Buying a Solar Home: What You Need to Know

In the last few years, solar homes have been sprouting up everywhere. Once a rarity in real estate listings, these homes with photovoltaic panels are now commonplace.

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If you’re considering buying a house with solar panels, you’ll need the answers to a few questions before making your final decision.

Don’t Make Assumptions About a Solar Home’s Electricity Costs

Buying a solar home (one powered by photovoltaic panels) should result in lower monthly electricity bills — theoretically. Certainly you could end up with low or nonexistent power bills, or you may even get credit from the utility company under its net metering program.

But just because a home is solar-powered doesn’t mean your electricity will be free. For example, your household energy needs may be much higher than those of whomever installed the system. In that case, you’ll have to do the math and compare the size of the photovoltaic system to your typical electricity consumption to see how much the solar array will help you.

You don’t want to be unpleasantly surprised when that first electricity bill shows up at your new address. And you definitely don’t want to make any home financing decisions based on such assumptions.

Make Sure a Solar-Powered Home Is Worth the Extra Expense

After comparing sales data for houses with and without photovoltaic panel installations, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory determined that solar-powered homes typically sell for about $15,000 more than those that lack this technology. Although that probably sounds great to a home seller, it’s important for buyers to look a little further into the details.

Is the solar home you are considering really worth that extra $15,000? You may want to have a professional photovoltaic contractor examine the quality of the components and installation to be sure.

It’s also a good idea to have a roofing contractor take a look to ensure that the roof structure is sound. A solar array must be installed on a solid, undamaged roof. Fixing a roof after installation requires removing the photovoltaic panels, which makes repairs quite costly.

Perhaps most important is learning how or if the system is financed, leased or owned outright and whether you will be obligated to continue making payments. These considerations, unless thoroughly explored during the home’s inspection period, are extremely important to verify before closing on your house.

Solar-Ready versus Solar Homes

If your goal is to own a solar-powered home, you may be better off buying a house first and then installing photovoltaic panels.

Your choice of homes will be better if you don’t require a PV system to already be in place because you’ll have a better chance of finding the ideal home. And if you add solar panels yourself, your system will be designed to meet your household energy demands, not the needs of another family.

Having a PV array installed yourself ensures that you have the most efficient equipment available today and that it’s covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. It will also ensure that the installation is completed by an experienced professional photovoltaic contractor.

If you want to buy a new home with solar capabilities, look for builders and communities offering solar-ready homes. These homes have been designed and built with all of the infrastructure for photovoltaic power adoption in place. All you have to do is choose your solar installer and move forward.

One word of caution: Builders will recommend — and perhaps even offer a financial incentive — for using their preferred solar installer. Don’t automatically agree to this approach without first talking to other solar contractors and requesting estimates. You may find that approach less expensive than the aggregate cost of using their preferred contractor.

Intermountain Wind & Solar is the largest and most experienced commercial and residential photovoltaic system contractor in the Intermountain West. We can take your dream house and turn it into an efficient solar-powered home. Call to schedule a free consultation with our team today to learn more about solar homes.