Although solar panels have been used on satellites since the 50’s, it’s only been in the last 5 years we have seen a 300 percent increase in solar panels on homes. However, education has lagged with the consumers. As a REALTOR with a GREEN designation, and a leader in my industry on green living topics, I have seen a variety of issues crop up with how solar panels are affecting the consumers negatively with their homes. Issues ranging from their inability to sell their home with the solar systems; having grossly mis-size the systems that are put on their homes by solar companies; solar companies going out of business and not fulfilling their warranties; and not being able to net meter with the local energy company.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge advocate for solar panels on a home and saving as much as possible in electrical consumption. The idea of living off the grid makes me giddy, however, many city laws prevent the consumer from being “off the grid”. In order to operate a solar system, panels are needed, inverters and racking the system for the ideal location, and being tied to the city electrical grid for energy storage and net metering. Net Metering is a system in which solar panels or other renewable energy generators are connected to a public-utility power grid and surplus power is transferred onto the grid, allowing customers to offset the cost of power drawn from the utility. The surplus power can also be held as “credit” and applied when your solar system doesn’t generate enough power for your needs. Note, if the grid goes down, you will not be able to access the solar energy you are producing.
In order to determine the kilowatt-hour (KWh) size you need for your home, you would calculate your year’s consumption of electricity. The rule of thumb is to use a system that generates not more than your average KWh a year. I have seen solar companies put larger systems than needed on homes and it turns out more costly than needed.
You will find that solar companies get creative in making solar systems affordable. There are a variety of ways to finance a solar system, leases and even sell your energy back to the electrical company. In real estate, solar systems only add value to a home if the system is owned, not leased. An owned system is when you buy it with cash or get a loan on it to purchase it. A leased system is when it’s still owned by the solar company and you are leasing/renting the system. These systems are generally 10-20 year leases. If you sell your house in the meantime, the new buyer will be required to assume the lease – which opens a pandora’s box of issues depending on how the lease is written. If buyer doesn’t want to assume the lease than the seller/current homeowner is required to pay a fee to have the system moved to the next home they purchase.
Needless to say, if you are looking into putting a solar system on your home, be sure to do your homework and research to make sure you are getting the most efficient system. Pick a reliable company and that whatever you choose to do, it will suit your long-term needs. You can still harness this beautiful Southern Utah sun to your benefit and avoid common pitfalls.