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Scared of Solar?

06/13/16

  10:02:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 1208 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Residential Solar, Ranting

Scared of Solar?

Advocates of solar, such as the crew at Run on Sun, take it for granted that going solar is win-win for our clients, such as the folks at Chandler School.  But sometimes we forget that non-adopters have real concerns about putting solar on their roofs.  In this, our last cut on the data that we received from NREL (read our two earlier posts on who chooses Run on Sun and what generally keeps people away from solar), we wanted to address the greatest concerns that people have so that they don’t need to be scared of solar.

First off, here’s our last chart:

scared of solar - points of concern

Let’s take these concerns one at a time.

Cost concerns

Perhaps the greatest overall concern turns on cost and its counterpart, value.

Affordability

The greatest concern expressed was over the affordability of going solar.  The good news is that solar has never been more affordable.  Back in 2007 when we were first doing installations, solar systems cost more than $8/Watt installed.  Today we are at half of that cost, and even though most rebate programs have ended, the federal tax credit is still at 30%, meaning that more and more people can now afford to go solar!

Bang for the buck

Still, some consumers are concerned about getting enough bang for their buck - they wonder if solar really provides value commensurate with its cost.  To that we reply - it depends.  It depends on the quality of the equipment that you choose and the quality of the installer who puts that equipment on your home.  But how can a consumer know if they are getting quality?  It starts by taking the time to do your research - get multiple bids so you have a basis for comparison.  Be wary of low-ball bids - prices below market are a clear sign that there will either be nasty surprises by way of change orders down the road, or that your contractor is cutting corners. 

As to the quality of the contractor doing the work, ask for references and check them.  In California, look at the Contractors State License Board website to see if there are complaints against the contractor, and see if they are certified by NABCEP, the gold-standard for quality in the solar industry.  Review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List can also help.

Taking on debt or signing a lease

Going solar is a significant financial investment and it should be treated as such.  We have written at great length about the problems with solar leases, but even a favorable loan, like a home equity line of credit, carries costs.  Ideally, savings from your lower electric bill should offset the cost of financing the system, and once the system is paid off, you will continue to derive those savings for the lifetime of the system.

When you get a proposal for going solar, it should clearly spell out what your savings will be in Year 1, and provide a reasonable projection for your payback period over time.  But be careful about proposals with overly rosy projections based on unrealistic assumptions (like energy costs going up 7% each year for 25 years), or ones that don’t disclose their assumptions at all!

Reliability & Maintenance

Another general area of concern turns on how well a solar power system will hold up over time, and what it will cost you to maintain it.

Equipment quality and reliability

In solar, like most everything else, you get what you pay for, if you’re lucky!  Every day we get emails inviting us to purchase cut-rate panels at a fraction of the price we pay for top-of-the-line panels from LG.  We delete those emails without a second thought because we have no interest in dealing with junk.  But someone is buying those panels, and they are ending up on the homes of consumers.  Again, get multiple bids and do your research.  Selecting quality products from established manufacturers is your best assurance that you will have reliable equipment that will last.  (We install LG panels and Enphase microinverters because we believe that they are the best value for our clients.)

Performing regular maintenance

We are always a bit baffled by this one, since a solar power system is largely maintenance free.  We think this concern arose because leasing companies promised to perform all maintenance needed for the system, but this is a hollow promise since there is really nothing to do!  At Run on Sun we provide a ten-year warranty on our work, and we support the manufacturer’s warranties for the parts - so if something does go wrong, it will be fixed with no hassle for our clients.

Harm to your home

Properly flashed solar penetrations

The final category of concerns centers around harm to your most valuable asset, your home.  Solar, when done right, will improve that value, but that is not guaranteed.

Damaging the roof

One obvious point of concern has to do with damage to your roof.  After all, a solar array on a pitched roof is held in place by lag bolts driven into the roof rafters so that means lots of holes being put into your roof.  However, when done correctly, as shown in the photo on the right, all of those penetrations are covered by a flashing that guarantees that water cannot penetrate. 

The other issue to consider is the status of your roof - if it is nearing the end of its usable life you will want to re-roof before you put solar on it! 

Detract from curb appeal

Ugly solar

Image from the very cool Solar Hall of Shame page by
Green Sun Energy Services, LLC. (Used w/permission)

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder and we love seeing solar on a home.  (Although not when it is installed like the bozos did in the photo on the left!)

Still, not everyone wants to see solar panels, and many of our installations are done so as to make the installation as inconspicuous as possible.  (In the photo below the only way to see that lovely layout is to go up on the roof.)  A properly designed and installed system should look clean and neat.  We take pride in our craftsmanship and we work very hard to make our systems as visually appealing as they are economically beneficial.

Make it harder to sell

Beautiful solar curb appeal

Finally, there is the concern that adding solar will make it harder to sell your home, which can be true if you have leased the system since the new owner has to assume that lease as part of the deal. We have written at length about the perils of solar leases, and  making it harder to sell your home is just one of many reasons to give them a wide berth.

But if you were smart enough to avoid a lease, the latest research indicates that having a solar power system installed increases the value of your home.  How much?  Roughly $4.00/Watt for a typical installation - which pretty much means that the cost of the system is offset by the increase in resale value!  Try doing that with granite countertops!

Fear Not!

Consumers need not be scared of solar, provided that they choose a reputable installer and pay for quality equipment.  At Run on Sun we specialize in both, so give us a call today!

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Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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