The average American family spends over $1,335 each year for electricity. The approximate 20-year savings with solar panels range from $13,720 to $30,523. Prices vary depending on the state you live in.
First, you need to make a list of questions to ask before going solar.
5 Questions to Ask Before Going Solar
You may have heard different stories about solar panels. The best approach is to ask questions and be an informed consumer.
1. What Brand Solar Panels Do You Use?
You want to make sure you are getting quality solar panels. Once you know the brand, hit the internet and look for customer reviews. How long has the company been in business?
Are they a member of the Better Business Bureau? Do they have any complaints against them? Visit the Consumer Affairs site for manufacturer ratings.
Top solar companies usually offer quality products and warranties.
What kind of warranty does the company offer? Do they have storm ratings? Ask friends and neighbors if they know anyone with that brand of solar panel.
2. Is the Quote Based on Kilowatt size or Kilowatt Hours?
Kilowatt size and hours are not the same. The system size is not as important as the system power.
One kilowatt (kW) equals 1,000 watts of power. This describes the kilowatt size.
Wattage tells you how much power a device can provide over a set amount of time. For example, a 1,000 watt (1 kW) microwave will warm up food faster than a 600-watt microwave.
This example shows the relationship between capacity (the amount of kW) and time. This leads to the term kilowatt-hours (kWh) as a measure describing energy use.
One kWh describes the amount of work performed or energy used in that hour. As speed defines distance traveled over a set time, kWh defines power used over a period of time. If you used the 1 kW microwave for one hour, you would use 1kWh of energy.
All panels do not generate the same amount of electricity in a set timeframe.
3. Is There a Production Guarantee?
Solar panel companies now offer many different options to pay for solar panels. The options include:
- Energy-efficient mortgage
- Group purchase
- Home equity loan
- Peer-to-peer lending
- Power purchase agreement
- Property assessed clean energy program
- Shared solar
- Solar lease
No matter what financial payment plan you choose, find out about their production guarantee. Over time, solar panels degrade. This degradation rate is approximately 0.5% per year which decreases solar production time.
Each company selling solar panels decreases their production guarantee differently. Look at year 10 and year 20 compared to year 1 to find out how much the company is reducing its performance guarantee.
4. Is Your Roof Suitable for Solar Panels to Meet Your Electricity Needs?
Several factors determine if your roof is suitable for solar panels. The requirements include roof size, direction, pitch, and shade during the day.
South-facing solar panels produce the most electricity. You can also use southwest or southeast-facing sides without too much loss of electricity generation.
The company writing the proposal will use tools to measure and determine if your roof meets the requirements. They will also calculate if there is enough space to meet your electricity needs
5. Will Your Payment Stay the Same or Go Up Every Year?
Many companies offer a low down-payment to start a lease. The payments then increase year after year. There are also options to keep the payments level or a payment escalator.
Ask questions until you completely understand your options and financial obligation.
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