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How do I know if Solar is right for me?

Rooftop solar is growing in popularity across the world. A system of solar panels on your roof captures rays from the sun and turns them into electricity used to run the appliances and devices in your home, so you don’t have to pay for electricity. How do you know if a solar system is right for you? We’ll help you put the puzzle pieces together.

There are four pieces to your solar puzzle: My goals, My home, My state, My money. Let’s go through each one.

My goals

When you think about a solar system, what is the most interesting benefit for you? Is it saving money on your electricity bill? Do you wish you could even eliminate your electricity bill? Some people who have seen their energy costs rise over the last few years are very interested in protecting against even higher costs. Your interest may also be in going green, and using renewable energy instead of the dirty energy your utility provides. Having clarity on your goal will help make sure you're confident in your decision.

My home

Once you’re clear on your goals, you need to think through a few aspects of your home. If you’re not a homeowner then unfortunately, rooftop solar is not an option. There are other options for you, if that’s the case. If you do own your home, are you a member of a Homeowner Association? If so, some HOAs have regulations and guidelines on solar, so it's best to check with them next.

What about your home itself? The first consideration is your roof, where the panels will be mounted. If your roof needs repair or replacement, that’s needed first. Mounting solar panels on a roof that will need to be replaced in 3-5 years is like adding new appliances to a kitchen without running water-- let's take care of the basics first! Second, from your experience living in the home, does your roof get a lot of sun? Look for two things: do you have a lot of tall shade trees? They will likely keep your home cool, but reduce your solar energy potential. And what about your roof orientation? When the sun is highest, is a big part of your roof bathed in sunlight (usually any part that faces south)? The more sun on your roof, the more of your electricity bill you can replace.

How long do you plan to stay in your home? I know, you didn’t expect to have to know that too! But if it's likely you will sell your home in 1-2 years, then you won’t have time to recoup your investment, so it’s probably not a great time for solar panels.

If you do plan to stay in your home, one last consideration: do you plan to add more appliances that use electricity, or an electric vehicle? Many people are moving to electric water heaters, induction stoves, and EVs. These will all add to your electricity bill, making it is great time for solar panels!

My state & utility

Rooftop solar is not cheap, but there are lots of ways to cut the cost. Your state and utility company may provide rebates and incentives, and in some case very generous rebates and incentives! Other states…well, not so much. For example, Massachusetts and South Carolina both have renewable energy rebates on your state income tax. And many states waive sales tax on the purchase, too.

On the utility side, there are two ways utilities make it attractive to go solar. Net Metering is a policy where a utility will pay you for the excess electricity you generate. When your solar panels generate more electricity than you use, you can send the excess back to the grid and receive credit on your next bill. Definitely check out your utility website for more info. The second way some utilities help cut your costs is by issuing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) that can automatically be sold. As an example, in New Jersey with PSEG, an average system can generate $900 year in incentive payments from RECs. Again, check your utility website for more.

One thing to be mindful of: these incentive programs can change, so it's good to find out if there’s any urgency to your decision. For example, in California, before the net metering rates changed to pay homeowners less, there was a rush to go solar before the rates changed.

My finances

The last and most personal consideration: your finances. Here’s a ballpark: an average solar system in the US can cost $20,000. (For an estimate specific to your home, head to our tool). You need to do some thinking about whether you can pay that upfront, and if so, would you want to? There are other options, if not. If you want to own your solar system but not pay upfront, you can take out a loan. Many solar loans are 25 year loans with $0 upfront if you have good enough credit.

And there are more options still! You can also lease a solar system. Like leasing a car, someone else would own the system, and you would be paying a monthly fee for the energy- just make sure it’s less than what you’re paying for your electricity now!

Confidence to move forward

Once you do some thinking about these four areas, you’ll have a much clearer sense whether solar is right for you. Let’s do some examples:

  • If you’re selling your home in 2 years, and you have a super shady roof, and don’t want to pay cash upfront, solar may not be the best option for you to reduce your electricity bills right now.

  • If you’re in your forever home, which gets lots of sun on your new roof, and expect to buy two EVs in the next two years, let’s get you some panels!

Likely, you’re somewhere in the middle. Your best next step is to talk to a couple of trusted installers and compare quotes. Ready to request quotes? We gotchu. Don’t know what to ask in a call with a solar installer? We still gotchu!

Thanks, and leave us some feedback at support@wattbuy.com if this was helpful, or if you want to know more. If you have more questions, why don’t you ask our always-on friendly chatbot, Sunny?

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