What to Know When Buying a House with Solar
September 8, 2023

What to Know When Buying a House with Solar

Buyers are seeking a wide range of features when buying a home. Some are looking for a home with a swimming pool. Others, a big backyard, a gourmet kitchen or in-law quarters. But one feature that is growing increasingly popular is solar power.

There are more homes with solar panels than ever before. In fact, solar is one of the fastest-growing residential energy sources, with millions of homes powered by some form of solar energy. It’s especially commonplace in the western U.S., particularly California, which now mandates solar energy systems on new construction.

While the mandates only affect new construction and homes undergoing major upgrades, solar is still a major draw for many potential homebuyers. There are many benefits to residential solar, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. It can save residents hundreds in energy costs over the years and contribute to a sustainable, eco-friendly way of life — a huge plus for buyers looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Before moving forward with purchasing a solar-powered home, it’s important to understand some of the basics. The technology that harnesses the sun’s energy is called photovoltaics, commonly known as PV. It works by fielding direct sunlight and absorbing its photons into the solar panels’ cells, which then creates electricity that provides energy, thus reducing the dependency on fossil fuels.

Because the sun is the power source, the majority of power generation occurs during the middle of the day, with summer being the highest producing season. Rooftop panels work best when they are exposed to direct sunlight free of shade or shadow from nearby trees or structures. Given the sun’s east-to-west path, south-facing roofs are best suited for maximizing solar power.

Components of Solar Power

  • Solar Panels: Capture the sun’s energy
  • Inverter: Converts the sun’s energy to a form that powers devices
  • Racking: The foundation that holds your solar system in place
  • Batteries: Store the energy generated
  • Charge Controller: Controls how quickly the batteries charge

If environmental stewardship is a priority in your next home, buying a home with solar panels can be a great investment. However, it’s not without its downsides. Following are some things to consider when buying a house with solar.

Ownership. One of the most important questions to ask is whether you will own the solar panels outright or whether you will lease them. If they are leased, you will need to review the terms of the lease and understand how they will transfer to you as the new homeowner. In some cases, the terms may change. Generally speaking, leasing is less cost-effective in the long run, so this should be taken into consideration. It can sometimes also impact the lending process.

Condition. The idea of saving money and the planet are great, but not so much if the solar panels are in bad shape. Solar panels have a typical lifespan of 25–30 years, but they become less efficient over time. Be sure to ask for any maintenance records, warranties, and other pertinent information to determine their condition.

Roofing. The condition of the roof is also important. Because the panels must be removed to replace the roof or make repairs, these costs can skyrocket. Before buying a home with solar panels, make sure the roof is in good shape. Of course, this is a standard part of any home-buying process, but it’s even more important when solar panels are involved. Also, inquire whether the roof’s materials and design are compatible with solar panels. It could be that they were installed by a DIYer, so don’t assume they’re up to standard.

Maintenance. Like any part of a home, solar panels and systems require maintenance. Maintenance for owned systems are the responsibility of the homeowner. Generally speaking, much of the ongoing maintenance involves cleaning, especially after storms or dry spells when the panels are covered with dust or debris. It’s also a good idea to hire a professional solar inspector to assess the panels and system on an annual basis to ensure they are operating smoothly.

Energy Production. One of the most important, if not THE most important, thing to consider when purchasing a home with solar is its energy production. After all, if it’s not producing enough energy, it won’t be a good investment. Ask for historical energy production data to get an idea of how much electricity the panels can generate and how much you can be expected to save on your utility bills.

Net Metering. Net metering refers to the system in which your solar energy generators are connected to a public utility power grid. When you produce a surplus of energy, it is transferred onto the grid, allowing you to offset your costs when you draw from said grid (for example, in the winter when you aren’t producing as much solar energy). When buying a home connected to a utility, it is important to ensure your system is property connected and compliant with local regulations.

Battery Storage. Some solar homes include batter backup systems that store excess energy generated through solar power. This can come in handy during down periods, such as during inclement weather or at night. These storage systems can further reduce reliance on the public utility grid. Check to ensure a home’s battery storage systems are in good working order.

Future Expansion. Depending on the home in question, you may want to consider expanding its solar power-generating system in the future. If so, check to see whether there is room for additional panels or infrastructure for other system components down the line.

Energy Efficiency. Solar power is often just one element in a home’s overall energy-efficient design. For maximum efficiency, homes should also be equipped with other features such as well-insulated windows and doors; smart appliances and lighting; and advanced HVAC systems. They should also take advantage of “passive design” by optimizing layout, orientation and materials that reduce the need for mechanical heating and cooling. These features help reduce overall energy consumption and enhance the effectiveness of the solar panels.

Off-Grid Homes. Although most homeowners who install solar choose to connect to the public grid, some choose to go off-grid to remain completely independent and self-sufficient. If this is the case, consider whether this will work for you and your family. While nice in theory, it may not be practical for everyone.

Return on Investment. Solar-powered homes can often come with higher price tags, but they can pay off in the long run. However, if you don’t plan on staying in the home long term, it may not be worth the up-front expense. However, if and when you decide to sell the home, you will most likely recoup some of that cost.

Should I Buy a Home with Solar?

Many factors should be considered when considering a home with solar. The decision should align with your personal values, your financial goals and the specific needs of you and your family. A home with solar panels can be a solid investment for many buyers, but thorough research and due diligence are essential to ensure that you’re making a well-informed decision. Your Lyon Real Estate agent can help you weigh the pros and cons of buying a home with solar and can provide you with the information you need to make the choice that is right for you.


Frequently Asked Questions

Does it always need to be sunny for solar power to work? No! While they collect more power in direct sun, they also collect power in indirect sun, and collect enough during the sunny times to store a reserve for when the clouds roll in.

Is installing solar expensive in California? According to LeafScore, the average cost of installing solar panels in the state is around $25,000. However, most homes in California can sustain themselves on smaller systems, which could be as low as $10,000 when including tax incentives.

Do I have to buy solar panels, or can I lease them? You can do either! Buying is effective if you plan on staying in one place for a long time and you can afford to pay upfront. Otherwise, leasing is a great option to get started quickly without having to shell out all of the fees right away, while still getting the added benefits!


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