contract. The big issue was whether to buy vs. lease.
Buying the system seemed attractive to me at first.
Two of my co-workers (who chose different
companies) decided that buying was best for them.
The more I investigated, the more I was not sure it
was right for me (see Resources). Here are the pros
and cons for buying a typical system:
• No payment to the solar company on a
• Usually maximizes financial benefit; payback is
usually 7-10 years (be sure to consider array
maintenance, inverter replacement, warranty
extensions, and any increased homeowner insurance
• You own the system; if you move, the sale
price of the house includes the system.
• You own all the credits and incentives (Federal
and State), and take them each year or when
available. This could reduce the initial cost of the
system by 50% or more. See the sidebar on Solar
• Large amount of money up front, either cash
• If government credits get reduced, credits may
not be sufficient to recoup expenses as quickly.
• Maintenance is homeowner’s responsibility (or
may be $500 a visit quoted by one company).
• Property insurance on the solar array is
homeowner’s responsibility (some policies may cover
it, unless it is considered “wearout”).
• May/may not have an adequate performance
38 August 2016
Questions to Ask a Solar Installer
1. Has your solar company installed any systems in my town? Or
a nearby town? Could I get their names and phone numbers to
discuss their experience? How many systems in my state are
2. Will the solar company perform its obligations during the
entire initial term ( 20 yrs) even though the solar facility may not
be "economically viable" as sometimes stated?
3. When does the site visit/audit take place?
4. How long after the site audit will it take for the design to be
5. If my roof needs repair, how much will it cost to remove the
system and re-install it?
6. Are the inverters used string inverters or microinverters or
power optimizers? Why do you use that particular method?
7. Must I carry insurance that covers damage to my home caused
by the system? What examples are there of how the solar facility
could damage my home?
a. Is damage to the system covered by insurance carried by the
company (if I lease or buy)?
8. What is the cost for power (in $/KWH)? Is there a chart that
shows the yearly cost for electricity? Is it fixed or variable?
a. Does it go up due to slight degradation in the solar panels?
b. Is it the same if I buy or lease?
c. Can I pre-pay the monthly payment if I lease?
9. If my roof needs extra bracing to hold the solar facility, am I
responsible for that work?
10. What is the lead time for installation of a system right now?
11. What is the warranty on panels and the inverter if I buy the
system? What is the warranty if I lease?
12. If I lease, is there an option to buy?
13. What is the performance guarantee and when is it paid out?
Is it the same if I buy or lease?
14. How is maintenance covered if I buy the system? Is there a
site visit charge?
15. Is there financing available if I buy?
16. Do I have to approve the final design before the deal is
17. What is the warranty on roof leaks caused by the system?
Buyer's Guide to Solar Financing
Heated Blog about the Best Inverters
Federal Tax Credits
Solar Payback Calculator
FIGURE 3. Google Earth view of the