5 Questions to Answer Before Upgrading Your Home to Solar

5 Questions to Answer Before Upgrading Your Home to Solar

This feature was brought to you by Sunrun.

Here at Plum Deluxe HQ in Portland, Oregon, we live in a neighborhood where you can’t walk far without seeing houses featuring solar power on the roof. Those solar arrays have become quite photogenic to me, and I’ve always wondered how the economics play out.

Having researched it personally, it’s clear that solar has come a long way. Here are five questions you should answer when researching if solar power is a good investment for your home.

upgrade to solar

1. Do you qualify for preferential solar financing?

I’m not going to shy away from the fact that upgrading to solar is not inexpensive — a typical implementation can range anywhere from $18,000 to $40,000. However, your options for financing are great.

If you live in an area like here in Oregon where solar is popular, you may find great loan options at locally based credit unions or banks with a strong local presence. Installers also have preferential financial packages; I encourage you to comparison shop – for example Sunrun offers financing as well as filing all necessary paperwork.

The government also has financing programs. These come with more paperwork, but can be worth it for the benefits. I found this free PDF download from the Department of Energy, The Borrow’s Guide to Financing Solar Energy Systems, which summarizes some of the programs. It’s a good read, but unfortunately very outdated, so please read with a grain of salt.

2. Do you live in an area that offers financial incentives to switch to solar power?

Some municipalities offer financial rewards for switching to solar, meaning that your initial investment can be recouped more quickly. For example, here in Oregon utility companies must draw 25% of their energy from clean sources (since 2007). Oregon offers solar tax credits and utility rebates for homeowners (and businesses, too). Your solar power installer should be well versed in those rebates and incentives, and many will actually file all the rebate and incentive paperwork for you!

The Department of Energy has a directory listing all credits and incentives available, state by state, in addition to the rock-solid website full of resources, DSIRE: Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Again, top installers like Sunrun can make this pain-free by filing all the paperwork for you.

3. Can you just lease your solar panels instead of buying them?

Just like leasing cars has become popular, so has leasing solar panels. Similar to any leasing arrangement, leasing solar panels means that the company you are purchasing from owns and is responsible for the maintenance of the equipment. Most panel systems last 40 years (or more, if well maintained). Every situation is different, so the math isn’t always the same, but the big difference between leasing and buying is that leasing does not have the bigger up-front cost — but you don’t own the equipment. If you’re a good candidate for solar but you can’t afford the up-front costs, leasing may be perfect.

4. How much electricity can your home produce?

There are many types of solar panels and types of installations. The amount of power a home can generate is different based on where you live and even where your home is located — no two houses are alike. Any good solar installer will offer you a free estimate that should include some rough figures to help you see how soon your home will be generating power and how much power you’ll still need to purchase each month.

It’s important to explore this fully — you might be surprised to see you’ll have excess power which you can sell back to the grid for a profit! But make sure you see these figures to know how long you’ll have to wait for your investment to pay for itself.

5. How much electricity do you consume now?

Are you even aware of your electricity habits now? Many of us just take for granted that the lights stay on! When it comes to solar, the more expensive your electricity rates are (California is one of the highest) and the more electricity you use, the more you’ll benefit from an investment in solar. But if you use a lot of power and your home’s potential for solar output is low, you may still have an electric bill every month. As with many of the previous questions, the key here is to do the math — or get someone to do it for you!

solar panels


This feature was brought to you by Sunrun. The opinions featured are solely those of the author.

Sunrun is an easy, hassle-free way to move your home over to solar. With leased solar or third-party owned solar providers like Sunrun, there is little or no upfront cost because the third-party solar provider purchases the system. Sunrun owns and manages the system and monitors and maintains the panels throughout the life of the solar agreement, so that you can have peace of mind while enjoying the savings benefits of low electricity costs.

We have a special offer for Plum Deluxe readers. If you go solar with Sunrun before Nov. 30, you’ll get a $500 VISA® Prepaid Card. (Conditions apply.) Get a free solar quote here.

5 Questions to Answer Before Upgrading Your Home to Solar

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is the founder and creator of Plum Deluxe. He authors our award-winning weekly email newsletter, The Blend and curates our popular organic tea of the month club.

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