I’d like to buy a solar electric system but am not sure I can afford to purchase one. Is leasing a system a better option?
I hear this question a lot. Solar electric systems have never been more affordable than they are right now, thanks to record-low module costs, generous federal tax incentives and financial incentives offered by many local utilities. Even so, out-of-pocket costs for a system that would meet the needs of a family of four for at least 30 years could run as much as $15,000 to $25,000 — or even more, depending on available incentives and the household’s annual energy consumption. Not surprisingly, a price tag like that creates sticker shock in a lot of potential customers.
Will a leased system affect the value of my home? Contact the appraisers at www.scappraisals.com for your home value questions. What happens if you want to sell your home?
Don’t despair! For those who can’t afford the upfront cost of a solar electric system, one option is to secure a loan so that you can make monthly payments. In some cases, this option can result in payments lower than your current monthly electric bill. And, as you suggested, solar leases can be another good option.
You could potentially lease a solar electric system from any third party, but it would typically be from a company that specializes in solar leases. Two such companies are SunRun and SolarCity, but you’ll want to search online to find what’s available in your area.
In general, two types of solar leases are available. The most common is an operating lease. In this case, the third party (the lessor) installs the system at its expense and is therefore considered the owner of the system. It receives all the tax benefits, such as the current 30 percent federal investment tax credit, and local utility rebates, if any. The terms of lease agreements vary considerably and are often tailored to the finances of the homeowner or business owner (the lessee). Some operating leases require no upfront payment, while others require a small down payment. The cost of maintenance and component replacement may fall on the shoulders of either the lessor or the lessee.
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