Sure, financing your solar panels is always an option, but if you want to take advantage of those tax incentives, buying your solar panels is the way to go.

So what's the secret to cutting your solar installation costs?

No, we're not talking about doing the installation yourself and taking the hands-on approach just to save money.

After all, we've seen plenty of fails when it comes to solar panel home installation. Trust us; this is one home improvement project that's best left to the experts.

However, it's exactly this expertise that you're going to pay for - and that's what's going to drive up the price of your solar installation.

That's why today we're going to talk about our favorite solar roof hacks that will save you money to help offset some of those expenses.

A few of these hacks will cut costs on the initial installation, while others are designed to stash cash over the long run. All of them are worth your time to check out.

Before You Switch to Solar, Check Out These Hacks

backyard sundial

Hack #1: Track the Amount of Sun Your House Gets Before Installing Your Panels

Solar energy is so affordable right now - and the incentives make it so worthwhile financially - that you may want to breeze through the solar energy basics and just install the biggest (or cheapest) system, you can find.

It's a good thing we're here to tell you that's a terrible idea.

Before jumping into this huge financial commitment, it's important to do the right research. Your first order of business should be calling in an expert to track how much sun your house actually (read: scientifically) receives during the day.

We usually think of sunny states such as Arizona, California, and Hawaii as models for solar energy working in the real world. But the truth is, you don't need to live in a super sunny state to generate energy for your solar panels. Solar panels work just as efficiently in states and countries that have less than 2,000 hours of sun per year as they do in sun-soaked states.

The only way to know if your house gets enough usable sunlight is to check with an expert.

Keep in mind when tracking that it's important to measure how much sun you're getting and when it's being produced. You'll reap the largest benefits when you capture the sun's energy during peak hours (we'll go over this shortly).

If your house doesn't get enough sunlight, you won't be producing enough solar energy for your system to be worth the cost or effort. This is the worst-case scenario as you may ultimately sink your initial investment and never recover those losses.

Of course, an expert can track your sun exposure before you have to lay out any cash for an installation.

You may be tempted to skip this step, but think of it this way: The most you'll be out of pocket is the cost of the testing, which is not much. This is way cheaper than paying for the entire cost of the installation, on top of missing out on the savings you hoped to see each month if your solar panels aren't right for your property.

Check with an expert beforehand and you'll be in good shape.

Hack #2: Calculate Your Planned Demand, Not Just What You're Currently Using

electric meter

While you have the technician or solar installation company you hired for our first hack on your property, make sure to discuss your projected energy usage in real numbers.

You probably have an understanding of how much electricity your home is currently using and costing you. But it's important to gauge what your projected costs will be when you make the switch to solar.

To make your solar panels as cost-effective over time as possible, you want to ensure your monthly savings help cover the price of installation.

For example, if your installation costs $10,000 and you save $100 with your panels every month, it will only take a little over 8 years for your monthly savings to pay off the cost of installation. Then it's like having "free" solar energy because those savings will go directly in your pocket instead of towards paying down your installation.

The average family uses 911-kilowatt hours (kWh) every month, but your number could be higher or lower.

Bigger households with several young children use more electricity than a single person in a small home who works or travels most of the time.

Because the large family uses more electricity and spends more for electricity, switching to solar may save them more money than someone who already has relatively low electricity bills.

If you don't generate as much solar power as your home demands, you could wind up installing solar panels and still buying the bulk of your energy from the electric company.

Your monthly savings depends on your projected use of electricity. Your solar energy technician will be more than happy to go over this with you.

Hack #3: Understand Your Electric Company's Rates

Knowing how your electricity is billed means you'll have a better understanding of how much money solar panels will be able to save you.
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On top of projecting your usage, it's important to understand how your utility company charges you for electricity.

Some companies use a tier-based system where your costs increase along with power usage. If your household is consuming more than the average amount of electricity, you'll be placed in a higher, more expensive tier.

If you don't use much energy, your rates will be cheaper.

The good news? When you switch to solar, you can say goodbye to those high-priced tiers because you'll be generating energy to offset your consumption. Someone in the highest energy level will actually see the most savings overall.

Other electric companies charge different rates for electricity consumption during various parts of the day. For example, the national average cost of electricity is 12.58 cents per kilowatt. Your electric company may charge a lower rate during times of low demand and a higher rate during busy times or only charge you the average between the two.

Knowing how your electricity is billed means you'll have a better understanding of how much money solar panels will be able to save you.

For example, paying for 911 kWh (average monthly home energy consumption) at 12.58 cents per kilowatt (national average cost of electricity) means that the average electricity bill is over $114 every month.

Installing a solar energy system that generates the majority of these kilowatt hours for you is the key to saving money every month.

Speak with your electric company to see how your household stacks up in this area. You may find that solar is the cheaper route to take for your family.

Hack #4: The Type of Roof You Have Could Increase Costs by 10-25%

tile roof

Not all rooftops are considered equal in the solar panel world.

As a general rule, it's easier to install solar panels on traditional asphalt style shingled roofs or metal ones such as aluminum or steel. These surfaces are smooth and durable, making it easier to attach the solar panels without any extra costs.

On the other hand, it's more of a challenge when your home has a roof with smaller, individual tiles such as shake or Spanish tile. With these styles, solar installers have to be careful about where they place the panels since these types of tiles are much more prone to breaking and cracking.

With tile roofs, you'll pay about 10-25% more. It will take more time to make sure your roof can support the panels instead of damaging them. As a result, you'll be on the hook for paying for the extra man hours.

If you want to avoid these additional charges, you may want to consider another roof on your property, such as a standalone garage or large shed, to hold your solar panels.

As long as this rooftop grabs enough of the sun's rays and can support the panels, you can enjoy the benefits of solar energy without worrying about destroying your expensive roof tiles or paying extra for installation.

Hack #5: Hate the Bulky Panels? Try Solar Shingles Instead

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If the thought of big, bulky solar panels sitting on your roof sounds about as appealing as an old avocado-colored refrigerator in your kitchen, fear not.

Take a look at the latest solar shingles to hit the market.

Similar to an asphalt shingle, these cleverly designed "shingles" are actually small solar panels!

Solar shingles are made of extremely durable silicon - the same material the thicker panels are often made of - so you'll see the same electricity savings.

These shingles will actually protect your roof from sun or other weather-related damage. They're just as strong as traditional solar panels, and are able to withstand bad hail, rain, snow, wind storms, and whatever else Mother Nature throws at them.

Concerned about your home's curb appeal? Solar shingles blend right in with your existing roof; your neighbors may not even notice them!

So how do you know if solar panels or solar shingles are right for you?

Well, that depends on your current roof.

Solar shingles cannot be re-positioned like a panel can, so if your roof is facing the wrong direction for maximum energy generation, shingles will not be the best choice for your property, no matter how attractive they are.

Then there's the price. Solar shingles are fairly new, so they tend to be more expensive than traditional solar panels. You may have a hard time finding solar energy companies in your area that even offer these as an option.

Hack #6: How to Produce 49% More Energy During Peak Times

sun shine

Peak energy consumption time is usually between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on weekdays. This is when the energy demand from consumers on the electricity grid is at its highest, and also when energy is the most expensive.

But while everyone else on the grid is busy consuming high amounts of energy, you'll be producing energy to offset your usage, as long as you know how to position your panels for the strongest part of the sun's day.

It turns out that pointing your panels south might make the most sense, but it's actually more efficient to create a west facing system.

When your panels face west instead of south, you'll be capturing the sun's rays and generating power during the peak hours of the afternoon and early evening - exactly when energy demands on the grid are highest.

How much more electricity are we talking about?

According to the research conducted by a team at Pecan Street Research Institution, "west facing systems produce 49% more electricity during the peak demand hours of the summer months than a south facing system."

This not only helps your home consume less energy from the electric company, but it also affects the grid as a whole since you'll be putting "less strain on electricity distribution systems," the Pecan Street Research team says.

It's a win-win for everyone (but mostly you; we'll explain more in hack #8).

Hack #7: Maximize Your State's Solar Incentives

Thanks to the government incentives, solar energy is especially attractive right now. Current federal and state regulations have made it easier and more affordable for families to switch to renewable solar energy.

Which is exactly why you need to take advantage of these incentives to help lower the cost of your solar panel installation.

Every state has policies and incentives for solar energy, but these programs differ by state and can even vary between companies within the same state.

You'll need to do your homework to find out which rebates or incentives your home qualifies for.

To get started, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's website to see what's available in your area. Once you get to the site, just plug in your zip code and a list of incentives will pop up.

You'll see all the financial incentives and regulatory policies for your area, such as:

  • Personal tax exemptions
  • Sales tax incentives
  • Rebate programs
  • Loan/Grant programs
  • Net-metering rates

Scroll through these programs and look for anything connected to solar energy. Click the links and read about the qualifications for the offers. If one seems like it could work for you and your property, just follow the instructions and apply for it.

Easy, right?

Now that we've covered what you need to know before you switch to solar energy, let's discuss how you could be saving, even more money once your panels are up and running.

How to Save Money Once Your Solar Panels are Installed

Free eBook: Solar Homeowner's Guide (2016)
How To "Rent Your Roof" And Cut Your Electricity Bill In Half

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Hack #8: Connect to the Power Grid & Earn a Credit Every Month on Your Electricity Bill

power lines

Remember when we talked about how to generate the most electricity during the energy company's busiest time of the day?

The only way to truly reap the benefits of that is to stay connected to your utility company's power grid. By doing this, you'll be able to send all of your excess solar-generated energy back to the grid.

Now you may be thinking, Why would I send my hard-earned solar energy to the electric company?

The answer is simple: Because they will buy this energy back from you in the form of an energy credit on your electricity bill every month.

You're actually helping the electricity company out with your solar panels. Obviously, your home will get first dibs on the electricity your solar panels create, but when your home can't use any more electricity, the electric company will be more than happy to take your excess energy off your hands.

Instead of them having to work harder to supply their consumers with energy, they're just going to take your solar energy and share it with the other homes on the power grid in your area.

This practice is known as net-metering because you'll only be paying for the net amount of electricity your home uses for the month. We discussed this concept in the article we mentioned earlier if you really want to learn the details (ps: you should!).

Basically, when you go solar, you have an electric meter that works both ways. Instead of your electric company coming by to record just your energy usage for the month, they'll also be writing down how much energy you've given back to the grid as well.

In return, you'll only pay for the net electricity you use. This means you'll pay for what you've used, and you'll also receive credit for what you created.

The more electricity you give to the electric company, the higher your savings. Now you see why it's so important to produce as much energy as you can during peak hours - you'll start to see the savings add up.

All you have to do is generate more electricity than you're buying from the electric company. Positioning your panels west-facing will help you do just that.

Hack #9: Apply for the Federal Tax Credit

Besides stacking up the incentives and rebates your state has to offer, don't forget to apply for the best solar credit of them all: the Solar Investment Tax Credit, or ITC for short.

This federal credit is available in all states and applies to anyone who installs solar energy on their residential or commercial property. It's worth 30% of your solar installation.

Here's how much you could save on your solar panel installation with this credit alone:

If your new solar energy system costs $20,000 to install, you'll receive a $6,000 credit towards your income taxes for that year (30% of $20,000).

Not too shabby!

There is one caveat to this tax credit, though: you have to own your solar panels in order to be eligible. That means you won't be able to receive this credit if you lease your solar panels.

Hack #10: It Pays to Protect Your Panels

hurricane wind

Your solar panels can usually take care of themselves. Since they lack moving parts, they're not prone to breakdowns and they don't require maintenance like your other expensive appliances will need over time.

However, that doesn't mean you should leave your solar panels out to fend for themselves. After all, they're a very expensive investment that you need to hang on to for as long as you can if you want to see the biggest return on your investment.

Since solar panels are still susceptible to unfortunate situations such as natural disasters and unforeseen catastrophes, it only makes sense to cover them with your homeowner's insurance policy.

We never like to think about these mishaps, but what happens if a tree falls on your roof during a severe storm and takes your whole solar panel with it?

For less than $10-$20 a month, you can protect your investment from these types of situations and save yourself thousands of dollars if something does happen.

Find out what it costs to cover your solar panels and make sure you understand precisely what kinds of incidents the coverage protects.

Going solar doesn't have to be super expensive. There are tons of resources to help cut the costs of your installation and even save you money every month.

But these discounts and savings are going to cost you in leg work. You'll have to do your homework and plan out your financial strategy to go solar.

Learn how to read and understand your electric company's billing and rates, position your solar panels to soak up the sun during hours of peak energy consumption, and apply for every federal and state incentive you can find.

You're up for the task of saving all this money, right?

Just keep these 10 money-saving solar hacks in mind and you'll be well on your way to seeing the tangible cost savings of switching to solar in no time.

To learn more or get a free, no-obligation quote, simply enter your name and email address in the box below and someone from our team will contact you promptly.

Free eBook: Solar Homeowner's Guide (2016)
How To "Rent Your Roof" And Cut Your Electricity Bill In Half

Your information is 100% secure with us and we will never share it with anyone.

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