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Solar panel costs-5 Factors to look at

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Kristie Moser

You know what they say: You have to spend money to make money. Before you can reap the benefits of a lower electric bill you’ll have to cover the price tag of your solar panel installation. There’s no question installing solar panels on your home is more affordable than ever, but your salesperson may fail to mention a few things that will drive up your solar panel cost.

We’re not talking about the things that make up a typical installation, like panels, mounts or inverters.

No, we’re talking about some of the things in or around your house that can quickly add to the cost of your solar panel installation.

Solar Panel Cost 1: Your Electrical Service

If your home is older, you may need to upgrade your electrical system so your house can handle what’s being pumped in.

That means if your house is full of old knob-and-tube wiring that dates back to the early 20th century—it’s probably not up to code.

If you’re not sure if your home’s wiring makes the grade, House Logic makes it easy to figure out. Its list of questions includes:

  1. How old is your house?
  2. Do you currently have sufficient power?
  3. Do you see signs of an electrical fire hazard, i.e. fuses that continually blow?

If your home was built after 1985, your wiring should work with your solar panel installation. But every state, city, neighborhood — even street — is different.

Solar Panel Cost 2: Your Roof

Your roof may add some money to your solar panel cost. Not only will the size of your roof help determine the system size, but so will things like:

  • Pitch
  • Materials
  • Wear and tear

The condition of your roof plays a big role. If your roof contains a lot of dips, or waves, or your rafters have seen better days, you may need to work on it before you begin installing solar panels.

The angle of your roof matters, too. The best-case scenario? Your roof approximates your latitude. If you're at 45 degrees north latitude, for example, your solar energy system is most efficient when the roof angle is also 45 degrees.

Working with a company that has deep experience in roofing will ensure you tackle this problem most efficiently.

Solar Panel Cost 3: Shade

You’ll also want to check to make sure trees aren’t in the way. Your solar panels work best with maximum sunlight.

In some cases, trees have to be removed. The good news is that if you do have to cut trees, you should have to cut down only one or two—that’s an extreme case. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of cutting a few back. In many instances, removing a single branch could create enough space to allow plenty of sunshine to pass through, but an added expense, nonetheless.

Solar Panel Cost 4: Location

If you live in a historic area, such as the Historic District of New Orleans, you may have to spend a little extra to get the permits you need for your solar panel installation.

Also, if you have a homeowner association, you may have to do some negotiating. Thanks to the rapid growth of solar, more than 40 states have passed solar access laws to protect the rights of homeowners wanting to use clean solar energy. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency can help you get a feel for the solar access laws in your area.

In places like Louisiana, New Mexico and Texas, an HOA can’t stop you from installing solar panels. The Solar Resource Guide has the complete list of states enforcing this law.

Solar Panel Cost 5: Direction Your House Faces

In order for your solar panels to get maximum sunlight, they should be placed on a south-facing roof. Solar panels facing east or west won't get as much light as those on a southern-facing roof in America.

If your roof faces east or west, you could see as much as a 20 percent decrease in the amount of energy your solar panels produce, but you can still follow through with your solar panel installation. You may have to spend a few extra bucks for more efficient panels or other equipment costs.

If you’re close to getting estimates for going solar , bring up some of these unexpected costs with your salesperson. It may help to save you time, money and some aggravation. If you’d like to find out about some other ways you can save big on your solar panel cost, talk to one of our solar panel experts.

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