GSM Solar

This homeowner poses next to solar panels arrayed on her roof.

A solar array is installed in America every two minutes, according to community solar advocates Solstice.

With solar getting more affordable, more homeowners are jumping on board, having solar panels installed on their homes. Given the newness of solar energy, however, knowing what to look for while shopping for solar panels can be tricky.

The U.S. Department of Energy offers a primer for homeowners called “Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar.” The website ( covers the basics of how solar energy works, how to determine if your home is suitable for a solar installation, and the financial and safety considerations involved.

Home Suitability

Many factors are considered in determining whether your home is suitable for solar panels. In general, you will need to own your home and have a newer roof with a south-facing slope that isn’t obscured by excessive shade. Each individual solar company will have its own requirements.

Financial Matters

You can buy solar panels outright, finance them with a loan, or lease panels. With a loan or lease, your monthly payments could be lower than your monthly electricity bill, but you will be locked into a long-term contract. Another option is a power purchase agreement (PPA), through which a consumer agrees to purchase power produced by panels installed on the home at a set price. Purchasing panels could allow you to qualify for the Solar Investment Tax Credit, a 30% federal tax credit available through 2022. Lease and PPA agreements do not qualify for the credit.

Also ask about net metering. This arrangement allows you to receive credit on your electric bill for power that your system feeds back into the grid.

Shop around with various solar installers and compare their financing options. Compare the up-front and monthly costs, as well as tax benefits.


If you’re worried about whether solar is safe for your home, rest assured the industry is well regulated to protect homeowners. Solar panels must meet international inspection and testing standards, according to the Department of Energy. Installers must meet qualifications and install panels to meet local building, fire and electrical codes. Your system should be thoroughly inspected by a certified electrician before it goes online.

Community Solar

If you decide solar panels aren’t a good fit for your home or budget, you can still benefit from solar energy via community solar. This concept is a way for you to buy into a group solar project which feeds solar energy into the electricity grid, and get a credit on your electricity bill in exchange. To find a community solar project near you, visit Enter your average monthly electricity bill and ZIP code to see how much you could save per

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