I looked into solar panels as soon as we bought our house. The house had a new roof and half was south facing. It seemed perfect. After researching it, buying the panels instead of leasing made more sense for us. We wanted to make sure we could sell our home without strings, if we needed to.
But every solar company I contacted seemed, for lack of a better descriptor, to be scammy. None of them could tell me how much the panels would cost, how long it would take, or really anything. So I abandoned a few times. I knew the federal tax credit was expiring, so I became more committed to the solar project. “The 30% [solar] credit is good through 2019. After that, it drops down to 26% in 2020 and 22% in 2021 in its last year.”
I finally hit upon a plan. I would contact each company and ask them to fill out a chart with the relevant information for me. As information came in, I just re-sent the chart to make sure that each company was giving me the best quote.
I realized after going through this process that the companies are competing based on 1. The cost of their panels and 2. The amount they are willing to pay you for your SRECs. The SRECs allow power companies to offset their pollution — very crudely explained. More about SRECs is available here. A home owner can sell their SRECs individually but we opted to just sell them in total. One company we received a quote from when under just before we signed a contract with them, so we ended up going with Solar City/Tesla.
The process was seamless once we signed on the dotted line. We had to pay for half of the panels before they were installed and then the rest once the panels were installed. The power company had to change our meter, so when we produce energy that we don’t use the energy goes back into the grid.
I should mention the panels are attached to our roof. The solar companies all provide a warranty for your roof in case it leaks. (This rarely happens, according to the companies and online reviews.)
Based on the data from Solar City we should recoup our investment within five years, if not sooner.