What to Expect From a Solar Consultation
Last Updated January 31, 2024
By Michael Jones
Michael literally wrote the book on solar (it’s called The Homeowners’ Guide to Going Solar) and has been a solar consultant for over four years.
For the vast majority of Cape Cod homeowners, the first step in getting panels on the roof is scheduling a solar consultation with a representative of a local solar company.
The truth is, lots of people who believe they’re ready for a solar consultation are not. I’ve spent countless hours talking with people who are only just beginning their journey, still in the information gathering stage, and nowhere near ready to get down to the nitty gritty of site surveys, home upgrades, credit checks and tax incentives.
In this post, I’m going to explain how you know if you’re ready for a solar consultation. I’ll help you to understand just where you are on your own solar journey. Plus, you’ll gain a much clearer picture of what to expect at a solar consultation so there won’t be any surprises if and when you decide to schedule one.
Your House Has to Qualify for Solar
Despite what many think, solar isn’t for everyone. And that’s not just a tactic solar reps use to create a false sense of urgency. It really is true.
We at Cape Cod Solar Guys will pull out all the stops to help get you qualified, but sometimes it just can’t be done – some projects are just never going to get off the ground. So understanding how you qualify is key before booking a solar consultation.
You’ve got four main criteria to meet; nail the first two and you’re golden—these are critical. The last two? We might have some wiggle room there.
You Must Own the Home
No matter if you’re looking to buy, lease, finance, or sign a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), you do have to own the property. You’ve got to be listed as the owner on title. If that’s your spouse and not you, then your spouse needs to be in agreement with switching to solar and must also be willing to join the meeting.
I had one couple in Harwich where the husband was quite keen on the idea. He wanted to buy the system and planned to take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to pay for it. Trouble was that it was his wife, not him, who was on title.
Not only was he unable to secure the HELOC, but the solar company wouldn’t allow him to sign the customer agreement. And when I stopped by the house to talk to the wife, she had no idea what I was talking about. He hadn’t even spoken to her about going solar.
You have to own the property you wish to install solar panels on. So let’s not set up a solar consultation unless you do.
And renters should make sure their landlord is on board with going solar and is also available to attend the meeting before they set up a solar consultation.
You Need to Have a Good Credit Score
The solar company you choose to work with is likely to check your credit, whether you opt for a lease, Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), or if you’re financing the purchase. Some might check it even if you’re paying cash. A FICO score of 650 or more usually does the trick; but the threshold varies depending on the company. If needed, some companies let a spouse or domestic partner with better credit co-sign.
Typically, it’s just a soft inquiry which means that the inquiry itself won’t ding your credit. But if you suspect that neither of your scores is quite up to par yet, consider waiting to schedule that solar consultation until at least one of them improves.
You Need to Get Plenty of Sun
It’s no secret that solar panels need good sunlight to work their magic – I usually say about 700 hours of sun hours is the starting point. Most folks don’t have exact figures on how much sun their roof gets, but it’s often clear if your place basks in sunshine or hides in the shade.
Now, if there’s a towering 80-foot oak tree throwing shade all over your house, and it holds sentimental value because your great grandpa planted it years ago, we might not want to go further. It saves us both time.
But if you’re open to clearing some trees away, solar companies sometimes help out with costs. Shade doesn’t always mean game over. Just be sure you’ve thought about what you’re ready to do to tackle any shady spots before booking that solar consultation.
Your House Needs to be Ready for Solar
Just like with shade, the need for home improvements doesn’t automatically rule out solar. Say your electrical panel is outdated or you need roof repairs – some solar companies might help out with the costs.
However, if you’re looking at both an old panel and roof plus clearing out a bunch of trees, things can get tricky unless you’re prepared to handle part of the costs yourself. If your place needs significant upgrades and you aren’t ready to pay at least some expenses upfront or include them in your solar financing plan, it may be best to hold off on arranging that solar consultation.
Another Useful Post: Can I Get a New Roof With Solar Panels?
As a solar consultant by trade, I can be quite persuasive. And honestly, if your home is right for solar power, the incentive programs are so good that they’re usually an easy pitch.
But let’s be real—if your other half is totally against even thinking about going solar —like absolutely not happening—I wouldn’t want to be the reason you end up sleeping on the sofa for bringing a “damn solar rep” into the home.
It’s crucial that both partners are on board, and I always insist that both make themselves available for our consultation. In our line of work, we have a nickname for appointments with just one spouse. We call them “one-leggers,” and trust me, they don’t often turn out well.
What happens is that one partner ends up giving a poor rundown of what was discussed, leading their partner to flat-out refuse without truly grasping what they could gain from going solar.
Let’s aim to have everyone involved show up before we schedule your solar consultation.
We’ll Need to See Your Power Bill
Every now and then, I’ll have a customer who expects me to travel for hours just to see them but hesitates when it comes to sharing their power bill. They might worry about identity theft or something—though there’s nothing on that bill that could let anyone do that.
The bottom line is this: without your power bill, I’m stuck. It really is as straightforward as that. Here are the three must-know reasons why your bill is key:
- It shows how much electricity you use. This minor detail lets me figure out the number of panels we’ll need for your home. Without it, how can I give you an accurate quote?
- It tells me what you pay for electricity currently. Selling solar doesn’t make sense unless it cuts down on costs. And in some cases, my hands are tied. I literally can’t help you to go solar if it won’t save you money.
- Your utility company needs certain details from the bill before giving green light for going solar – like account numbers or meter numbers only found on your statement.
For these and other reasons, we’re going to ask for a power bill before we can run a design. And without that design, there’s not much point in us having a solar consultation.
What to Expect from a Solar Consultation
Assuming you meet all the criteria above and we’re able to set up a solar consultation, here’s what you can expect to happen once we sit down together.
Typically, it all starts with a quick 10-or-15-minute phone call. Either Rick or Michael will chat with you to get a sense of where you are in the solar journey and ask a few basic questions about your home, your present and future electricity usage and what it is you’re looking to do.
That phone conversation will generally lead to two things happening:
- The scheduling of an in-home visit
- You sending us a power bill
When the Cape Cod Solar Guys visit your home, our emphasis is on education rather than on simply closing the deal. Solar can be confusing, so our first priority is to focus on:
- Teaching you how to read your bill
- Running through the various programs on offer
- Explaining the tax and other incentives that may be available to you
We’ll also have a preliminary design to share with you. It’ll show where we can place panels, how much of your usage a solar system could potentially generate and, most importantly, how much money going solar could possibly save you.
While we don’t make the final decision on whether your house will qualify, a quick look at the electrical panel, the roof and any nearby trees will at least give us a heads up for any obvious issues that might come up at the site survey.
If you’re ready to move on to the next step (and it is just the next step), we can guide you through the application process and schedule the site survey.
Let’s Set Up a Solar Consultation
If you’ve gone through this post and feel that you’re ready for a solar consultation, just click on the link below to set up a preliminary phone call. We’ll ask a few basic questions that will arm us both with enough info to kick things off.
We’re genuinely excited to sit down with you. We’re here to guide you and there certainly won’t be any pushy sales tactics. Just clear explanations of how all this solar stuff works.
Expert guidance, with no pressure. What have you got to lose?
If you’d like an informative, no-pressure chat with either of the Cape Cod Solar Guys, you can contact us here.
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