What Do You Need to Consider Before Installing Solar Panels?

A man installing solar panels on an eco-friendly house roof.

Not too many years ago, it was rare to see a home with solar panels on the roof. But now, solar panel-bedecked roofs seem to be everywhere you look. More homeowners are turning to this alternative form of energy to reduce their monthly bills and carbon footprints. But this is not a decision that should be made in haste.

The upfront costs of solar panel installation can be steep and may be prohibitive for some people. However, making the switch to solar can certainly pay off in the long run if you live in the right climate. To ensure solar is right for you, here are a few things to consider before scheduling your installation appointment.

Financing

Before signing any solar leasing contract, you need to carefully consider your budget. If you can’t afford the investment now, it may be worth it to spend a couple of years saving up. Alternatively, many homeowners finance their rooftop panels so they don’t have to pay the upfront cost all at once. Depending on the financing agreement you choose, you may not be responsible for any of the upfront costs associated with solar panel installation.

Two popular solar panel financing options include solar leases and power purchase agreements. Both allow homeowners to have solar panels installed on their rooftops with zero upfront costs. The solar company covers the costs of the equipment and installation while retaining ownership of the panels. In return, the homeowner is simply responsible for making a monthly payment.

One of the primary differences between a PPA and a solar lease is the monthly payment structure. Solar leases tend to establish a set monthly payment, while PPAs tend to have variable payments based on monthly power usage. Despite this difference, homeowners with solar leases can expect to pay roughly the same amount for their annual energy costs as homeowners with PPAs.

Climate

Solar energy isn’t a viable solution for everyone. Before making the switch, you need to consider the climate in your area. If you live somewhere that’s persistently cloudy and rainy, solar may not be a great option for you. Even if your climate is ideal for producing solar energy, factors immediately around your home may not be so favorable. For example, large trees, buildings, or mountains may block your access to sunlight.

Before committing to solar energy, make sure your home gets enough peak sun hours to make the switch worthwhile. Not every hour of sunlight is defined as a peak sun hour. To be classified as such, sunlight must produce 1,000 watts per square meter within that hour.

Each state in the U.S. has an average number of peak sun hours. Generally, the closer your state is to the equator, the better. You can use online calculators to help you determine whether your home receives sufficient light to make your solar panel investment worth it.

Roof Condition

Solar panels can be installed on almost any type of roof. So, whether you have a metal roof or asphalt shingles, you shouldn’t have a problem going solar. But there are some other roof factors you may need to consider before making the switch, including roof condition and slope.

If your roof is nearing the end of its estimated lifespan, the last thing you want to do is install solar panels on it. Solar panels are not meant to be installed and removed at will. If you know you’re going to replace your roof in the next year or two, do it before switching to solar.

You’ll also want to check the slope of your roof before having panels installed. The ideal roof should have an angle of at least 30 degrees but not more than 45 degrees. This range helps maximize the amount of sunlight your panels receive. If your roof is flat or has a deeper angle than 45 degrees, consult an expert installer. They may be able to recommend the best solar panel placement for your roof’s specific orientation.

City Approval

Before installing solar panels on your roof, you’ll want to check with your city. Most cities require you to obtain approvals or permits before switching to solar energy. If you don’t take these preemptive steps, you may face hefty fines or even legal action down the road. You may even need to remove your panels at your own expense.

The good news is that most solar installers can help homeowners navigate local regulations. They should also be familiar with specific installation guidelines for your area. But don’t ever rely on the installer alone. It’s ultimately up to the homeowner to ensure their solar panels comply with applicable regulations in their city or state.

If you live somewhere with a homeowner’s association, you need to be especially vigilant. Some HOAs have additional solar panel regulations you must adhere to outside of city or state regulations. Refer to your HOA Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions for legally binding information regarding solar panel installation.

Switching to solar can be very rewarding if you’re planning to stay in your current home for the long haul. Just make sure you do your research in advance so you don’t end up with an investment you don’t want or can’t afford. Considering things like financing, climate, roof condition, and city approval can help you determine if solar energy is right for you.

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