By Megan Wild, Contributor 

You’ve heard of the benefits of installing solar panels, such as reducing your electric bill while increasing the value of your property, reducing your carbon footprint by using a system that does not emit greenhouse gasses and maximizing your ROI. When it comes to saving money, more Americans are looking to solar over the span of 20 years to save them an average of $20,000.

But, are solar panels the right investment for you and your family? Consider the following questions before you call an installer.

1. Are Solar Panels a Worthy Investment Where I Live?

Your home’s location and roofing are critical keys to determining if solar is the right investment for you. You should live in an area that receives a large amount of sun throughout the year, such as the Triangle area. Cloudy areas such as Oregon may not produce enough solar energy without the addition of a large number of panels.

The roof space needed to install solar panels should be free of skylights, pipes, chimneys and other obstructions. To maximize the sun’s rays, choose an area that’s clear of tall trees and shade. If your home faces south, southeast or southwest, it’s the ideal candidate for solar — although homes facing east and west will receive some rays.

2. What Type of Solar Panels Should I Get?

The most popular solar panels available include mounted monocrystalline silicon panels, mounted polycrystalline silicon panels, mounted thin film solar panels, movable tracking panels, and solar shingles. Monocrystalline silicon panels last the longest and tend to be more expensive. Thin film solar panels are inexpensive, but may not last as long.

Tracking solar panels adjust to the movement of the sun’s rays for efficient energy production, while solar shingles are more aesthetically pleasing. The type of solar installation you choose will depend on your budget and the products available through your local solar company.

3. How Much Does It Cost and How Will I Pay for It?

A typical solar panel system can cost between $15,000 and $45,000. You do have options in how you want to pay for the installation. You can choose to pay the full amount upfront with cash or you can apply for a loan through your bank or with the solar company itself.

Another option is to lease the solar panels from the company and only pay for the energy produced.

4. Are There Any Tax Credits Available?

The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit is a federal credit administered through the Internal Revenue Service. It provides a 30% rebate to qualified taxpayers until the end of 2019. After that date, the rebate percentage decreases. For example, from January 1st, 2020 to December 31st, 2020, taxpayers will receive a 26% rebate for both solar-electric properties and solar water-heating properties.

As an additional incentive, several states provide rebates through various programs, like the Solar Initiative in California and the Residential Solar Sales Tax Exemption in New York. Individual states may also participate in Net Energy Metering (NEM). NEM is the compensation you’ll receive for the energy produced, but not used, by your solar panel system.

5. Why Is Solar a Good Investment?

Just like with stocks and bonds, solar panel systems can provide the investor with a high return on investment. It’s possible to pay off your solar panel system in eight years and capitalize on a 20% ROI.

Solar panels

6. Is There a Certification and Licensing for Installers?

The potential installer should produce a state license. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) also offers an additional certification. This certification is voluntary, but it never hurts to ask the installer if they hold one.

7. What Do I Need to Know About the Installation Process?

The installing solar company should explain to you the installation process as well as show you the equipment they’ll be using. You will want to ensure that the brands used are reliable and long-lasting and that the installer uses quality products. They should know what fittings and attachments are best to use for each type of solar panel as well as the best type of panel for your home. For example, crystalline panels must be attached with S-5! clamps for bracing.

8. Do Solar Panels Come With Warranties?

Most solar panels come with a 25-year warranty that covers electrical production at 90% for at least 10 years and 80% for 25 years. Each company is different, so be sure to check the solar company’s warranty information before purchasing.

First Solar, Canadian Solar and Sanyo provide these timelines in their warranty. However, SunPower and SolarWorld offer distinct warranties for their products.

By installing solar on the roof of your home, you’re not just protecting the environment and creating energy — you’re also contributing to the economy by helping to create new jobs in your community in a practically brand-new industry. Research, compare and interview companies and installers before investing in solar and you can reap the rewards of this sustainable energy source for decades.

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