By Sam Wasson
Updated Oct 13, 2022
Solar panels are more affordable now than ever, with prices dropping by as much as 70% since 2014. On top of that, many states are now offering lucrative incentives for homeowners who go solar. As a result, renewable energy systems and solar panels are a viable option for many homeowners for the first time since their inception.
There are numerous amazing guides online about incentives, state tax rebates, and other important parts of solar panel installation. But, there are few that talk about the actual process of installing solar panels. One of the first and potentially most important questions most homeowners ask is, what is the right time to install solar panel systems? In this article, we’ll answer that question, look at the pros and cons of each season when installing solar panels, and answer some other common, related questions.
Like most home improvement projects, the season makes a huge difference in solar panel installations. Choosing the right season to install solar panels can affect everything from your wait time to installation costs and future utility bills. It may even impact the tax credits on your solar system.
The first and most obvious element seasonality will play in your solar installation is wait times. Solar companies are most busy during the height of summer, pushing more ads and doing the most installations and repairs during this time. As a result, you may wait several weeks before your solar energy system can be installed, even longer in high-traffic states like California, Texas, or Arizona.
Like moving companies, solar companies often charge increased installation fees during peak season. As a result, homeowners can save extra money by ordering their installation during the off-season of early fall to early spring.
If you live in a state with an SREC or net metering program, you can massively benefit from exposing your solar panels to as much sun as possible before the winter months kick in. The benefit comes from the sunlight hitting your panels, as the more they are exposed, the more electricity they produce. By producing more electricity than your house consumes, you can sell the remainder back to your utility company for solar credits. These credits can be used later on, during months with less sunlight, to reduce the cost of your energy bill. By installing solar panels in the spring or at the beginning of summer, you can begin stockpiling solar credits early to offset the coming winter months.
The Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), state tax incentive, and tax rebate programs have rollover and cut-off dates, most of which occur at the end of the year. If you install your solar panels too late, you may be ineligible for certain incentives, or incentive programs will change their rates for the new year. If you want to get the most out of your solar panel system, you’ll want to install it before the year ends to maximize the amount you get from solar incentives and federal tax credit programs.
The best season to install solar panels will change depending on what you want out of the installation. Each season has its benefits and drawbacks, with none being a perfect fit for all homeowners.
Spring offers several benefits over the other seasons. Its mild temperatures make it one of the most comfortable and economic seasons for solar installation. During a solar panel installation, elements of your electrical system may need to be replaced, such as meters or electrical panels. These replacements can result in your home being without power for a day or so, and the mild spring temperatures make this process much more bearable.
It may take some time for the logistics of the installation to complete. This process typically involves representatives from the utility company or local government inspecting your property and the installation itself. This inspection can take some time if your local agencies or utility companies are busy or not expedient. The downtime can result in you paying more on your bill by relying on local electricity. Thankfully the cool temperatures of the summer offset this.
The last major benefit of a spring installation is that it allows you to prepare everything for the bright summer sunshine, making it a highly efficient season for installations.
Summer is the most popular season for the solar industry, and there are plenty of reasons for this. First off, summer is when solar companies advertise their services the most, creating sensation and awareness of their products and local incentives. Summer is also when solar panels are the most efficient, resulting in solar panels getting immediate value for homeowners. Having your home solar system installed in the summer offsets the energy your house consumes on air conditioning, creating even further financial savings.
Summer has some downsides, namely long wait times, intense heat, and higher prices on installation fees. Since solar companies are at their busiest, you may have to wait one or more weeks to be seen.
Fall has many of the same benefits as spring, such as cooler temperatures, less expensive installation fees, and lower wait times. Fall installations typically have a faster turnaround time than spring and summer, as fewer homeowners invest in solar during this season. While spring is still slower than summer, fall is the slowest season of the three, resulting in the lowest wait times and the fastest turnover times.
One additional advantage to fall is that it’s far more efficient for absorbing solar energy than most homeowners assume. Most solar energy is generated using photovoltaic panels (PV panels) or solar thermal systems. Most rooftop solar panels are photovoltaic, and this system uses light, not heat, to produce electricity. While the summertime undoubtedly has longer days and more sunlight, autumn produces plenty of sunshine. Furthermore, PV panels are more efficient in cold weather, losing efficiency in extreme heat. As a result, solar panels still possess a greater energy efficiency during the fall, allowing you to stockpile credits for the coming winter, which is the least efficient season for solar panels.
Finally, fall is typically your last season to install solar panels before incentives roll over into the next year, potentially ending or experiencing rate changes.
Winter, unfortunately, is the least optimal time of the year to schedule a solar panel installation. While you get the cheaper rates and faster installation times of the fall months, you’ll produce far less electricity until the spring rolls around. You’ll also have to do preliminary maintenance to prepare your roof, namely removing snow and ice and prepping your shingles. You’ll have to double-check your paperwork, as filing for incentives can be complicated when doing so during a rollover period. These factors make winter a less than optimal time to install solar panels.
Overall, there is no bad time to install solar power systems, as you’ll be making a major step toward paying lower electricity bills, producing clean energy, and improving the value of your home. But, there are times throughout the year that instillations are less optimal. The winter months are the worst for solar installations, but it depends on your preferences for the rest of the year. If you don’t mind longer wait times and slightly higher installation fees and prefer to start bankrolling solar credits right away, you’ll want to install solar panels during the summer. But if you’re looking for shorter installation times and lower fees, you should wait for the spring or fall.
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