Lee and I thought long and hard about it, but we eventually decided it was worth the investment to add solar panels to both our house in Austin and the house at the Hermits’ Rest ranch. It’s been a long road, but we finally got them installed at the Bobcat Lair house in Austin yesterday.
The fact that we wanted it for two houses in two different counties was hard on poor Ralph, our sales consultant, but by gosh, he persisted and we have been able to move forward. He and Lee did a LOT of negotiating, philosophizing, and drinking whiskey (off the clock). I’ll miss Ralph. But then, the ranch isn’t done yet. If you’d like to read more of the story of how the installation went, I wrote it up in the Hermits’ Rest blog. Here, I’m just re-using a few of my photos.
Can We Have Some Facts, Please?
We haven’t thought of adding solar panels to any of the houses we renovated, and none of them so far have had them already installed, which got me to wondering whether having solar electric panels on a house increases or decreases your ultimate sale price. So, I looked into it. I’d like to point out before I get much further that most of the information I found was put out by solar vendors, so I am taking it with a grain of salt.
From what I read in this fine PDF from 2008 that I found, what increases a house’s value is lower electricity costs, which is a benefit of going solar. Another piece of research noted that if you own your panels, it’s usually no harder to sell a house with solar electricity than any other, but if you lease the panels from your electric company, it may be harder. This point is really important if you’re an investor thinking about flipping a house with leased solar panels. Check carefully to be sure they are not leased!
I’m glad that we are buying ours (and got some of the last few rebates, and the last few panels before they skyrocket in price for being made in China). When the time comes to sell the Bobcat Lair, we want to make big bucks!
A slightly more independent PDF reporting actual research said that you get about $15,000 more for a house with solar panels. That is a right good chunk of change! (However, see below; estimates vary by source.)
“According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, homes with solar panels sell 20% faster and for 17% more than those without.”
from: Is it Harder to Sell a House With Solar Panels? The Answer May Surprise You
As with many projects, you might run into permit issues or have to deal with a Homeowner Association. We were lucky that the company (Momentum Solar) made it pretty easy for us by getting all the permits and even helping with the HOA approval. Thank you, neighbors, for not complaining (neither neighbor they had to check with can actually see ANY panels). And in Austin, the City has pretty much told HOAs to live with it, because the City of Austin wants the alternative power sources in the city.
Is It Worth It for an Investor?
The real question is that. I don’t think I know of anyone who’s added solar in a renovation, but maybe it happens more in other places. Of course, people trying to sell solar panels will tell you you can recoup your investment, but I don’t think that’s the case for us. Like I said above, the solar panels will add $15,000 to the value, but ours cost much more than that, though we do have some rebates coming!
I did find this graphic with a comparison of return on investment of different renovations on a site trying to sell people on solar.
Notice that THIS one assumes you get $24,000 in resale value when you add solar and that you pay only $15,000. This tells us that you can manipulate numbers to tell you just about anything you want.
In the end, though, we are going to have enough power to handle the worst month we’ve ever had, so I think we’ll be set. I also don’t think we’re a blight on the neighborhood. Anita and I walked all over the place, but could only see a couple of panels through the trees from the swimming pool area. I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood can see them, which should please the HOA Board gang. For those of you familiar with Austin, I’m guessing the fancy houses off Far West on Mabry’s Ridge will be able to see the eastern panels, but they don’t look bad at all, so no worries.
Now, I know that we aren’t saving a ton of money doing this, especially in Cameron, but Lee and I like the idea of not using power sources that aren’t renewable, and once we get an idea of how much we typically use, we hope to get some storage at the ranch house and take ourselves off the electrical grid there. We’ll be partially ready for any upcoming hijacking of the grid…or whatever. But, I don’t think we’ll install solar panels on any of our renovations unless there is some big change in the pricing or we are in some location that’s off the grid. Unlikely.
And if you want to know what’s the best company to choose to install your solar equipment, we have no idea. My guess is that any company that’s been in business for more than a few months has to be doing something right or they’d have failed already.
Momentum Solar has some aggressive phone sales, but so do a lot of other companies, judging from my phone spam. And you never know when they are calling, because apparently every representative has a phone from a different state. When you avoid answering calls from unidentified callers, this can be a disadvantage. If it had said “Momentum” in the caller ID, they’d have had an easier time getting ahold of me. On the other hand, all the people we met in person were really personable, polite, and friendly. The installation guys were cheerful, even in the bad heat!
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