Surely, you’ve seen all the advertisements for “free solar panels.” But can you really get free solar panels? Of course not. Come on, remember that adage: Nothing in life is free.
Chances are, if you’re hearing about no-cost solar programs, you’re either being tempted to sign a solar lease, a solar loan or a power purchase agreement. We talk about these options extensively further down in this guide.
While free solar panels are a lofty dream, solar can be affordable and it offers some phenomenal benefits for your home. If you’re curious about solar, you could take advantage of the many solar incentives that might be available to you.
But first, let’s talk about what companies mean when they talk about “free solar panels.”
Is “free solar panels” a sales pitch?
Pretty much. The “free solar panels” ads are commonly used to refer to solar leases or solar power purchase agreements (PPAs). This is a tactic used by companies to offer no upfront costs to install solar panels on your home.
Your savings will vary depending on your unique energy consumption, the location of your home and the specific policies that your utility company has in place. Many solar companies will also require that your solar energy system meets a minimum size.
But, solar panels are by no means “ free.” While you might be able to buy your solar panel system outright and save, there are other financing options that make solar panels more accessible. Let’s dive into a few ways you could go solar.
A solar loan, as you might have guessed, goes towards the purchase of a solar system for your home. Solar panel financing may allow you to defer the total upfront payment of a solar system, while giving you ownership of your system. You just pay it off in monthly installments with an applied interest rate.
However, since you are considered the owner of the system, you might be entitled to benefits, such as tax credits and rebates. More on that later.
Solar lease and power purchase agreements
The other option for financing your home solar system is with solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs). While these financing options are similar, the main difference between the two is how the monthly payments are calculated.
Solar PPA payments depend on how much energy your home solar panels generate. On the other hand, solar leases will have the same amount due every month, regardless of how much energy the solar panels generate.
However, the downside of these options is that you won’t own your solar energy system and there is no end date to the payments as long as you have a solar system. The upside: if you’re not eligible for the federal solar tax credit (or ITC), the cost of your solar system and the monthly payment could be reduced to include the ITC.*
So, can you get free solar panels from the government?
The simplest answer is that you cannot receive free solar panels from the government. However, you could save a lot of money by taking advantage of solar panel incentives that may be available to you, depending on where you live and your particular situation. Let’s run down the list of all the great options you have for going solar on a budget.
Federal solar incentives
The federal government has your back when investing in solar panels. The solar tax credit (ITC) was increased to 30% and extended for 10 years for the savvy homeowners who want to purchase solar panels for their home.
The ITC allows you to claim up to 30% of the total cost of your eligible solar energy system, including labor, equipment and even solar batteries, as a federal tax credit. And there’s even more good news — if you don’t use all of your tax credits in the first year, they’ll roll over to the next tax year.**
Find out all there is to know about this new law, and how clean energy is shaping the world around you.
State solar incentives
The federal solar tax credit is a great incentive available across the nation, but there are also state incentives that could help you with the cost of going solar.
These could be in the form of credits to your state taxes, or special rebates geared towards boosting clean energy in your state. Some states, such as Illinois and Virginia, offer solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) for each megawatt-hour of electricity generated from solar energy systems. SRECs allow electric companies to purchase the electricity your solar panels generate at a varying market value.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency is a great resource for sleuthing out specific incentives that apply to your state.
Or, you could just speak to a qualified Solar Energy Specialist to learn more about the opportunities you might have. During your free solar consultation, they’ll get into the specifics of your home energy consumption and make you aware of any incentives available to you. They can also provide recommendations on home energy efficiency audits and roof consultations.
If those incentives weren’t enticing enough, there may also be savings opportunities through your utility provider when you decide to go solar.
Net metering is an awesome program some utilities offer their customers. Net metering allows solar energy to reduce utility bills by giving you credit for exporting your solar energy to the grid. Contact your utility company to confirm that they offer a net metering program.***
While the size of your solar system will depend on the individual needs of your home, how much energy you consume and other factors, net metering is a great way to see monthly benefits of going solar.
Chat with a Solar Energy Specialist to understand more about this and other solar incentives.
Learn more about your solar financing options
When you hear about “free” solar panels, it might be hard to know where to start and who to trust. For over 145 years, homeowners have trusted ADT with their home security, and now you can trust us when choosing home solar.
We provide knowledgeable recommendations and guide you through the process of your solar installation. Our dedicated experts can explain all the benefits of solar based on your location, solar system size, and other factors. While we are not tax experts, we can help you understand the many advantages of going solar…and we like the truth around here so no, there’s no such thing as free solar panels. However, don’t forget that sunshine—the thing that powers your solar panels―is always free.
*Tax and credits or incentives including those provided by federal, state, or local governments may change or end. This can impact the amount of money you might save. Consult a tax professional to understand any tax liability or eligibility for any tax credits that may result from the purchase of your solar system.
**If you have taxable income and own the system, you may qualify for the federal investment tax credit (ITC). It is your responsibility to determine your eligibility and to apply. Consult a qualified tax professional for assistance and details.
*** Net metering and similar excess or buyback programs vary by location and utility provider and are subject to change. Rates may go up or down and the money you may save, if any, may vary. For more information about rates, contact your power company.