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Solar Power Consumer Tips
Understanding roles in the solar process
The company will work with you to develop and plan your solar array based on your electric needs and cost specifications. Contractors/Installers will do the physical work of planning and mounting your solar array.
A contractor/installer may employ salespeople who call customers or visit them door-to-door to advertise solar power and arrays.
The utility that provides electricity to your home. Each electric utility has its own net metering/Distributed Generation rules and rates. Please see the MPSC Customer Generation and Financial Information page, as well as the MPSC Distributed Generation Issue Brief for more information.
The contractor/installer that you choose may have a lender that they frequently work with for financing. You can also secure your own financing through lenders such as banks or credit unions. If the contractor/installer is a Michigan Saves Solar Contractor, you will have access to Michigan Saves financing options.
Companies who make solar panels. Many manufacturers are located in Eastern Asia, however, there are many manufacturers in the US and Canada. The contractor/installer may have a specific manufacturer that they work with regularly.
Depending on where you live, there may be a city/county/township/etc. rules regarding solar arrays. There may be a permitting process, as well as an inspection requirement, for installations. Make sure to check for these rules and regulations before starting work on your solar array. In areas with homeowner's associations, there may be additional guidelines.
Is solar a good fit for me?
While solar is a great way to help lower your monthly utility bill, it can be very costly upfront. As of January 2023, the average solar panel cost in Michigan is $3.77/W. Given a solar panel system size of 5 kilowatts (kW), an average solar installation in Michigan ranges in cost from $16,022 to $21,678. This cost does not factor in the federal investment tax credit (ITC), but it may cost you more or less depending on your state, incentives, the size of your system, the type of equipment you install, and the company you move forward with.
Am I a good candidate for rooftop solar?
An important first step is determining if your roof is a good fit for solar panels. Many factors will affect this determination including roof type, age, and which direction it faces. The Sunpower and PVWatts websites offer information to aid in the decision process.
If your roof is not ideal for solar, a ground mounted solar array may be a better fit. There are different options available depending on the ground terrain. Each kilowatt (kW) of solar panels requires an average area of 100 square feet.
Have I made my house energy efficient?
It is important to look at your energy use and install energy efficiency products before adding solar. Doing so will both save you money on your energy bill and reduce the size of the solar array you need to install which will lower the upfront cost of the solar installation.
Many utilities in the state provide assistance to get your home energy efficient. Check your utility to see if there are any programs that you can utilize. Utility Energy Waste Reduction Programs
Does battery storage make sense for my project?
Batteries are not required for a solar array to save you money on your electric bill but adding battery storage to your project comes with additional capabilities.
- During a power outage, if your battery is charged, you can utilize the stored energy in the battery to power your home.
- Adding a battery will allow you to use more of the energy you produce in your home. You will send less energy back to the utility, while also decreasing the amount of energy you need to purchase from them. Depending on your utility rates, you may see a larger benefit from this scenario than from simply selling excess power to the utility.
Can I use solar as backup power in a power outage without the addition of a battery?
- While solar may still produce energy during power outages, the inverters are required by national standards to shut off during power outages for safety purposes.
- If your goal is to use your solar energy during power outages, a battery must be installed onsite to provide you with stored energy during outages.
Is voluntary green pricing (VGP) a better option for me?
VGP allows a customer to voluntarily specify a certain amount of electricity purchases to be from renewable energy resources. These programs allow customers to power their home with renewable energy without the need to purchase and install renewables at the home.
More information about VGP programs.
Find a qualified contractor/installer
Research the company - One of the most important aspects of having solar installed at your home is choosing which contractor to use. Each contractor may offer different options, including different designs, payment options, and warranties. It is important to ask your potential contractors questions to get a better understanding of what they can offer you. Sample questions include:
- How long has the company been in business?
- Is the company licensed and insured?
- What warranties do the offer?
- Ask for at least three customer referrals from the company.
- Ask for pictures of past work.
Asking questions like the above examples can help you gain a better understanding of the company and the work they have performed, giving you confidence in the work they may perform for you.
Michigan Saves is a Michigan based nonprofit organization that can help you find a contractor and explore different financing options. Visit the Michigan Saves Solar Contractor List. (To use Michigan Saves financing, you must use one of their contractors or get your contractor to join their list.)
The Better Business Bureau is also a resource for feedback on potential contractors.
Get at least three bids - Solar installations are not a one-size-fits-all job. Comparing quotes provides you with multiple options so you can find the option that best fits your needs. In addition to more choices, it also introduces competition into the process which always helps if you want to make sure you are getting a fair price and the best project possible. When reviewing your bids, it is important to compare the differences such as inverters, panels, and project design to understand which project proposal will be best for your home.
Compare Financing Options
Purchase cash or loan
You can purchase your solar array with your own funds, or a privately obtained loan.
Michigan Saves is a Michigan based nonprofit organization that can help you find a contractor and look at different financing options. They offer low-interest financing options and list available lenders and rates on their website. To explore residential financing through Michigan Saves, please click here.
A solar lease is a financing option where the homeowner leases panels from a solar company. This can be an attractive option because of decreased cost; often there is no down payment and maintenance is the responsibility of the solar company. With this option, the homeowner will not qualify for tax incentives.Solar leases are typically from 15-20 years. At the end of the lease, the homeowner may have the option to renew the lease, buy the panels at a discount, or have the panels removed from the home.
Federal solar tax credit
Carefully read all paperwork
Read all of the paperwork to know what you are signing up for and agreeing to pay. This will also include the warranty information for your project, so ensure that the paperwork matches what you and your contractor have discussed. Ensure that your paperwork includes the total price your contractor has agreed to do the work for to ensure no hidden fees are included.