What to Know Before Installing Solar Panels

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What to Know Before Installing Solar Panels

Making the switch to solar power is a big step, but it’s worth the investment. Who wouldn’t want a lifetime of sustainable energy? Many people are realizing the importance of renewable energy, and solar system installment rates continue to rise as a result. 

The U.S. has over three million solar panel systems installed nationwide as of 2021, equating to 100 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity. That’s enough to power 18.9 million households.

If you’re considering adding a solar panel system to your home or business, here are some questions to ask before getting started.

CAN YOUR ROOF SUPPORT SOLAR PANELS?

If your roof needs repair or replacement within the next few years, it’s best to fix it before moving forward. That way, you won’t have to pay the extra costs to dismantle a system and then reinstall it.

Your roof must be strong enough to hold the solar panel system’s weight. Hiring a solar technician to evaluate your roof will help you determine if it needs additional support.

[Related: Uninstalling and Reinstalling Solar Panels]

IS YOUR ROOF THE RIGHT SHAPE AND TYPE?

An on-site visit is beneficial to determine if your roof is suitable for solar. 

A standard gable roof is an ideal shape for solar panels because it makes for a relatively simple installation. But plenty of other roof types work well with solar panels. During your site visit, installers will take into account the roof type, shape, material, degree of pitch, and roof orientation. Together, these factors determine how much sunlight your roof can effectively absorb.

When it comes to composition, some roof materials are better than others at supporting solar panels:

  • Metal (standing seam, tin, and corrugated) is the easiest material to install solar panels onto since it doesn’t require roof penetration.
  • Composition shingles are also very simple for solar installation since they’re durable.
  • Tile roof surfaces depend on the material. Clay tile has a propensity for cracks and breakage, so concrete tile is often easier. 

[Related: What Is the Best Roof for Solar Panels?]

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. However, if your roof isn’t facing the sun, your panels won’t reach their full energy potential. 

To get the most out of your installation, it’s vital that your solar panels face south. West may also suffice depending on the pitch and orientation of your roof.

In some cases, solar panels can harness energy when installed on east- or north-facing roofs. Freedom Solar has an online solar potential calculator that will help you determine your roof’s energy output. However, always rely on a solar expert above anything else.

HOW EFFICIENT IS YOUR HOME? HOW MUCH ENERGY DO YOU USE?

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. You can install a smaller system with less panels and improve your overall payback by reducing your energy usage first. 

Additional cost factors to consider include:

  • How much energy you consume: The more electricity you currently use, the greater the savings and payback from a solar installation.
  • Will your energy usage increase or decrease in the future: If you’re planning to install a pool, purchase an electric vehicle, or add to your family and more, your electricity usage will go up.
  • Does your energy usage vary monthly: Electricity usage will vary throughout the year. It usually peaks during hot summer months from air conditioning loads or in the winter to stay warm. 

Talk with your solar contractor about designing a solar panel system that best accommodates your energy needs throughout the year. Take into account your home’s efficiency, your energy usage, and utility net metering policies to maximize your overall savings.

[Related: How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?]

HOW DO YOU CONNECT TO THE GRID?

Consider the logistics anytime you interconnect a distributed generation energy system to the grid. Here are some questions to ask your installer and utility company:

  • How long will it take to connect?
  • Am I responsible for paying any fees?
  • How will I receive credits for the generated electricity?
  • How long will it take to receive credits for my generated electricity?

WHAT ABOUT WARRANTIES?

Many durable and long-lasting types of solar panels are available, but it’s still important to know that you’re covered in case anything should happen during their lifetime. Warranties vary by manufacturer but usually cover equipment and energy production performance.

A typical industry warranty guarantees that the panels will generate at 80% of the rated power after 20 years of use. At Freedom Solar, we offer a comprehensive warranty for our SunPower solar panels covering all parts and labor for the entire system for 25 years, in addition to a 92% energy 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. Publicly traded U.S. companies must maintain a reserve for warranty protection, while other companies may offer warranty insurance plans. 

HOW MUCH DOES SOLAR COST? 

Quite a few factors influence your total solar 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 and federal and local incentives can drastically reduce the overall cost. 

You’ll have to hire a solar expert for a customized solar analysis of your home. Both your upfront out-of-pocket costs or your monthly payments depend on the size, type, and efficiency of your panels. Typically the more efficient your panels are, the higher the purchase cost. 

If you own a business, you can enter a PPA (power purchase agreement), where you buy the energy, but not the solar equipment. This means you get the benefit of constant electricity rates, with no upfront costs. 

[Related: Saving with Solar]

WHAT ARE THE FINANCIAL INCENTIVES AND REBATES TO GO SOLAR?

The Federal Solar Tax Credit, also known as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), allows a 26% deduction in your federal taxes through 2022 from your solar system’s total purchase and installation. 

The percentage rate decreases incrementally each year, dropping to 22% in 2023, and will terminate in 2024 for homeowners. A 10% tax credit will still be available for commercial and utility markets starting in January of 2024.  So, the sooner you complete your solar panel installation, the more you’ll save overall.

In addition to the federal ITC, some states and cities offer rebates and incentives. 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.

[Related: Guide to Federal Solar Panel Incentives]

WHAT TYPE OF SOLAR INSTALLATION WILL YOU CHOOSE?

Your dealer or installer will make recommendations on which solar panel will best suit your priorities, whether that’s long-term savings, reaching sustainability goals, or improving your property value. Hiring a third-party solar consultant will help you compare different products and warranties with an unbiased perspective. 

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 depends on your energy needs, design aesthetic, the amount of space you have available, and the orientation of your home.

Since not all solar panels are equal, do your research on the best solar panels. Be sure to ask your solar installer what type of equipment they’ll use on your home.

HOW LONG WILL THE SOLAR PANELS LAST?

Installing solar panels is a significant investment for most people. You want to be sure the panels and equipment have been performance-tested over a number of years and have a proven track record for high quality. You’ll need to reach out to your specific installer for their track record and tests. 

Freedom Solar carries SunPower panels, which have a guaranteed performance length of 25 years and a useful life surpassing 40 years.

[Related: How Long Do Solar Panels Last?]

WHAT IF YOU MOVE IN A FEW YEARS? WHO DO YOU CONTACT?

Most people don’t live in the same house for more than 20 years. Check with your solar company to find out what paperwork is necessary to transfer a solar warranty to the buyer.

You may also want to ask if the solar provider will consult with your realtor when the time comes to sell. That way, you can take full advantage of the increased resale value from your home’s solar system.

WILL MY HOA HAVE SPECIFIC GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW?

The good news about Homeowner Associations (HOAs) and solar panels is that many states prohibit HOAs from denying solar panel installations to homeowners. 

Still, some HOAs may have restrictions with regard to solar panel sizing and placement, and may require prior approval before residents go solar. It’s always best to check first before you begin the installation process. If you encounter resistance, check with a solar installer to find out if they will help advocate for you with your HOA. 

Additionally, ask your installer about building permit paperwork. These permits are specific to where you live, and the installer will know what is required. The installer will typically fill out this paperwork for you, but you should be aware of anything you are responsible for.

[Related: HOAs and Solar Panels: What Homeowners Need to Know]

HAVE MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT SOLAR PANEL INSTALLATION?

At Freedom Solar, we know it’s important to work with a company you can trust. We’ve outfitted thousands of homes and businesses with solar panel installations, and want you to be our next happy customer. 

Ready to make the switch to solar? Contact us by calling +1 (877) 792-1643 or complete our online inquiry form to begin your free consultation. 

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