« Energy-Efficient Homes are Hot!President Obama: Extend Solar Tax Credit... Congress: Don't make me laugh! »

Top 5 Reasons to Stay Away from that Solar Lease!

02/16/15

  08:35:00 am, by Laurel Hamilton   , 877 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Solar Economics, Residential Solar

Top 5 Reasons to Stay Away from that Solar Lease!

Public Domain NREL solar home image

UPDATE: See end of post for National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report findings regarding solar leasing vs loans.


In the debate of owning versus leasing solar panels, the folks over at NPR weighed in with a story last week that caught our eye, er, ear.  While it offers a fair explanation of some of the pros and cons,  we don’t think it did a good enough job of highlighting just why that solar lease should be avoided.  Here’s our top 5 reasons to avoid a solar lease.

Reason #5 - You can’t get credit on your appraised home value with leased solar panels. 

As we noted in our recent post about solar ownership boosting your home’s resale value, if you don’t own the panels on your roof, they aren’t an asset toward boosting your home’s value.

Reason #4 - The “benefit” of covered maintenance is a myth!

Leasing companies tout that they cover the maintenance on your solar system, but the truth is that most maintenance is already covered by product and installer warranties.  (For example, Enphase microinverters come with a 25-year warranty - longer than the typical lease term.)  For most residential system owners the only maintenance their systems need is to wash the panels off with a hose.

Reason # 3 - You don’t have to be a Geek to own solar!

The NPR story suggests that to own solar requires a very “hands-on” approach, with the homeowner being forced to navigate the shoals of rebates, tax credits and permitting on their own.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  A reputable, local solar installation professional, like Run on Sun, will handle all of those messy details for you.

Reason # 2 - A leased system complicates selling your home!

If you decide to sell and you have a leased system on your roof, your prospective buyer has to not only meet your required offer, they also need to satisfy the leasing company’s qualifications to assume the remainder of your lease.  A buyer might qualify for a mortgage, but not satisfy the credit requirements of the leasing company, and even if they do, they might not be interested in the hassle of dealing with a lease payment for the remainder of your twenty-year term.

Reason # 1 - The leasing company is ripping you off!

Bottom line, this is the number 1 reason to avoid a lease.  But don’t take our word for it, let’s look at what one of the largest solar leasing companies says, right there in the tiny print on their website:

Savings on your total electricity costs is not guaranteed. Financing terms vary by location and are not available in all areas… A 3 kW system starts at $25-$100 per month with an annual increase of 0-2.9% each year for 20-30 years, on approved credit.

Just how bad a deal is that?  Well, let’s take a typical 3 kW solar project.  That is really small, so the cash price from a local installer is probably around $4/Watt - which works out to $12,000 up front.  However, if you own, you receive the rebate (if any) and the tax credit.  In PWP territory, that rebate works out to roughly $2,200 but in SCE territory, the rebate is zero.  So to take the worst case example for ownership, we will assume no rebate.  In that case, the tax credit is worth 30% of $12,000 or $3,600 leaving the ultimate cost to own at $8,400.

Now what happens in a lease for that same system?  No rebate or tax credit goes to you - the leasing company pockets those.  What about your payments?  Well, let’s take the middle ground suggested in the leasing company’s quote above and look at a cost of $60/month in year 1, with an annual increase of 1.45%.

Cost of solar - owning vs leasingHere the green line represents the cost of ownership - $8,400 which is constant over the life of the 20 year lease.

The orange bars are the annual payments which in year 1 amount to $720 (12 x $60) and by year 20 have increased to $947.

The red bars are the cumulative cost of leasing solar.  By year 11, the owner has come out ahead.  By the time the lease ends in year 20, the solar leasing customer will have paid $16,567 in lease payment - nearly twice what the system purchaser paid - and they still will not own the system on their roof!

 While it may be true that not everyone can afford to purchase a solar power system outright, that is changing as solar becomes more affordable for more people.  Plus, with the emergence of solar loans, which can provide for little or no out-of-pocket cost while still retaining the benefits of ownership, cash-constrained consumers can still go solar without resorting to the leasing trap.

For all of these reasons, and a whole bunch more, we at Run on Sun have never offered residential leases, and we never will.  If you want to go solar but avoid the pitfalls of leasing, give us a call - we are waiting to help!


UPDATE: Two reports from NREL bolster our conclusions above: “To Own or Lease Solar: Understanding Commercial Retailers Decisions to Use Alternative Financing Models,” and “Banking on Solar: An Analysis of Banking Opportunities in the U.S. Distributed Photovoltaic Market“. Analysts found that businesses that use low-cost loans to purchase a PV system and homeowners who use solar-specific loans can save up to 30 percent compared with those who lease a system through a third-party owner.

 Permalink

2 comments

Comment from: ShortOrder
ShortOrder
There’s also the fact that the system is likely to have a lot more than 20 years of useful life. Most warranties are somewhere along the lines of “will produce at least 90% of rated capacity” through the first 20 years. Why would you throw it out after 20 years if still produces 90%, or even 50%, of the original capacity? Don’t want free electricity? The system is paid off and it’s not like you have to pay for fuel. I could see removing it in order to upgrade to more efficient panels that create more power on the same limited roof space. It’ll be interesting see how many systems end up having useful lives of 40-50 years.
02/16/15 @ 11:36
Comment from:
jose_villalobos
I own SUNBREEZE ELECTRIC and for the first time I am seen somebody saying the truth about solar leasing RUN ON SUN. I really would like to see this with more companies out there solar it’s really good for everybody our own health. Please company owners let’s do this good for everybody.
03/28/15 @ 11:23


Form is loading...

Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

Ready to Save?

Let’s Get Started!

Give Us a Call!

626.793.6025 or
310.584.7755

Click to Learn More About Commercial Solar Power!

We're Social!



Follow Run on Sun on Twitter Like Run on Sun on Facebook

Search

Run on Sun helps fight Climate Change
Content Mangement System