1. Is your roof ready for solar panels?
Broken tiles on a roof
If your roof is old or damaged, it might not be prepared to take the weight of solar panels. You should get it inspected by a professional to confirm if it’s structurally sound. It’s also best to get any necessary repairs fixed before you order your panels. At the very least, your shingles should be relatively new; otherwise, the whole grid will need to be removed to access the repairs in the future.
If your roof can’t take the weight, and you’re not prepared to pay for a replacement, you can alternatively place solar panels in your backyard. Just be sure to aim them in the best direction for sunlight.
2. What types of solar panel are there?
Solar panels on roof
There are three main types of solar panel to choose from; monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. Monocrystalline is the most common option you will see on residential homes. This is considered to be the most efficient of all the solar panels, but it comes with a steep price as a consequence.
Polycrystalline panels are a little less efficient by comparison, but they don't cost as much. Thin-film panels, on the other hand, have a much finer design, which makes them more flexible and portable. These aren’t as efficient as monocrystalline though. The best option for you will depend on your home and your budget.
And then there's the question of solar panels vs. solar shingles. Solar panels are more traditional, and are lower in cost by comparison. Solar shingles are newer, and rather than sitting on top of your roof, are designed to look like your shingles, so they're more aesthetically pleasing. However, solar shingles are significantly more expensive than solar panels.
3. How much do solar panels cost?
A family looking at a solar panel
Make sure you’re fully aware of the expense of installing solar panels before buying. On average, expect to spend at least $15,000 to $20,000 to buy and install solar panels. You will likely need to hire a professional to install them, and you also need to account for any repairs your roof may require beforehand.
Be prepared that while you will save money on your bills, it will take a long time to make back the initial expense. Many solar panel installers will provide a calculator to see how much you'll save per month if you have solar panels.
4. Is it better to buy or lease solar panels?
A sign with buy or lease
One of the biggest questions you'll face is if you should buy or lease your solar panels. If you lease your panels, you don't have to pay a large upfront cost, which is typically around $10,000 or more. However, you do not officially own the panels if you choose this option — the equipment is owned by a third party. Plus, it won’t add value to your property as it’s not a permanent asset, and you won't be able to claim tax deductions.
However, leasing isn’t a total loss. It will still provide savings on your utility bills over time, and you won’t have the initial upfront cost.
5. Do you need a permit to install solar panels?
An official form being stamped
Each state and municipality will have its own set of rules in terms of solar panels, and you might need a permit to install them. Check in with your local authority to see what’s required.
Depending on what’s needed, this may take some time to approve, so get this sorted first before browsing and selecting your solar panels. A good installation company will be able to take care of the permitting process, but be sure to ask them.
6. Are there tax rebates to owning solar panels?
Two men installing solar panels on a roof
Another bonus is that some states offer incentives to encourage you to install solar panels. The particulars will depend on your location, but you can get tax rebates and breaks to reward you for your sustainability.
Plus, the federal government provides tax credits to residents as well, so make sure you check what you’re entitled to and take advantage. Again, though, if you're leasing solar panels, you won't be able to claim this rebate.
7. Should I get a battery backup for my solar panels?
A battery for containing solar cells
Solar panels are great for providing electricity when the Sun is out, but what about at night? Many solar panel installers also provide the option of adding a battery backup, so that when the Sun goes down, you can still draw the benefits of your solar panels — and not use power from the grid. A battery backup will add at least $5,000 to the overall cost of your system, but will provide you a source of power in case there's a power outage in your area, without requiring a noisy generator.