Making the Switch: What to Know Before Installing Solar Panels at Home

As energy costs continue to rise and concerns about environmental impact grow, more homeowners are considering installing solar panels on their houses. The good folk over at Vivint Solar tell us that while solar panels can provide clean energy and reduce electricity bills, it is important to understand what is involved before deciding if they are right for you. The following are some key considerations about home solar panels to help inform your decision.

Assessing Your Home’s Solar Potential

The first step is determining if your home is well-suited for solar panels. Factors like roof size, roof orientation, shading, local weather, and electricity needs all impact solar production. A solar professional can conduct a site assessment to analyze these elements and estimate how much electricity a system could realistically generate for your particular home. They can also advise on appropriate panel types and layouts. Gathering baseline data on your utility bills can further help estimate potential energy cost offsets.

Understanding the Financials

Installing solar panels represents a significant upfront investment, but the energy they produce is free once the system is paid off. There are several financial incentives that can offset installation costs, including federal and local tax credits, performance payments and solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) programs. There are also different purchase options, like buying with cash, taking out a solar loan or entering into a solar lease or power purchase agreement. A financial analysis based on system size, solar resources, electricity rates and financial incentives can give you an accurate projection for your return-on-investment timeline and long-term electricity savings.

Selecting the Right Installer

Vetting installers carefully is highly advisable when purchasing home solar panels. Seek well-established companies with proven track records, who employ NABCEP certified solar professionals. Get 3-4 quotes detailing the full scope of services, equipment costs, expected production estimates and workmanship warranties. Thorough plan sets, permits and inspection approvals also show sound operating procedures. Make sure to check current customer reviews as third-party verification that the installer produces quality systems and provides excellent service.

Handling Tree Shading Issues

If trees on your property cast shadows onto your roof, your solar production can decrease. Trimming branches to reduce shade is preferable to removing mature trees, when possible, but may need to be done seasonally. For partial shading, micro-inverters can be used instead of a central inverter for improved energy harvest. If shading is significant or unavoidable, a ground-mount solar system could be an alternative solution. Carefully weigh all options to find the best sunlight exposure for solar panels.

Understanding System Monitoring Options

Understanding how your home solar panels are performing is very helpful when considering going solar. Many modern equipment packages come with system monitoring that track production data through an app or web portal. This allows you to view things like your ongoing energy generation, carbon reduction impact, and track performance issues if they arise. If expanding your system in the future, production monitoring ensures proper system sizing. Though not necessary, system monitoring capabilities provide helpful insights as part of your solar investment.


Transitioning fully or partially to solar energy is a major upgrade that requires due diligence. But the benefits for your home and the environment may be worth the effort to switch. With sound information about installation logistics, costs, available incentives and working with reputable providers, solar panels are an investment that can pay dividends for decades to come. The abundant, free power of the sun awaits, and understanding the ins and outs beforehand makes going solar a savvy, sustainable choice.

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