How Long Will It Take for Sacramento Solar to Pay for Itself? Photovoltaic FAQs

blog-icon-specialsWe know that many people in the Sacramento region (and all over the state, really) are curious about solar energy and whether it might be right in their home. As premium solar installers who always want to go the extra mile for our clients, we figured it’d be a good idea to talk about some of the questions we get on a daily basis. Solar is something folks should be talking about, and as it becomes more and more affordable, we expect to see lots of homeowners installing panels on their roofs. We want to make sure solar users are informed on every aspect of the technology, as well as the laws and tax credits that surround it.

1. Should I focus on solar panels or home energy efficiency?

While it may look like a good idea on paper, solar technology usually is not the first step we recommend to people trying to lower their utility bills. In fact, when it comes to bang for your buck, there are a few other things we’d recommend first. If your home is poorly insulated, has old single-paned windows, or an HVAC system that doesn’t run efficiently, you should fix those issues first. Solar might lower your utility bill, but it won’t solve the long-term problems of an energy-inefficient home. Fixing up yours is the first step, and it’s usually cheaper than installing solar panels anyway (especially if you take advantage of the numerous home upgrade rebates offered by PG&E and SMUD).

On the other end of the spectrum is someone with a very efficient home. If this is you, solar may still not be the way to go. Installing panels is expensive and you’ll be paying it off for a long time to come. If your home is very efficient and you don’t pay that much in utilities every month, installing panels will add to your monthly bills without bringing a good return on the investment.

2. Should I rent solar panels? 

In our opinion, the short answer is no. Here’s why:

Many of the companies that install solar panels in your home offer attractively low prices. Most of these companies are actually leasing you the panels — they buy them, and install them, but they also own them and you pay “rent” on the panels every month (even though they’re on your own roof). Because you don’t actually own the panels, the company will also pocket your solar tax credit. Solar leasing companies also usually opt to install the cheapest panels available. You’ll pay for them for 20 years, and technically own them at the end of the period, but they’ll be totally worthless by then.

If you want solar but can’t afford the up-front cost, there are numerous financing options available through the government as well as your own lending institutions. Bell Brothers doesn’t just help you find the right panels, we also help you negotiate the financing of those panels if necessary. And when you’re done paying for them in 20 years, they should still operate at 80% efficiency.

3. How long will it take for solar to pay for itself?

This is a tough question, and one that will vary from person to person and region to region. But one article from The Guardian in England shows solar systems paying off for homeowners, on average, in under a decade. Factor in government incentive programs, and the fact that England is generally a lot cloudier than Sacramento, and most people in our region can expect to see their investment pay for itself in under a decade. For a clearer picture of your solar timeline, you should talk to an installer you trust.

4. How do I get it set up with my utility company?

Short answer: You don’t.

Long answer: Your installer will take care of all the necessary paperwork to ensure your system is hooked into the grid and ready to go. So find a good one! Don’t rent panels or go for cheap deals, because they really are too good to be true. Find an installer you trust and they will help you with everything else. Solar may not be right for everyone, but it’s an amazing technology that can have a profound impact on your home and on our region in general—and if you want to join the solar revolution, the next step is just to call your local solar provider.