Home buying was especially strong in the last few years. People purchased more than 6 million homes just in 2021. Yet, high prices and rising interest rates have cooled the market significantly.
Now, rather than looking for a new home, many people seek ways that they can improve the home they already own. If you’re not interested in renovating or redecorating, again, what does that leave you?
For those looking to put a dent in their utility bills, purchasing solar panels for home is an option. Of course, not everyone understands the process of purchasing solar panels, so they shy away.
If you’re curious about solar but want more info about the process, keep reading for our solar panel buying guide.
Where to Buy Home Solar Panels?
The question of where you can buy solar panels for a full-fledged system is often the first question on people’s minds. After all, it’s not like there’s a solar panel store in every town and city the way there are grocery stores and gas stations.
While you can, in theory, get DIY solar panel kits, they’re often an impractical substitute for a professionally installed system. Even if you can get a kit that’s big enough for your needs, you can’t actually connect it to the grid yourself.
So, you either end up with an off-grid system or you end up hiring professionals to handle the grid connection elements of the process.
Instead, most people look for a local company that handles solar panel installation. As a general rule, these companies sell panels in addition to installing them. It consolidates the process for both the installation company and the homeowner.
The buying process typically begins with the installation company scheduling a consultation. The consultation generally accomplishes a couple of things.
The company consultant gets a read on what you want from your system. For example, some people just want a way that they can cut down on their energy bills, while others want a system that can fully power their homes.
Figuring out those needs, along with some information about average energy use in the home, tells the consultant how big of a system you need. The consultant can also walk you through the solar panel options. Some panels offer higher efficiency but also come at a higher price.
The consultation will often include an inspection from a structural engineer. Historically, architects didn’t design roofs with supporting a solar panel system on top of them.
The engineer assesses whether your roof requires reinforcement to support the system you want.
There is a lot of variability in how much solar costs. Things that can influence the final cost include:
- Home size
- System size
- Grid connection
- Panel type
A larger home will consume more electricity, which can require a larger system to act as a full replacement for grid power. If you opt for a smaller system as a way to only partially defray energy costs, that can reduce solar costs.
Solar panel systems come in three main types: grid-connected, off-grid, and grid-connected with battery backup. Batteries for off-grid and battery backup systems can get quite expensive. Adding those into the mix can drive the costs up.
Adding high-end panels can also drive the cost up. As a very general guideline for average homes, the cost runs about $12,000 after you add in incentives and rebates.
Financing and Incentives
In terms of actually paying for the solar panels and installation costs, installation companies will routinely shepherd you through financing the purchase. Most installation companies either work with lenders or can direct you toward lenders that finance solar energy home improvements.
These companies will also generally prove well-versed in the incentives in rebates available in your area. The most well-known incentive is the federal solar tax credit. That tax credit lets you write off 30 percent of the purchase and installation costs until 2032.
Beyond that, however, there are often state tax incentives or rebates available for solar panel installations. Some cities and even utility companies offer incentives for installations as well.
All of these incentives and rebates help drive down the costs of solar to a level that makes it accessible for many homeowners.
Pro tip: the cost of reinforcing your roof typically isn’t included in the financing package.
Once you finalize your system details, secure finances, and complete any roof reinforcement required, the installation company will set an installation date. In general, the installation time will range from one to five days, depending on system size and the weather.
The company will install the panels themselves on your roof or, in much rarer cases, at ground level on your property. They’ll also handle the installation of the electrical components and arrange an inspection before turning the system on.
A solar panel system offers you several important benefits. You get a break on your total energy bill and may even secure credits from your utility company against future bills.
The system can help you limit your total carbon footprint. Depending on your location, the system can also improve your home’s value.
Solar Panel Care
Solar panels require very limited care from homeowners. You can often get away with using a garden hose and rinsing them off. If they get especially grimy, a soft sponge and a bucket of soapy water will do the job for most panels. Although, you should check the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Beyond that, getting the whole system inspected by a solar panel company once a year is sufficient for most systems.
Purchasing Solar Panels for Home and You
Purchasing solar panels for home can provide you with a lot of benefits, such as reduced utility costs, a small carbon footprint, and a better home value. Incentives from the federal government, state governments, and even utility companies help keep the costs for the system reasonable.
You can usually handle the purchasing process through a local installation company. These companies can typically arrange for the hardware and panels, financing, and deal with the ultimate installation.
Looking for more about solar panels? Check out our Technology section for more posts.