Whether you just want to live a green lifestyle or you want to save a ton of money on energy expenditures, there has never been a greater time to invest in solar panels. But most would-be investors in solar technologies don’t know what they don’t know, and it can be challenging to find where to start. Before making an investment in solar energy, there are several things you need to think about.

Consider Your Building and the Structure of Your Property

Most people are going to need to have their property assessed during a consultation before they move forward with an installation. In some instances, homeowners may need roof repairs or modifications before the panels can be installed. Consider the state of your roof and the structure of your home before proceeding, and be sure to talk with an installer that offers free analysis.  Ground mounts are also available when it isn’t practical to install on a rooftop.

Consider Different Types of Solar Panels

Believe it or not, there are a variety of different types of solar panels. Some are so-called high performance models, some were created specifically to resist strong winds, and some are even frameless for aesthetic appeal. During a solar energy audit, a solar technology professional will be able to help you find the best types of panels that fit your unique situation.

Installation Costs

canstockphoto5079125Apart from the cost of the equipment itself, it is going to cost a little bit to get it installed. Ideally, your installer should offer in-house design, installation, and after-sale services as part of the package. Many companies only focus on one aspect of the work which can limit their ability to help you down the road.  Ask about a workmanship warranty and make sure that you are comparing apples to apples if one company’s price seems too good to be true.  The lowest initial cost is rarely the least expensive choice.

Solar Permits

Make sure that your installer is familiar with your region’s permitting requirements.  Nearly every jurisdiction has unique code requirements which can vary significantly in cost.  It’s important to make sure that the installation complies with all of the zoning laws and city codes to avoid fines and problems after the fact. Also, be aware of any home owners association or other local jurisdiction’s rules.  These things need to be addressed before a final contract is signed to ensure that there are no surprises.  Your installer should be willing to get these answers for you if you don’t know where to look.

Financing vs Upfront Payment

Today, the main drawback to solar panel installation for homeowners is the upfront cost. Though it’s true that solar panels can save you tremendous amounts of money in the long term, there is a buyback period whereby the solar panels are creating enough energy value to compensate for their cost. You may want to consider financing options, and if so, you’ll want to ask your installer what they have available.  Any reputable installation company should have access to financing options (specific to solar) that can have you up and running with no up front costs and affordable monthly payments.  If you are fortunate enough to be able to pay all up front, you do stand to save even more money over time since you won’t be paying interest.  Compare the return on investment of solar to other investments that you may be holding.  You might be surprised to find that it outperforms some of the more volatile investments that people tend to have in place.

Tax Credits and Rebates

Even though the initial cost may seem high, there are two financial tools that will help dramatically shorten the buyback period. The first is a tax credit available from the Federal government set to run through 2019. This currently will cover 30 percent of the total installation costs, which is nothing to sneeze at. The second is state or local incentives that encourage residential and commercial investors to adopt solar technologies.  Typically these come in the form of cash rebates and your installer should be able to show you everything that is currently available.