Posted by Todd Filbrun on Wed, Oct 10, 2012 @ 12:40 PM
The two great things about a solar lease are that you can get solar panels with no money down and low monthly payments for the first few years. But the picture doesn't look so rosy when you dig deeper. Many homeowners who opt for a solar lease end up feeling like the company is secretly saying "gotcha" before the ink on the agreement is even dry.
Think hard about whether a solar lease is right for you if you want to avoid these five "gotcha" moments:
- I don't get to decide what type of solar system is installed?
Nope. From day one, you don't have any control over the choice of equipment, the features or the installation.
- I thought I could get solar tax credits?
Solar tax credits and other incentives only apply if you own the panels. The company may be able to claim local rebates on your behalf, but those savings go to them, not you.
- Why did my monthly payments go up? I thought this was going to be affordable.
Solar leases come with an increase of your monthly payments each year. That's right, every year, your monthly payment goes up by a certain percentage. In some cases, by the time the lease term is up, your monthly payments will have doubled.
- I built an addition and need more power, why can't I add more panels?
Leasing solar panels makes it very difficult to expand or adjust your solar array. If your energy needs change, both your system and your monthly payments do not. It's important to note that this works both ways. If the kids go off to college and your energy usage drops dramatically, you're still paying a flat monthly fee, even if you don't use all the energy your solar panels produce. Who gets paid for the extra energy that goes back into the grid? The leasing company, not you.
- I want to sell my house, why is this so difficult?
If you owned your panels, the value of your house would increase. However, if you have a solar lease it can actually be more of a liability if you want to sell your home. Although the lease may be transferable, not everybody wants to be saddled with monthly payments.
All of these "gotchas" go away with a solar loan. You own the equipment, keep the rebates, expand when you need to and add value to your home.
How good does a solar lease sound now?