Solar panels: Buying vs. leasing

The pitfalls and clauses with solar panels.

Mike Moore has no regrets about converting to solar power. He leased the panels on his roof for no money down and saves almost $200 a month on his electric bill, but all is not well.

In order to fix a leak on his roof, the solar panels need to be taken down, stored, and later put back up.

It's a fairly simple job that should cost less than a thousand dollars. But Moore can't find a single local company that will do the work. 

"No one wants to work on panels that are leased by someone else," Moore said.

People lease solar systems because buying the system outright requires a lot of up-front costs. But experts at Consumer Reports say leasing is not such a bright idea for several reasons.

By leasing, experts say, "you miss out on any federal tax benefits and local incentives. Plus, people who lease save far less than those who buy their systems outright."

In fact, one analysis shows buying a solar system can save you as much as $60,000 over 20 years. But lease your system and your savings can drop to $20,000 over the same 20 years.

"Also, many leasing contracts contain something called an escalator clause, which means your payments go up every year, further reducing your savings," said Dan DiClerico, with Consumer Reports.

If you do buy, expect to pay 15 to 20 thousand dollars after tax credits, and you'll save 70 to 100 percent off your current electricity bill. Most systems pay for themselves in five to seven years.

And as Michael Moore found out, the real cost of leasing might be steeper than you expect. 

Complete Ratings and recommendations on all kinds of products, including appliances, cars and trucks, and electronic gear, are available on Consumer Reports’ website.

Copyright 2016 KPNX


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