Solar Panels- The Lesser Known Details

With seemingly everyone talking about and jumping on the solar bandwagon, have you done your homework on solar panels? It’s great to become familiar with the lesser known details before signing up.

Solar may very well be a great fit and save money but there are several factors to consider and each application is unique. Get quotes from multiple companies and review the multitude of purchase and leasing options to determine which will serve you best. Do your best to factor in all costs from cradle to grave (as well as how long you’ll live at the property) to determine if you really will save money. Remember, even if you don’t save money you can still have the satisfaction of going green and getting your energy from the sun.

Here are some factors to consider...


-Roof direction can impact energy production. Solar companies will analyze and provide the specifics based on your roof direction.

-Roof shading (due to trees and nearby structures). Again, solar companies will analyze this for you.

-Cleaning the panels- how often do you expect to do this (or pay to have it done)?

-Panel efficiency with leaves and caked on dust/dirt may not be accounted for when calculating energy generation. 

-Solar panels lose efficiency with each passing year.

-There is a policy limit to the amount of energy the system can produce and it’s typically based on the average energy your household consumed the previous year. What if the house was vacant part of that time?

Unanticipated Costs

-There may be additional monthly fees/taxes/surcharges on your utility bill that are associated with having solar panels.

-If you would own the solar panels, contact your homeowners insurance agent to discuss insurance coverage of them and if the panels would be included automatically or if you'll need to pay extra for proper coverage. Get verification of this in writing. If you would lease the panels, insurance is likely already included within your monthly lease payment.

-Solar panel removal and disposal can cost thousands of dollars. Hopefully cost efficient recycling programs will spring up before the solar panels (from the current boom) are decommissioned. 

-You will likely need to re-roof your house at some point during the 20-30 years that the solar panels are on your house. Do you re-roof around the panels or remove them and then re-install them? If you re-roof around them, then the shingles won’t match after you ultimately remove the panels and install new roofing (due to fading). Removing and re-installing after a new roof is installed can cost thousands of dollars and may require a licensed electrician.

-The warranty on solar panels is typically 20-25 years while the warranty of inverters is typically 5-10 years. Therefore, you may find yourself having to replace the inverter (along with the labor for an electrician to remove the old and install the new) once or twice before the solar panels reach the end of their useful life. 

-Even if there is a covered warranty issue, you may get the replacement part but the labor expense will likely be out of your pocket.

-If the grid power goes out, so does your power, even on a sunny day. Investing in a battery backup system is a costly and completely separate topic.

-Installing a solar system over roofing consisting of Spanish tile or cedar shake shingles will cost more than installing over traditional asphalt shingles.

-Birds like to go under the panels to hide out (and defecate all over the roof). Be sure to add the expense of the optional screening to prevent the birds from getting under the panels (unless you want to help the birds keep comfy).


-Time Value of Money. If you spend $20,000 cash out of pocket to pay for the system upfront (after all rebates and incentives), the 'time value' of that money over the next 25 years would be $67,727 (if you were to instead invest that money elsewhere and received a 5% annual compounding rate of return). Which investment would be best for you based on your anticipated long term returns?

-The average homeowner moves every 5-7 years. Paying upfront for a system and then selling within 5-7 years equates to placing money in the buyers pocket and typically a loss on your investment. Depending on location, buyers would like having the solar panels but not necessarily paying more for the house just because it has solar panels.

-Lifespan of the panels vs loan life. Wouldn’t that be awful to still be paying off a loan on the panels after they reached the end of their lifespan? 

-Will you literally be saving money each month with nothing down loans and leases?


-Solar panel production does produce hazardous waste that is not typically discussed when talking about how ‘green’ solar panels are. Learn more Here.

-Seek out online reviews of the solar companies you are considering going with. You'll always find some folks that were unhappy and wanted to vent to the world. Read the detailed reviews and if that reviewer brings up a good point on a bad experience, bring it up to the solar company to see if the solar company will explain how that scenario won't also happen to you. Remember, just because a company has a bad review doesn't mean that they are a bad company. It's not possible to keep every single person happy when dealing with a large volume of customers, however, great customer service does make a big difference.

My main purpose of writing this was to bring up the things that you may not be aware of so that you could take them into consideration before making a decision. Perhaps it's just me but it sure seems that most people assume that getting solar panels always equates to saving money.

Finally, there are many benefits to solar panels that most are well aware of so I won't go into them within this article.

I'm always up for discussing details or assisting folks any way I can. So get in touch with me if you want to carry on the conversation.

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