What Is the Solar Evaluations Process?
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No two homes are alike and, for that reason, no two solar installations are alike. To ensure that each homeowner’s solar process goes as smoothly as possible, we evaluate each home individually. By doing so, we can get a good idea of your home’s energy usage, its roof space, and its particular needs. Getting a custom solar quote is one of the most important parts of the solar process. To help you understand the solar evaluations process, we have written this guide. It will prove useful to you during the early stages of installing solar on your home.
What Are the First Steps in the Solar Evaluations Process?
Going solar is a personal process. It goes on your home’s roof and is based on your energy usage. It needs to be customized to each individual. Faceless corporations and internet evaluation tools aren’t going to serve you well when it comes to solar. The one-size-fits-all approach that many of them take will leave you wanting more.
Nor will simple internet tools help you on your solar journey. There are endless calculators and map tools on the internet that claim to be able to use only your home’s location to determine a solar quote for you. Many homeowners are disappointed once they speak to a real company and find the quotes they got on the internet to be very different from reality.
No, the best option for homeowners is to have their home personally evaluated.
Step One: Checking Your Home’s Energy Usage
Before we go through the whole solar quote process, we need to determine whether your home uses enough energy. Many have the mistaken impression that the number of people living in your home, or the size of your home, determines whether you’re a good fit for solar. However, the appliances you have installed, the energy usage of your family members, the insulation you have installed, etc. can all contribute to whether you use enough energy to make solar worth it for your home.
Why Having a High Energy Usage Is Necessary To Go Solar
A solar installation is a sizable investment. To make sure that it is worth it for you to invest in solar, we need to make sure that you use enough electricity in your home to make solar worth it. If your monthly power bill is low, after all, then the payments on your solar installation may end up costing you more money in the long run.
For this reason, the first step in determining whether going solar is right for you is whether you use enough energy. It is this question that all other factors are based upon. To make it truly worth it to go solar, your home needs at least 500 kWh of monthly electricity use, or 6,000 kWh per year.
Doing a Home Energy Audit
You can do a preliminary home energy audit yourself. Because you can do it yourself for no cost, we highly recommend that homeowners survey their own homes before contacting a solar company. This can save you valuable time during the solar process.
The easiest way to determine your home’s energy usage is to use an energy calculator. These calculators are simple — you survey the appliances in your home, what their wattage is, and how often you use them per day. The Department of Energy provides a free appliance energy use calculator that you can use for your own home.
Contacting Your Energy Utility Company
The other main way to determine whether you use enough electricity is to contact your utility directly. Your utility company should keep records of your home’s electricity consumption. Asking them can be a quick and easy way to find out whether you meet the benchmark.
Step Two: Getting Your Home Surveyed
Once you’ve determined that you have enough energy use to justify your decision to go solar, it’s time to get your home checked out. The shape of your roof, its pitch, and the shading of your home are all factors that will determine whether proceeding with solar is a good idea.
Why the Shape of Your Roof Is Important
Many solar panel installations are linked by what is called a “string inverter.” This type of inverter, which converts the energy produced by your solar PV panels into usable electricity in your home, connects each solar panel to the one beside it. Each solar panel is “stringed” together. This form of the inverter is the cheapest and is one of the most common forms of solar inverter on the market today.
If your roof is a non-standard shape, it may get in the way of utilizing a string inverter. In this case, solar companies will use microinverters. These are small inverters that are placed on each panel individually and regulate their energy production. This option is more customizable, and is one of the best solar products out there, but is also much more expensive than using a string inverter. For this reason, we recommend a SolarEdge hybrid inverter, which utilizes both string inverters and optimizers for high quality, but affordable, inverters.
Why the Pitch of Your Roof Is Important
Solar panels need to be tilted at a certain angle to best capture the sun’s rays, generally around 25 degrees. Some roofs may be flat, which requires specialized mounting equipment to get the right angle. Other roofs might be too steep, which can put a roadblock in the way of installing solar completely. A trained solar professional needs to inspect the roof and ensure that it’s at a good angle for solar.
Why the Shading of Your Home Is Important
Finally, there can be obstacles to the sun. If your home is surrounded by tall buildings or big trees, your roof may not get many hours of sunlight. In this case, going solar can be difficult. To maximize your solar savings, you also must maximize the amount of sunlight that your panels receive. If your trees are old and valuable, or you don’t own the buildings next to your roof, it’s possible that going solar won’t be good for you.
What Are the Later Steps in Solar Evaluation?
Once we’ve determined whether your energy usage is enough to justify solar and your home is fit to install solar PV panels, it’s time to move to the next steps. These involve financial matters and ensure that you have everything in order.
Step Three: Determining Whether Your Credit Score Is Fit for Solar
One possibility for paying for solar is cash. Many solar companies will offer a discount for cash payments. However, cash is out of reach for the average homeowner, who likely doesn’t have five digits laying around. For these occasions, taking out a loan for solar is the best choice.
Go Solar Group requires a 650 credit score, or above, to qualify for a loan from our financial partners. This is a bit lower than other solar installers. We require a credit score in this range to verify that you don’t have too much debt already. A solar installation is a big investment, and taking on that additional debt can be a bad idea for those who aren’t caught up on their credit.
If you do have the required credit score, however, we can then move to secure a financial program for your solar installation. The upside of financing your solar is twofold. Firstly, you spread your payments out over a long period of time, so you can go solar now without having to front the entire cost. This lowers the barrier of entry to solar significantly. Secondly, it locks in your payment rate, which means that you no longer have to worry about fluctuating prices of electricity from your utility.
Step Four: Determining Whether You Qualify for Solar Incentives
The last main step to going solar is making sure that you qualify for solar incentives. Solar incentives are one of the main reasons that the price of solar has dropped in recent years, alongside the cheaper manufacturing methods. Without qualifying for incentives, you may be looking at a much more expensive installation than anticipated.
Qualifying for the Federal Solar Tax Credit
The main solar incentive that every homeowner needs is the federal solar tax credit, also known as the federal ITC. This tax credit covers 26 percent of the total cost of your solar installation, as of 2021. Not only are the panels, batteries, and inverters included, but so are things like installation costs and some forms of paperwork.
This tax credit is then applied to your income taxes. It comes into play after your federal income taxes for the year have been calculated and then pay for it. If your taxes for that year are lower than the amount of the credit, the remaining amount will roll over to the next year.
Because federal income taxes can represent a significant expense for the average American homeowner, the federal ITC represents the biggest savings. Therefore, we recommend that all potential solar homeowners owe income taxes to benefit from the credit. Those who do not owe income taxes, perhaps because they live on social security or property, are at a significant disadvantage. For this reason, we do not recommend that such people go solar.
A Conclusion to the Solar Steps
We hope this overview was useful to you. Knowing the process before the installation itself begins is essential. Determining whether you qualify for incentives or loans and whether you use enough energy are key to figuring out whether it’s right for you to go solar. By doing so, you can avoid potential problems down the road and save time (and money) during the process.