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Going solar? Choose your provider carefully, experts say

There are pitfalls to going solar, so be

There are pitfalls to going solar, so be aware of the problems before you update your heating system. Photo Credit: Bloomberg News / Patrick T. Fallon

Research by the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators found that complaints about solar energy sales and leases are an issue to watch and one that could increase as the industry grows.

Many Long Islanders have gone solar; if you’re thinking of joining them, here’s what you need to know.

To lease or buy? “Over the lifetime of the system, savings are greater if you buy, rather than rent,” says Dan Chorost, a partner with Sive, Paget & Riesel, an environmental law firm in Manhattan. Buying can require a large upfront payment, typically between $25,000 and $45,000, but it doesn’t have to. “There are low-interest options for borrowing,” Chorost says.

If you buy, the tax savings can be significant: a 30 percent federal tax credit and a 25 percent state tax credit — up to $5,000. Also, “the increased value that your solar panels add to your home is 100 percent exempt from property taxes,” says Sarah Hancock, a solar industry expert with BestCompany.com.

If you lease, be wary if a company requires a lot of money upfront; it’s most likely a scam. “Many companies offer $0 down leases,” Hancock says.

Be aware that a solar lease can tie up a home sale. You can get stuck paying the full cost of the system if the new buyer doesn’t want it.

How much might you save? With a 5-kilowatt solar energy system, a New York resident could save $25,000 over the next 25 years by purchasing solar panels and $10,000 over the next 20 years by leasing. Savings depend upon system size, energy use and other factors.

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