Article Author: Meghan Harmon, Director of Marketing & Media
Have you been curious about the benefits of solar technology, but dismissed it because you plan on moving in the near future? Relocating can be a complicated process, and many homeowners would rather not deal with adding solar panels to the mix. Deciding whether or not to go solar before moving can come down to one main factor: your payback period.
Solar Investment Timeline
If you are making a substantial investment in your home and financial future by purchasing solar, you should stay in the home long enough to reap the benefits. How long is that? Well, that depends on your solar payback period. “The average time it takes for a residential solar system to pay for itself is approximately 6.9 years”(solarnegotiators.com/blog). Because Solar Negotiators recommends ownership, and the utility rates in California are higher than the national average (40% higher than U.S. average), our client base may have a shorter payback period than the average solar purchaser. The majority of our clients will recoup nearly half of their gross investment within first 365 days, 30% of which is collected from the federal tax credit. Our recommendation is: if you intend on selling your home in less than 6-7 years, solar may not be the right move for you.
Relocating Your System
Many companies will claim that they can help relocate your solar if and when you decide to move. System removal and re-installation should be possible with most companies as long as you are moving within service range. What these companies fail to mention is that there are labor fees associated with the work involved. If you’ve already compared the costs and want to move forward with the process, you may want to consider a few things.
Just as your sales consultant did with your original project, you’ll want to perform a thorough site inspection of your new property. Is there good sun exposure? What shape is the roof in? How much roof space is there? In most cases, you’ll find adjustments will have to be made to accommodate to your new home. The company that provided you with your system can work with you to downsize, upgrade, or just shift panels around. This is an important step to maximize output and ensure you produce what you need to offset your usage each month.
Disassembling your system and having it re-installed on your new property can sometimes outweigh the benefit of future savings. Do you plan on moving outside the service range of your installing contractor? If so, you may want to consider selling your panels with your home rather than taking them with you. Your contractor warranty will most likely be voided unless they are the ones to pull down and relocate your system to your new property.
This is an industry-wide standard set to avoid penalties from other contractor’s faulty workmanship. “They (solar panels) are extremely delicate and contain electrical wiring that could potentially cause enormous damage if improperly handled”(modernize.com). The warranty on your equipment may still be valid, but if you have any issues with your system in the future – labor will not be covered. Also, any damage to the system caused by this process will not be covered by your manufacturer’s warranty.
Current Home & Damage
Because solar is seen as a long-term investment, it is considered a permanent part of the home. When the system is installed on your roof, it is held in place by mounting brackets to keep it secure. Once the panels are removed from your roof, you will notice sizeable holes where these brackets were located. In addition to being aesthetically displeasing, they leave your home exposed to leaks and structural damage. Depending on how many panels you had installed on your roof, you may end up paying anywhere from $500.00 to $1,000.00 for patchwork. If you’re in need of an entire re-roof, it can be performed by a third-party contractor who specializes in roof repair. However, this may add yet another a substantial and unpredicted cost to your move.
Selling Your Solar with Your Home
Depending on long you’ve owned the system, you may find it smart to include the system as a part of the property when it’s appraised. In your research you might have read that solar adds value to the home when it is eventually put up for sale. Although this is for the most part true, there are some things to take into account. Many professionals in the real-estate market don’t differentiate solar systems based on kilowatt size. You may know your system is much more valuable than your neighbors’ smaller system. Even though you estimated a life time savings of $40,000, you will not find that is a reasonable markup for the home’s value. They see a house with solar, and it becomes just that – regardless of how many panels you’ve purchased. However, a good solution would be show a prospective buyer your old electric bill before going solar and your current true-up statement. This will be proof of your investment payoff and show the potential of cash savings over the years to come.
Solar should be looked at as an investment rather than a short-term solution to high energy bills. In the past, solar companies have pushed leases on prospective buyers because it offers immediate savings with little to no cost to you. In the grand scheme of things, ownership offers a much higher payback. Once you finish paying off your system, you will have most or all of your energy expense offset by your solar production. These savings will quickly amount to tens of thousands over the decade or so you’ll own your system after it is paid off. If you do not plan on owning your system long enough to reach your payback period, you may want to consider selling it with your current home when you move.