Generally speaking, if the sun beats down on your house all day, you have a young roof and your electric bill could use some help, you are a good candidate for installing solar panels.  Take my own house, for example.  We were sad to learn that our beautiful maple trees were unhealthy and needed to be cut down.  We also had a roof that was beyond its life expectancy and starting to show signs of water intrusion.  So what do you do when you have a brand new roof and no trees casting shade?  You go solar!  There are some factors that you should consider before deciding whether you should go solar too.

Sun Exposure

An ideal roof surface is expansive, free of obstacles (like vent stacks or skylights) and faces south.  Eastern and western exposures also absorb enough of the sun’s rays to produce energy and many homes have east or west facing panels.  If a tree is casting shade and you have plenty of other trees on your property, it might make sense to cut down the one that’s blocking the sun.  If tree removal isn’t something you would consider or if the trees don’t belong to you, there may be the option to install a ground-mounted system in a sunny area verses on the roof.

Roof Condition

Most solar panels have a 25 year warranty but will continue to produce power indefinitely.  If your roof is only a few years old, the solar panel warranty should line up well with the roof’s life expectancy.  If your roof is around 15 years old, your solar panels will outlive the roof so you should expect having to remove and reinstall them when you replace the roof.  If you’re only a few years away from needing a roof, it might make sense to accelerate the roof replacement to add solar panels.  Keep in mind, the federal tax credit and incentives from the local utility company are reduced each year and there is currently no federal tax credit promised beyond the year 2021.  If you are waiting three or four years to install a new roof and then planned to go solar, you will potentially miss out on thousands of dollars in savings.  Look at it this way- if you spent $10,000 for a roof that was supposed to last 30 years, the roof value is $333 per year.  If you replace the roof three years sooner than recommended, you are theoretically squandering about $1000 of roof value but will receive a tax credit equal to 26% of the cost of your solar panels by having them installed in the year 2020.  The average system size is 6 kW at $3 per watt, so an average tax credit is $4,680.  In this example, waiting will cost you $3,680.

Your Future Relocation Plans

If you are planning to sell your house next spring and wonder if adding solar panels will increase the sale price, it’s not a great idea.  A new roof, granite counters or freshly finished hardwoods are a better use of your money when it comes to pre-listing improvements.  If you plan to stick around for a few more years, then refer to the paragraphs above to see if it makes sense to go solar.  Many mortgage and appraisal professionals are still getting up to speed with recognizing the value of solar, and you don’t want to find yourself in a negative equity position because of the amount you owe on your solar panels.  This will only get better over time but it’s still a bit of a gamble that the lender will allow the full value of the panels to be include in the amount they lend to the borrower.

If you are on the fence about going solar, ask people who have already had systems installed to see if they would do it again.  If you troll Facebook conversations on the topic, make sure you are reading comment from people who have actual experience or education on the topic.  (Most of the ‘haters’ are simply repeating negative comments that aren’t even true.)  I’m always happy to chat with you about your specific situation to help determine if you’re solar-ready.  As a Realtor and solar homeowner, I have an interesting perspective about whether it makes sense or not.