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The three key decisions in solar shopping

Most property owners who are interested in solar panels are considering solar energy for the first time. Unlike more familiar products like houses, cars, or televisions, this new product category raises some basic questions about where to start. What are the key decisions that need to be made, what options are available, and what is the best way to approach these considerations?

1. What equipment will I get?

The first consideration for most property owners is what equipment to install. There are dozens of solar equipment manufacturers, including some that only manufacture solar products (such as SunPower and Canadian Solar) and a few familiar, household-name brands (like Panasonic and LG). Increasingly, manufacturers also provide battery solutions that can store solar energy during the day for use at night or at a later date. With or without batteries, solar energy systems include power electronics that connect the solar panels to the building’s electrical system.

It’s very important to understand what equipment is being installed. Most solar equipment is warrantied for at least a decade, and some for much longer. Manufacturers stand behind these warranties, ready to replace any piece of equipment that does not perform as promised. So the company matters, along with the quality of the specific product being installed.

2. Who will install it?

The second key decision is which company will install the solar panels. Some solar installers have years of experience and strong reputations. Others are just starting in the solar business as an extension of their previous work as electricians, roofers, or related services. When evaluating solar companies, it’s important to understand an installer’s background and level of experience specific to solar panel installations. Online reviews can help, along with a careful review of the nature of the work described in the reviews.

Reputable solar installers also provide workmanship warranties along with their services. These warranties guarantee the integrity of the work that connects the solar panels to the roof and to the building’s electrical systems. It’s important to distinguish this warranty from the equipment warranty provided by the manufacturer for the solar panels themselves.

3. How will I pay for it?

For most property owners, solar panels are a significant investment. Even with government incentives, a new solar panel system can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. While some people decide to pay upfront, others choose to reduce or remove the upfront payment by taking out a loan or having a solar company own the system for a period of time.

Many financing solutions are available to help pay for a solar panel system. Some even offer a monthly payment that is lower than the electric bill, allowing a property owner to save money from day one. This works because electricity produced by the solar panels no longer needs to be purchased from the electric grid, which can lower or even eliminate the property’s electric bill.

Putting it all together

Making decisions about a new product category can be daunting at first because “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Thankfully, solar panels are not new technology; they’ve been around since the 1950s. What is new is affordable solar panels for most property owners, as the price of solar panels has come down and over a million American households have gone solar.

If you’re considering solar energy for the first time, keep in mind these three questions:

  1. What equipment will I get? (select solar equipment)

  2. Who will install it? (select solar installer)

  3. How will I pay for it? (select solar financing)

When you’re satisfied with your answers to all three questions, you’ll be ready to move forward. And if you need help along the way, EnergySage is here to assist. We have articles with useful information about all of these topics and more. If you’re interested in reviewing options customized to your property, join our Solar Marketplace where you can receive solar quotes from local, pre-qualified solar installers.


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