1) Start with energy efficient improvements
Look into switching to energy efficient appliances and start using smart power strips before sizing your solar system. It is worthwhile to make these adjustments and manage electricity use ahead of time.
2) Understand your local net metering laws
Net metering allows you to store excess energy in the grid. For example, during the day your solar system may generate more energy than you need, so it sends the excess energy back into the grid. You're able to pull that energy back from the grid when your system isn't producing enough energy during certain times, like nighttime. Net metering laws require power companies to bank excess credits for solar electricity fed to the utility grid for later use by the homeowner. If you've generated more energy than you've used at the end of the year, your electric company may pay you back for the extra power at the retail rate. Find out what the laws are in your state to better understand the return on investment of your solar system. For Michigan, check HERE.
3) Take advantage of federal tax credit and solar incentives
There is a federal tax credit in effect that reduces the total net cost of a solar system by 30 percent! A tax credit is more valuable than a tax write off, because it is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in federal income taxes owed.
So, if you install a $10,000 solar system, you can qualify for a $3,000 tax credit. This solar incentive will start to dwindle in 2020.
4) Consider solar equipment warranties
Warranties vary among manufacturers, so it's important to consider them before installing a solar system.
Over time, even the best solar system will loose it's efficiency. So it's important to make sure the panels themselves have a good warranty, since it's the most expensive part of the system. Look for performance guarantees that ensure the solar electric panels are producing at a certain percentage of their original generation capacity after a certian number of years. Many manufacturers guarantee 90 percent production for 10 years and 80 percent for 25 years. Some panel manufacturers set themselves apart by offering stronger warranties. SunPower, for example, leads the industry by offering a 92 percent performance guarantee for 25 years.
Shop around to find the best price, warranties, and solar equipment quality. UnderstandSolar is an excellent free service that links solar shoppers with top-rated solar installers in their area for personalized solar estimates.
5) Consider solar loans
Many solar manufacturers offer loan programs, as well as banks and credit unions. In some instances, a fully financed solar system is cheaper than continuing to pay for grid energy.
There may be a lot to consider when it comes to solar energy, but in the end it's worth the clean, more affordable energy you'll gain.