4 answers
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Dec 17, 2011
    Frankie, you could start by checking contractors in your area who are members of Hometalk. I would think a solar installation would not be that unusual in Hawaii. You can find them by using the search box at the top of the page and the dropdown menu for contractors. Good luck!
  • I will offer some advice to those who are looking into doing this on their home. I had several of the same questions you may have but not yet got answered. So I went to a local home show where there were seven solar companies there all selling the same product. All had great talking points, But the bottom line it all came down to the lease program that they offered. There were a few that I would not touch with someones else's money just because of the hard sell that they kept trying on me. Still there were others that really wanted to do the right thing by offering small company service and all that. But they could not offer the same benefits of those larger hard sell guys because of their buying power. Its a whole lot like buying a car. You can go to the big lot dealership and get the swarm of salespeople all over you. Or you can go to the little guy outside of town that sells the exact same car and offers you no pressure sales etc. The difference being the small guy does not have all sorts of fancy lease or sales programs that the larger dealership offers. So what do you do? Which I had answer to that. Before I get into this. Almost all solar companies use the same panels. They purchase these from china as their products tend to cost a boat load less of money then those produced and sold in the USA. They will tell you all sorts of things on how well they install the systems and the quality of their mounts and how easy they are to install and remove when they need repairs. All a bunch of garbage. Your not going on the roof to fix, so who cares how easy or hard it is? That is their problem. The mounting systems all need to be certified by a governing body to withstand wind and leaks. So again who cares what kind of mounting is used. As long as they are UL approved. The most important thing you need to understand is what the lease is about and what happens when you decide to sell the property if you are not yet out of the lease? And what warranty is left on the panels when the lease is paid off and what its going to cost you to maintain the panels once it is. What happens if they are damaged by wind or a tree branch that falls on them? Bird strikes? Suppose you just do not want them anymore what happens then? Regardless if the panels make power or not. Has no bearing on your energy costs. You in effect are purchasing power at a reduced rate because of the way they buy it and sell to you. Its in their interest to keep the system running at its best for them to make money on the panels. Putting electrical solar panels on a home will save you money. No doubt about it. But there are several things you must be made aware of. They are offering free installations of solar meaning you spend little or nothing out of pocket. (it depends on how easy your system would be to install and direction your home faces and bunch of other complex things) They figure out how many panels they can place on your roof to determine payback costs. With that they look at your power use. Then they sign a contract with you offering a set fee for your electrical use for perhaps the next 10 or 15 years or so. This is also dependent on the panel choice and warranty on them. During that lease time you pay then the exact amount of money for your electrical use that you agreed to, regardless of what rates do. They get in return any savings difference that is generated by the panels along with any rebate money being offered by the government which translates to several thousand dollars. Most of the larger solar companies do in house leasing programs which is why they can offer these deals to the public. Although the leasing company is another company that only deals with their equipment and services. It is in effect their company with another name. They also purchase the power through commodity markets. This give them great savings on the cost of electrical power that they need to purchase to sell to you when the solar is not working at night and dark days, so they make more money on this. Now all of this is great. As the bottom line is that you are getting a lower electrical cost to you. BUT,..... (you knew this was coming) You are leasing the equipment. The panels you lease are the higher end equipment units that is wired in such a fashion it generates more reliable power then the type of equipment that you would purchase outright if you could or decided to own outright on your own. Basically your leasing panels that are wired in parallel , while those you would purchase outright would end up being series. This translates to difference in cost in the tens of thousands of dollars depending on what you can purchase. The series systems cost less and if any one panel fails all of them on that loop would also produce less power. The ones that they offer as part of the lease program are wired in Parallel. Meaning if any one fails the rest continue to produce the same amount with no reduction over all. This cost much more because of the inverters etc that are installed. Also because its a lease program. They monitor the system and repair any panel that fails to deliver the correct amount of power to the house. When the lease is up, so are typically the warranties or close to it on the panels that they installed. Funny how that happens. So you will need to pay them or someone to monitor the system for you an expense that ends up costing you in some cases more then the savings your getting from the panels themselves. Remember they purchase electrical on commodity market so they pay a whole lot less for it then you will once the lease is up. Because the monitoring fee does not include the new panels that will need to be replaced when they fail. Your final costs after the lease is up can end up costing you a whole lot of money. But you should still be saving some on the power generated as long as the panels keep working. But once one fails and you replace it. It may take months to pay off that new panel cost with the savings it generates. Alright no big deal, if you figure I am going to sell before the lease on the equipment is up or shortly after. Well the new buyers will need to qualify for the lease on the rooftop equipment. And often they barely have enough to qualify for the home. Leaving you in a bind if they do not qualify for the lease along with the purchase of the home. Do you pay off the lease with early payment penalties? Do you attempt to get them qualified so they can take over your lease if any time remains? Do you remove the equipment on the roof? Unless they can lease back the equipment and your contract needs to allow this clause. You will in effect loose pretty much all of the savings you had gained over the past years. I did a lot of research on this. Not only for my own home, but being in the energy savings business I get asked this question all the time. Should I put panels on my home to make it more attractive to the new buyers? Answer is NO. Although it does sound great, but with the housing market the way it is, and it may take many years for this to recover to the way it was in the late 90's if it ever does anyway. Not recommended as it may price you out of the market on your home as a result. Nobody does anything for free. Sooner or later you will be paying someone back for the money you saved. Its either going to equate to spending money to remove the equipment which is going to be thousands. Purchasing the equipment in order to sell your home again thousands. Which again most leases have a pre-payment penalty. So you end up loosing on that. Cost to remove the equipment to replace the roof. The only way to keep saving is to get another lease with another solar company once yours is up. Now of course 12 years all of this could change and panels and systems may become better and less expensive as they make better systems. But when was the last time you saw prices go down as they began making more reliable cars with better mileage. Sure you save on gas, but at what price. Same will happen with solar panels. So your questions should be to compare the lease programs that they offer. Check to see if they make sense for your personal budget and what the long term results will end up being.
  • 3po3 3po3 on Dec 17, 2011
    SunRun has some interesting payment options. Not sure if their pay per power agreements are available in Hawaii, but I know the company operates there. Under these agreements, the company owns the panels on your home, and you pay for the electricity generated. Depending on your state rebate options, etc., the power is often cheaper than through your existing utility. Click here for more info:
  • Kathy M Kathy M on Dec 23, 2011
    Hi Frankie...we live in Ewa and used Solar Help, our contact there changed companies but they did a good job for us.
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