What To Expect When You Get a Home Solar Audit

Powering your home with solar energy can be an effective way to cut down on household utility bills. In some cases, it may be possible to generate more power than your home needs. In such a scenario, you can sell the excess power back to the power company for a profit. Of course, before you can install solar panels or other equipment on your home, you must first go through a home solar audit. 

The Purpose of an Audit

The primary purpose of a solar home audit is to determine whether your home is a good candidate to have solar panels installed on it. In most cases, the answer will be yes. However, it’s possible that you’ll need to repair, refurbish or replace your roof or other components of your home before that can happen. While you don’t need to know its exact age and condition for an audit to be useful, having that data on hand may help to accelerate that process. You’ll also want to obtain a copy of recent utility bills so that an auditor can more accurately estimate how much you’ll save by switching to solar. 

How Long Does an Audit Take?

You should expect an audit to take several hours to complete as whoever performs the examination is going to want to get as much information as possible. Whoever comes to your home will also want to spend time talking about the benefits of solar as well as spend time answering any questions that you might have about the process. The good news is that a few hours of your time is all that you’ll need to invest in an audit as they are conducted free of charge. 

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Inspecting the Roof

The roof inspection is typically one of the first steps in the audit process and is ultimately one of the most important. An auditor will take detailed notes about the size, shape and slope of the roof as well as whether it is covered in shingles, clay tiles or other materials. If you have shingles on your roof, an auditor will likely want to know how many layers currently sit on it. 

After getting the basics about your roof, an auditor will walk on or take other steps to evaluate its condition. Leaks, damaged shingles or other issues that might compromise the roof’s integrity will need to be addressed before solar panels can be safely and adequately placed on top of your home.

The condition and specifications of your roof will also determine how many panels can be placed on it as well as what types may be best suited for your home. Furthermore, depending on the type of panels you buy, you may be entitled to tax credits or other rebates that can help defray the cost of having them. 

Inspecting the Inside of Your Home

Before solar panels can be installed on your roof, you’ll need to make sure that you can adequately harness the energy that they provide. Therefore, an auditor will want to take a look at your home’s electrical panel to determine if any upgrades need to be made. The size and condition of your home’s electrical panel will also determine how much output it can handle, which will play a role in choosing which panels to install on your roof. 

An auditor will also want to take a look at your home’s attic to see if there are any significant gaps that the energy harvested by your solar panels might escape through. Whoever does the audit will also check to see if there are any moisture, pest or other issues that might compromise the integrity of your home and the solar system that would be installed in it. 

There is also the possibility that an audit will include a review of your home’s internet capabilities. It’s not uncommon for solar systems to be connected to the internet for diagnostic purposes. If there were an issue with a solar panel or other system components, the company that installed it would be able to alert you to the issue and recommend ways to resolve it. 

You’ll Receive a Financial Cost/Benefit Analysis

When the home inspection is complete, your auditor will sit down with you to go over the cost of installing a system as well as the potential savings. The first step is to analyze your current electric bill to determine not only how much your bill is per month but also to determine how much electricity your home uses. 

In some cases, installing a solar system will help to reduce the amount of energy your home uses, which would reduce your electric costs regardless of what is installed in your home. The reduction in power usage may come from the fact that your attic will be sealed or that your roof will be repaired prior to having a system installed. Taking these steps will make your property more efficient and likely more comfortable at the same time. 

The person who conducts your audit will then talk more about projected savings over the course of a year, a decade or several decades from now. Typically, the savings that you see from a solar system will compound over a period of several years after you pay for the panels and other installation costs. It’s worth reiterating that any excess energy that you collect may be sold back to the public utility company, which will further defray home energy costs. 

Alternatively, any excess energy that you create can be used to offset any expenses incurred when the sun is not shining. You may need to use a traditional power grid when the sun is obscured by clouds or during overnight hours when the sun is not producing energy for your home. Therefore, you may need to use credits created during the spring and summer months during the winter season when the sun’s angle is lower and you experience cloudy conditions on a regular basis. 

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You’ll Receive a Mock Version of Your Solar System

The final step in the process is to use the information gathered during the audit to craft a system that is tailored to both your needs and the layout of your home. Once the design has been created, you will receive a mock design that you can look at to determine if you actually want to proceed with the project.

You will also receive a more accurate cost estimate after an actual design has been created. The estimate should be broken down into specific sections such as how much you’ll be charged for labor and materials. If necessary, you should be told how much it will cost to obtain permits or other permissions from local authorities. Finally, any solar tax credits or other discounts should be included in this estimate. 

If you decide that you want to have the proposed system in your home, work may start immediately. Of course, the exact project timeline will depend on a number of factors such as availability of materials and how many other customers are waiting to have systems installed in their homes. 

Ask as Many Questions as Possible

During the audit, you should feel free to ask as many questions as you can think of. For example, you may want to ask how long it will take to convert your home to solar power, how much of an interruption installation may cause and whether you will need to clean the outside of your home after the project is complete.

You should also feel free to ask about the qualifications of the people who will install your solar system. You may want to learn more about the panels themselves, how they work and what to do if they malfunction for any reason. Finally, it may be worthwhile to ask about the differences between leasing or buying solar panels and whether you will have the ability to lease as opposed to purchasing solar system components. 

A Virtual Audit May Be Available

While it’s generally in your best interest to have someone come to your home to do a solar audit, you have the option to do so virtually. This may be ideal if you have a busy schedule and can’t dedicate an entire day to having your home inspected. It may also be worthwhile if you are concerned about getting sick or have other concerns about allowing someone into your house. 

Installing a solar system in your home may enable you to save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year. In addition, putting solar panels on your roof may increase your home’s value as doing so will likely make it more energy efficient. The act of upgrading your roof, repairing an attic or taking other steps to prepare your home for a solar system may also make it more appealing to buyers. 

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