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Solar Panels

July 8th, 2014 at 10:02 pm

One of our long term goals is to install solar panels on our roof. We live in an insanely sunny climate, will eliminate our electricity bill (and we'll get money back from the power company). Federal incentive is 30% and our state incentive is 10%. Also - having solar panels definitely adds value to a house, so you make your money back on resale.

So we've been crunching the numbers and comparing companies...

The company I really like has another incentive program. They're giving me a $500 discount for being an architect. And they'll give me $500 every time I refer someone. I'm doing two projects that I think will be considered referrals and my neighbor is interested in panels, too.

And, yes, I have the money saved for this specific purpose. No, I'm not financing it.

The biggest hurdle now is the neighbor who lives above us. By law he can't stop us from having panels (and other people in our neighborhood have them, and our homeowner's association allows them as long as they're below the roof parapet), but I don't want him making our lives difficult, either, so once we decide but before we sign a contract I'm going to talk to him.

7 Responses to “Solar Panels”

  1. Beawealthywarrior Says:

    I live in Nevada and often think of solar panels but never looked into it. I believe it should be a great investment

  2. Another Reader Says:

    Solar panels do not necessarily add value. In some markets, they actually detract from value. Many people do not want the hassle or the long term contractual commitment with the utility. Buyers are often concerned about the roof and the potential for leaks.

    In some areas, leased solar panels can make a house very difficult to sell because of the lease contract. There have been several articles on the problems with these leases in publications in Arizona.

    It would probably be helpful to talk to a couple of real estate agents in your area to get their opinion of the effect of what you propose on the market value of your property.

  3. Buendia Says:

    In our area, panels definitely add value.... (disclaimer: I am an architect so I have a good handle on the real estate market here, but you are correct that this may be different in other places). Also we are going with a non-penetrating, ballasted system which does not penetrate the roof system - if people are looking into solar systems, I highly recommend a ballasted system - the only downside is if you don't know what your roof structure is; but since I built the house, and designed it, I know what the beams are).

    This is not a leased system and the only contract with the utility is that we sell electricity back to them; but if there were a different owner, this agreement wouldn't continue. I have a real problem with the leased systems, although I understand it allows people to get solar when they can't afford the up-front costs; basically it zeroes out their electric bill, but they don't own the system. Leased systems can be leased by the utility or a separate company, but either way I can see how that would be a hassle for a buyer!

    Some other things for people to consider if they're interested in solar: make sure there aren't any additional costs for permits, getting a stamp (this is necessary for the ballasted system) or roofing (if you have a ballasted rack, no need for roof repairs). Also make sure you're comparing apples to apples when you get pricing: particularly with inverters, different inverters will have a big effect on the kWh you'll get. Also, a higher wattage inverter will allow you to expand later. The rack is also important - some allow for a different tilt and some are fixed.

  4. Another Reader Says:

    Without a net metering contract, the panels no longer pay their way. Can a buyer assume the contract or sign a new contract?

    Ballasted systems work on flat roofs - are their any options for pitched roofs?

    I looked at this several years ago, but it did not make sense here in the Bay Area. Heat, hot water and the cooktop are gas fired. Air conditioning is limited to a few days in the summer and the other uses are appliances and lighting. Electric bills rarely go over $100.

  5. Buendia Says:

    I'm going to ask them about the net metering contract... will report back. Not sure how the panels wouldn't pay their way, though... they'll still create enough energy to power the house. The amount the utility pays us is pretty minimal (would be a check for about $10/month).

    We have flat roofs here; I'm not sure about pitched, but there are systems in Europe where the panels ARE the roof. I don't know a lot about them.

    We don't have AC, and we also have gas heat (boiler connected to radiant floor), stove, hot water. I've decided not to do an electric boiler, but wait until our boiler poops out and get a super efficient gas boiler. Our electricity needs will be met with 7 panels.

  6. Shiela Says:

    We got solar panels, the best thing we ever did. It cost us $2,500 (we used to have great gov't incentives when we got them) it already paid for itself. Not bad considering we are not always sunny here. We tend to get a credit in summer which pretty much pay for the winter bills. We can change utility company anytime we want. I guess it's different here. Around our neighbourhood I would say 1 in 10 got them.

  7. Tabs Says:

    Good for you on getting solar. It appears that you have done your homework, and it appears the benefits outweighs the potential pitfalls. Hope it all works out!

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