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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why isn’t everyone going solar?

Everybody’s heard about solar power for homes, everyone knows it’s probably a good thing—but relatively few are enjoying the benefits. Why is that?

To start with, there’s an urban myth floating around that you’ve got to have full sun to collect solar energy. If you live in the shade, the saying goes, you’re not a candidate. In addition, many homeowners think a solar installation is radically expensive. Others regard the sight of those rooftop collector panels as a jarring contrast to the carefully planned architecture of the house they adore.
You could have said the same things about us once—until runaway energy bills drove us to look for alternatives.

The problem arose with our vacation rental. It’s a house on the river, so it’s most in demand during the hot beach and rafting months. And while it’s nice to have a tenant waiting list, the cost of air conditioning threatened to put us in the hole.

For us, solar was the perfect solution. Our monthly $400-to-$600 electric bill dropped by about 60%, and we were able to have the job done with a no-interest loan. In addition, we garnered other benefits, including rebates, government grants, and tax incentives. The federal solar Investment Tax Credit is a 30 percent tax credit for residential and commercial properties that convert to solar energy by the end of 2016.

In researching the options for going solar—and there are many—our biggest decision was whether to buy or lease. The enticement to lease is that this choice requires less out-of pocket expense. It usually comes with the same zero- or low-interest loan, and the rental company handles all necessary maintenance and repairs. But because they’re still the owners, they’re the ones who get all the financial incentives except for lower utility bills.

And leasing does present one more negative. Solar converts who opt for renting versus buying usually base their decision on attractive, no-money-down loan terms. They’re going to save so much money on utility bills, they figure, that paying off the loan later will be no problem.
But a loan is still a loan, and real estate analysts have begun to issue warnings about home sales that fall through because some buyers can’t qualify to assume that one additional loan to the solar company.

Homes with their own solar set-up, however, have jumped in value, and are sure to keep on rising.