Solar panels are no longer just for high-tech futurists. The rest of the world has finally caught up — in fact, last year a new solar installation went online in the U.S. every 100 seconds! If you’ve been considering adding a solar panel system to your home or business, here’s what you need to know before getting started.
10 Questions to Ask Before You Consider Installing Solar Panels
May 10, 2019
1. Can your roof support solar panels?
This is one of the most important considerations before you go through with your solar panel installation. If your roof is damaged and needs repair, or if it’s old and will need a replacement within the next few years, it’s best to take fix those before going through with a solar installation. As a result, you won’t have to pay the extra costs to dismantle the system and then re-install it after these issues have been addressed.
Because the solar panels will increase the amount of weight on your roof, your roof must be structurally sound enough to hold that weight. It’s critical to have a solar professional evaluate your roof to determine whether or not it will need additional support.
2. Is your roof the right shape and type?
When we think of roofs, most of us envision a standard gable roof, which is shaped by two sloping sides that meet in a point at the top. This is the most common roof type we see on modern buildings. But roofs come in all different shapes and sizes — flat, mono-pitched shed or lean-to, curved, pyramid or hip, Mansard, dormer, and more. Each roof surface must be evaluated for sufficient space to accommodate solar panels. These roof types also have different degrees of pitch, which can affect the panel’s exposure to the sun and therefore your energy output.
3. Which direction does the slope of your roof face?
Your solar panels are like sponges for the sun. The more light they get, the more energy you produce in return. Thankfully, Texas is one of the sunniest states in the U.S., so we’re in a prime location for solar power. However, if your roof isn’t facing the sun, your panels won’t be able to produce the maximum amount of energy. To get the most out of your installation, it is ideal to place the solar panels on a south facing roof surface. The parts of your roof that face west can also be good candidates for solar panels, and depending on the pitch and azimuth of your roof, solar panels can sometimes even be installed on east or north facing roof surfaces.
4. How efficient is your home?
In addition to evaluating the condition of your roof, you should also consider the energy efficiency of your home. If you have an older HVAC, insufficient insulation, or windows and doors that aren’t properly sealed, it may be more cost effective to make energy efficiency improvements to your home before installing solar panels. By reducing your energy usage first, you can install a smaller system and improve your overall payback.
5. How do you connect to the grid?
Anytime you interconnect a distributed generation energy system with the grid, there are some administrative logistics to consider. It’s important to know how the utility works in your area. Here are some questions to ask:
- How long will it take to get hooked up?
- Are you responsible for paying any fees?
- How will you be credited for the generated electricity?
- How long will it take to be credited for your generated electricity?
6. What about warranties?
Solar panels are known for being durable and long lasting. Still, it’s important to know that you’re covered in case anything should happen during their lifetime. Warranties, which usually cover equipment and production performance, vary by manufacturer. Moreover, there are a number of components connected to your system, such as the inverter, monitoring equipment and software, and even the racking, that may be covered under separate warranties by other companies.
A typical industry warranty guarantees that the panels will generate at 80% of the rated power after 20 years of use. The most comprehensive warranty, offered by SunPower, covers all parts and labor for the entire system for 25 years, as well as a 92 percent production guarantee after 25 years.
Check with your solar company to ensure that they offer a strong warranty and will service your system for free without hassle. You should also ask what happens to your warranty if the manufacturer is acquired or at some point goes out of business. U.S. publicly traded companies are required to maintain a reserve for warranty protection, while other companies may offer warranty insurance plans. When it comes to warranties, it always pays to ask questions and read the fine print!
7. Will you take advantage of rebates and other financial incentives?
There are quite a few factors that influence your total solar panel installation cost, including the size of your setup, your energy usage, and your utility company’s net metering policies. The good news is that solar rebates can drastically reduce the overall cost.
The federal government is on board with solar energy and gives incentives to anyone who harnesses this clean, sustainable form of energy. The Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a 30 percent tax credit for residential and commercial properties through December of 2019. The percentage rate decreases incrementally each year, dropping to 26 percent in 2020, then to 22 percent in 2021, and finally to 10 percent in 2022. So, the sooner you complete your solar panel installation, the more you’ll save overall.
While there are no direct solar incentives in Texas, there are state policies that protect homeowners who want to install solar, such as a property tax exemption for the increased appraisal value that solar panels add to your home.
Finally, local rebates for solar power are available in multiple utilities across the state, including Austin Energy, CPS Energy in San Antonio, and many other municipalities and co-ops. Once you’ve checked out all of these solar incentives, you can start harnessing the power of the abundant Texas sunshine.
8. How much energy do you use?
Additional cost factors you’ll want to consider are related to your energy usage:
- How much energy you consume now — The more electricity you use, the greater the savings and payback from a solar panel installation.
- Whether that usage will increase or decrease in the future — If you are planning to put in a pool, purchase an electric vehicle, or add to your family, your electricity usage will go up.
- How your usage varies from month to month throughout the year — Electricity usage typically peaks during the hot summer months in Texas due to the higher air conditioning load as we try to stay cool.
Talk with your solar contractor to design a solar panel installation that can best accommodate your energy needs throughout the year, taking into account utility net metering policies, and maximize your overall savings.
9. What type of solar installation will you choose?
If you’re in the market for residential solar panels, you can choose from a standard roof installation, a ground-mounted system, or a solar carport. It just depends on what you prefer based on your energy needs, design aesthetic, and amount of available space.
It is also important to know that not all solar panels are created equal. Do your research on the best solar panels, and be sure to ask your solar installer what type of equipment they will use on your home.
10. Will my HOA have specific guidelines to follow?
The good news about HOAs and solar panels is that many states — including Texas — have declared it unlawful for an HOA to deny homeowners the right to have solar panels on their home. Still, some HOAs may have restrictions with regard to sizing and placement of those panels, so it’s best to check first before you begin the process. If you encounter resistance, check with a solar installer to find out if they will help advocate for you with your HOA.
Now that you’ve brushed up on your solar FAQs, it’s time to start generating a lifetime of clean, sustainable energy! At Freedom Solar, we know it’s important to work with a company you can trust. As the largest residential solar provider in Texas, we’ve outfitted thousands of homes with solar panel installations. There’s a reason why so many homeowners, as well as commercial businesses like Whole Foods and Office Depot, are so happy with our quality installations and our friendly, helpful installers. We want you to be our next happy customer — contact us today for a free consultation, and join us in the solar revolution!