Solar leases are ideal for individuals who wish to enjoy the maximum solar energy supply while at the same time minding the cost.
Solar leases work to create convenience for solar owners who are not in a position to install solar panel systems on their roofs. Solar installation was very costly in the past, making it nearly impossible for individuals to own.
To enjoy these solar lease opportunities, you should understand how solar leases work, the cost of leasing solar, and how solar panel leases work.
Table of Contents
- What is a Solar Lease?
- How Does a Solar Lease Work?
- How do Solar Panel Leases work?
- What are the Terms of Solar Lease?
- Where Can You Get a Solar Lease?
- Which is the Best Payment Option?
- Paying for solar panels in cash
- Leasing Solar Panels
- How Much Does it Cost to Lease a Solar Panel?
- Is it a Good Idea to Buy a Home with a Leased Solar Power System?
- What is the Difference between Solar Leasing and Buying Solar Panels?
- What is the Difference between Solar Lease and Solar Power Purchase Agreement?
- What are the Advantages of Leasing Solar Panels?
- What are the Disadvantages of Solar Leasing?
- How to Get Out of a Leased Contract
- Transfer of the solar lease
- Buy the solar panel system at a price offered on the market
- Is there a Better Solar Financing Option than a Solar Lease?
What is a Solar Lease?
Leasing solar panels works the same way as using a vehicle in a contract, or a cell phone contract. The solar company relieves the burden of buying a solar panel system.
Solar leases work by paying an agreed amount to a solar installer for the solar power system but you don’t own the solar system. You are supplied with solar energy from the solar panel at an approximately 20% cheaper rate than electricity from the grid.
The contract lasts for years, and there is no initial payment, but the company is still responsible for offering solar energy.
It is like third-party ownership, but you get all the benefits of a solar system, including free maintenance.
Let us dive into how a solar lease works!
How Does a Solar Lease Work?
Before settling for a solar lease, it is ideal for a homeowner to know how solar leases work.
Many homeowners are constantly torn between buying and leasing solar panels because they don’t know how solar leases work.
How do solar leases work?
Immediately after the solar energy system panels are installed, you will automatically receive the power supply from the solar panels.
It replaces your grid electricity supply, and your home will supply itself with the energy from solar panels, thus reducing the electricity bill.
You can eliminate your electric bill completely if the solar panels generate enough electricity to suit all your energy usage. The good thing is that it is a fixed price.
However, you must still pay for your solar lease payment, although it will be cheaper than your utility bill before installing the solar power.
Finally, you should bear in mind that this new, green power supply might not be able to cover all the electricity bills since its effectiveness depends on the weather.
See Related: Best Community Solar Companies for Subscriptions
How do Solar Panel Leases work?
Solar panel leases work so that you just make your monthly payment for the leases, but you don’t own the panels. The leased solar panels harvest solar energy directly to your house without buying a home solar system.
A solar provider deals with the installation. They either lease the solar panels at a fixed monthly amount or sell to you the electricity the panel generates at a fixed price per kilowatt-hour.
The maintenance cost and watching over the solar panels are also shifted to the leasing company. They will carefully watch over your system hardware and performance until the signed contract ends.
Solar panel leases typically last for approximately 20-25 years. Moreover, some companies like SunRun allow you to renew the contract and buy the installed solar system from them.
What are the Terms of Solar Lease?
The basic terms of a leasing contract are always almost the same despite the type of the contract. A solar lease normally operates between 20-25 years.
The solar company is also responsible for keeping track of how your solar panels work; in case of anything, the developer is responsible for repairs at their own cost.
Just because you don’t own the panels doesn’t mean you can’t see what they bring to the table. Most solar companies have a tracking program you can access on your computer or a phone app so that you can keep an eye on how your solar panels are performing.
A price escalator is included in the lease contract to reflect the rise in your electricity price. Therefore, your lease payment will appreciate annually. The solar lease escalator runs between 1% -5%.
Solar leasing is very flexible. If you wish to move house, most solar leasing companies like Sunpower will permit you to transfer the lease to your new home. If you also want to terminate the contract, you are also allowed to break the lease and remove the solar panels.
Moreover, at the end of the contract, you can purchase solar panels at a discounted price as stated in the agreement, or rather you can either have the contract renewed or the solar panels removed. You can opt for solar PPA if you wish to buy the solar panels at the end of the lease contract.
Some solar companies don’t have the option of selling the solar panels at the end of the contract – make sure you check the fine print with each company if you think you might want to own your panels after a while.
See Related: Best Portable Solar Panels for Home
Where Can You Get a Solar Lease?
Most trusted installers offer solar lease panels that work with different solar financing projects.
To add to that, they also work with your budget, lifestyle, and financial goals. They will help you with the best, friendly price in the market and advise you on which one to settle.
Another crucial thing before looking for a leaser installer, another essential thing is to make sure leases are available and convenient in the area you live in since they might not be available in less sunny states.
Which is the Best Payment Option?
There are limited ways of making payments for the installation of solar panels. The most important thing to consider is the duration you plan to stay in your home and your budget.
The three modes of payment are cash, loan, and leasing.
Paying for solar panels in cash
Using cash as the mode of payment increases your long-term savings. Cash purchases come with many advantages like saving your utility bills and protection from inflation and interests.
However, it also has its downfalls, like the upfront costs being very high, which is not affordable to every homeowner.
This is an option for homeowners who can’t afford to buy solar panels at the onset and repair them later with their energy savings. The main advantage is enjoying the federal solar tax credit and some refunds used to repay the loan.
The best thing before getting the loan is to search for low-interest loans that will save your coins.
Leasing Solar Panels
You can also choose to lease the solar panels where you pay for the lease charges, but you don’t own the solar panels.
You are free from the maintenance of the solar panels and have zero upfront costs which are ideal for one who has no money to start their solar journey.
How Much Does it Cost to Lease a Solar Panel?
In this life, nothing is entirely free, and neither are solar lease panels.
The cost of leasing solar panels is calculated in your monthly bill and spread over time. However, the comparatively low solar lease cost makes the overall payment much more convenient for a beginner.
Opting to lease solar panels can be a good financing step option for any homeowner or a business since the cost of leasing solar panels doesn’t break your bank account.
Zero upfront costs save the wallets of many who wish to start their solar journey but are unwilling to commit themselves to upfront costs.
See Related: Solar PACE Program: Is it a Legit?
Is it a Good Idea to Buy a Home with a Leased Solar Power System?
Getting a home with a leased solar power system is a good idea. It will be an added advantage if you are not in a position to settle the needed upfront costs to purchase the solar panels.
Start by understanding the previous homeowner’s solar contract with the leasing company.
Familiarize yourself with the lease terms. In terms of duration, lease pending payments to be made, cost of the payment, and who is responsible for repairs of the systems.
Another critical thing to be keen on is the payment schedule.
Don’t assume the lease payment is fixed despite what the system produces; some companies have adjustable-rate leases while others are fixed. Get to know which one suits your needs.
Lastly, if you find the lease term which fits your needs, the responsible company will transfer the lease immediately after running your credit check and later transfer your name to the lease.
What is the Difference between Solar Leasing and Buying Solar Panels?
Buying the panel only suits folks who have the total amount of money to purchase the panels upfront, or at least the means to pay for them, their installation and maintenance over time. On average the panels will start reimbursing costs after nine years then the energy savings will build.
On the other hand, leasing suits those who want to begin the solar journey without interfering with their financial budget.
In solar leasing, you are not the owner of the solar panels, whereas in buying solar panels, you are the owner and maintainer of the solar panels.
To add to that, solar panels have a high upfront cost instead of leasing, which has a small upfront cost.
The good thing is that both will help you to save on the utility bill.
See Related: How Much Do Solar Panels Cost Per Square Foot?
What is the Difference between Solar Lease and Solar Power Purchase Agreement?
People tend to confuse solar leases and Solar Power Purchase Agreements. They are very similar financing options, so you’d be forgiven for getting them mixed up.
In both solar leases and SPPA, the solar company installs the solar panel on top of the homeowner’s roofs as you make monthly payments.
In the solar lease, the payment is fixed regardless of how much energy the system produces, whereas, in Solar PPAS, your contract will state the cost of each kilowatt-hour of the solar energy produced.
As you make your fixed monthly payment in the solar lease, the solar Power Purchase Agreement track the kilowatts used.
What are the Advantages of Leasing Solar Panels?
Leasing solar panels come with advantages for homeowners. The added benefits include :
- Reduced Utility Bill Expenses; Solar leases reduce the energy bill because you’re generating your own power.
- Zero Maintenance Costs; The maintenance of the solar system is up to the company and not something you have to organize or pay for. You don’t have to monitor the solar system since you only rent and do not own the solar panels.
- Fixed Monthly Installments; In a solar lease, you make fixed monthly payments clearly stated in the contract. That makes it easier for you to budget your total monthly expenses.
- No Upfront Costs; The good thing about solar leasing is that you don’t have to worry about the total initial cost of a solar panel system to enjoy solar energy services. Most solar companies have zero upfront costs.
What are the Disadvantages of Solar Leasing?
Solar leasing has some cons that potential buyers and new owners must consider before opting for a solar lease. Some of the disadvantages include:
- Not Convenient for Tax Credits and Solar Credits; The fact that you are just renting the solar panels means you do not qualify to enjoy the benefits of any solar tax credit since you are not the owner. Therefore, the leasing companies being the owners will receive the 26% federal tax credits.
- Depreciation of Home Value; The value of your home depreciates when the solar is leased compared to owning the solar panels, which add value to your home. The value decreases when you want to sell the house because the potential buyer might not be interested in solar leases. Therefore, you will be forced to reduce the price of your house.
- Challenge When Selling Your Home; A solar lease also makes it difficult for you to sell it. Many buyers are skeptical about taking over a lease agreement regarding your energy usage.
- Long-term Savings are Low; Purchasing solar panels might be expensive but saves a lot in the future. Your long-term savings will be higher since you would have eliminated the electric bill forever. While you can save money on electricity bills by leasing, they belong term savings aren’t as big.
- Potentially Two Bills; You might end up paying for two bills in months when there isn’t enough sun to generate the solar power you need. You’ll still need to make the monthly payments laid out in your lease, but you may still get a bill from your utility company if it’s a rainy month!
See Related: How to Finance Solar Panels
How to Get Out of a Leased Contract
There will always be instances that can make you want to terminate the leased contract. You may want to relocate to a new home, or you want to sell your home without the leased solar panels.
Selling your home with leased solar panels might give you the challenge of getting individuals willing to continue with the contract.
But you don’t have to get stuck with that; let us discuss how you can try to end the solar leased contract.
Transfer of the solar lease
This is one way of getting rid of the solar panels’ lease. For example, some companies like Sunrun have a service transfer specialist who will help in the transfer process. However, you might get an instance where the buyer does not want the lease, and you will be left with the option of reducing the price of the house by the amount of the transfer and sealing the deal.
Buy the solar panel system at a price offered on the market
You can also opt to own the solar panels and terminate the contract. However, the price of the solar panels might be slightly higher since their value might not have depreciated while in use. Considering the duration the system has been used, its quality, and the fact that it has been locked up in a commodity of producing power the value is typically still high.
You can clear the balance on the remaining lease and have the solar panels either removed or left in your house. However, it is rarely accepted since a buyout has to last for five to seven years.
Is there a Better Solar Financing Option than a Solar Lease?
Solar can be cheap and expensive at the same time – but it does deliver savings down the line.
The approximate price of a solar power system in the United States ranges from $14000-$16000 after the federal tax credit has been considered.
Of course, that is not friendly for all bank accounts, and that’s where most people opt for solar leasing or taking solar loans.
Solar loans allow you to install the solar panel system without paying a whole lump of dollars at once.
However, solar loans are not always convenient for homeowners since the cost can be extremely high.
Currently, the cost of the solar power system has been reduced, making it more feasible for homeowners to take a solar loan and pay for the installation.
One benefit with loans is you are the owner of the solar panels despite using a solar loan to purchase them. That means that you will be able to take advantage of the tax incentives and other tax credits that you cannot enjoy when leasing.
Almost all solar loans don’t require a down payment, and they also have a reasonable interest that is pocket friendly.
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Kyle Kroeger, esteemed Purdue University alum and accomplished finance professional, brings a decade of invaluable experience from diverse finance roles in both small and large firms. An astute investor himself, Kyle adeptly navigates the spheres of corporate and client-side finance, always guiding with a principal investor’s sharp acumen.
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