You’ve seen the ads on internet and social media, or flyers attached to your doorknob, at events, while shopping, or maybe you’ve been called to tell you about “FREE Solar” or “NO COST Solar Panels” … and that can sound pretty tempting if you’re thinking about converting to solar. But, you remember something you’ve heard before, ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ as the old adage goes. But adage or not, sometimes there’s some really good deals to be had. So, you decide to listen a little more to get the details on how you’re going to get your “FREE Solar panels”.
This is where it gets interesting …
… because if I give you something for FREE that means there’s no strings attached to it. It’s a gift. So, unless a solar company has a surplus of solar panels or solar inverters taking up space in the shop, or out in yard that they don’t want to sell for some reason, then you can be fairly certain they’re going to be asking you for something in return for that ‘gift of solar panels’ which will definitely end up costing you something.
So, before you invest any more time listening to the details, you understand that before you can get the gift they’ve offered, they’re going to ask you to sign an agreement which will make you responsible for a substantial number of payments.
Who knows, they may have some great deals worth listening too, but maybe the best way to find out if they were trying to trick you or not, is to ask them if you need to come pick up the solar panels, or were they delivering them for free as well?
More than likely, they’re gonna shape-shift about that point and try to explain how there is an alternate meaning for the word “FREE.” That’s where you ask yourself, okay if they weren’t truthful to me about that, what else might they lie about? But, they might have a good answer; and you want to hear them out. There’s a few potential directions where the conversation is going to lead. Knowing what questions to ask them next is going to be vital.
There’s 5 Ways to Get a Solar Energy System
- Get it as a gift
- Pay Cash
- Finance it
- Lease it
- PPA – Power Purchase Agreement
So, after determining it doesn’t appear you’re getting a solar energy system as a gift, after all, you could pay cash. However, very few homeowners pay cash to convert to solar. Naturally, you wouldn’t be responding to one of those type of ads if you were looking for the best cash deal you could find.
The next option is financing, which clearly is not free
However, in CA, FL & MO there’s also the Property Assessed Clean Energy Programs PACE which has a target demographic of financially stressed property owners. For those loans, what happens is that you’re getting a “first priority lien” on your property for your PACE-funded solar system and also, you get a bill from the county tax collector every year for your new solar system. There are advantages and disadvantages of PACE funded loans. Other lenders also use UCC liens, too. But, the bottom line is they’re not a gift.
This leaves the other two most likely options where the conversation will lead to: Lease or PPA!
With a solar lease, you agree to pay a fixed monthly “rent” or lease payment, which is calculated using the estimated amount of electricity the system will produce, in exchange for the right to use the solar energy system. With a solar PPA, instead of paying to “rent” the solar panel system, you agree to purchase the power generated by the system at a set per-kWh price.
So, they’ll be happy to put their own panels on your roof and not charge you to put them there, but you’ll either be leasing the solar panels and equipment or you’ll be paying a pre-set rate for the energy you generate from their panels they placed on your roof. There’s advantages and disadvantages to PPAs and solar leases. The bottom line about getting a solar energy system via lease or PPA is that you don’t own the panels.
So, if you encounter one of these offers and they are actually giving away free solar panels or solar energy systems, let me know here. I would definitely like to see that. What it’s important to distinguish from those type of offers, is the offers of “Zero Down Solar” “Nothing Out of Pocket” or even “Solar Rebates” and other similar such solar promos, are commonplace and are a great way to convert to solar without having to put any money down or come up with any money to get the system installed. You still have to pay for the system. However, the idea is to design and build the right system for your specific usage and potential future changes, so that it saves you money and helps save the planet, at the same time.
16 Important Questions to Ask a Solar Rep Before You Say YES to a Solar Energy System on Your Roof!
Download our guide to ensure you partner with a solar rep to help you save money and the planet.