Embarking on a solar energy journey is a significant step towards sustainable living. It’s an investment in the future, promising numerous benefits like reduced energy bills, increased property value, and a smaller carbon footprint. However, like any major decision, it requires careful planning and consideration. We’ve asked some solar owners what they wished they knew before going solar. Looking back, there are several things they wish they’d known before installing their solar panels. In this article, we’ll share some of the top insights from direct experience, hoping that these lessons can serve as a guide for those considering going solar. These lessons aren’t exhaustive, but they provide a starting point for prospective solar users, offering a real-life perspective to better prepare for what’s ahead.
#1 – Understand the advantages of system ownership versus PPA alternatives
Reflecting on my solar journey, one thing I wish I had fully comprehended from the outset is the benefits of owning the solar system outright, as opposed to alternative arrangements such as Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
As an investment, owning your solar system pays for itself over time through energy savings and can also significantly increase your property’s value. When I chose to own my solar system, I became entitled to the various tax credits and rebates offered in my region. These incentives, along with the savings on my energy bill, have considerably offset my initial investment.
Contrastingly, under a PPA or leasing structure, while I would have enjoyed lower energy costs, I wouldn’t have been eligible for these incentives, and the system wouldn’t add to my property value in the same way as owning it outright would have.
Moreover, owning the system outright gives me control over it. I can upgrade or modify the system as I see fit without negotiating changes with a third party. This flexibility has been invaluable, especially as my energy needs have evolved over time.
At the same time, ownership does come with responsibilities. I needed to understand the ins and outs of system maintenance and potential repair costs, aspects that would have been covered under a PPA or leasing arrangement.
Looking back, I believe making an informed decision between ownership and alternative arrangements is pivotal. It involves weighing the financial and practical implications of each option and understanding how they align with your long-term energy goals and financial circumstances. No one size fits all, but being informed ensures that the decision made is the best fit for you.
#2 – I would have prepared my site
From my experience, I strongly advise against installing solar panels on a roof that is nearing the end of its lifespan or needs significant repairs. In retrospect, doing so could have led to unnecessary costs and complications for me down the line. Considering that solar panels typically last for 25 to 30 years, mounting them on a roof that might need a replacement or extensive repairs within the next few years is akin to creating a ticking time bomb of potential issues for myself.
#3 – I wish I had gained a deeper understanding of my energy consumption
In hindsight, I wish I had opted for a larger, more expansive solar system. However, comprehending the intricacies and associated timeline is critical. In the majority of markets, designing a system that fully caters to your energy consumption is a sound strategy.
The treatment of excess power generated can vary based on the regulations of your local jurisdiction. If your region supports net metering or a similar crediting system, you can store those credits for future use. This could prove beneficial as it’s wise to anticipate an increase in energy consumption in the future.
Furthermore, consider opportunities where you can shift to electric alternatives to maximize your solar usage and efficiency. As electric vehicles (EVs) become more prevalent, they offer a practical alternative to conventional gas-powered cars. Similarly, consider other electric appliances such as induction cooktops or heat pumps for heating and cooling.
All of these shifts contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle and also help you make the most out of your solar system. So, don’t just plan for your current energy needs; plan for the future and aim for a sizeable solar system that can accommodate potential growth in your electrical energy usage.
#4 – Partner with a reliable local installer with a proven track record
It’s easy to succumb to the marketing-intensive side of solar – the people who call you, knock on your door, target ads on Facebook, or pay to be on quoting platforms like EnergySage, but generally, that is selecting for race-to-the-bottom people who may not be around in 5-10 years. You’d probably never choose the cheapest option to build your home, so don’t do it when you’re building a power plant that you want to keep cranking out kWh for you over the next few decades. In most markets, there is a company or two that have been at this for a while, don’t spend as much on marketing and lead generation, and let their good reputation bring in work. Look for those guys, listen to them, and don’t be swayed by pushy sales tactics or rock-bottom pricing.
#5 – Don’t let analysis paralysis derail your solar journey
Despite all this, it’s vital that I didn’t allow myself to be paralyzed by over-analysis. Most people, myself included, who have made the switch to solar energy, are grateful for the decision. The benefits are tangible: saving money and using renewable energy.
It’s certainly worthwhile to take the time to make sure everything is set up properly, but seeking perfection shouldn’t be a deterrent to embracing solar energy. The truth is the perfect solution doesn’t exist, and waiting for it could lead to lost opportunities to immediately benefit from solar energy.
So, I made sure to gather all the necessary information and make informed decisions, but not let the pursuit of perfection keep me from taking action. The switch to solar energy was a significant stride towards sustainable living for me, and every step, no matter how small, made a difference.
#6 – I wish I had anticipated 30 years of future energy needs
Looking back, I realize that I could have done a better job planning for my future energy requirements. Although my solar system seemed substantial at the time of installation, I now understand the importance of factoring in a buffer for future energy consumption.
Our energy needs evolve over time due to changes in lifestyle, advancements in technology, and the potential addition of new electrical appliances. For instance, while I didn’t own an electric vehicle when I installed my solar system, I do now, which has increased my overall electricity usage. Similarly, modern appliances such as energy-efficient heat pumps or induction cooktops, which weren’t part of my household before, have now found a place, further driving up my electricity consumption.
Moreover, as we continue to adopt more sustainable practices, our reliance on electricity is only likely to grow. Many future technologies and solutions are being developed with the assumption of renewable electrical energy as their power source.
So, my advice, based on my personal experience, is to anticipate these changes and design your solar system with a buffer for increased energy consumption over the next few decades. You might think your system is big enough for your current needs, but trust me, there will always be room to grow and consume more electricity. Therefore, it’s essential to plan for it.
#7 – I wish I had given more consideration to my inverter options
In retrospect, one key aspect I wish I had more insight into before my solar installation was the differences between microinverters and string inverters. Having experienced both, I can see the unique benefits each type brings to the table.
Both microinverters and string inverters serve the purpose of converting the direct current (DC) generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC) used in homes. Microinverters are installed on each solar panel, allowing each panel to optimize its power conversion individually. On the other hand, string inverters aggregate the output of multiple panels.
When my energy consumption increased due to the purchase of an electric vehicle, I found the need to expand my solar system’s capacity. With a string inverter system, modifications might involve considering the whole string of panels. With a microinverter system, adding more panels is one for one, since each panel is attached to its own microinverter.
I anticipate a further increase in my electricity demand, pointing to the possibility of adding more panels in the future. Understanding the pros and cons of each inverter type can influence the decision-making process regarding solar system expansions and installations.
In conclusion, both microinverters and string inverters have their unique advantages. Making an informed decision based on individual needs and future expansion plans is essential for anyone considering a solar setup.
#8 – I wish I had invested more thought into the equipment layout
In hindsight, I would have placed a much greater emphasis on strategizing the layout of my solar equipment on my property. While it may seem like a minor detail in the grand scheme of the project, the positioning of your solar components can greatly influence future expansions and additions.
I’m now considering integrating a battery storage system within the next year. I’ve realized that while I have enough space to accommodate the batteries, the installation isn’t going to be as straightforward as I would have liked. Because of the current layout of my equipment, this expansion might necessitate lengthier electrical runs, potentially increasing installation costs and reducing efficiency.
In retrospect, if I had planned my initial layout with future upgrades and additions in mind, including the potential integration of batteries, I could have saved myself this predicament. It’s worth mentioning that such planning wouldn’t have cost me anything extra at the time of my initial installation, yet it could have saved me from potential logistical headaches down the line.
Therefore, based on my personal experience, I would strongly recommend future solar enthusiasts plan their equipment layout meticulously. Anticipate future changes and expansions you might consider, even if they seem unlikely at the moment. Having the space prepped and ready will make your life much easier should you decide to expand your system.
Adopting solar energy is a journey best accomplished with trusted partners
It’s a continuous process of learning, adjusting, and growing. Even with all the planning, there will be challenges and surprises along the way. But as these solar vets shared from their own experience, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. The important thing is not to get overwhelmed by the potential hurdles but to embrace the learning opportunities they present. These are the lessons people wish they had known before going solar.
Our hope is that by sharing these experiences, you can navigate your solar journey with more confidence and fewer surprises, which considerably drop when using a trusted partner like Solar Insure. Going solar is not just about harnessing the power of the sun. It’s about embracing a lifestyle without the headaches and positively impacting our planet. So, equip yourself with knowledge, plan ahead, and take that leap towards a greener future. While you do, we’re always here to help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Solar Insure team for support on your solar journey before, during, and after; we’re here for all homeowners who want the utmost peace of mind and downtime from their solar system.