Buying A Solar Home Checklist

Congratulations!

Maybe you bought or are thinking about buying a home with a solar energy system. We’re not surprised. With the growing popularity of solar, you may encounter solar on some of the houses you see.  

So, what do you need to know when considering buying a house with solar? If the previous homeowner owns the solar array, they will be transferring all the benefits to you. These benefits come in the form of reduced electric bills and clean, renewable power. You may pay a little more for the home itself due to the increased home value that comes with solar. But, think about it this way: would you rather pay $200,000 for a home with electric bills that cost $300 per month or $225,000 for a home with electric bills $50 or less.  

New-To-You Solar Homeowner Checklist  

 

1. Get Educated About Solar 

Because you didn’t purchase the solar yourself, you didn’t go through the solar buying process that would have educated you on the many facets of solar homeownership. Here are a few resources to get started: 

 

 2. Learn About Your New Solar Array 

How old is the solar system on your new home? What type of solar panels make up the solar array? How much is it worth? We recommend requesting the following documents from the company that installed the solar energy system to find answers to these important questions.  

  • The original quote or contract for your solar energy system including the scope of work, equipment, sale price and warranty information.  
  • The built drawings of your solar energy system.   
  • Information about the specific equipment that makes up your solar system.  
  • With the help of the previous homeowner or your solar installer, learn how to log in to your online monitoring platform to track the performance of your solar array. 

 

 3.  Set up Solar Renewable Energy Credits in Your Name  

Solar Renewable Energy Certificates or SRECs (pronounced “ESS-rek”), are annual credits for the clean electricity produced by your solar PV system. They represent “the renewable energy attributes” associated with one megawatt-hour of electricity produced by your system each year (one megawatt-hour is equal to 1,000 kilowatt hours of solar). 

A general rule of thumb in Ohio is 1kW of solar capacity will produce approximately 1 SREC per year.  Therefore, a 5kW solar PV system will produce about 5 SRECs per year and a 10kW system will produce about 10 SRECs per year. 

When you buy a home with a solar system, the SREC certification, registration and agreements are transferable to the new owner. To do this, the SREC broker who currently holds the account will need the contact information of the new property owners and associated closing documents showing the transfer of ownership.  

There are different buyers, brokers and aggregators to choose from to sell your SRECs.  Third Sun Solar suggests Knollwood Energy, or Sol Systems to our customers. 

 

4. Add your solar system to you homeowners insurance 

Using the information you’ve collected, add your solar energy system to your homeowner’s insurance. This is a good way to protect the system in the case of damage. 

 

5. Switch your interconnection agreement 

Give your solar installer a call and ask them to switch the name on your interconnection agreement with the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (or your states Public Utility Commission). 

  

Interested in more?  We are always willing to help you with any questions you might have about your new solar array. Give our office a call and we’ll set up a time for you to talk to knowledgeable people. 1-877-GO-SOLAR

 

 

 

Selling A Solar Home  

Selling a Home with a Solar Energy System

In addition to the many benefits that solar adds to a home, increased property value can be found among them. Let’s face it – the home you’re in now might not be the home that you live in for the next 25 or more years. With solar system lasting at least 25 years (and some system functioning even after 40 years) you may wonder: what happens if I move? You may relocate for work or choose to downsize. Should you still consider solar if you aren’t sure you’ll be in your home forever? YES! Do not let a future move keep you from living your renewable energy dreams now.

As solar becomes more mainstream, real estate agents, appraisers and homeowners are looking to know more about what a solar energy system does to the value of a home. We’re glad others are asking this question too, which has resulted in several studies published on the topic.

The findings:  

  • A recent report by Zillow shows that on a national average, homes with solar sold for 4.1% more than homes without solar. So by investing in solar, you’re both saving money now AND increasing the resale value of your home.
  • The Berkeley National Laboratory & U.S Energy department (Appraising Into The Sun) found “strong, appraisal-based evidence of PV premiums in each of seven market areas in six states.
  • The Berkeley National Laboratory (Exploring California PV Home Premiums) concludes that “each 1-kW increase in size equates to a $5,911 higher Premium”

Much of the research to date has been done on the west coast, a leader in the solar energy movement. As the burgeoning solar movement continues, we will see more data to analyze in the Midwest. At Third Sun Solar we have known customers to purchase and sell homes with our solar systems installed, and all parties have been happy with the results.

Return on Investment

Solar provides more to a home purchase than any other home improvement:

  1. The ROI is much higher for the purchasing homeowner, who benefits from reduced electric bills
  2. There is environmental ROI seen in the reduction of carbon emissions
  3. The ROI on long lasting solar equipment increases as traditional electric costs rise
  4. Existing solar installations can be grandfathered into older and more lucrative Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) plans that are no longer available. In some cases, picking a home with solar can occasionally get your buyers even more SREC savings than the current pricing.  

Solar Stands Out 

Solar can help you stand out in a crowded market. A solar energy array is an important marketing piece. You will attract the attention of home buyers interested in solar and renewable energy. Make it pop! With a national increase of attention on renewable energy – solar is quite popular. Highlight the benefits. And be prepared to answer any questions potential buyers might ask. Who installed the solar system? What is the size of the solar system? What is the warranty period?  

Take a look at the types of things a solar home-buyer is thinking about when looking at your solar home. 

Even if you have a portion of a solar loan to pay off, the premium price you get on your home due to the solar array could offset that cost & potentially create a profit 

 

Third Sun Solar is interested in working with you to generate a free solar estimate for your home. We’re Ohio’s oldest & most trusted installer. We’re proud of the work we do.  

If you’re interested in getting a free solar estimate for your home give us a call during office hours at 740-249-4533 or fill out this form to be put in touch with a knowledgeable Solar Consultant.  

Denison University Solar Pollinator Garden

  • Denison University’s pollinator-friendly solar array is the first of its kind in the State of Ohio! 
  • Nationwide, bees, monarchs, and other pollinators are disappearing, and scientists agree that loss of habitat is a primary concern. 
  • This pollinator habitat provides natural sources of food, water and shelter to wildlife and is sustainably maintained with the incorporation of native plants instead of pesticides. 
  • The habitat is part of the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a national effort to grow a million gardens that foster habitats for threatened insects such as butterflies and bees. 
  • The 10-acre, 2.3 megawatt solar system is big enough to power 300-350 average Ohio homes.   

 

Federal-Hocking Local Schools flip the switch on new solar energy system

Federal-Hocking Local Schools cut the ribbon on a new solar installation that will offset 70% of the school’s annual energy use with renewable power. Students “flipped the switch” on a 700 kW  solar system for the first time at the Federal-Hocking Middle & High School campus on July 11th 2019 at 11 AM. Former Federal-Hocking Superintendent, George Wood will speak at the event.

“Solar and renewable energy are the way of the future,” said George Wood. “But getting from here to there will take big actions by big organizations and institutions, like schools. Our district is a demonstration of what other districts can do.”

Attendees were joined by Former Governor and clean energy advocate Ted Strickland, State Representative Jay Edwards and Athens County Commissioners. The event follows the recent appointment of Third Sun Solar’s CEO Michelle Greenfield, to the Governor’s Executive Workforce Development Board.

The rooftop array will deliver environmental benefits to the region, eliminating 583 metric tons of carbon emissions each year – the equivalent of the annual energy used by 70 homes – offsetting over 825,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year.

The array was built and installed by a partnership consisting of the installer, Third Sun Solar, New Resource Solutions, who structured the financing and Foundation Renewable Energy Company, the system owner and operator.

“Third Sun Solar has installed solar on more than 70 schools, but this project is really exciting because it is right here in our community, and many of the folks working Third Sun Solar,” said Geoff Greenfield, President and co-founder  “While the financial benefits to the school are very attractive, we believe that the benefits to our local economy, like the growing number of solar jobs, are also very important.”

Several installers on this project were students at Federal-Hocking High School and Joint Vocational School.

Watch the live-streamed video of the event here. 

 

“I applaud Third Sun Solar and New Resource Solutions for building this impressive solar energy project. There are so many benefits: the school district saves money, our air is cleaner, and high quality jobs are created here in Appalachia. Sadly, while other states are raising their renewable targets to 50% or even 100%, Ohio’s clean energy standards are under attack. A decade ago, my administration worked with a Republican-controlled legislature to create a strong clean energy plan for Ohio that has saved families and businesses billions of dollars and created thousands of jobs. It is my sincere hope that we don’t go backwards on this issue” – Former Governor, Ted Strickland

Working With Your Homeowners Association

The History of Solar + Homeowners Associations

In some neighborhoods, a homeowner looking to install solar must get prior approval from their Homeowners Association (HOA).  When it comes to addressing solar proposals from homeowners, the HOA will typically rely on its restrictive covenants, or “deed restrictions” to guide their decision making.  Covenants describe how a property can be used and what can be built on it.  HOA’s use this tool to maintain uniformity and aesthetics in a neighborhood.To begin the approval process,  submit a proposal to the HOA architectural review person or committee.  Sometimes the entire HOA board will vote to approve or disapprove a proposal.

HOA deed restrictions often do not address solar panels. The documents were written many years ago when residential solar wasn’t as common as it is today.  So, in most cases, one will find that HOA deed restrictions do not include language that prevents solar.  However, this does not mean that HOA boards will approve solar projects.  There may be hesitancy by the HOA board to approve anything that is deemed to alter the “uniformity” of the neighborhood.  Some HOA’s have restrictions on roof color which solar panels may not conform with.  Even without roof color restrictions, HOA’s may see solar panels as altering the uniform look of the neighborhood.

Besides the issue of uniformity, HOA’s can typically block solar panels by invoking a clause in the deed restrictions pertaining to “aesthetics”.  Since this is subjective, HOA boards can simply say that the panels will detract from the aesthetics of the neighborhood.

 

Before submitting your solar proposal to your HOA:

 

1. Become familiar with the HOA restrictive covenants.
    • Is there any language that is specific to solar panels?  If so, are there certain restrictions or guidelines?  If not, is there language regarding maintaining neighborhood uniformity?
    • What is the HOA approval process for home improvements?  Can the HOA reject a proposal solely for aesthetics reasons?
2. Develop a proposal for the homeowner that addresses the possible HOA concerns.
      • If aesthetics and/or uniformity are a concern, consider: all black panels and/or careful placement of panels ( to make sure design layout is optimal from an aesthetics standpoint)
3. If you think immediate neighbors will be supportive, talk to the them so that this support can be included in a proposal letter to HOA. HOA boards may be fearful of backlash from neighbors, so if homeowner has spoken with them and has their support, this will be beneficial.

 

4. Find out what other neighborhoods nearby are doing with regards to solar.
    • Talk to other HOA’s in the area. Contact information for HOA presidents may be available from the city in which the neighborhood is in.  For example, the City of Powell, OH has a list of contact information for all 29 HOA’s in the city.
    • Are HOA’s in the area allowing solar? If not, what restrictions are in place?
    • Are there any solar homes in surrounding neighborhoods?
    • There is a chance that not many HOA’s will have experience dealing with solar. However, this also means that there is a high probability that no HOA’s in the area will be restricting solar.  This fact can be highlighted when the homeowner submits a solar proposal to the HOA.  If other nearby HOA’s are not restricting solar, this may influence the homeowner’s HOA to allow solar to go forward.

After submitting your solar proposal to your HOA:

After submitting proposal to homeowner, have the homeowner provide proposal along with a letter that he/she writes to the appropriate HOA architectural review person/committee, etc.

  • Points to consider including in this letter:
    • Reasons for wanting to go solar (electricity cost savings, making an investment in the home, environmental stewardship).
    • Make note of research showing substantial increase in home resale value for solar homes. This point is crucial, since the aesthetic concerns of HOA’s typically stem from concerns about neighborhood value.
    • Briefly show data regarding environmental benefits (i.e. emissions avoided: equivalent number of trees planted, pounds of coal avoided, miles driven by car avoided, etc.). Check out this EPA Calculator tool to do this.
    • Discuss any findings from talking to other HOA’s. Your proposal will be strengthened if the letter can state that “other nearby HOA’s are allowing solar” or “of the HOA’s I contacted, none have any restrictions on solar” .
    • Solar is becoming more common and widespread, so this is an opportunity for the neighborhood to set a precedent — with a reputable solar firm who will ensure the installation maintains the aesthetics of the neighborhood. In other words, present this as a chance for the HOA to set a high standard for solar in the neighborhood.
    • Consider proposing a set of solar guidelines that the HOA can use if desired. This may make it more palatable for the HOA to approve a solar installation if it knows that certain standards will have to be followed going forward.  The HOA may be ok with the solar proposal of the current homeowner with regard to aesthetics, etc., but is concerned that this will open the door to all types of solar installations that may not be done as well by other homeowners.  Northwest Solar Communities has developed residential solar guidelines that can be used as a template for HOA’s.  Guidelines may need to be modified somewhat – i.e. take out language regarding ground-mounted solar, etc.
    • Stress at the close of the letter the desire to work closely with the HOA.
    • Provide contact information for yourself and your Third Sun Solar Consultant for any questions.
  • Offer to present proposal to the architectural review committee/board.
    • Consider bringing in a panel to show, but know that it will look quite large up close compared to what it would look like on a roof from ground level. This may actually be more of a negative to show the panel up close.
    • In presentation, show photos of high quality residential installations. Your Solar Consultant would be happy to provide you with photos to use.

If your solar proposal is not accepted…

If HOA does not approve the solar proposal, homeowner may consider obtaining a supportive opinion letter form an attorney that addresses concerns brought up in the HOA restrictive covenants.

  • This letter can describe how the solar proposal is in line with the HOA restrictive covenants and can speak to specific concerns raised.
  • The point of the letter is not to appear as a threat of possible litigation against the HOA. Rather, it is to provide a supportive legal document to facilitate the HOA approving of solar.
  • Note: this step can be taken prior to initial submission of proposal to HOA, but will add to the total cost to the homeowner and possibly be an unnecessary one.
Homeowner may consider modification of HOA restrictive covenants.
    • Often this entails obtaining approval from 75% of homeowners in neighborhood.
    • One possible approach is to circulate petition in neighborhood for approval of solar guidelines (as mentioned above).
    • The HOA attorney will need to write an amendment to the restrictive covenant.
    • Prior to petitioning the neighborhood, send out email to neighborhood explaining the petition process and attach the proposed amendment, sample guidelines, etc.
    • Likely most successful approach is going door-to-door in order to facilitate in-person conversations.
    • Along with petition, take around copies of proposed amendment documentation, proposed solar guidelines, and rendition of homeowner’s house with panels.
    • If petition is successful, HOA board will need to formally adopt amendment to restrictive covenants, then submit documentation with county recorder.
    • Homeowner will now be able to resubmit solar proposal.