Are “solar panels” free really free? [2022 Guide]

You may have seen advertisements or had someone knocking on your door offering free solar panels. But are “free solar panels” really free?

Let’s get on the fast track – “free solar panels” are not really free. There are no free solar panels, and there is no free solar program.

If you hear about “free” or “no cost solar programs,” you’ve probably fed a cheap sales pitch to get you to sign a solar lease or power purchase agreement. Under these solar finance agreements, a solar company installs solar panels on your home with no money down (hence, the misleading use of the term “free”), and you then pay a monthly rate for energy. these panels produce. Think of it like renting solar panels or just buying your electricity from a solar energy company instead of a utility company.

Zero-money-down installation, maintenance, free registration, guaranteed savings written in the contract – these promises are just a little too good to be true. We’ll get into the fine print on why “solar free” is misleading, but if you are looking to install solar panels on your home for $ 0, it is possible to do so with loan financing. If you are ready to start learning about these options from the solar installation companies in your area, you can use this tool or fill out the form below for a free consultation.

Are “solar panels” without a scam?

Free “solar panel” advertising marketing strategies are designed to attract, but in many cases solar and PPAs end up being impractical choices for homeowners. In some serious cases, solar companies even face lawsuits over falsely advertising “free solar panels” to unsuspecting customers who have lost thousands by signing unfair contracts.

The average solar lease can save customers money, but only when the going is right. If you sign a solar lease and change your mind, sell your house or experience your problem-producing system, you can run into costly surprise bills. Here’s why:

  • Leases are heavy cancellation feesSometimes as high as $ 20,000.
  • If you decide to sell your house, lease transfer to a new owner can be difficult. If the new owner doesn’t match up to assume the solar lease, you may have to pay to move the panels to a new residence, or worse, be forced to cancel your lease.
  • In the worst-case scenario, hiring a low-quality solar installation company can lead to problems with your home or roof. Solar leases cannot offer warranty for workmanshipSo that you might face bills for any damage done to the integrity of your home.

Solar leases and PPA themselves are not scams, but homeowners should be careful and educate themselves before signing a lease. Make sure you always read the thin print.

So if “free solar panels” aren’t really free, what’s the best way to pay for solar panels?

1. Pay for solar panels in cash

Paying for solar power in cash will yield more savings in the long run. By purchasing an outright home solar system, you are essentially paying for about 25 years of discounted electricity at a time. A cash purchase allows you to calculate your home’s energy costs decades in advance, avoiding interest rates, fees and rising utility rates.

2. Solar financing through loans

We understand that spending $ 15,000 or more up front will not be possible for all homeowners. Solar loans allow you to borrow money from a lender to purchase your solar system, which you can pay off over time with your energy savings. Typically, solar loans come in the form of unsecured personal loans, home equity loans or lines of credit, and financing options offered on-site directly by a solar installation company.

Taking out a solar loan offers one of the main benefits to borrowers: A low down payment that doesn’t make you lose out on the benefits of system ownership – primarily the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit, used to offset 26% of the total cost of solar energy.

3. Solar panel leasing or power purchase agreement

As we have seen, in solar leases or PPAs, a solar company installs a solar panel system on your house; you then pay a monthly rate for the solar energy these panels produce. The solar company you are leasing through will retain ownership of the panels, thus collecting the solar tax credit.

Solar and PPA leases are close interchangeable, but for one key difference: In a solar lease, you make fixed monthly payments at use the solar power system, whereas in a PPA, you buy the electricity produced by the panels. Leases are more common at national solar companies like SunRun and SunPower.

The savings are estimated for an average sized home with monthly energy costs of $ 150 per month.

Free Solar Claims Fact Check

Let’s take a look at that not for “free solar” that popped up when I searched for “free solar panels” on Google at the time of writing. Do you see something fishy?

  1. “Free solar energy”. This language is misleading. At this point you have realized solar leases / PPAs are not “free” at all. The panels do not belong to you, and if you do not pay for the installation itself the cost, you will begin to make immediate monthly payments to two energy providers: your local utility and your solar company. Hope your system produces as advertised.
  2. “Significantly reduces monthly electricity bills. “ The word choice here is perhaps a bit of a stretch. Although the contract guarantees you will pay less than your average monthly electric bill, the savings are usually nominal compared to purchasing a system. If you had a monthly bill of $ 100 in a solar rental agreement, an average customer can legitimately expect to have payments of around $ 75 or $ 80 per month after installation (if things go according to plan).
  3. “Warrantied, monitored and maintained by your solar supplier at no cost. “ Let’s start with “warrantied. ” Although the panels are themselves covered by warranty, any manufacturing errors or issues with your roof or electrical system may be discovered. Although solar companies do not maintain rented panels, it is interesting to note that they do not Coverage removal or reinstallation costs if you need to make repairs to your roof or temporarily remove panels for any other reason. Removal and relocation costs can reach $ 2,000 to $ 4,000 or more depending on the complexity of the home.
  4. “Solar Home has been shown to add $ 25,000 to the value of your home. “ Perhaps the most directly misleading claim on this ad is true only if you own the system. In a solar rental agreement, the solar company owns the panels on your house. If anything, solar leases can complicate a home sale, as new owners don’t always want to take on the rest of the lease.

How Can I Get Solar Panels With Zero Money Down?

While we’ve debunked “solar free,” solar leases, PPAs, and solar loans all offer a viable way to switch to solar power for little or no down money.

If it doesn’t overuse your budget, solar loans offer the most convenient method own solar panels at no up-front charge. Remember, ownership of the system entitles you to key financial incentives that decrease your solar payback period and offset the cost of solar power, including:

Companies like Blue Raven Solar have responded to the popularity of solar leases by offering their own $ 0 down order home financing options that still capture the benefits of system ownership. If you are convinced that a lease or PPA is the best option for you, SunPower, Trinity Solar and Freedom are still some of our favorite companies offering them.

If you are unsure which option is right for your home, it may be helpful to speak to a professional. You can book a free consultation with a certified solar supplier in your area using this tool or by filling out the form below.

FAQ: Are “Free” Solar Panels Really Free?

Can I Really Get Solar Panels For Free?

In short, no, you can’t get solar panels for free. What is possible however, is the solar installation with a $ 0 down order financing option, whether through a solar lease, PPA or a solar loan.

How can I get solar panels for zero money down?

Solar leases, PPAs, and loans all provide viable options for investing in solar with no upfront fees. The best financing option for you will vary depending on your budget, credit score and eligibility for local incentives.

Are No-Cost Solar Programs Really No-Cost?

No, there is no such thing as a no cost solar program. These types of programs are really leases or contracts for the purchase of solar power. In these types of deals, a company installs solar panels on your roof with no cash advance, but charges you to use the power they produce each month.

Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Prior to joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the New Orleans energy sector, with a focus on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might find rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.


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