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No. of Recommendations: 21
As an owner of solar panels for about ten years, my comments:

1) Ignore comments from folks who don't own panels. They're often guessing or just repeating rumors. A common one refers to washing the panels to remove dust/dirt -- a problem which simply doesn't exist unless you're in the most extreme areas (as otherwise rain'll do the job).

2) If the roof needs to be replaced (e.g., hail damage), they don't need to replace the area under the panels so there's no need to remove them. Those shingles were protected from not only the hail but also wear from the sun. [BTW, a reputable solar panel company will inspect your home and evaluate the shingles first, then give you an idea on the health of your roof before doing any work.

3) There are two ways to convert the DC output to the AC needed by your home. "In-line" converters allow you to monitor each panel individually and help in situations where one or more panels will be shaded in part or whole. A "central" converter will run the DC lines to a conversion box where the current from all the panels gets merged and converted. The latter is (or at least was at the time I put mine up) cheaper.

4) Nobody - and I mean NOBODY - can really do a complete financial analysis (payback period, ROI, etc.) as there are too many unknowns. This includes factors like: rebates; your utility's power costs; what/if you are paid for excess power; the residual value of the panels at the time of sale; the value associated with being able to sell your home faster.

5) Yes, you should notify your insurance company as you've just increased the value of your home.

6) Yes, technology is changing and there may be new and better panels at some TBD point in time. If you want to upgrade, everything is modular. They pop up the new panels and pop in a new one.

7) If the grid fails, you'll still be able to use the power from your panels and keep up *some* of your home. If you want full capability and the option of running through the night, you'll need to look in battery systems which are linked to the panels. These aren't cheap, but for some are a necessity.

8) Can your HOA keep you from putting up panels? It depends on city/state laws.

9) What happens if hail damages a panel? They pop it out and pop in another one. BTW, that's extremely unlikely as the panels are tested in a manner similar to that of hurricane-proof windows.

10) What maintenance will the panels need? In the ten years I've had my panels, there's been none on the panels themselves. There's a device which provides a live feed of their behavior and the history of performance to a website. Mine failed last year and was replaced.

11) Feds, states, counties, cities, and utilities may offer rebates, special loan programs, or tax credits. What you qualify for will depend on your actual street address -- not that of a neighbor or "somebody you know".

12) How do I know they'll work? Some companies are now using contracts which guarantee a specific level of power output as opposed to "we'll put up X number of panels, each of which...". I prefer the former -- but be sure to check the timer period that guarantee is good for.

13) You can, in some places, lease the panels. I've not done that or known anyone who has so I can't comment.

14) Will the added value of the panels increase your property taxes? Maybe -- it depends on where you live. For my home, all we had to do was fill a form out to get an exemption for them. The exemption lasts forever (at least as far as I know).

15) Warranties should be examined carefully. Typically, it's ten years for the panels, racks, wiring, and converter (central or in-line). The device I mentioned in #10 was NOT included, but they gave me a deep discount and free install (took maybe 15 minutes).

16) How long does an install take? That depends on the number of panels and the type of converter you use. Also - and this is VERY IMPORTANT - you'll need to have inspections by the city and/or the utility. You are subject to getting on that list.

17) Inspections and permits should be handled by the solar company and included as part of the price. If you're in a HOA, they should either do that for you either entirely or mostly.

18) There is a certain 'economy of scale' involved; once you're committed to putting up, say, ten panels then the following ones are less expensive because so much is already in place.

19) In addition to checking your shingles, the solar company will also go inside your attic and evaluate your structure.

Hope this helps!
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