end up paying more each month into your solar investment. However, unlike paying a utility bill, these payments have an end date and are adding equity to your home.
Over the course of your system’s lifetime, you will save money with solar from avoided utility payments and rate increases. How much you save depends on a variety of factors like your local utility rates, energy usage, roof type and more. If you own your solar panels, you’ll see more savings over the lifetime of the solar system than you would with a lease or PPA.
If you buy solar panels outright, the typical payback period can range anywhere from 5-10 years and you’ll be generating your own clean energy on day one. There are options to finance the system through a home equity line of credit as well, if you want to take advantage of the cash price. Solar loan terms can range between 8-20 years, and as soon as the loan is paid off your system will be producing clean energy for free!
2) Buying Solar Panels Increases Your Home’s Value
Whether you finance your solar system or purchase it with cash, you are adding equity to your home. You are in essence adding a power plant to the roof of your home. This solar panel system has a tangible value which is transferred upon the sale of your home.
Berkeley Labs completed a study looking into the value of homes with photovoltaics (PV). They studied, “22,000 sales of homes, almost 4,000 of which contained PV systems in eight states from 1999 to 2013.” The value added to home equity was $4 a Watt. So the larger the solar system size, the greater the added value to the home. This Berkeley Labs study encompassed various regions, utilities, and home types.
3) Environmental Concerns
Going solar has a significant, positive environmental impact. It is one of the most influential decisions a homeowner who is concerned with the environment can make.
The primary way going solar helps the environment is by reducing the need for traditional dirty fuel sources. Coal, natural gas, and other traditional energy sources are ravaging the natural environment. Lessening the demand for these products protects and preserves land abundance which is otherwise disrupted. It also reduces the amount of CO2 released into the environment from procuring energy from these sources.
Solar not only reduces your carbon footprint (CO2 output), it also reduces pollutants like mercury and acid rain deposited in your area by fossil fuel power plants. Community power plants have a direct correlation with air pollution, toxic water runoff, and ocean damage. The choice to buy solar panels contributes to a reduced need for these plants in your local community.
There is another major environmental impact of going solar that is overlooked – water use. Coal-fired power plants use up to 1,000 gallons of water to produce one MegaWatt hour (MWh) of electricity. Additionally, hydro-cooled power plants pull ocean water in, heat it to evaporation levels, and push it back into the local ecosystem at higher temperatures. Not only does this cause evaporation, but also causes algae blooms, loss of ocean life, and reshapes the ocean landscape. In comparison, solar panels use no water to produce.
The most important difference between traditional energy sources and solar photovoltaics is this: one is a fuel, and one is technology. Fuel needs to be constantly replenished and fed into a generation mechanism. Photovoltaic panels are a technology in which you invest. The fuel source (sunshine) is free, clean, and plentiful!
4) Reducing Energy Dependence on Your Utility Provider
Another strong reason homeowners decide to buy solar panels is animosity towards their local utility. In many areas of the nation, there is no choice for home electricity. If you live in their territory, you absolutely must use their service. This monopolizing of the energy market leads to price hikes, numerous fees levied, and unfair rate changes. Along with this comes the overloading of the power grid resulting in outages.
Some utilities also work in conjunction with lobbyists and legislators to ensure their position in the community energy market. This isolation of power can become dangerous for homeowners who have no say in the matter. Buying solar panels allows the homeowner to be in control of their energy production needs.
5) Expected Utility Cost Hikes
Utility companies can raise the cost of energy at their liberty. Restrictions on these changes vary by state and region. However, there are very few safeguards in place to prevent spikes and increases in charges to homeowners.
Owning your power plant in the form of a solar system means you are exempt from many rate hikes, surcharges, and other unpredictable fees levied by utility companies. You can budget your energy costs into your long term home finances. Depending on the length and terms of your loan, you can recoup your ROI relatively quickly.
This cost predictability is a major advantage of owning a photovoltaic system. When your fuel is free (sunshine) and you own your solar system, you have more control.
6) Taking advantage of the Federal Solar Tax Credit (ITC)
The government incentivizes homeowners to go solar through the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). The federal solar tax credit is a federal initiative that is currently in place in all 50 states and only available to those who purchase or finance their solar system.
This tax credit calculates a percentage of the investment you made on your solar system and allows you to reduce your tax burden by that amount. 26% of your total system cost can be credited back to you on your taxes. If you are unable to use that full amount the first year, due to limited tax liability, the remainder may be rolled to the next fiscal year (up to 4 times).
For example, if your solar system cost $20,000, your federal solar tax credit would be $5,200. Say you are only able to apply $2,000 to your federal tax liability that year. The remaining $3,200 is still available to you the following year.
Most homeowners qualify for the federal solar tax credit. However, with all matters of finance, it is best to speak with your tax professional regarding eligibility and availability.
So what’s the catch?
There are certain scenarios in which it might make more sense for you to go with a lease or a PPA such as if you can’t claim the tax credit. For example, if you are retired and don’t have tax liability, you may not be able to take advantage of the Solar Tax Credit. For this reason, a solar lease or PPA may be a good option for you. If you’re looking for short term savings on your electricity bills, a lease or PPA can usually give you a lower payment and allow you to enjoy some savings as well as the benefits of producing clean energy.
Here are some more things to consider when you do decide to buy your solar panels:
If there is a problem with the equipment you’ll find peace of mind through warranties offered both by your installation company and equipment manufacturer. Typically your panels and inverter(s) are warrantied by their manufacturer anywhere from 10-25 years. On top of this installation companies offer workmanship warranties which cover the labor costs for them to come out and service your system if the equipment needs replacing. Workmanship warranties will last anywhere from 5-25 years depending on the company and location in the country.
What If I Sell My Home?
If you’re thinking about selling your home after going solar and aren’t sure of whether you will see the benefits of ownership, think again!
When your home has solar panels it truly adds value to your home. Berkeley’s Lawrence Lab conducted a study in which they found homes with solar sell faster, and at a higher value. The added value of a solar system comes out to about $4/watt! For an average 5kW system, that comes out to $20,000!
Even if you are in the process of paying off a solar loan most homeowners will use some of the earnings generated from their home sale to pay off their solar loan. The added value can be fixed into the sale price, since the system is a part of your home and will produce free electricity for decades.
With a lease or PPA, the new owner buying the home must agree to take over the agreement when they move into the home until the duration is complete. This can often complicate the sale.
Can I Finance Solar Panels If I Don’t Have Upfront Cash?
Don’t have the upfront cash to purchase a system outright? No problem, there are many zero down financing options with low interest rates that make going with a solar loan an affordable option. If you suffer from high electric bills, your solar loan payment may even be lower than your electric bill! Once the loan is paid off, you’ll be producing free clean energy and saving thousands of dollars.
Most leases and PPA’s are zero down as well. If you go with a prepaid PPA, you’ll be paying an upfront price for the next 20-25 years of electricity. Since you will not get the tax credit back, the savings you’ll see will be quite less than those of a cash purchase.
If you’re able to take advantage of current solar incentives such as the Solar Tax Credit, we definitely recommend purchasing your solar system. Ownership is more beneficial to your savings and adds the most value to your home. Regardless of if you buy your system or go with a lease/PPA, you’ll still save money with solar and help reduce reliance on fossil fuel energy generation.
Where to Buy Solar Panels?
Solar.com offers an easy, hassle-free process to find the right solar panel system for your needs. Getting started is easy – just fill in your address and some basic information, then schedule a 10-minute consultation call with one of our trusted Energy Advisors. The service is completely free.
After your initial conversation, we’ll design your solar system and generate multiple solar bids from vetted, local installers. You’ll be able to review the offers, and ask your unbiased Energy Advisor any questions. If you find a system you like, we’ll handle the paperwork, and set you up with your installer to get your solar panels system up and running. Clean energy is a short step away!