5 On Your Side

Going solar? Several things to consider before making big investment

Posted December 8, 2015 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated December 9, 2015 6:19 a.m. EST

Solar panels being installed

Want to make the sun work for you? There are several important things to consider when deciding whether or not solar panels are right for a home.

First and foremost, think of the investment required. You'll spend between $15,000 and $20,000 to install solar panels.

Federal rebates run through the end of 2016, but before deciding to look to the sun, Consumer Reports says there are other pros and cons to think about.

"Solar panels can be a big commitment," Consumer Reports' Mandy Walker said. "You want to be sure that they'll work on your roof. Not every house is a good candidate."

A roof needs to get enough direct sun to be worth it. Panels are normally installed on the south side of roofs, and they shouldn't be shaded by chimneys, trees or anything else above the roofline.

The age of a roof is also something to consider.

"Solar panels can last about 25 years, so if you think you might need a new roof during that time, make sure the cost of removing and reinstalling the panels is specified in the contract," Walker said.

“If you can afford to pay for the panels outright, it will likely cost about $15,000 to $20,000 or more. But they’ll pay for themselves in five to 10 years, and then you’ll get free electricity for as long as they last," Walker said.

Some solar installations may void the warranty on a roof, and in some places, it can increase property tax costs. Prospective buyers should also check their homeowners insurance policy to see if the panels would be covered in the event they are damaged by a storm.

Panel installation should always be completed by a licensed installer.

"It's a very big decision. It's a big investment," Consumer Reports' Christopher Hale said.

EnergySage.com offers tips on leasing versus buying and lets consumers compare quotes from licensed installers in their area.