Is going solar the same as going "off the grid?"
Know your roof. Know the condition of your roof before you commit to installing solar panels. Find out how many years are left on your existing roof before it needs to be replaced. Learn who is responsible for the cost of taking down and reinstalling solar panels if your roof needs to be repaired. In addition, it is common practice to assess the structural integrity of your roof for its ability to support the additional weight of the solar panel installation.
What is your monthly electric bill? Home-based solar panels are more likely to have satisfying payback periods if your electric bills are high and you have a roof configuration that can take maximum advantage of the sun. If rooftop solar is not right for you, we offer a voluntary program for customers who want to purchase additional green power. No special equipment is needed.
To own or to lease? The solar leasing model is a new financial model that is unlike leasing a home or car. It’s important to understand the details because when you lease a solar system, you get to use the system, but the ownership may not be clear. Since the system is being attached to property that you own – your home – it’s a good idea to know who is ultimately going to own your system, especially since the lease duration is usually 20 years.
When leasing a rooftop solar system, incentives like tax credits and depreciation commonly go to the system owner, not the homeowner. As a homeowner, find out if you may have a lien placed on your property if the system is leased. That could complicate things if you decide to sell your property. Find out what will happen to the system at the end of your lease – will you buy it, have it removed or extend the lease? What are the costs in each scenario?
What happens when you sell? How likely are you to sell your home in the next 20 years? If you own your solar system, it may be considered an asset that will raise the value of your home. If the system is leased, the debt may count as a liability. Depending on your lease agreement, before you sell your home, you may have different options, such as paying off the remainder of the lease, leaving the system behind for the buyer to qualify for and assume, or paying someone to move the system with you.
- Iowa Utility Board's on-site generation webpage
- Energy.gov solar webpage
- Alliant Energy's Second Nature™ program
- Project Sunroof (a tool that uses Google Earth imagery to create a personalized solar plan for you.)
By investing in energy-efficiency upgrades, you can reduce the overall amount of energy you use. This will also reduce the size and cost of the solar system you need to install.
In Iowa, we offer free energy assessments to help you identify and prioritize opportunities to save energy in your home, apartment or business. Iowa and Wisconsin customers can check out our savings tips page and Powerhouse TV website for helpful energy-saving information.
If you are ready for solar, we recommend that you install a system that offsets a portion of your average monthly usage. The payback calculations on larger systems that generate more than what you use in a month are speculative.
Use the resources below to learn more about the assumptions that go into calculating payback periods. While you can choose the number and location of panels on your home and manage system maintenance, other variables are harder to predict, such as the actual production of energy by season, weather conditions, future changes to electricity prices or insurance rates, tax implications, future lifestyle and advances in technological uses of energy.
Contact us to better understand your current electric rate and what bill savings you might expect if you install a solar PV system. Alliant Energy customers can call the Renewable Energy Hotline at 1-800-972-5325, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Things to find out from the solar installer:
- How long your warranty lasts and who is responsible for maintenance.
- If the installer assumes liability if your roof is damaged during installation.
- If your leasing company is different from the installer. Leases are for 20-year terms, and businesses can change in that time.
- What happens if the installer will no longer be in business in the future.
Questions to ask other professionals:
- Ask your tax professional which incentives you qualify for, if you must report any proceeds from selling excess power as income and if a leased system will raise your property taxes.
- Ask your insurance agent if your homeowner’s insurance premium will go up and if your policy covers damage related to rooftop solar installation.
- Ask your real estate professional if a rooftop system will increase your home’s value or impact your ability to sell your home.
- Ask your local fire department if a system would impact how they would respond to a fire at your home.
- Check that your solar system will meet your Homeowners Association guidelines, and be sure to obtain a local building permit for the construction.
If you decide to go ahead with a solar installation, we want to help ensure a smooth process when you connect with our system. Our interconnection standards protect your renewable energy system, our electric system and crews, and help keep everyone safe.