How to Know if You Qualify for Solar

ResidentialCalendarJanuary 16, 2018

So you’ve heard the buzz about solar energy. It’s clean, it’s plentiful, and it can save you money. But will you need to drain your savings account to get started? And does your home even qualify for rooftop solar? The quick answers are:

  • No, you can hold onto your hard-earned savings! Those with good credit can often finance the purchase of solar panels without a downpayment and there are several other ways to go solar without breaking the bank. After all, a big benefit to solar is the potential savings.
  • It’s likely that your home qualifies! The Sun shines all over the world and there is a good chance you get a decent amount of rays on your roof. However, weather conditions and other structural factors can ultimately determine if your home is right for solar, so you’ll want an expert evaluation.

Let’s get down to the dollars and cents - what kind of solar plan do you qualify for? The good news is, you have options:

  • Solar purchase. This means you buy your panels outright and see immediate savings on your monthly utility bill. You’ll also qualify for a federal tax credit and maybe even state and local incentives, all of which are yours to keep. After tax incentives, the average residential rooftop solar energy setup costs between $10,000 and $12,000 for a 5kW system.1
  • Solar loan. With this option, you pay for your solar panels over time. Many solar loans are calculated to present long-term savings. If your credit is fair to excellent, you’ll likely qualify for a solar loan.2 With this option, you also get to keep the federal tax credit and any other incentives in your area. Your wallet will love you.
  • Solar PPA. In this case, your solar provider owns the panels on your roof. There are no installation fees or other upfront costs, you just pay your solar provider a low rate for the electricity your panels produce (instead of buying that electricity from your utility at a higher rate). You’re likely to see immediate energy savings as you use less power from your utility and more from your solar panels! If your credit is good or excellent, this could be an option for you.3
  • Solar lease. Similar to a PPA, the solar provider owns the panels on your roof and you get a solar energy system for no upfront cost. Again, you’ll make a low monthly payment to your solar provider  - this one is a fixed amount based on the expected yearly production of your panels - and shift much of your energy use from your utility to your solar panels. Credit requirements are similar to a Solar PPA.4

In many cases, you’ll get your pick of the options described above (though not all are available in all areas). Rates for financing will depend on your credit.

So how do you know if your roof is a good fit for solar? Google’s Project Sunroof is a great place to start. You can use Project Sunroof to assess suitability. Beyond that, the best way to find out if your home is a good candidate for solar is to have an expert to look at your roof and conduct an on-site survey.

In this on-site survey, they will be looking at the following:

  • Roof size, pitch, and direction. You’ll want to make sure your roof has enough surface space to hold the right number of panels for your needs and that the roof pitch and direction will be able to capture adequate Sun hours. The ideal scenario would be a south-facing roof at a 30 degree tilt, but they’re still economical on east or west facing roofs5 as well as on different pitch degrees, it might just require additional panels to capture enough sunlight.  
  • Roof obstructions. Pipes, your chimney, and anything else installed on your roof will impact if or where solar panels can be placed. 
  • Sun exposure. The ideal sun exposure hours are between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. all year.6 If you’re not sure how much Sun your roof gets, the professional surveyor will be able to help. If your roof has shading due to trees around the home, you may want to consider trimming them to allow more sun exposure on your roof. 
  • Roof materials, stability and strength. Here’s a bonus - solar panels can actually extend the life of your roof because they shield it from the elements and UV rays! Removing solar panels to replace your roof can be expensive though, so be sure there is plenty of life left on your roof before you have anything installed. The surveyor will review the roof’s construction and the quality of its materials. The most common roof material - asphalt shingle - is ideal for solar installation.7 It’s possible to put panels on almost any type of roof, but some solar companies don’t install on flat roofs or roofs with tile or tar and gravel. If your roof has either of these materials, you’re not out of luck. There is specific racking equipment that make it possible to install on those type of roofs, you just have to find the right solar company that has it available.
  • Electrical wiring. The surveyor will need to verify that a safe, code compliant system can be installed on the home. They will check your attic, rooftop and electrical panel for electrical clearances, damaged wiring and any electrical upgrades that may be necessary. 
  • Climate. Solar panels produce less electricity in overcast climates, it’s true. But how much you save on solar depends more on local electricity rates - even rainy Seattle ranked as one of the top 25 cities that benefit from solar!8 Don’t discount the benefits you could get from solar just because you live in a cloudy city.
  • Local regulations. If you live in a community with homeowners association (HOA), you’ll need to ensure your HOA rules allow rooftop solar panels. Many do allow solar installs and, in some cases, HOA actually coordinates solar installations. If you are renting a home, you can discuss solar options with your landlord, but whomever owns the property is responsible for any contracts or installations.

The on-site solar survey is the most accurate way to determine how many panels you’ll need to support your home’s energy use and whether it’s safe to install them on your roof. If your home doesn’t seem “ideal” based on the information here, don’t worry! The economical benefits usually depend most on how much electricity you use and what tax or other incentives are available in your area. 

Now that you have the scoop on most of what you’ll need (or what is best) for going solar, you’ll have a better idea of knowing if solar will be beneficial for you and your home. Many solar companies will be able to help answer questions if you are still having a hard time pulling the plug on traditional energy. With solar being a long-term commitment, you’ll want to utilize the experts. Call a solar company to get more information today.

Photo Credit: gettyimages.com
Endnotes
1. https://www.solar-estimate.org/
2. http://blog.credit.com/2015/07/can-you-get-a-loan-for-solar-panels-120774/
3. http://blog.credit.com/2015/07/can-you-get-a-loan-for-solar-panels-120774/
4. http://blog.credit.com/2015/07/can-you-get-a-loan-for-solar-panels-120774/
5. https://www.energysage.com/solar/101/solar-panel-installation/
6. https://www.solarpowerauthority.com/tell-roof-right-solar-panels/
7. https://www.solarpowerauthority.com/tell-roof-right-solar-panels/
8. https://news.energysage.com/top-10-cities-for-solar-they-arent-the-sunniest/

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