What I Wish I Knew About Solar Before Installation

A handyman installing solar panels on the rooftop.
Erin Shinn
By Erin Shinn, Broker RE/MAX Key Properties

First published in the Source Weekly

Installing a solar energy system is a significant investment with long-term benefits.

Here are five important points I wish I had known before installing solar panels.

1. Interview Multiple Solar Companies

Before committing to a solar energy system, interview at least two solar companies to compare products and offers. Each company may have unique promotions, pricing, and system sizes. We met with three companies, and all had different pricing structures and system sizes. Comparing these options ensures you get the best deal and the most suitable system for your needs.

2. Consult with Your Accountant Before Installation

Given the complexity of tax credits and individual tax situations, consulting with an accountant before installing a solar system is crucial. An accountant can help you understand how much of the credit you can use in the installation year and how much will need to be carried forward, optimizing your tax situation to maximize the benefit of the solar credit.

3. The Role of Solar Companies as Project Managers

Most solar companies act as project managers, handling the entire process from start to finish. They typically hire out most of the work via subcontractors for design, installation, and electrical work.  Establish a primary point of contact within the solar company to keep you informed about the project’s progress and address any concerns promptly.

4. Multiple Lines of Communication

We found that the solar company we hired communicated via multiple emails and texts from various team members. This fragmented communication made it challenging to keep track of important information. To avoid this, request a single, clear communication channel or ensure all communications are consistently documented and easily accessible. Having one primary point of contact can help streamline information flow and reduce confusion.

5. Check with Your Power Provider About Buyback Rates

Understanding how your power provider handles the energy your system generates is crucial. Different power providers have varying policies on buying back excess solar energy, which can significantly impact the financial viability of your system. For example, in Central Oregon, Pacific Power and Central Electric Cooperative may buy back your solar energy at different wholesale rates.  The buyback rates offered by your power provider will influence your solar system size impacting the overall price.

Just like any major purchase – doing your own due diligence and speaking with others about their experience will help you navigate the complexities of installing solar.