Regarded as one of the most popular renewable energy sources for homes, solar power is steadily becoming a household staple.
Some want to reduce their power bill, others to reduce their carbon footprint, yet from first contact to final installation, the process of investing in solar power can be complex and often difficult to navigate.
Pair those complexities with sales tactics that hurt homeowners in the long run, and the result can be disillusioned solar customers who aren’t seeing the benefits they wanted, says Frank Mesa, co-owner of the family-operated Solar’ternative Energy Solutions in Lake Stevens.
To ensure that doesn’t happen, Mesa and his brother Chris are using their 25 years of electrical experience along with 15 years of solar to help first-time solar clients stay on the right track.
Together, they have come up with the following tips all homeowners should know about before going solar.
Avoid lease options.
According to Mesa, it is all too common for companies to offer clients lease options to avoid paying those dreaded out-of-pocket fees.
While at first glance, this could seem like a good deal, Mesa says, customers will be locked in to a term contract requiring set monthly payment for years.
In this scenario, the solar company may install the system and essentially lease the solar panels to the customer. The company can then claim the 30 per cent federal tax credit from the sale and the customer continues to pay them for the next 15 to 20 years. However, as a business, they can take accelerated depreciation for the cost of the system, so in roughly five years, the system is paid off, while the consumer is still paying.
At the end of the lease, that 20-year-old system is paid off but the product is outdated and most of its warranties will have expired, leaving that long-time customer burned in more ways than one.
A reliable alternative.
Through Solar’ternative Energy Solutions, Mesa envisions an alternative scenario: a traditional purchase of the system that the customer will own whether they choose to buy outright or opt for their own financing.
Down the line, if a homeowner decides to sell their property, since they own the solar system the property valuation will actually increase, since the professionally installed solar panels can be sold with the property.
Tax benefits are another plus. In Washington state, sales tax on solar systems is waived, and as the sole owner of the panel system, customers can claim the 30 per cent federal tax credit for themselves.
Saving big on your power bill.
When it comes to day-to-day savings on your electricity bill, customers enter into an agreement to sell back excess power to the grid (utility company).
“The current PUD contract is a 1:1 kWh ratio. If the customer sells back 1 kWh to the utility company, they get a credit for 1 kWh to use within the contract year (which resets each April 1).”
For Mesa, solar power offers a variety of benefits, particularly when installed with the homeowner in mind – something important to this local, family-run company.
“It’s all a family business – my brother is the owner of our electrical company,” Mesa says. “I’m here to help spread the word and help Washington residents save money and avoid getting burned by the increasing rates of utility bills,” says Mesa.