As the cost of solar technology drops, more and more homeowners are considering buying or leasing rooftop solar panels. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy projects that 900,000 homes will feature solar installations by the year 2020. Properly sized, a solar photovoltaic system can reduce your energy costs by 50 percent or more, and a recent study conducted for the DOE found that some home buyers are willing to pay a premium for a house with a solar system.
Before embarking on an installation, a homeowner should assess whether their house gets enough direct sunlight. Then there are the pros and cons of buying versus leasing. Buying the equipment can cost between $10,000 and $50,000 depending on your needs and the complexity of the installation. But once you recoup your expenses, everything else is profit. Taking advantage of rebates and tax breaks, such as the federal tax creditthat expires at the end of 2016, can lower your costs. By leasing you avoid the upfront costs but typically sign a 20-year contract. Here are some other considerations.
Assess your needs
Any analysis of your home’s energy needs should account for anticipated changes in your household such as a grown child moving out. You may have to upgrade your electrical service panel whether you buy or lease but experts advise waiting until you make a decision because often the cost is included in the installation price. It’s also important to consider the age and condition of your roof—you won’t want to put new panels on an old roof.