Factors to Consider Before Installing Solar

"Free energy from the sun and lower electric bill. Where do I sign up?”
The benefits of installing rooftop solar panels may seem like a no-brainer, but the reality is, not every home (and homeowner’s situation) is always right for solar. There are several factors to consider before pulling the trigger on a rooftop solar system, like determining whether your home will receive enough sun to achieve your goals, finding the right contractor, negotiating contracts, and other important details.
Investing in solar power for your home is a major decision. If you’re considering rooftop solar, Butler Rural Electric Cooperative can help. Here are eight questions to consider before installing rooftop solar panels:

1. What are my goals?
If your primary goal is to save money on electric bills, you may be able to achieve this through our energy audit program, which can identify areas of the home for maximum energy savings. Learn more about our energy audits at butlerrural.coop > Electric Service > Home Services > Energy Audits. If your main goal is to use renewable energy and help the environment, consider signing up for our community solar program. You can help power renewable energy without having to invest in and maintain a home system. Learn more about Butler Rural Community Solar at butlerrural.coop > Energy Solutions > Member Programs> Community Solar.

2. Is my roof suitable for solar?
Your roof should be in good condition before installing solar panels. If your roof is old and in poor shape, it may need to be replaced before panels can be mounted. Additionally, your roof should receive a lot of sun to make the most of a rooftop system. Consider how much sun (and shade) the roof receives and whether any trees will need to be removed. Solar panels perform best when facing south, so keep this in mind as you think about where the panels will be mounted. 

3. How long will I own the home?
If you’re considering rooftop solar, you’re likely planning to stay in the home for several years. If you plan to sell the home at some point down the road, consider that not all potential buyers will want to maintain a rooftop solar system. If you enter a contract to lease the system, carefully review the terms and what those mean if you decide to sell the property.

4. Lease or purchase
Purchasing a rooftop solar system outright is expensive, which is why many homeowners opt to lease their solar panels. Federal tax credits can help cover up to30% of the costs for a new system. Regardless of how you decide to finance the solar system, make sure you get several quotes from qualified contractors. Butler Rural Electric Cooperative can provide a list of a few contractors our members have worked with. Leasing can only apply to the equipment. The energy produced must be directly owned by the homeowner.

5. Can the contractor provide up-to-date documentation?
It may seem obvious, but be sure to request proof and documentation of the contractor’s licensing, permitting,and other credentials. Comb through company reviews and check the contractor’s status with the Better Business Bureau. Do your homework on the front end before signing a contract.

6. Does the contractor seem reasonable and fair?
If you decide to hire a contractor to install rooftop solar, carefully read the fine print of the contract. Do the system performance calculations seem realistic? Does the project timeframe sound reasonable? Negotiate the contract terms to fit your goals and needs. If your solar salesperson says you will no longer receive an electric bill, it is a sales pitch that is not true.

7. Who will maintain the solar panels? 
Determining who is responsible for maintaining thesolar panels will depend on who owns the system. Ifyou lease the system from a solar installer, it may betheir responsibility. Solar panels need to be cleaned periodically, as dirt and debris can impact panel productivity. Parts may also need to be replaced, so it’s important to know who will take on these responsibilities.

8. How will I work with Butler Rural Electric Cooperative? 
Finally, and most importantly, you should contact Butler Rural Electric Cooperative first if you decide to install solar panels. The system must be connected to the electric grid, so you’ll need to sign an interconnection agreement. We can walk you through the steps,including how our solar rates and fees work. Visit butlerrural.coop > Electric Service > Your Service >Renewable Energy for a general overview of how you can work with us on connecting your rooftop solar system.
For many homeowners, solar panels are a great way to help the environment — but there are many factors to consider before diving in and installing a system.
As with any major home project, do plenty of research up front, and contact Butler Rural Electric Cooperative if you have questions or decide to move forward with installation. We’re your local energy partner and can serve as a helpful resource throughout the process.