October 20th, 2020 by Paul Fosse
In this article, I’m going to give you a lot of things to consider before buying solar. It isn’t my intent to confuse you or discourage you from buying solar. On the contrary, I think solar is the second most exciting clean technology out there. It is probably more important to the world than electric cars, but I find cars more exciting than electricity.
In this article, I’m going to give you reasons to buy now, reasons to wait till next year, and reasons to wait several years. I’m going to give you reasons to buy a bigger solar system than you planned to buy, and I’ll give you reasons to buy a smaller system than you were planning. I’ll give you reasons to buy your solar system from Tesla, and I’ll give you reasons to buy your solar system from someone else. If that is too confusing for you to think about and you want my impulse-buy suggestions, I suggest you click my referral link to go to Tesla’s solar webpage and get $100 off, put in your address, and buy a system that is one size smaller than the size they recommend.
Though, I do recommend you read the whole article and figure out the right size system for your needs. But if that is too much work, Tesla’s pricing makes it safer for you as a consumer to buy a system slightly smaller than you need than a system bigger than you need, since utilities typically pay you poorly or not at all if you produce more electricity than you need, and there will be many opportunities over the next 25 years of the life of your solar system for you to reduce the electricity needed in your house.
Reasons To Buy A Larger Solar System Than Tesla Or Another Installer Recommends
If any of these apply to you, your electricity needs will probably go up and you may want to get enough solar panels to meet those increased energy needs. Depending on what state you live in, an extra 1 kW of solar panels can add between 2.8 and 4.8 kWh a day of extra production. So an extra 4 kW of Tesla solar (the company only sells blocks of 4.08 kW of solar panels) would mean between 11.2 and 19.2 kWh more electricity per day.
- If you plan to have more people living in the house in the future or you plan to have one or more people working from the home. The heating and cooling costs are about the same as the number of people increases, but cooking, hot water use, lighting, and electronic use will all increase with more people in the home.
- You are driving gas or diesel cars now and plan to get one or more electric cars in the next 25 years (which is just about everyone in my opinion). If you drive those two cars a total of 20,000 miles a year and they use a kWh for every 4 miles, you need 5,000 kWh a year to power them. Let’s say you do 80% of your charging at home — that is 4,000 kWh a year, or about 11 kWh a day.
Reasons To Buy A Smaller Solar System Than Tesla Or Another Installer Recommends
If one or more of these apply to you, your electricity needs will probably go down and you may want to get fewer solar panels so that you don’t overproduce. As I mentioned above, overproduction isn’t good for your pocketbook, because you paid good money to buy and install more solar than you need and it is difficult to get compensated for that overproduction — and utilities are unlikely to increase payments for overproduction in the future because, as more and more solar is installed, daytime electricity gets less valuable to society, as I touched on at the end of this article. I got the following efficiency tips in this great article by Scott Cooney and my own research that I shared here:
- Reduce your heating and cooling electricity use by either installing more insulation and weatherstripping, installing a smart thermostat, and/or upgrading your air conditioning to a higher efficiency unit when it is at its end of life. Many people will get a higher efficiency unit when they have an HVAC system fail, simply because they no longer even sell the low-efficiency units your house likely has. When I replaced my two HVAC systems, which were 10 and 12 Seer, with 16 Seer units in my large house in Florida (which was already well insulated), my bill went down about $1,000 a year, which is about 10,000 kWh, or 27 kWh a day. If I had put solar on to support those old air conditioners, I would have overbuilt my solar by 8 kW, or about $12,136 at Tesla’s current prices!
- Replacing your hot water heater with a hybrid heat pump unit is another big win. In my house, with only two people and cheap 10 cents/kWh electricity, a hybrid unit will save me $1,700 in electricity costs over its 13 year life. With 4 people living in your house and 20 cents/kWh electricity, your savings would be 4 times as high, or $6,800 over the same 13 year life. As far as solar, for two people, it will save about 4 kWh a day, and for a larger family, it will save about 8 kWh a day. Replacing my water heater is enough in my house to cause me to go from the 8 kW solar system to a 4 kW solar, since I was already not going to fully utilize the 8 kW system.
- Replace your appliances with high-efficiency units as they wear out. These savings could be about $100 a year if you replace all your appliances, which is about 3 kWh a day.
- I imagine most regular CleanTechnica readers have already replaced all of their incandescent lights, but if you haven’t, this can reduce your electricity use considerably, especially if you or your family is poor at turning off the lights when they aren’t needed.
- Replacing your pool pump with a more efficient unit could save $400 to $800 a year and reduce energy use by about 10 to 20 kWh a day! These pumps pay for themselves in as little as 1 to 2 years, so if you have a pool, they are highly recommended!
Reasons To Buy Your Solar System From Tesla
- Incredibly aggressive pricing for a proven product that most other companies can’t match — only $1.49/kW anywhere in the country.
- You like a large and successful company standing behind the product.
- You want a simple and fast ordering process.
- You like the idea of a simple and standardized product.
- You like the idea of doing most of the “paperwork” over email.
- You want to integrate the solar with a Tesla Powerwall and you want to control the whole thing from the Tesla app on your phone.
- You like the flexibility of Tesla’s subscription option, whereby you can stop your subscription at any time with 30 days’ notice. Most other companies have large penalties if you want to cancel your subscription.
- You like the mission of Tesla “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy” and want to buy from a company that shares your values. (Though, admittedly, most solar companies have the same underlying mission.)
Reasons To Buy Your Solar System From Another Company
- Tesla doesn’t offer as much customization as most local installers. You can get a 6 kW solar system from most installers, but Tesla will offer you either a 4 kW system or an 8 kW system. In addition, there are some advantages to systems that use microinverters. If you want that technology, Tesla doesn’t offer that option today. (Tesla does offer power optimizers at an additional cost that offer some of the advantages of microinverters.)
- You like the traditional sales process in which a local salesperson comes to your home and explains the benefits of the system.
- Tesla doesn’t have great online reviews, especially from customers who had systems that they purchased from SolarCity — Tesla took over those agreements when the two companies merged several years ago. Read reviews of different installers here for your area.
- You like working primarily with a local company and don’t want to call a nationwide 800 number if you need help. You want to call a local number and talk to a person you know, perhaps the person who installed your system.
Reasons To Buy Your Solar System Now
- The tax credit is going down from 26% to 22% on January 1st, 2021.
- The sooner you buy solar, the sooner you start saving money on electricity.
- The sooner you buy solar, the sooner you reduce your carbon footprint.
- Electricity prices are going up in many places (8% in Tampa where I live), as natural gas prices have gone up.
- Utilities are trying to end net metering in several states, and if they succeed, you want to have solar installed before it ends — existing owners will likely get special benefits that new solar customers will not get.
Reasons To Buy Your Solar System Later
- Solar prices have gone down dramatically over the last 14 years, and they will likely go down enough in the future to make up for the reduction in the tax credit.
- Joe Biden looks like he is likely to win the election and he might increase federal incentives for solar.
- You are planning to move in the next few years. Solar adds value to your home, but it does make the sale of your property more complicated, especially if you have a long-term agreement with a solar company.
- Your roof is in poor condition. In this case, you want to either look at Tesla’s Solar Roof or get your new roof before installing solar panels. Otherwise, you have to pay to have the panels removed and replaced.
I hope these ideas give you the information you need to plan when and how to install solar on your home. It is a great alternative to being dependent on your local utility company to power your home and car. It is important to do a little planning before you make the leap, since it is a decision that will affect the home for the next 25 years or more. Please let us know in the comments section what ideas you have for homeowners considering installing solar on their homes.
If you decide to order Tesla solar panels or a Tesla Solar Roof, you are welcome to use my referral code for $100 off either solar panels or a solar roof! https://ts.la/paul92237
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