Ways to avoid scams and how to decide if a system is right for your home

Solar panels and systems are gaining popularity for their financial and environmental benefits. A 2020 analysis showed that installations, such as rooftop panels, had nearly quadrupled since 2016 and accounted for nearly a tenth of Georgia’s solar power, or 3% of net electricity generation in the state of Georgia.

Solar panels are not without costs, however. A FOX 5 I-Team survey showed how Georgia sales reps can sometimes paint an unrealistic picture of home solar power.

The Consumer Protection Division of the Georgian Ministry of Law offers advice to Georgian consumers and businesses to avoid unfair and deceptive practices.

When it comes to buying a solar panel, don’t be afraid to ask questions and check with state and local consumer protection agencies for information on system vendors.

What is a photovoltaic system?

Photovoltaics, also known as PV, gets its name from the photovoltaic effect – the process of converting light into electricity.

Using these systems in your home means you buy less voltage from power companies.

What is concentrated solar power?

Concentrating solar power technology is not intended for residential use and primarily powers large power plants.

How much energy do solar panels save?

The Department of Energy estimates that solar panels can supply about 40% of a home’s energy, depending on the house.

PVWatts is an app that helps homeowners compare the cost of solar power to utility bills.

If you are trying to decide if solar panels will save you energy in the long term, optimize your current energy consumption and reduce your home’s electricity consumption with energy efficient appliances and weather insulation.

What are the incentives for solar panel owners in Georgia?

The State Renewable Energy and Efficiency Incentives Database (DSIRE) provides a comprehensive and up-to-date summary of tax credits or financial incentives for solar use.

There is a federal tax credit of 26%, which you recover directly from your taxes. This credit drops to 22% for systems installed in 2023. You can only get this full credit if you pay that much in federal taxes that year.

You may be able to sell Renewable Energy Certificates, or RECs, which provide proof of how much energy you produce.

There are renewable energy and energy efficiency incentive programs available in Georgia, according to the power company. Georgia Power, for example, offers several solar programs such as Community Solar, Simple Solar, Customer Renewable Supply Procurement, and Customer-Connected Solar Program. DSIRE shows several power companies, mostly in metro Atlanta, central or northern Georgia, with some sort of financial incentive program.

Not all power companies offer these programs. In Georgia, Georgia Power offers net metering, which pays you for excess electricity produced by your system. It does, however, have a limit of 5,000 households, which has already been reached, according to the I-Team.

Contact your utility company to determine which programs and incentives you qualify for.

Choosing a Solar Panel Company

Research the company name online and register it with state and local consumer protection agencies.

Make sure the company has the necessary licenses, certificates, or bonds to legally install signs in Georgia.

Take multiple offers and quotes from companies.

Ask for details regarding warranties. Ask if an array is supposed to produce a certain amount of energy.

If you rent a system or sign a power purchase agreement, read how long the contract lasts and how much you pay per month. Find out if the contract affects if and how you sell your home.

Consult a third party when it comes to promises of sale.

Additional solar panel costs

In addition to the cost of the grid, you may have to pay the full cost of installation, building permits or electricity and maintenance.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy says these “soft costs,” the non-material expenses of solar panels, don’t go down as much as the material costs. These expenses can represent up to 64% of the overall price of a solar energy system.

Equipment may be covered by a manufacturer’s warranty, and sellers may offer maintenance. If not, expect to pay for yourself or someone else to maintain the panels by repairing or replacing components and cleaning them.

What factors make a house unsuitable for solar panels?

Panels are designed to work anywhere, but tree cover can make a roof a less than ideal sport for panels.

The age and pitch of your roof can also be taken into account. The Department of Energy recommends a roof pitch between 15 and 40 degrees.

If there is no suitable place in the house for solar panels, or if you do not own the house you live in, community solar power is an option. Community solar energy installs panels offsite and residents share the energy produced by the solar panel.