We are seeing more and more home builders offer solar electric panels. For many years home builders have offered upgrades like swimming pools, outdoor living spaces, and improved finishes. And for many years pool builders have offered solar pool heating panels. Recently savvy builders have added solar electric panels to their offerings to meet demands from progressive home buyers. In fact, some communities like Mirada in Fort Myers have solar panels on every home. And Babcock Ranch is billing itself as the first solar city.
But should you buy solar panels from your home builder, or install them after the home is built?
The decision is much like that of a swimming pool or any other upgrade. There are advantages and disadvantages to either choice. Here are some of the big ones:
Advantages of Buying Solar Panels From Your Builder
- You can potentially roll in the cost of solar panels to your mortgage.
- Your builder should assure a level of good workmanship and provide a warranty.
- You may be able to hide wiring inside of walls easier than with a retrofit.
- The solar subcontractor will be vetted by your builder.
- The cost will be predetermined and fixed.
- You will have a single point of contact for construction.
Disadvantages of Buying Solar Panels from Your Builder
- It will almost invariably cost more since the builder will likely charge a markup for managing the project.
- You may be getting the lowest bidder as the solar contractor, not necessarily the quality leader.
- Some builders use third-party finance companies that require you to enter into a long-term lease or separate loan arrangement.
- The builder normally gets the tax credit incentives and does not necessarily pass these savings on to you.
- Packages may be cookie-cutter and not tailored to your needs and wants.
- The technology used may be selected based primarily on cost rather than the features you may want.
- You won’t establish a working relationship with your solar professional.
We are pretty indifferent because we work for home builders and end consumers. We prefer to establish direct relationships with clients, but we recognize the advantages of going with the builder. Sometimes the peace of mind and a single point of contact are enough reason to do so for some people.
The solar contracting industry is built largely on retrofit products and methods since there are far more existing homes than new ones. Even in new homes, we are often the last trade in to do our work, which is similar to retrofit work anyway. There is little technical advantage, if any, to installing solar concurrently with the new home build.
Whether you choose your builders solar panel package or contract directly with a solar contractor, it’s easy to “go solar” today. Now that you are aware of the pros and cons you can make a decision that is right for you and your family.