The Top Three Questions to ask Yourself When Considering Going Solar

By Matthew Wheeland - January 29, 2013

If there are minimal shadows going across your south (best), west or east facing (ok) roofline, right off the bat you are a candidate for solar. Now if you live in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, or Washington DC you are in an even better position because of state rebates and utility companies that allow solar interconnection with the grid (allows for a credit and debit system for pushing electricity into the grid during the day and pulling from the grid once the sun goes down) with somewhat open arms. Here are some questions to go over with the decision makers in your home.

1) Would you rather pay: a) less for clean energy or b) more for dirty energy?

If you answered (a) you can skip to the next question. If you answered (b) we can’t help you.

2) What kind of savings are you looking for?

Going solar can save you money on your electric bills every month with very little or even $0-down to get solar installed on your roof. Solar can also be an incredible investment, you can pay money up front (still a fraction of the system cost) to have panels installed and see a healthy return on your investment year over year, tax free.  So as you are getting ready to speak with a solar professional think about what your ideal scenario would be for your current financial situation.  If want some help figuring it out, don’t worry, a solar advisor can run the numbers for different types of systems to help you find the optimal solution.

A few years ago, if you wanted to get solar it would cost you a lot of money, we’re talking tens of thousands of dollars a lot.  But thankfully, those times are over.  Very few people are actually purchasing solar systems (not the planets, the panels on your roof). in fact, most people are signing up for solar leases or power purchase agreements (PPA).  With these new options you get the panels installed and you purchase the solar electricity that the panels generate at a rate that’s lower than what you’re paying to the utility.  An awesome feature of these options is that you can either lock in your electricity rates or know exactly how much your rates will rise over time.  This is a nice opportunity to segue to the next question.

3) How do I get into the kilowatt hour (kWh) mindset?

Going solar is the best thing for the planet and it can be the best thing for your wallet. When deciding if going solar is the best thing for your home, it’s best to find an apples to apples comparison – kilowatt hours (little k, big W, little h) is the best common denominator.  kWh is how you measure the energy being consumed by your home.  Your baseline should be how much you are paying for electricity right now, for that you can look at your bill and divide the total cost of the electricity by the total kWh.  This should be the number that all other options are weighed against.

With a PPA there are a myriad of ways to embark on a solar journey.  For each household there is an appropriate option, but the main consideration should be how does the solar option compare to my current baseline kWh price.  Once you have that established it’s time to look at the fun stuff like how much CO2 you will offset and how you will protect yourself from the ever increasing rates of your utility company (If your utility company asked you if you would like to enroll in a program where you could lock in a rate for energy would you take it? Probably.  Too bad that’s not an option from the utility companies, but fortunately that’s exactly what you get with solar!).

If you have any questions about any of the above, please contact me at, I am a Sr. Solar Advisor with , and I would love to help you decide if going solar is right for you.

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