You want to save money on your monthly energy costs, especially during the hottest days of summer in California. One of the best ways to do that is to invest in solar panels. “Invest” is the name of the game if you want to pay for your solar panels out of pocket. Though the cost of solar panels and solar system installation have fallen dramatically over the last decade, they still aren’t cheap! Over the long term, your solar panels will pay for themselves and then some, but that doesn’t help you or your savings account in the short term!
With this in mind, we thought it would be useful to point out some of the biggest factors that increase the expense of your solar system installation costs. By avoiding these expenses, you may be able to bring down the cost of your system by thousands of dollars; though sometimes, bigger expenses upfront will result in bigger savings over time!
Expense One – Using More Energy
You don’t have to be a math major to understand that 1 + 1 + 1 = 3. If you use a lot of energy in your home, you’ll need a bigger solar panel system to produce that same amount of energy. A bigger solar system means more solar panels and more racking materials, which will increase your solar installation cost.
If you want to save on the cost of solar panels, one of the simplest (although not necessarily the easiest) things you can do is lower your monthly energy usage. This way you can purchase a smaller system to cover all of your energy needs.
There are many different ways to lower your energy usage. Here are just a few:
- Replace your old windows with new, dual-pane energy efficiency windows.
- Replace your old roof; new roofs can keep out cold air in the winter and warm air in the summer, meaning less reliance on your heater and air conditioning.
- Update your home’s insulation.
- Set your air conditioning one or two degrees higher.
- Shut down your pool when you aren’t using it.
- Purchase energy efficient appliances.
Expense Two – Owning an Old Roof
It just doesn’t make financial sense to invest in solar panels if your roof is reaching the end of its lifespan. When you replace your roof a few years later, you’ll have to pay to install your solar panels all over again, which is a monumental waste of money.
Instead, it’s better to get the financial pain over with and replace your roof before installing solar panels. This may mean pushing back the date that you get solar panels, but it’s worth the wait. A new roof is a big expense, but it’s also a great investment for your home.
According to the well-regarded Cost vs. Value Report, a mid-range roof replacement in Los Angeles offers a return-on-investment of 82.5%. You aren’t pouring that money down the drain, you’re putting most of it into a big piggy bank known as your house.
Don’t forget that adding a new roof can also significantly improve the energy efficiency of your home, which could translate into the need for a smaller solar panel system and save you costs that way! Also, another way to save a little cash is to work with a solar installation company that also specializes in roof replacement. At Semper Solaris, we provide roof replacement services and offer big discounts to customers that use us for both roofing and solar installation.
Expense Three – High-Quality Panels and Mounting Hardware
Solar panel pricing varies depending on the brand, quality, and type of panel. First, as a solar panel customer, you’ll need to decide what type of panel you want. Your three options are:
- Monocrystalline silicon panel
- Polycrystalline silicon panel
- Thin film solar
Thin film solar panels are the cheapest option available, but they also have the lowest efficiency, which means you would need to purchase a lot more of them in order to generate the energy you need. They also have a shorter lifespan than crystalline silicon panels.
Monocrystalline silicon solar panels are the most expensive type of solar panel, but they also offer you the greatest efficiency, usually hitting around 20% efficiency or more. A monocrystalline solar panel can be smaller in size while generating the same amount of energy as a larger polycrystalline panel, which is ideal if you have a small roof or only have a small amount of space available on your roof. (Learn more about monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film solar panels.)
Solar Panel Brands
Top solar panel brands tend to offer the highest rates of efficiency as well as the longest warranty. For example, two of our favorite solar panel brands are Panasonic and LG. Both offer up to 21% efficiency along with a 25-year warranty on their panels.
You’ll pay more for these panels upfront, but they will produce more energy for your home, and their generous warranties mean you won’t have to pay for expensive repairs or replacements in the future.
Some solar installation companies only work with one or two brands. At Semper Solaris, we work with most American-made solar panels in order to give our customers as many options as possible to fit within their budget.
Mounting Hardware and Inverter
When you decide to go solar, you aren’t just purchasing solar panels. The mounting hardware is what actually connects your panels to your roof, and the inverter changes the power that the solar panels produce into the type of current your appliances and other electronics need.
As with solar panels, less expensive and more expensive mounting hardware and inverter options exist. Some solar installers don’t give their customers a choice in which hardware and inverter to use. Make sure to ask your installer about all your options.
Expense Four – Using a Handyman to Install Your Solar Panel
You want to save money on your solar installation, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article, right? In your pursuit to keep more money in your pocket, you may be wondering if you need a professional solar system installation company at all. Why not purchase the solar panels and materials you need and either hire a local handyman who will install the panels at a fraction of the cost of a professional installation company or try your hand at solar installation yourself?
We get the temptation, but in all likelihood, this decision will be far more expensive than just hiring people who actually know how to install solar panels.
Installing a solar system is not something your handyman can learn by watching a handful of YouTube tutorials. The risks and dangers are manifold.
Properly installing mounting hardware requires a significant amount of knowledge and experience working on roofs. Without that background, a handyman could very easily damage your roof, causing leaks and requiring expensive repairs.
Solar Panel Damage
Solar panels are designed to stand up to some pretty tough weather, but not being dropped, slammed, or banged up. When you hire a handyman, you’re trusting thousands of dollars of equipment to their unknown experience.
Professional solar installation companies know exactly where to mount solar panels and how to best angle the panels so that they produce the most energy possible depending on the direction, layout, slope, and other unique characteristics of your roof. Even if your handyman does a decent job of installing the panels, he (or she) may position them incorrectly, which could drastically cut their efficiency and the cost savings they provide to you.
Damage and Injury
Working with heavy equipment and on a rooftop always entails a level of danger. Professional installation companies try to mitigate this danger by requiring employees to go through safety training and to wear harnesses on rooftops.
If an accident occurs, a professional company carries general liability and worker’s compensation insurance to cover any damage to your home and the medical expenses of the injured worker. A handyman almost certainly doesn’t carry insurance, which means if he damages your property or gets hurt on your property, you’ll be responsible for fixing the damage and covering his medical bills!
The bottom line is that taking shortcuts doesn’t work and could cost you much more in the end.
Expense Five – Waiting Too Long to Get a Solar System Installation
One of the easiest and best ways to save on solar panels is to take advantage of the federal solar tax credit, which allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of your solar installation from your federal taxes. If you paid $15,000 for your solar panels, that means you can deduct $4,500 off your tax bill and even roll those savings over to the next tax year if your taxes were lower than the total allowable deduction.
Does this deal sound too good to last? That’s because it is. While the federal government has extended the investment tax credit (ITC) several times, it is slated to phase out. After 2019, the ITC will drop each year until it is completely discontinued in 2021.
Time is of the essence if you want to grab the biggest tax solar incentive available. Many local tax incentives are also drying up as more and more California residents invest in solar panels.
Don’t wait too long. At Semper Solaris, we are a veteran-owned solar installation company with locations throughout California. We provide top-notch solar system installation and roof replacement. Contact us today to schedule a free energy analysis of your home.