Buying vs. Leasing Photovoltaic Solar Panels in the Greater Sacramento Area

blog-icon-specialsWe’ve been talking solar energy lately here at Bell Brothers, and boy, has it gotten affordable. We see panels all over Sacramento and beyond, and it seems like every subdivision has at least one or two early-adopters of the solar craze. Solar is an awesome source of power: it’s affordable, clean, sustainable, and renewable. But that doesn’t mean it comes without some controversy, and we’re here to help our readers steer clear of some solar pitfalls they might encounter. If you’re considering solar in your home, this is a post for you because today we’re talking about a hot topic among installers: buying vs. leasing solar panels.

Cheap Solar and Free Lunches

Solar has a reputation of being expensive, the sort of thing that only some homeowners can afford. And while there are financing options available, most people don’t realize they can get a loan from the government to install solar in their home. Instead, they see solar companies that offer solar panels for practically nothing — all you pay is a monthly fee.

That’s because these companies are simply renting you panels. They come to your house, install panels on your roof, and make money every month off you. Sure, you’ll see a lower power bill  at least at first — but you’ll usually be taking those savings and using them to pay the solar company “rent” for panels on your own home. And while the money stays the same every month for 20 years, the panels don’t. Most leasing companies buy the cheapest solar panels available, and as the panels deteriorate, your energy savings will also take a dive. But guess what? You still owe the solar company every month. By the time the 20-year lease is up, rented solar panels aren’t worth the time it takes to remove them. Remember, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

That’s all without getting into some of the federal tax credit issues that seem to be plaguing so many solar leasing companies these days. Trust us, if you don’t want to be taken advantage of, solar leasing is not the way to go.

Why Bell Brothers Only Buys

If you ask Bell Brothers to come look at your home for solar energy recommendations, don’t be surprised if the answer is “no” or “not yet.” Unlike a leasing company trying to plant its flag on every rooftop, we want our clients’ real needs to be met, and sometimes, solar is not the answer. Home energy efficiency upgrades and other considerations are often the first things that should be taken care of, after which solar may then be appropriate.

When we install solar panels for people, we make sure solar is right for them. We also make sure they get the best-quality panels for their budget. Instead of cheap panels that are duds after 20 years, we install panels that still work at 70-80% efficiency after 20 years. Solar leasing is not the kind of game we’re interested in, and we would never try to pull the wool over our clients’ eyes about it. You want solar, but you want solar that’s quality, which means buying panels. If only it wasn’t so darn expensive…

Getting Funding for Solar Panel Installation

If you want solar panels but you don’t want to buy up front and out right, we get it, and we’re here to help. What you need is a financing program, like a loan from PACE or HERO that will cover 100% of your solar panel purchase and installation. These are government programs designed to help people with tight budgets adopt solar energy for themselves.

You pay off the loans over a course of years, just like you’d pay the monthly payment on a set of leased panels. But unlike leased panels, if you go with a reputable installer that can help you find the right panels for you, your panels should still work at 70-80% productivity once you’re done paying off the loan.

By using a financing program, you’ll be the owner of high-quality panels, but with the small, regular payments associated with a lease. The first step? Call your local solar provider for your free solar assessment.