We’ve done business in Virginia for years but we’ve never seen so much interest in solar across the board as in the last six months.
In that time, it seems that everybody from big businesses like Amazon to colleges and universities to local governments to homeowners has realized that solar is now competitive on price alone with many forms of traditional energy. And with more businesses, organizations and families wanting to go green, if they can save money while they do it, then solar becomes a clear win-win.
And fortunately, with several financing options from other states that have recently become available here, it’s more affordable than in the past for power users big and small in Virginia to cover some or all of their energy use with solar.
Financing is just one of the top five issues that we suggest anyone consider before they go solar at home. Here’s the whole list:
1. Is Your Home Ready for Solar?
First, you need a suitable place to put solar panels. The overwhelming majority of homeowners put panels on their roof. To do that, you’ll need a reasonably new roof, since you can expect your solar panels to be up there for 25 years or more. If your roof needs replacing in the near term, an experienced solar installer can refer you to a reputable roofer in your area.
To put solar panels up on your roof, you’ll also need enough sunny roof space, unshaded by trees or neighboring buildings, to host the number of solar panels needed to power your home.
If it’s not practical to put solar panels on your roof for one reason or another, if you have enough space in your yard or on your property to spare, you can consider a ground-mount.
Your home may also need upgrades to its electrical system to handle the energy from a solar energy system. Again, an experienced solar installer can assess your home, let you know what’s needed, and either do the work themselves or refer you to a qualified contractor.
2. Is Solar Worthwhile for Your Situation?
Some homes get so little sun or use so little electricity that it will take more than ten years to pay back the cost of a solar system, even at today’s lower prices. In that case, solar only makes sense if you have a long-term perspective.
Looking towards the future is also a consideration if you’re planning to move out of your house in the next few years. You may not live there long enough to benefit from a new solar system. However, you should consider that installing solar will increase the resale value of your home, as more and more real estate experts recognize. For example, the mega-real estate website Zillow just started valuing solar panels as a home improvement that increases the resale price of a property by extending solar energy scores to 84 million homes nationwide.
3. What Kind of Solar Panels Should You Get?
While the news media and Facebook are full of stories about exciting new solar technology such as Tesla’s solar roof, solar panels integrated into designer roof tiles, most of these technologies just aren’t yet ready for prime time.
Take Tesla’s Solar Roof, for example. As of today, it’s not yet available in Virginia. But even if it were, Tesla’s product costs more than traditional solar panels and gives lower performance. Even when you throw in the cost of buying both solar panels and roof tiles separately, Tesla’s solar tiles still cost more.
If you drive a Porsche, wear a Rolex and live in a mansion in Malibu, solar tiles are a luxury product that may appeal to you. But for the rest of us, experts say that traditional solar panels will be the most affordable and efficient solution for decades to come.
And when it comes to solar panels, there’s a range of efficiency from very basic to mid-level to top-of-the-line — each with a cost to match. You may actually get a better value from less expensive panels that still produce a solid amount of energy. An experienced solar installer can help you sort out the right balance in price and quality.
4. What Government Incentives are Available — and When Do They Expire?
In Virginia, the main government incentive for homeowners to get solar panels is the 30% federal tax credit. The good news is that this wonderful incentive has helped to make solar affordable for thousands of Virginia families. The bad news is that the tax credit is due to start declining in value in the next couple years and then totally disappear for homeowners in 2022.
So, if you wait for the price of solar panels to go down in the future, you might see some small price cuts in the next few years. But don’t wait too long, or else you’ll miss out on the tax credit at the full 30% level you can get it today, and then your overall cost for solar could actually be higher.
5. Do You Need Financing? If So, What Are Your Options?
In our business, we’ve seen financing make it easier for homeowners with good credit to get solar with no money down. The lowest interest rates seem to be available through home equity lines of credit (HELOCs). But through a financing partner, Main Street Solar also offers solar loans at rates that some of our customers find attractive.
If you have the money available, by paying 100% cash for a solar installation upfront, you can earn a higher return on your money than if you left that money in other investments, including the stock market, according to a study done in 2015 by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center.
Become A Solar Expert
These are the main questions you’ll need to answer to go solar at home in Virginia. A qualified solar installer can help you with many of these. And you can get a head-start on your own by downloading our free guide, The Top 10 Questions and Answers on Home Solar in Virginia.
Download our free guide now and start becoming a solar expert today so you’ll be ready when it’s time to talk to a solar installer.
— Andrew Brenner, Main Street Solar