5 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying a Home With Solar Panels

Since 2014, the cost of solar panels has dropped by nearly half, dramatically increasing the number of homes using solar energy.

If you’re shopping for a home in the greater San Diego area, you’ll likely consider at least a few homes that have solar panels already installed. While solar panels are a desirable feature to have in a new home, you’ll want to be sure to do your due diligence before purchasing.

When solar panels come with real estate, there are a variety of factors that you should know about before signing the dotted line.

Here are five questions you should ask your realtor before closing the deal.

Are the Panels Leased or Owned Outright?

Determining whether the solar panels are the property of the current owner or are leased will provide you with added information when it comes time to make your offer. In most cases, owned solar panel systems represent a better value for your investment. Leased panels require an ongoing investment in payments to the leasing company. These arrangements are available in two different configurations:

  • Operating leases may require a minimal down payment or no payment or all. These arrangements typically last for 10 to 20 years with an option to renew at the end of the term. The leasing company typically retains all tax benefits and credits and assumes the costs of installation.

  • Capital leases are also referred to as lease-purchase agreements. These leases are designed to allow the customer to purchase the system at a pre-negotiated rate at the end of the lease. In this type of arrangement, the customer retains the tax credits and other benefits associated with the installation of a solar panel system.

The Federal Trade Commission advises that you will need to maintain your solar panels on a regular basis if you own them. If you choose a home with a leased system, however, maintenance may be performed by the leasing company on your behalf for the duration of your contract. In most cases, the benefits of ownership outweigh those of leasing solar panels.

What Warranty Protection is Available?

You should also get some basic information from the seller to determine what type of warranty protection is still remaining for the system. Ask these important questions to help you determine this information:

  • What company manufactured the panels?

  • Who installed the system?

  • When were the solar panels installed?

The answers to these questions will help you to estimate the remaining useful life of the system, the length of time left on the warranty--if any--and the company to call if you have any questions about the warranties or guarantees for the system.

What Are the Monthly Lease Fees?

If you decide to purchase a home with a leased solar energy system, you should take a careful look at the lease contract and the required monthly payments before making an offer. Many lease contracts include a clause that allows the leasing company to increase rates by a percentage or a fixed amount on an annual basis. This could add up over time to a significant expense for you and your family in your new home.

How Large is the Solar Array?

The size of the solar energy system will determine the amount of energy production a home can generate. In general, larger systems with more solar panels will produce more energy and allow you to offset a larger percentage of your electrical usage. The amount of energy generated by your system will also depend on the average number of sunny days in your area. For example, San Diego has sun on an average of 266 days each year, which is well above the national average of 205 days out of the year.

Is Net Metering Already in Place or Available in Your Area?

Net metering is a system that allows you to sell the excess electricity produced by your system to your local utility provider. This is not generally available for leased systems unless they are installed on a capital lease arrangement. Making sure that net metering is available will ensure that you can take advantage of these opportunities after you move into your new home.

Whether you are purchasing a home with existing solar panels or you are considering the installation of new solar panels for your current home, working with a company that specializes in these systems will provide you with added peace of mind during this process. The experts at HES Solar have the experience and the proven knowledge you need to ensure the best performance from your existing system and the right solutions for new solar panel installations.

If you are interested in solar for your San Diego home or business property, give us a call today at (619) 350-0032 to request a free quote. With more than 17 years in the solar panel installation business, HES Solar is here to serve you now and in the future.

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