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California Becomes First State to Require Solar on New Homes

Dec 14, 2018

California Becomes First State to Require Solar on New Homes

Earlier this month, the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) unanimously approved new standards requiring that, starting in 2020, all new homes in California include rooftop solar. This vote makes California the first state in the country to have a residential clean energy requirement of this kind.

"It’s officially official. Solar will be required on new California homes starting in 2020," said Kelly Knutsen, Director of Technology Advancement for the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA). "These highly energy efficient and solar-powered homes will save families money on their energy bills from the moment they walk through their front door. Homebuyers will also have a solar plus storage option, allowing their home-grown clean energy to work for them day and night."

The new standards require that all new homes under three stories tall install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, and that the solar systems be sized to offset the annual energy usage of the home. It also incentivizes other clean energy technologies, such as battery storage and water heaters. 

The approval follows three years of analysis conducted by the California Energy Commission (CEC), showing that the new rooftop solar requirement will help save homeowners about $40/month, or roughly $500/year.

You can read CALSSA's full press release here, as well as see additional coverage from Greentech Media here.

Want to support California solar?

Nearly 1 million Californians have invested in solar energy. However, there are some developments that may make it harder and more expensive for Californians to choose solar energy, such as the development of new fees, threats to net metering, and control over new solar technology. Organizations like the Solar Rights Alliance have formed to help Californians get involved and stay updated. 

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The Real Process of Going Solar: What It Takes to Get a Home Solar System

Nov 14, 2018

One of the biggest hurdles to going solar is navigating the complicated and time-consuming process of doing the research, finding an installer, and figuring out all of the logistics, from permitting to solar credits and tax incentives.

That’s why we’ve put together a guide to help walk you through the typical process of going solar, from the system design and installation to maintenance and care.

1. Finding A Solar Installer

To help navigate the process of going solar, it’s important to find an experienced professional who can help answer any questions you have and determine what type of solar is right for you. You can start by asking any neighbors who have solar panels what their process was like and if they enjoyed working with their solar installer.

You may also want to see if your neighborhood or community is interested in combining forces and going solar together. This is a great way to share the burden of doing the research, and can also help bring down costs, as you can negotiate pricing as a larger group.

You may also want to see if your community has any other group solar programs available, such as Solarize -- or you can start one yourself! If you participate in this type of shared decision-making, the group can work together to find the right solar installer to partner with for the project.

If you decide to go solar on your own, you can use local resources like Google and Yelp or the Enphase Installer Network to find a reputable solar installer in your area.

2. Evaluating Your Home

Because every house is unique, every solar system has to be specially designed to meet your energy needs and accommodate the position, slope, and structural condition of your particular roof. For example, a family of six with a large home and two electric vehicles will likely need a much larger system than a someone with a small home who rides their bike to work.

Once you’ve decided to go solar and have found an installer to help you, the first thing your installer will typically do is send someone out to conduct a roof inspection. The inspector will evaluate your roof and may want to see your home’s blueprints in order to identify any potential complications. For instance, if your roof is old or structurally not able to support solar panels, they might recommend installing panels on open land in your backyard. (This is called “ground-mounted” solar, rather than a “roof-mounted” system.)

Your installer will also look at the area surrounding your home for potential impediments to solar energy generation. You might, for instance, be advised to trim or remove trees that cast shade over your roof. Ensuring your panels receive as much direct sunlight as possible will enable you to get the most energy out of your system. Your installer will also likely request copies of your most recent energy bills so they have a sense of how much energy you consume in an average month, to help you decide what size system you may need.

An electrician will also need to examine your home’s electrical panel to see if it’s compatible with solar, or if it needs any updates beforehand. Your installer may do this on their own, or refer you to an electrician that you will work with directly. If your home’s wiring is old, you may need a panel upgrade, which involves changing your existing electrical panel (also called the main service panel) with a new one in order to accommodate the solar energy that your home will be generating.

3. Deciding on System Size and Equipment

After gathering all the relevant information about your home, your installer will make a recommendation, or offer a few different recommendations, for various types of systems. For instance, your installer might suggest one option that would allow you to produce a minimal amount of solar energy, and another option that would allow you to produce an abundance of solar energy and store it using a solar battery.

If your installer recommends a ground-mounted solar system, you’ll have the additional option of mounting your panels on a tracking mechanism. While most solar panels are mounted on stationary racks, panels mounted on tracking mechanisms slowly turn throughout the day to ensure they always receive the maximum possible exposure to the sun. This setup is a little more expensive than traditional systems, but it also yields higher energy savings.

They will also recommend what type of products to install, including panels, racking, and inverters. There are two main types of inverters: microinverters and string inverters. Standard string inverters are installed on a line or “string” of several solar panels. Microinverters — what we make here at Enphase — on the other hand, are installed individually on the back of each solar panel, which increases overall efficiency. You can read more about the difference between microinverters and string inverters here.

When your installer provides you with their system and product recommendations, it’s ultimately up to you to decide what type of system you want based on your personal energy needs and goals. Your installer should also be able to help you answer any questions you have, such as whether the system includes energy monitoring software, what the length of the warranty is, etc.

Once you’ve made a decision on the system you want, your installer will move forward with the process of securing all the necessary paperwork and permits. The permits required to depend on your state and local laws and might include a building permit, electrical permit, or site inspection from a local official. Securing the proper paperwork and permits may take anywhere from a few days to a few months, depending on the speed and process of your local government, as well as the condition of your home and roof, and the type of system you’re installing.

4. Installation

The actual installation of the solar system is typically pretty quick, usually wrapping up in one to three days. Your installer will put the panels on your roof using equipment called “racking.” Then they will connect the panels to inverters, which are the brains of the system. Inverters convert the DC electricity produced by your solar panels into AC electricity, which powers your appliances. You can learn more about all of the different components that make up a solar system here.

Once the installation is complete, you’ll be on your way to producing clean, sustainable solar energy.  All that’s left for your installer to do is provide you with information about relevant financial incentives, including local net metering policies, solar renewable energy credit (SREC) programs, and federal solar investment tax credits. If you have questions about any of these programs or policies, be sure to ask your installer for clarification.

5. Maintenance

Solar panels installed with microinverters have no moving parts, so they require very little maintenance. Some people recommend cleaning your panels every few months to ensure they're free of grit and dust that could decrease their ability to collect sunlight. A leaf blower or a quick spray of the hose should be sufficient to clean them off. You may also need to clear leaves from them in autumn and remove snow from them in the winter using a squeegee or solar panel snow rake. In most cases, however, wind and rain will keep your panels naturally clean.

Many modern inverters also have software that allows you to monitor your system’s output and usage. Enphase’s MyEnlighten app, for instance, tracks your system’s health, energy production, and usage, including a breakdown of how much energy you sent back to the grid (if you’re under a net metering arrangement) and how much energy your household consumed. MyEnlighten even enables you to quickly and easily identify the energy consumption of particular electrical outlets. The app also archives system data, allowing you to identify potential changes in energy usage over time at the monthly, daily, or hourly scale.

Learn more about how to maintain your system here.

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Selling Your Home? See How Solar Affects the Sale.

Jul 31, 2018

Selling Your Home? See How Solar Affects the Sale.

In 2011, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) concluded a study of the impact of solar energy systems on homes in and around San Diego and Sacramento. The research team found that an average residential solar energy system added three to four percent – or around $22,500 – to the average home’s value. They also found that the cost of installing the system was less than the appreciation in the home’s price due to the presence of solar panels.

Another study released in 2011 by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) looked at California homes from 2000 to 2009, and found that “California homes with PV systems have sold for a premium over comparable homes without PV systems.” According to the researchers, most homes increased by an average of $5.50 per installed watt of solar capacity. And like the NBER’s study, the value added by the solar system exceeded the costs of installing it.  

A follow-up study conducted by LBNL and Sandia National Laboratories confirmed the results of the prior studies. Published in 2015, the team’s report drew on data from 22,000 home sales in eight states from 1999 to 2013. The researchers found that “home buyers are consistently willing to pay PV home premiums across various states, housing and PV markets.” According to the research team, home prices increased by around $4 per installed watt or a premium of $15,000 for a 3.6-kilowatt solar system.

In other words, installing solar on your home is, financially speaking, a good move – but only if you own the system. If you’re leasing it, on the other hand, you may run into a few hurdles. Homeowners who have leased their solar system have to find a buyer willing to take on the lease. And, the company that leased and installed the equipment has to renegotiate and approve the new homebuyer.

Interested in learning more about lease vs. own? Read here

Selling a home with solar? It’s not always easy.

Keep in mind: the process of selling a home outfitted with solar can be tough even when you own the system. Since solar homes are still relatively rare, some home appraisers don’t know how to accurately factor the value added by solar into their appraisals. And realtors might not be educated on the many benefits of solar power, which could make it difficult for them to present it as a selling point. And some home buyers might find homes topped with traditional solar panels unsightly.

But while it’s a turn-off for some, it can be a boon to others. So be sure work with your realtor and provide them with as much information as possible when selling. High-efficiency solar systems, plus new products like Enphase storage, can go a long way to attracting customers.

What if you’re a homeowner who doesn’t want to sell your system?

While it’s possible to remove the equipment from your current location and place them on your new home, this is typically not recommended, since the size, placement, and number of panels and microinverters on a home are carefully selected to meet its unique needs. Even if the home you’ll be moving into will have similar energy requirements and a similar rooftop, it’s best to leave the system for the next homeowner and purchase a new one for your new home.

Thinking of installing solar to boost your home’s value? Consider the market first.

Some homeowners might consider installing a solar system merely to boost their home’s sale value. While that could work, you’ll need to consider your market. The research cited above also indicates that solar tends to make home values rise the most in areas with high-value homes and a higher proportion of college-educated people, since that demographic tends to be more environmentally conscious. That usually means you’ll get the most bang for your buck by installing a system on a home located in or around a metropolitan area. And if you’re looking to sell in hurry, you might not want to wait to install a system just to increase the sale price, since the installation process can take two to three months.

If you’re a homebuyer who is interested in going solar, there’s no reason not to consider a home that already has a functioning solar system installed and paid off. Just remember: the newer the system, the higher the premium it will add to the house. But even homes outfitted with older systems can be a good investment. While panels are typically warrantied for 25 years, many solar panels are capable of producing energy for 30 years or more. And, Enphase microinverters come with an industry-leading 25-year warranty.

And finally, as with any other home, consider location when buying. Homeowners in the sunny South and Southwest will be able to reap greater savings on their solar homes than someone living at a higher latitude.  

How to transfer ownership of an Enphase system.

If you're buying or selling a home that already has an Enphase system installed, you can easily transfer ownership of the system to the new homeowner. This will transfer the warranty to the new owner's name, as well as provide access to Enlighten, the software program that monitors the system's performance and energy production.

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What Solar Tax Credits Are Available in 2018?

Jul 23, 2018

What Solar Tax Credits Are Available in 2018?

Going solar is more affordable today than ever, but it still requires a significant up-front investment. The average six-kilowatt solar energy system costs between $16,260 and $21,420. Fortunately, there are lots of tax incentives to help you pay for the installation.

At the federal level, you’ll qualify for the Renewable Energy Tax Credit (RETC). Sometimes called the investment tax credit (or ITC), the RETC allows you a 30 percent credit on your installation costs, provided that your taxable income is greater than the 30 percent credit you’re claiming.

For most homeowners, this effectively translates to a 30 percent discount on your solar energy system. So, if your system costs $20,000, you’d be able to claim around $6,000 as a credit on your taxes using the RETC.

In addition to the federal tax credit, there are also a variety of state-level incentives offered by 14 states and Puerto Rico. For instance, in New York, you’d qualify for a 25 percent personal tax credit, which functions like the federal RETC. In California – which offers more policies and incentives for renewable energy than any other state – you might qualify for multiple state-administered incentives. For example, the state’s property tax incentive allows you to deduct the entire value of your system from your property taxes. That means that if you’ve installed an average-sized system that costs $20,000, you could take the full $20,000 off your state property taxes.

One of the other major types of state-level incentives you might encounter is the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate, sometimes called the Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC). The process for obtaining SRECs varies by state, but you’ll generally have to register your solar system with the appropriate SREC-granting authority, which will then track your renewable energy production and periodically issue you SRECs based on how much energy your system produces. The more energy your system produces, the more SRECs you’ll get. You can then sell your SRECs to your local energy utility, which uses them to fulfill its obligations under state-mandated renewable energy targets.

Other financial incentives might be available at the local level. Los Angeles’ Solar Incentive Program, for instance, offers homeowners rebates on their energy bills at a rate of 25 cents per watt of energy generated. In other words, you receive a discount on your energy bill equivalent to the amount of solar energy you’ve produced. And when your solar energy system produces more energy than you use, the excess energy will be siphoned back into the grid for use elsewhere. At the end of the month, if you’ve produced more energy than you’ve used, you’ll see a rebate on your energy bill for the surplus. In other words, your solar energy system might not just help you reduce your energy expenditures – it might allow you to actually earn money. This practice, known as net metering, is also offered by many other states. (Of course, something to keep in mind here is net metering is always changing; it may not be around forever, and those incentives have already been reduced in some areas.)

Yes, it’s complicated.

Because solar financial incentives aren’t all administered by the same agency, trying to figure out which ones you qualify for can be confusing. When you get your system installed, ask your installer for guidance regarding the financial incentives available to you. You can also check for state financial incentives using the renewables incentives database at DSIREUSA.org, a project developed by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. You might also want to talk to your accountant or another financial professional about deductions you might qualify for.

Some Important Side Notes.

It’s important to remember that financial incentives like those outlined above are often only available for homeowners who buy their solar energy systems outright or obtain a loan to do so. If you’re leasing your system from a third party, you won’t qualify for the RETC or many other financial incentives. Instead, the party that leases you the system – the system’s actual owners – will reap those financial benefits.

One final note on the RETC: if you want to cash in on it, you’d better act fast. While it’s currently set at 30 percent, the RETC will decline to 26 percent in 2020, then to 22 percent in 2022. And after 2022, the RETC won’t be available for homeowners at all.

Find an Installer

If you’re ready to make the jump to clean, abundant solar energy, contact a certified installer today, and remember to ask them to help you identify all the financial incentives available in your area.


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3 Reasons to Start with a Small, Expandable Home Solar System

May 10, 2018

When most people think of adding solar power to their home, they think big. They think a sea of solar panels covering the roof, soaking up enough sun to power the whole house day after day. They think full replacement of grid power on a daily basis, a greener home, and a smaller carbon footprint. And they think thousands of dollars up front.

But there’s another way to think: small.

Like dipping your toe into a pool, you can start with a small solar system. For some, that means only getting enough solar for a portion of their home, and for others, it’s a first step in building up a full system, using smaller increments over a long period of time.  

Here are a three great reasons for starting with a small solar system:

1. Small solar = less thinking

When you’re installing a full residential or commercial solar system, you have a lot of work to do up front. You have to collect energy usage records, make sure you know the exact size of your home and your roof, and figure out how much energy your system will need to produce each day to meet all your needs. Plus, you have to research installers and find the best price. But if you’re starting small — adding just a few panels at the outset — the planning really comes down to finding who you want to install it, and what price you’re comfortable paying.

2. Reduce the cost of solar to meet your budget

Start with just a few solar panels, and you may find it easier to keep costs under control. If you don’t feel comfortable with the financing options or simply don’t feel like putting down thousands of dollars for a full system, starting with a small solar panel array and building it up as you go may make sense, and save you cents.

3. Think beyond the roof

Small solar systems don’t have to be just for offsetting part of your home’s solar production. With just one or two panels, you can pick and choose what part(s) of your property to serve — from a standalone shed or greenhouse to a portion of or your entire home.

Small Solar — An Inspiration Gallery


Growing tomatoes in November using nothing but green thumbs and green energy — for many, it’s a cost-effective way to make make a beautiful addition to their backyard happen, without adding to their monthly utility bill.

Detached Workshop

Whether it’s filled with power tools or art supplies, a standalone workshop that needs good lighting may be a good candidate for a small solar system.

A Quiet Cabin

The perfect way to enjoy nature without cutting too big a footprint — a solar-powered cabin in the woods or even ice-fishing cabin can be a great retreat.

Part of the House

The most common application, on the roof of your home… just smaller. Be sure to install the first part in a way that makes for easy expansion of the system down the road.

Starting Small with Enphase

The Right Gear

Enphase builds microinverters that connect solar panels together — so, rather than one big string inverter that governs a whole bunch of panels, our microinverters can tie into as little as one panel — giving maximum flexibility to installers and homeowners. And with the new Enphase AC Module — which combines Enphase microinverters and high-quality solar modules into one truly integrated unit — small-load installations are faster and even more cost-effective.

Get Your Credit

You don’t have to purchase a whole-house solar energy system to take advantage of the tax credits for going solar. So be sure to talk to your installer about how to make sure you get the credit you deserve.

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A Day with GRID Alternatives: Enphase Leadership Gets on the Roof to Install Solar

May 01, 2018

A Day with GRID Alternatives: Enphase Leadership Gets on the Roof to Install Solar

After nearly a year at Enphase, I know a lot more today than I did way back when, but I still hadn’t spent any time in the field, getting my hands dirty.

At Enphase, we partner with GRID Alternatives — a remarkable nonprofit based in Oakland, CA — and support their efforts to make solar accessible to low-income communities and provide solar workforce training for underserved communities. They do great work and have an incredible story, so I couldn’t refuse an invitation to be part of the volunteer installation in Sebastopol, CA on March 29th.

I can get lost replacing a lightbulb, but with my military background, I’m pretty good at following orders. When we arrived in Sebastopol, the GRID Alternatives team were already prepped with all the equipment, tools, and a roadmap for the day. Cora Saxton, the Solar Installation Supervisor (SIS), briefed us on the project, safety protocols, and then got us ready to work.

Our team of Enphase executives were shown the correct, safe way to climb a ladder, communicate with the roof and ground crew, and use some of the specialized tools. It turns out that yelling “Headache!” is better than “Heads UP!” when something falls off the roof. Makes sense, right? I appreciated that the GRID Alternatives team took the time to train the team on proper safety measures. Working on rooftops can be dangerous, so careful, safe installations are crucial. It’s also nice knowing that Enphase systems have inherent safety advantages over competing solar technologies. We want our installers to be safe, and we also want homeowners to rest easy once their systems are up and running, too.

After the safety briefing, we were split into ground and roof crews. My colleague Bert Garcia and I were assigned to configuring conduits on the ground crew. In his day job as Enphase’s CFO, Bert keeps us all in line, but building conduits, he was following orders just like the rest of us. An experienced crew would make light work of our task, but it took us most of the morning.

Bending metal piping to house the wiring from exterior electrical boxes, we put our tools, tape measures, and pencils to work.

The key to this job was to properly build each conduit to connect the electrical boxes to our Enphase combiner boxes. The combiner box is where we put the Enphase Envoy – the awesome device that allows homeowners to see how much energy their household uses over the course of a day, week, or month. With the MyEnlighten software application, homeowners can see when they use the most energy, and how much comes from their solar panels versus the utility company. Insights like this help homeowners make simple changes in their behaviors (like running the dishwasher during the day) that help them to be even smarter with their energy usage.

GRID Alternatives packed sandwiches, so eating lunch gave our Enphase team an opportunity to check in on each other’s progress. Sitting around with the roof crew, we heard from Enphase Head of Service & Quality Jeff McNeil and General Counsel Denis Quinlan about mounting racks on the roof and digging into our Enphase microinverters. The rest of us were pretty impressed with this operations-manager-and- lawyer duo.

Wrapping up lunch, I was hungry for my turn on the roof. A little workplace competition is good for morale. I grabbed a harness from Christos Mimikopolous — who recently joined Enphase as Senior Director of Commercial Operations — and made my way up. Being on the roof presents plenty of hazards, but our thorough safety training gave me the confidence and awareness I needed to stay secure up there.

Up top, with my harness locked into the safety cable, I noticed dozens of rooftops across the neighborhood lined with solar panels and Enphase inverters. I pointed this out, only to learn that ZZ Homes, the neighborhood developer, are fully outfitted with solar. What’s better, GRID Alternatives and Enphase have been involved in nearly 100% of the installations. It was a powerful reminder of what can be accomplished with partnerships like the one Enphase has built over the years with GRID Alternatives.

While up on the roof, I attached Enphase IQ6+ microinverters to the roof racks, getting them prepped for the solar panels. Jeff McNeil was itching to get back on the roof, so I made my way down and joined Bert on the ground.

From there, we passed panels up to the roof like an old-school fire brigade shuttling buckets of water. Our team was in lock-step, two on the ground, two on the roof, and the installation was really moving. The final piece was to attach the solar panels; we were all pretty proud to see it come together.

Being in Sonoma County, it’s impossible to ignore the wine industry — it’s romantic and seductive, but at the end of the day, it’s agriculture. Like wine, the solar industry can seem a little walled off or unapproachable, with the advanced technology and the cost to get started — although it’s certainly more affordable now than ever before. But, like wine, solar is pretty simple — it’s construction. It’s about building something that will improve lives, make an impact, and endure. It’s easy to lose that when you get stuck in the technology and complex engineering. Nothing drives the simplicity home more than spending a day bending pipes, climbing ladders, and attaching panels to racks.

A genuine thank you is in order to the GRID Alternatives team. I’m allergic to tools, but they made me feel comfortable and welcome, and pushed me up that ladder. Getting my hands dirty was inspiring. It became clear to me that homeowners deserve a simple explanation for how the process works and we’re looking forward to telling that story. We have a long way to go to make solar completely approachable and easy to understand, but I’m excited to venture forward. And really, if I can figure this stuff out, well, the future for solar looks pretty bright.

Take a look at our time lapse video here:

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The Rise of Solar, the Fall of Solar Pricing

Feb 12, 2018

The Rise of Solar, the Fall of Solar Pricing

Today, people everywhere are realizing that going solar is the best financial decision they can make for their energy consumption.

See how solar prices have dropped since 1998 - icon - data down

See how solar prices have dropped since 1998

This timeline is a bird’s eye view at how prices have dropped, and what’s made it happen. For our example, we’re using an average residential home in the U.S. that needs a 6,000-watt solar setup installed on their house — and we’ll see how much it would cost to get it.

See how solar prices have dropped since 1998

2005 — With a new federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) enacted by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, suddenly consumers can enjoy the combination of lowering prices with added savings by deducting 30% of the installation costs on federal tax returns.

2006 — The combination of a recession and a silicon shortage force prices to stabilize for a few years.

2008 — An extension to the ITC prompts another round of interest in solar, and increased demand begins leading pricing decline.

2010 — Increased demand, leaps in technology, and tax incentives keep driving prices down.

2015 — Congress approves another extension to the ITC, so the 30% tax credit can be used through 2019.

Source: Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

What about the new solar tariffs

What about the new solar tariffs?

You may have seen the recent news about solar tariffs that are impacting the cost of imported solar panels. Industry experts estimate that these changes may increase the system cost for homeowners by $500 to $1,000, depending on where you live. (The increase is about $350 to $700 if you take the 30% federal tax credit.) However, even with these temporary increases, the cost of solar has still fallen nearly 80% in the past 20 years.

Make It Happen - icon - clock

Now’s the time.

With the 30% tax credit scheduled to expire in 2019, you can’t count on an extension again to keep prices near rock-bottom. Make the move today to get solar and start enjoying the rewards of clean energy and the lowest prices ever.

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Paying for solar: Should you own, loan or lease?

Feb 09, 2018

Paying for solar: Should you own, loan or lease?

The long-term savings make sense, but what about the upfront investment? You might be surprised to learn how easy it can be — on your wallet and on your brain — to power up with solar.

“One of the biggest challenges in increasing solar adoption is the financing. When a person decides to add solar, it’s really a financial question. It can be a big deterrent for people who want to get solar, and we need to make this process less intimidating,” says Enphase Energy financing expert Jeremy Richmond.

To own or to lease, that is the question - icon - scale

To own or to lease, that is the question.

For many homeowners, getting the right solution for your specific home is priority number one. You compare different washers, look for the right smart appliances, and hunt for the perfect furniture. Having control over what goes into, and on top of, your home matters. By purchasing your solar solution, you get to choose the equipment that you want on your roof, making sure that these tools are the right ones for you. Beyond customization, ownership also gives you a light at the end of the tunnel. As soon as your financing option is paid, you’ll see dramatic reductions in your energy bills.

Depending on your needs and financial situation, paying for solar typically follows one of three paths: cash purchase, institutional lending, or PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy). With a cash purchase, you pay your installer for equipment and installation outright, and immediately enjoy the energy savings. Installers may even offer discounts for cash purchases — they’re often simpler transactions with little to no additional administrative work.

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If you don’t want to tie up your savings, owning your solar solution is still very achievable. Lending, in the form of either secured or unsecured loans, is the fastest growing avenue for purchasing solar. Working with a bank or credit union, homeowners are able to access the funds for equipment and installation. And many financial institutions are creating innovative new products to meet the growing demand. With secured loans, the security is typically on either the home or the solar equipment itself, and often takes the shape of a home equity line of credit with up to a 10 year term. And, because your home is backing the loan, interest rates tend to be lower than unsecured loans.

If secured loans don’t suit your needs, an unsecured loan has grown to become a viable option for many. Many lenders are seeing very low default rates and are finding solar to be a really safe bet. Because of that, and with the inherent appreciation value of solar, lenders are able to offer homeowners financing for 3-5 year terms with payments that really aren’t dramatically higher than their current energy bills. So, you can get the solar solution you want, minimize your up-front investment, and pay close to what you’re currently paying for your utilities. Once the loan is paid in full, you’ll see big savings in your energy bills.

Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a unique loan from the secured and unsecured options above in that loan debt and repayment are determined through biannual property tax and only available in certain states like California and Florida. The product of private sector efforts with some government support, PACE is administered through third parties like Renovate America. The PACE program allows for financing of a wide range of energy efficiency home upgrades with no down payment. For information about whether PACE is right for you, check out Renovate America’s website and learn more.

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Now, if none of these options for financing your solar solution work for you, leasing might be the right way forward. About 10 years ago, leasing emerged as a great alternative for homeowners interested in equipping solar, but without the up-front costs. Leased equipment is put up with no cost to you, is reliably maintained, and you’re free to sell the energy it produces. By leasing, you’ll see immediate savings over your current energy bill, but you do lose the flexibility to choose your own equipment. Plus, a lease typically comes with a 20-year term, which is quite a bit longer than a standard loan and can also make selling your home a challenge. If you try to sell before the lease term is up, you’ll need to transfer the lease to the new owners, which can be a little daunting.

Paying for solar, while certainly a big part of the decision process, doesn’t have to stop the conversation. Over the years, the costs have come down considerably and more and more homeowners are exploring how to get solar solutions on their roof. And, whether it’s buying or leasing, secured loans or PACE, the options for financing solar continue to grow.

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Teaming up with the Joneses: Is a neighborhood solar program right for you?

Feb 08, 2018

Teaming up with the Joneses: Is a neighborhood solar program right for you?

When it comes to going solar, there's a lot to consider. For some people, the upfront costs are daunting. For others, the process of selecting an installer and choosing equipment is overwhelming. Another group -- people living in condos, apartments, or townhomes -- would love to go solar, but getting a system requires more than an individual passion for going green.

But in 2018, Enphase is setting out to help everyone cut out the excuses and find a way to make solar happen. One of the most exciting new trends we’re seeing is cooperative solar communities. People across the country are forming small official co-ops or casual neighborly agreements to ease upfront costs and legwork, making going solar a community-minded effort.

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Solar Co-Ops

A solar co-op comes in many forms. For some communities, it can mean getting your utility company to invest in solar so you see big savings. This is a hefty undertaking and requires a lot of grassroots activism and lobbying to get a local utility to do the legwork. But for the right communities — especially those with a high level of interest in solar and a solid infrastructure to make it work — forming a municipal co-op could be a great path forward. 

For most communities, a smaller, close-knit effort is more likely to happen. Simply put: go get your neighbors on board to install solar at the same time — and in the process, you may be able to work out a great bulk deal with an installer, so everyone can enjoy big savings on your upfront costs.

If you’re interested in starting a cooperative solar effort with your neighbors, now’s the perfect time. With solar more affordable than ever and so many options for financing, it’s never been more possible to install solar. Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:

1. Take the neighborhood’s temperature.

Whether you live in a cul-de-sac or a condo, there’s a good chance your neighbors are also interested in going solar. Sometimes, it just takes a little nudge from the people around us to really get moving.

Start out by casually knocking on doors, talking to neighbors, and getting a sense of who in your neighborhood may be interested in solar. No need to push or prod — just asking questions can be plenty to get the ball rolling.

2. Present your case.

Now it’s time to really call your neighbors to action. Create a simple presentation or written argument for what you’re proposing — be sure to clearly state your case for why pooling the neighborhood’s efforts can 1) improve the environment; 2) save money on energy costs; 3) unite the neighborhood around a good cause.

It doesn’t have to be formal: for some, inviting everyone over for a backyard barbecue may be a great tactic; for others, a simple email to the neighbors can suffice.

3. Find an installer.    

Once you’ve got neighbors on board, find an installer that you trust. Bonus points for finding one who will cut down installation fees for the bulk order.

4. Celebrate.

Once your neighborhood has found its chosen installer, it’s just a matter of scheduling the installations, and then watching your energy costs tumble. While each individual homeowner will handle all their own financial transactions, the entire neighborhood will benefit from the pride of seeing their neighborhood powered by the sun. That’s something worth celebrating together.

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Renters Can, Too.

Going solar doesn’t have to be just for homeowners. If you rent an apartment or a townhome in a rental complex, this is your chance to shine by doing something good for the community and the environment. By getting your neighbors on board, you stand a good chance of convincing your landlord to explore the possibilities of solar.

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Think outside rooftops.

There are many ways communities can reap the rewards of investing in solar together. Installing modular units in community gardens, parks, or other common areas in your neighborhood can reduce energy consumption and ensure everyone enjoys the pride of their new cooperative solar power.

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Make It Happen.

When you drive into a neighborhood with solar panels on every roof, you’re seeing a close-knit community full of people who care about something bigger than themselves. It’s a badge of honor that your community deserves to wear. So if you’ve been on the fence about solar, hop it — and talk to your neighbor.

Recruit your neighbors. Get your community to go solar.

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Already have solar?

If you already have solar, you can still help the rest of your community. Share this story with your neighbors.

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