Solar 101

At SunPower by Sun Solar, our motto has always been "we educate, you decide." Going solar is a big decision and we are here to answer all of your questions so you can make the most informed choice. Below you will find answers to some of the most common questions people have when considering going solar. You may also ask us your own question by completing the form below.

 

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Is All Solar the Same?

 

Just like cars for example, solar panels from different manufacturers can vary significantly in efficiency, durability, warranty and even curb appeal. The good news is that SunPower® solar systems lead the industry in all of those areas and more. SunPower’s world record-setting high-efficiency panels1 produce more energy than conventional panels, which means customers need fewer panels and less roof space to generate the same amount of energy. In addition, SunPower’s panels are uniquely designed to perform better in low light, “waking up” earlier in the morning and “staying awake” later in the day,2 generating energy even when it’s cloudy or foggy outside. SunPower’s unique technology is built-to-last when conventional panels lose power with age. No other home solar technology converts more sunlight than SunPower, giving customers an incredible 70 percent more energy in the same space over 25 years,3 resulting in more savings over time.

Rated #1 in durability in third-party testing,4 no other home solar technology stands up to the elements better than SunPower, even in the most challenging conditions: hail, snow, extreme temperatures and hurricane-force winds. SunPower panels have a projected 40 year useful life, meaning you’ll enjoy solar savings to the middle of the century and beyond.5 

SunPower combines power and product coverage in an industry-best 25-year warranty. We offer the lowest guaranteed degradation rate in the industry of 0.4% per year and guarantee a minimum of 87% of your panels’ original performance in year 25, compared to the industry standard of 80%. SunPower by Sun Solar also guarantees our workmanship for 10 years. All of this means that you can feel confident that your investment will continue to pay off for decades to come.

 

Is it better to lease or purchase a solar system? 

 

Both can be great options depending on factors such as down payment amount, duration of term, credit score, production guarantee and more. It really comes down to your personal needs and goals as a homeowner.  But not all solar companies offer you both choices. At SunPower by Sun Solar we offer lease, finance and even cash options to help you go solar. We're happy to help you explore all of your options!

How Does a Solar Lease Work?

Similar to leasing an apartment or vehicle, a solar lease means you are renting your solar energy system. The solar company owns and maintains the equipment, and you pay a monthly lease fee to use it to generate power. SunPower solar leases run for 20 years. Some leases allow you to purchase the system when the lease ends, while others allow you to choose to renew your lease or request that the system be removed by the leasing company. If you choose to sell your home during your lease term, you may transfer the lease to the new homeowner or purchase the system outright.

In most cases, Solar leases do not cost anything upfront6, so you may see savings right away compared to your previous power bill. In most cases, leasing a solar system means you will not be able to directly take advantage of any tax incentives or rebates that are available to buyers. Indirectly you will still benefit, however, as SunPower by Sun Solar factors in these tax incentives and rebates into our pricing in order to reduce the monthly lease payments. This makes a solar lease more affordable for many people.

Most monthly lease payments are fixed, and do not vary based on solar system production or usage. Some leases, however, include an annual price escalator, which increases your monthly payments each year by a certain percentage. As an added benefit, many solar leases also come with a performance guarantee, which compensates the homeowner should the system fail to produce a pre-specified range of power every month.

Like other financial products, solar leases require homeowners to meet certain credit criteria in order to qualify. Typically, you must own and live in the property as your primary residence and have a minimum FICO score.

What is a production guarantee?

 

SunPower systems include a power production guarantee of up to 20 years. What this means is that SunPower guarantees that your system will produce a range of kilowatthours (kWh) of electric energy in each guarantee year. The total kWh produced by the system in a given year is measured by the SunPower Monitoring System installed with your system. Early in year two, you will receive a personalized statement outlining your system’s energy generation for the previous year, including any credits applicable to your account. If the system produces below your estimated range, SunPower will reimburse you.

 

If I lease from SunPower, does it complicate the sale of my home?

Transferring your solar lease, a process called "assignment," is a simple process. And many prospective home buyers see their potential solar savings in their utility bill as added value when considering your home. Who doesn’t like saving money?

What is a Solar Loan?

With a solar loan, a homeowner can borrow money to purchase a solar system outright. Once you have paid off the solar loan, you are the full owner of the solar system and can benefit from its electricity generation for as long as your system lasts. You'll want to do your research to make sure you are purchasing a system that gives you the most bang for your buck, as some panels last much longer than others and warranties can vary widely. As the owner, you also are responsible for system maintenance.

Many solar loans require a fairly healthy credit score (usually a 650 FICO score or higher) and are usually unsecuritized, meaning you don’t need equity to get one or you’ll need to pledge your home as collateral.

In order to complete with solar leases, many solar lenders offer $0-downoptions, with flexible repayment terms of five to 25 years and relatively low interest rates. Like with a lease, zero down means homeowners may be able to start seeing savings immediately, though this often varies based on the duration of the loan term.  Unlike with leases, a homeowner with a solar loan is generally able to receive applicable tax credits and local incentives directly, as long as they qualify.7

If they sell their home, homeowners may also be able to pay off their solar loans early or transfer the loan to the new buyer.

In addition to solar-specific loans, it is also possible to pay for solar through traditional bank products such as home improvement loans, HELOCs, mortgages, refinancing, etc. However, these may require more effort depending on the familiarity of your bank with solar and often require more significant collateral and liens.

What is the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)?

With the federal solar ITC qualified U.S. homeowners who purchase solar energy systems can claim a 30 percent credit on their federal income taxes in the year they buy their systems.2 While Congress did renewed the ITC in 2016, it isn't guaranteed to be around forever as federal policies change. Moreover, the credit amount is set to decrease over time. So if you’re thinking about purchasing a solar system, sign up soon to maximize your savings.

What’s a Solar PPA?

With a Solar PPA, or Solar Power Purchase Agreement, a homeowner agrees to buy solar-generated energy. The agreement is only for the energy, not the solar system, from a specific utility or solar power plant operator at a set rate for a certain period of time. Like with a solar lease, somebody else owns and maintains the solar system. However, instead of paying a fixed monthly fee to rent the system, the homeowner agrees to pay a fixed dollar amount per kilowatt hour for all the power produced by the system over the term of the agreement.

Contract durations, credit criteria and rules governing purchase options, incentives and terms are usually quite similar between PPAs and solar leases. The primary difference between the two is that many PPAs do not include performance guarantees. Instead the homeowner simply pays for what is produced. Because not all solar equipment is created equal, it is important to understand the system’s projected degradation and warranties. With a PPA you may well end up getting less electricity than you expected, meaning that while you will pay less for solar power, you will also be offsetting less of your utility bill, therefore saving less money overall. SunPower by Sun Solar does not offer residential PPAs at this time.

Do SunPower panels really require less space on my roof?

Although most solar panels are similar in size, SunPower panels produce so much more energy that, simply stated, you will need fewer of them. And the best part is, that gives you flexibility for the future if your power needs change, for example if you decide to purchase an electric car or even add a swimming pool.

When is the best time to go solar?

While it is never too late to go solar, the best time is in Spring. Too many people wait until the temperature hits triple digits and then they’re stuck with more sky-high electricity bills. So let us put the world’s most efficient solar panels on your roof today, and get ready to turn on your air and enjoy the summer.

How Much Can I Save With Solar?

Your total estimated solar savings depend on a variety of factors, including the financing option you choose, your local utility rates and your monthly electricity usage. SunPower by Sun Solars professional solar educators can evaluate all pertinent variables for you and provide you with a free evaluation of your home, in order to provide the most accurate estimate possible.

The prices for residential solar systems have dropped 60 percent in the last 10 years, bringing them within reach for more homeowners than ever before. The solar revolution has only just begun. Get on the path to solar savings today!

 

1 Green, M. A., et. al. “Solar Cell Efficiency Tables (version 47),” Progress in Photovoltaics, 2015.

2 Based on simulation under identical conditions comparing a 300W Conventional Panel using Sandia National Laboratories™ Photovoltaic Array Performance Model and weather data for San Jose California.

3 SunPower 345W compared to a Conventional Panel (250W, 15.3% efficient, approx. 1.6 m2), 9% more energy per watt, 0.75%/yr slower degradation. BEW/DNV Engineering “SunPower Yield Report,” 2013 with CFV Solar Test Lab Report #12063, temp. coef. calculation. Campeau, Z. et al. “SunPower Module Degradation Rate,” SunPower white paper, 2013. See www.sunpowercorp.com/facts for details.

4 #1 rank in "Fraunhofer PV Durability Initiative for Solar Modules: Part 3". PVTech Power, 2015.

5 “SunPower Module 40-Year Useful Life”, SunPower white paper. 2013. Useful life is 99 of 100 panels operating at more than 70% of rated power.

6 For qualified customers.

7 Tax credits and local incentives vary and are subject to change.  SunPower does not warrant, guarantee or otherwise advise its partners or customers about specific tax outcomes. Consult your tax advisor regarding the solar tax credit and how it applies to your specific circumstances. Please visit the dsireusa.org website for detailed solar policy information.