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Congratulations! You’ve already avoided the biggest mistake a homeowner can make when considering home improvements—NOT RESEARCHING FIRST!

Hopefully, you’re giving yourself a pat on the back, and if not, you really ought to as consumer empowerment is everything nowadays.

Remember all the hassle you went through when buying your home? Fortunately, going solar is nowhere near as complicated. In fact, it’s one of the smartest and easiest decisions you’ll ever make if you’re looking to reduce utility bills and do right by the environment. That said, even the savviest solar shoppers can make mistakes. So to help you along your solar journey, we’ve put together a list of the five biggest mistakes people make when buying solar panels.

They miss out on rebates

Have you ever purchased an item only to see it selling for a fraction of the cost you paid later on? Talk about buyer’s remorse!

Although the cost of going solar continues to drop year over year (nearly 70% since 2006), it’s actually in your best interest to go solar sooner rather than later. Sure, you might be able to get slightly more efficient panels in a few years, but you’ll possibly be missing out on very generous rebates. Currently, there is a variety of federal, state and local solar incentives available that can make going solar significantly more affordable, but they won’t be around forever.

Take Central Texas, for instance. A homeowner looking to buy solar panels can apply for rebates of up to $2,500 through their municipal utility, Austin Energy. However, this incentive is gradually being stepped downand will go to $0 in the future.

If you have any solar incentives like this in your area, don’t delay in getting a solar quote! Your solar company will help you fill out the necessary applications, but you should still allow plenty of time to ensure you meet all the requirements.

They don’t get multiple quotes

It’s sad to think that there are still salespeople who don’t have a customer’s best interests at heart, but that’s the world in which we live, unfortunately. To protect yourself from predatory solar companies, it’s an absolute must that you shop around and get several offers, but be careful not to get hung up solely on price. When researching a particular company, expertise and experience should be a key deciding factor. A super low price may also mean cheap parts are being used to install your system. Go with name brand parts to ensure high production and low failure rates .

At the bare minimum, you’ll want to choose a reputable company certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This certification is the “gold standard” consumers need to look for to ensure they’re working with solar PV professionals.

They don’t fully understand the solar tax credit. 

Christmas came early to the solar industry last year when Congress extended the 30% federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for qualified solar installations. Previously this powerful incentive was set to expire at the end of 2016, leading to a tremendous surge of customers looking to get their systems installed before the deadline.

Fortunately, the solar credit has been extended another five years, making solar significantly more affordable for homeowners and business owners across the country. Unfortunately, many consumers do not consult with a tax or financial advisor before they decide to go solar and end up missing out on the full value of the credit.

Solar companies generally aren’t in the tax business, so it’s crucial you check with the proper professionals before making any sort of decision. That being said, we can give you a general overview of some of the biggest misconceptions around the solar tax credit.

Firstly, the Investment Tax Credit—as its name implys—is a credit, not a rebate. The federal government is not going to write you a check for 30% of your systems’ post-rebate value. Instead, the credit may be used to reduce a homeowner’s tax liability. So, in order to use the credit, you have to owe something in taxes. Don’t worryyou can defer the remaining credit to the next year if you don’t have enough of a tax liability (ex. if you owe $2,000 in taxes, and your credit is worth $7,000, you could use the remaining $5,000 the next year).

Secondly, the first year you can claim the solar tax credit is the year in which is officially ‘live.’ So if you decide to go solar in November 2018,  and the installation isn’t completed until February 2019, you wouldn’t be able to claim the solar tax credit until 2020 ! Talk to your tax professional for guidance on your unique situation.

There are a couple of benefits to making these changes before you go solar. For one thing, you’ll be using less electricity and won’t need to offset as much with a larger system. Additionally, improving the energy efficiency of our homes and buildings goes a long way in lowering our collective carbon footprint and making our world a greener, healthier place to live.

…and who can argue with that?

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