When making a big decision such as the switch from traditional utility-generated power to a solar alternative, it’s good to have reassurances that you’re making the right choice. As is human nature, we tend to trust our eyes. One question that comes up often for SoCal homeowners considering going solar and wondering if it’s too good to be true is, “Why don’t I see more homes with solar panels?” If you’re neighborhood has only a few solar adopters, just remember there’s often more than meets the eye.
HOMEOWNERS VS RENTERS
The correct answer is usually the simplest. Why doesn’t your neighbor have solar? The answer could very well be that they’re renting the home. To buy solar, you have to be the individual who is on title, otherwise you will not be able to secure funding or permit the installation. A landlord could always put solar on his or her rental property, but since they’re not responsible for the electric bill in most cases, there’s really no reason to.
HIGH BILLS & SUBSIDIES
Assuming your neighbors do own their homes, the next question will be whether their monthly electricity bill is more than $80 or so. While the environmental benefits are great, most SoCal residents are switching to solar for the financial benefits. Savings are minimal for those paying less than $80 per month, though the estimated monthly savings will increase each year as the utility companies continue annual rate increases. If your neighbors have low bills, they may lack the patience to lock in their rate now and increase savings over the coming years.
For others, their bills may be higher but the utility company has applied a subsidy such as D-Care or Medical Baseline. In situations where the subsidized bill is less than around $150, the savings from the utility discount is often greater than the immediate savings from solar. These homeowners should consider just two things—the first is that a solar solution will very likely last longer than the utility will provide the subsidy, and second, going solar locks in an energy rate while subsidies subtract a fixed amount from an ever-increasing rate.
GOOD CREDIT FOR $0 DOWN
Turns out your neighbor owns the home and has high bills… So where’s the solar!? Fair question. Another hidden issue may be the homeowner’s credit standing. Unless they have enough in the bank for a cash purchase, most people making the switch to solar are doing so with $0 down lease or loan options. To take advantage of these programs, however, a credit score of 650 or higher is often necessary. Without the ability to give the financial institutions confidence to lend, the homeowner will be stuck overpaying the utility companies.
SINGLE FAMILY HOME
Yet another barrier to going solar is having your own roof. In a share-rood situation such as a condo or townhome, construction on the roof is either very difficult or impossible to get approved. Even in some communities with particularly oppressive homeowner’s associations, approval may be hard to come by. If you’re considering going solar, check that your HOA allows it, then choose a solar installer to whom you can delegate the approval legwork.
COOPERATIVE UTILITY COMPANY
Noticed a lot of changes in your utility bill over the past couple years? That’s because the solar boom has significantly impacted their bottom line, so new and creative pricing models are being created to fill the gaps of lost revenue. But even if that’s affected you, consider yourself among the lucky crowd. Some electric utilities across SoCal make it extraordinarily difficult to successfully install and activate solar panel systems, to the point where few companies—or none at all—will work with them. Ultimately it’s the consumer who pays.
Some communities that were built in the ‘90s or earlier may have additional barriers to going solar. If all of the above requirements have been met, their solar installation may be stalled by the need to reroof. Typically this happens if the roof is too old or is made of very brittle tiles. In these cases, redoing the entire roof is often avoidable; you can instead repair or replace just section that is going to be under the solar panels.
All that energy-generating equipment being installed on your roof needs to plug into something, and that something is your main service panel. They’re only set up to handle so much electricity, so in the event a main service panel is over burdened, it may need to be replaced or added to before a solar installation can begin.
DO YOU QUALIFY?If you’re not certain whether you meet the requirements to go solar, ask an expert. All your questions—from credit checks to a roof assessment—can be handled in less than an hour with a free consultation. Click here to get started!