I’m trying to determine if solar is the right move for my home. I feel like I get contradicting information, and I want a straight shooter to tell me the truth. Is solar a good idea for me?
This is a tricky question because there is no absolute right or wrong answer. It all depends.
A salesperson gets paid to make it sound like solar is a no-brainer. Here at FreeState, we support solar, and we agree it is a viable technology that does produce electricity. Still, an individual would want to consider several factors before jumping into a significant, long-term investment.
Look at other energy efficiency options first.
Solar has a payback rate of 8 to 20 years, depending on the investment you make. LED light bulbs can pay for themselves in just a few months. Energy Star appliances, additional attic insulation, heat pump water heaters, and HVAC upgrades all have a much quicker return on investment. Finding ways to conserve energy is always cheaper than paying to create and consume more power.
How long will you be in that home?
To truly realize the long-term solar return, you will want to ask yourself how long you intend to live at the property. Make sure it is long enough to realize the full benefits of investing in solar.
Compare other investments
Large solar projects in Kansas built on economies of scale or grid-type projects (much like FreeState’s two solar farms) do not always translate down to residential solar. Just because a project makes sense in a commercial or industrial setting does not necessarily mean it will work for a residential property. Members should explore all financial options before making any investments.
Beware hidden costs
I would advise insisting on a cash price as some solar lenders will charge a hefty loan origination fee on a solar loan. So you may be getting a great low interest rate but be paying many thousands more than you would of with your own financing or cash.
Kansas specific considerations
Solar may seem like a no-brainer in California, where the average cost per kWh is 21 cents, but in Kansas, where the average is just over 11 cents, it may not be so cut and dry. Higher electric rates make the payback on solar arrays much quicker, lower electric rates like in Kansas take longer to make that payback. Also, consider sunlight hours. The longer summer days here in Kansas help with production, but shorter overcast days in the winter lead to lower solar output.
Ensure your property is suitable for solar
Sometimes things just don’t work. And, there is nothing wrong with that. However, I’ve seen projects forced just because the idea of solar is appealing. I’ve seen panels under trees or facing the wrong direction, and I wonder if the solar projections for payback are adjusted to reflect the reality of where the panels are. Again, there are many things to do to be greener or limit your carbon impact.
Above all things, do your research. I highly advise talking to local contractors and getting at least three to four bids. Understand how FreeState’s net metering works and how adding solar will impact your monthly bill. We welcome questions, and we want to work with members to make sure they are doing solar the “right” way and in a way that genuinely protects the investment they choose.