News

Should You Lease or Loan Your Solar Panels?

Solar panel lending or a PPA agreement basically means you are renting the solar panel from the manufacturer and that the manufacturer still owns the solar panel. On the other hand, if you install your solar panel system on a loan agreement, then it belongs to you. It can be pretty difficult to make the decision whether to loan or lease your solar panels.

Pros and Cons for Solar Renting

This write-up will examine the pros and cons of both methods and provide you with all the information you need to know to help ease your decision.

solar renting pros
  1. The financial implications of a lease or loan agreement: both the lease and loaning of the solar panel help you save money. Both the leasehold agreement and the loan agreement lead to a reduction in your energy expenditures. In both forms of solar panel agreements, you pay less than your usual electricity bills.  The loan agreement, however, saves you more money than the leasehold agreement. This is so because you pay for the panel loan over the course of 7 to 15 years, whereas, you have to continue paying a leasehold agreement all through the term of the agreement. Solar panel owners get a solar investment tax credit (ITC) which is the value of 30% of the cost of solar installation and some states also provide Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs). Interest accrued on a solar panel loan can be tax deductible.
  2. Cost of maintenance of the solar panel: solar panels generally do not need much maintenance, but when maintenance is required, a loan agreement means the owner of the solar panel has to pay for such maintenance while the manufacturer pays for maintenance of the leasehold agreement since the solar panel is still a property of the manufacturer.
  3. Does the amount payable increase over time in leasehold or loan agreement? : The answer to this is “yes” for the former and “no” for the latter. The premium paid monthly on a leasehold agreement increases annually based on the initial agreement reached or changes in company policy, while the agreed premium on the loan agreement is fixed during the duration of payment and cannot be increased.
  4. Processing time involved in leasehold or loan agreement: leasehold agreements typically do not take time and can be concluded in just a visit whereas the opposite applies for the loan agreement. The loan agreement usually takes time to be concluded.
  5. Ease of selling buildings with solar system leasehold or loan agreement: for you to sell your home with a solar panel leasehold agreement attached to it, you have to either buy out your leasehold agreement or transfer the new lease to the new owner of the building. In the case of a loan agreement, your options depend on if the loan is secured or not. It is far easier to sell a property with a solar loan agreement than that of leasehold agreement. 
  6. Ease of obtaining a leasehold or loan agreement: All fifty states in the U.S. allow for the loan agreement of solar panels ownership, while some regions and state frown upon the leasehold agreement of solar panel ownership. Washington DC is one of the regions that allow for a leasehold agreement.

    These are the factors you should consider before opting for either leasehold or loan-based agreement.

Is Renting Sun-Based System Always The Best Thing To Do?

In recent years, third-party sun-based renting has become extremely popular, which has played a major role in propelling rooftop sun-based systems into the prevailing current thought. According to the SEIA, at the beginning of 2014, solar renting/PPA financed about 50% to 90% of the rooftop sun based system installations based on the state. It can be said that the U.S. sun-based system industry has changed radically from solar renting.

But is renting sun-based system always the best thing to do? As a smart sun-based system shopper, you should be careful since these financial mechanics are still comparatively new. This point can be further seen in the recent attempts of quite a number of individuals of the national legislative assembly to give a better understanding on how solar renting is promoted to consumers for both the interest of those in the market and also for the solar industry as a whole.

Is solar a beneficial bargain? An example of a solar rent marketing promotion

The advantages of solar rent are mostly marketed this way: You get a sun-based power system on your roof for a small amount of money or even no money at all (based on the type of solar rent), and the organization will sell the electricity to you at a rate which is much lesser than what you normally pay for electricity. You spend less on your electricity bill without having to pay to have your system to be set up. Apparently, both you and the solar organization benefit from this.

Merely looking at it, it seems like a cool bargain, but as discussed earlier, ‘free sun-based power systems’ are not precisely free. You indirectly pay for the power that the panels generate, and in so doing, over the period of your 10 to 20 years contract, you pay for the system.

It’s important for you to consider if signing a solar renting contract will save you money in the long run. Without considering a solar rent marketing promotion, what exactly are you getting when you sign a solar rent contract?

Are some sun-based power system companies not been truthful about solar renting?

An issue of interest about potentially misleading marketing patterns by some solar rent suppliers was raised last month by 12 members of the House Republicans, which was led by Paul Gosar from Arizona. In a letter written to the Chair of the Federal Trade Commission, the representatives identified a number of refutable practices that solar shoppers should bear in mind and that the FTC should look into.

Some of these practices are:

It has been made known that some firms are using possibly misleading marketing methods and exaggerating potential savings to get consumers to sign prolonged rents for rooftop sun-based power systems. According to reports, consumers are being lured by some solar renting firms who offer no rent money for a 20-year rent agreement. The marketing presentation, notwithstanding, supposedly amplify power grid rates. If these accusations are true, these potentially deceptive rents could be a grievous threat to consumers as they are bound to our citizens’ homes and have the possibility to induce substantial damage to the solar industry.

In a similar move the previous month, four House Democrats who were all from Arizona (one of America’s major solar markets) asked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to look into it whether it is possible for consumers to be harmed by the sales practices.

In the November 19 letter, they emphasized their support for the flourishing rooftop sun-based power industry. They also stated the need to address a number of issues to ensure consumers considering solar are not deceived by solar salespeople who deliberately omit essential information or skip over the disadvantages of solar rent.

They asked the CFPB questions like:

What actions has the CFPB taken to look into the possibility that deceptive marketing methods are being used in the rooftop solar industry?

What measures are put in place to guarantee that consumers who are looking at entering into solar renting for a prolonged period are made fully informed of the long-term implications of these proceedings? For instance, studies suggest that third-party rents may lead to an escalation of prices to house sellers with the outcome that other buyers will not want to purchase the sun-based power system or cannot assume the rent, therefore making real estate transactions complex.

What actions has the CFPB carried out to look into the displeasure that has developed from the marketing methods being used by some rooftop solar renting companies?

Has the CFPB thought of doing an employee reappraisal of third-party-rents in the rooftop sun-based power industry and giving advice on how consumers considering these transactions can be educated?

The CFPB is yet to release anything a response to the Democrats’ letter as at the time of this writing, and the FTC addresses nothing in particular to third-party solar rents on its website. It’s definitely just a matter of time before all these changes are made. Even though politics has a role in the ongoing discussion, the fact remains that there is a need for robust competition and transparency in the market for an industry to be a workable, sustainable one. If the CFPB and FTC intervene to regulate the sales practices of solar rent suppliers, it will definitely result in amelioration on both these fronts for the absolute benefit of both the consumers and the solar industry.

Can we safely conclude that solar renting is not a good idea?

No! It only requires that you do your own research to ascertain that you are getting the best available bargain on solar. You should also bear it in mind that deals differ and some deals are more beneficial than others. You need to be wise when shopping for solar. Below are some helpful points to help you choose wisely when shopping:

solar renting
  • Assume your rooftop is an asset that solar renting firms want to possess. The amount of money these firms make is dependent on the amount of power your panels produce.
  • Think of a solar rent just like any other major purchase: Be proactive; do not just consider the fact that you may not pay anything up-front.
  • Try to get the best deal by comparing varieties of options from different companies. There are a number of competing companies that offer solar renting bargains; use this for your advantage.
  • As an alternative to solar renting, consider a solar loan. Solar loans offer almost the same advantages as solar renting with the additional benefit of you owning the system when the loan is paid off.
  • If you have enough money, then you should consider buying a solar system. For those who can afford it, it’s often always better to go for the up-front buying of the solar system.