How Can I Get Free Solar Panels?

Solar panels are expensive. What if there was a way to get free solar panels? Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about getting free solar panels.

Free Solar Panels Don’t Exist

The most important thing you need to know about free solar panels is that there’s no such thing as free solar panels. They do not exist. A company is not going to give you free solar panels and expect nothing in return. Unless you inherit solar panels from a relative that passed away, you’re not going to get free solar panels.

Now that you understand that, we can start looking at ways to get solar panels without paying anything today.

Free and Cheap Solar Panels Through Government Programs

The US government has never given away free solar panels. They have also never provided a 100% rebate on solar panels. If you’re looking for free solar panels through government tax credits or incentives in the United States, you’re going to be disappointed.

The US government does currently have a solar energy installation incentive program, where you can get a 30% discount on your PV system. It’s called the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit, and it’s available on solar panels installed since 2006. The credit was originally scheduled to expire in 2016, but was extended specifically for solar energy systems. The 30% discount is in place until 2019, and will drop to 26% before the end of 2012, and to 22% before the end of 2022.

You can learn more about the US government’s 30% solar energy system rebate at Energy.gov here.

Meanwhile, most states have tax credits and incentive programs in place to encourage the use of renewable energy. By taking advantage of these programs, you can drop the cost of solar panels even further.

Get Free Solar Panels By Selling Energy Back to the Grid

A number of states in America, and a number of countries around the world, let you sell solar energy back to the grid. This means that the electrical company could pay you for the energy you produce. At the very least, it means your electricity bill will show up as “0” every month.

This is one of the best ways to get free solar panels. Sure, you might still pay $12,000 upfront for your PV system. But when you consider the long-term cost savings, you’re effectively getting free solar panels.

Do the math on your solar panel system. It might only take a few years for your solar energy system to pay for itself.

In total, 41 states offer net metering, which means you can sell energy back to the grid. These states allow homeowners to sell energy produced by solar panels, natural gas micro-turbines, methane digesters, and wind generators back to the grid. To view an updated list of states with net metering policies, visit NCSL.org here.

How Can My Local Solar Company Offer Free Solar Panels?

We’ve already told you that free solar panels don’t exist. So why do you see local installation companies advertising free solar panels? Why are their solar panels free?

These solar panels aren’t really “free”. However, you may not pay an upfront installation cost for the solar panels – which is why companies can advertise the panels as free.

Obviously, there’s a big catch to these “free” solar panels. Typically, these solar panels are part of solar leases and power purchase agreements. The company will install solar panels on your roof at no cost to you. That sounds great! You get a complete solar panel system without needing to pay $15,000 upfront.

However, the catch is that you don’t technically own the solar energy system on your home, and the solar energy produced by the panels isn’t free. When you sign one of these lease agreements, you’re agreeing to buy energy from the solar panel company for a fixed number of years.

In layman’s terms, the company has built a small power plant on your roof, and is selling you the electricity.

With leases and power purchase agreements, you may be locked into a contract for 15 or 20 years. This contract is part of your home. When you sell the home, you’ll need to either break your contract or convince the new homeowner to take over the existing solar panel lease.

If you do make it to the end of your lease, you still won’t own the solar panels. At the end of your lease, you’ll have the option of buying the “free” solar panels from the company. So you got free solar panels today, but you paid $10,000 to the company for electricity over the years, and then an additional $15,000 to buy the solar panels at the end of the lease.

Ultimately, the solar panel company makes more money over the course of the lease than they originally spent on installation. You get free solar panels today, but you’re going to pay more for the solar panels in the long run – and you never actually own the solar panels.

Consider a Solar Loan Instead of a Solar Lease

Solar leases aren’t usually a good option. You spend more money over the course of the lease and you never actually own the solar panels (unless you want to buy the solar panels at the end of your lease).

However, companies do provide solar loans. Solar loans are often a better deal. They let you pay for your solar panel system upfront – even if you don’t have $15,000 cash lying around. Many of these lenders even provide zero-down offers or zero interest for a set period.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do when searching for free solar panels is to shop around. There are dozens of solar panel installers servicing your area. They’ll try to attract customers just like you with offers of free solar panels and other incentives. Make sure you know the “catch” behind your free solar panels, and you should be able to get a great deal.

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