For the most part, solar panel systems are “set it and forget it,” requiring very little (if any) maintenance over time – but what costs can you potentially encounter after installing your solar panel system? In this article, we’ll discuss four factors that could impact post-installation costs, and what you can do to avoid some of these costs from the get-go.
1. General solar panel system maintenance
Generally, most solar panel systems do not require active or routine maintenance. However, some homeowners proactively purchase a solar operations and maintenance (O&M) package for added peace of mind. O&M service packages are essentially an insurance plan for your solar panel system; these plans often include cleaning, electrical system checks, and/or pest control measures. These types of plans are not as common with residential installations as they are with larger commercial projects. Should you decide to add this protection after installation, it will likely cost you a few extra hundred dollars a year.
Keep in mind that your installer may offer their own service plan, or include annual servicing as a part of their warranty package. Before purchasing an O&M service package, check to see what your installer does their own annual checkups, whether it’s sufficient for your needs, and if they charge extra for that service.
Additionally, some homeowners pay for professional solar panel cleaning alone. This is not necessary for many installations: if your solar panels are installed at a tilt, rainfall helps to naturally clean them. However, if you live in a particular sandy area or there is debris on your system, routine solar panel cleaning can help improve your annual electricity production. The cost of cleaning panels is often less than $10 per panel; as such, you’ll pay less for cleanings on smaller and simpler installations.
2. Replacing or repairing solar equipment
Most solar panel systems require very little to no repairs or replacements. This is because, outside of solar tracker systems, the components of your system are stationary. If any part of your solar equipment is most likely to fail, it’s the inverter: string inverters may burn out and require replacement 10 to 12 years into their lifespan.
Fortunately, solar equipment–from panels to inverters to trackers–comes with manufacturer warranties that help protect you in case of faulty equipment. However, the extent of this protection can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
At the very least, most manufacturer warranty agreements cover equipment replacements: so, if your inverter fails after 11 years and you’re covered by a 12-year warranty, you’ll receive a replacement. However, many manufacturers do not cover the cost of shipping the new equipment, or the labor required to re-install. Before choosing which equipment to install, it’s important to read the warranty documents thoroughly so you’re not caught off-guard by these future costs. These costs can range considerably depending on the type of equipment you need to repair or replace, the cost of labor, and what your warranty covers.
3. Re-roofing after installation
The majority of solar panel system owners won’t need to worry about re-roofing during the lifetime of their solar panel system: reputable solar companies will examine your roof prior to installation to ensure it’s in good shape and can withstand the weight of your equipment. Additionally, panels help extend the life of your roof space that they cover, since they’re durable and help protect the surface of your roof from the elements.
However, if for whatever reason you need to re-roof after installing solar panels, you’ll need to pay to remove, store, and replace your solar equipment. The cost of this service can vary greatly, as it depends on the size of your system, whether you need to remove mounting hardware and the cost of labor in your area. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay anywhere between $1,500 and $6,000.
You can avoid these costs by re-roofing prior to installation; but, if you’re concerned about the possibility of doing this in the future, it’s a good idea to check with your installer about estimated costs for this project. It also doesn’t hurt to inquire about how often they perform these jobs.
4. Trimming trees to increase sun access
Solar panel systems last for decades and can generate electricity on your rooftop for more than 30 years. Throughout this time, you may have some trees that, though initially not an issue, grow and eventually shade your solar panel system.
Tree trimming and removal prices depend on the size and height of the tree, costing anywhere from less than $100 to up to $1,000: the taller the tree is, the more you can expect to pay to prune or cut it down.
Keep in mind that many solar software design tools can help to estimate tree growth over the lifetime of your system; if you’re worried about particular trees in your yard, ask your installer about potential future production implications taking into account estimated tree growth.
How much will solar cost you?
In the unlikelihood that you’re stuck with every one of these costs, you can still save with solar. By registering on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can receive custom solar quotes from up to seven local installers. These quotes will include your estimated 20-year savings given the cost of solar, incentives available in your area, your electricity rate, and more. If you’d prefer to start with a ballpark estimate of solar costs and savings, try our Solar Calculator.