The Quest for Free Solar Panels — Fact or Fiction?

In 2021, the world took a significant step towards green energy. About 4% of electricity in the USA comes from solar, and the global capacity of such systems has increased by almost 2000 GW in 17 years. These impressive figures indicate a strong interest in solar energy.

Does the offer of solar panels remain relevant in 2023? Absolutely! The demand for power solar homes is only increasing. Check out the infographic of solar installations by each U.S. state:

The Quest for Free Solar Panels — Fact or Fiction

Source: SEIA

There are even discussions about obtaining free government solar panels. This has led to the question: “Can I get free solar panels?” The topic has sparked debates, with some companies promoting the idea of free solar panels.

So, are free solar panels really free? Do the promised benefits make them worthwhile and how to get solar panels for free? We will explore all aspects of this question, using up-to-date data to assist you in making an informed decision.

The Phenomenon of the Popularity of Free Solar Panels

Why is everyone talking about a free solar panel? With each passing year, eco-friendly energy gains more attention. Therefore, many Americans aim to contribute to this cause and stop relying on gas, oil, etc. In California alone, 5,071 MW of solar panels were installed in 2022, according to SEIA data.

However, panels are costly. Despite a 25% drop in the solar panel quote over the last 12 years, owners still pay a substantial amount. Additionally, on average, a household needs 17 to 21 panels.

The Quest for Free Solar Panels — Fact or Fiction

Source: OurWorldInData

So, how much is a solar panel? Let’s break it down. Take, for instance, a standard 5 kW system with 19 solar panels. Typically, households might invest around $35,000 for installation. Considering that utility prices for the average American family range from $16 to $35 per MW-hour, the solar panel quote is around $1,800.

Benefits and subsidies available through local and state programs can significantly reduce the solar panel cost. Currently, in the USA, a 30% tax credit is in effect until 2032 to encourage people to install solar panels.

Free Solar Panels — Truth or Marketing Move?

The internet is filled with no cost solar offers that entice users. Some solar panel companies might offer installation or maintenance services for as little as $0, while others promote used solar panels for free. Tempting, isn’t it? However, when something is offered for free, it’s not always that simple.

What are free solar panels? Companies try to grab your attention by using such phrases and entice you with the “freebie” effect to collaborate with a specific brand.

How To Avoid Falling Into Scammers’ Traps?

Unfortunately, there are no truly free panels from specific companies. The phrase “solar panels for free” hides certain conditions that you should carefully consider before making a decision. That catchy phrase might actually mean they’re pushing you towards leasing panels or buying pre-generated energy through a contract.

Pro tip: Always check the agreements you sign; you may encounter scammers and become the target of their schemes. If the offer of free solar panels does not align with the positions described above, it’s the first warning sign of fraud.

To safeguard yourself and your finances, follow our experts’ advice:

  1. Thoroughly research companies offering free solar panels: check their reputation, customer reviews, etc.
  2. Ensure the chosen firm has all the necessary licenses and certificates for providing solar services.
  3. Be cautious with solar panel companies that demand upfront or immediate payments.
  4. Study the details of a solar panel government program and find out how the company can provide free panels and what conditions are associated with maintenance services or other expenses.

Let your attentiveness and caution be your allies in avoiding potential risks.

Free panels are sometimes a marketing trick or a blatant deception. However, in cases involving contract agreements, be careful with what is written in the fine print on the last page. Unscrupulous companies may hide a signing clause in one of the documents.

Ways of Government Funding for Free Solar Panels

State-funded financing for free solar systems can occur through various programs and initiatives aimed at supporting the use of renewable energy sources. Solar panel companies most often enter into special agreements, which we will discuss in more detail.

Solar Panel Lease Agreement

Under this agreement, a company installs solar panels at no upfront cost, yet you’re responsible for a set monthly fee to use the generated electricity for a specific duration outlined in the document.

Consider entering into a lease agreement if your utility bills for electricity are high and the cost of the panel lease does not exceed them.

During the contract negotiation, pay attention to the company and providers. Incompetent solar panel installation could harm your roof or home exterior, leaving you with repair bills. Since the lease lacks warranty obligations, the company won’t cover these costs, potentially causing financial strain.

What’s Important To Know

  • If you’re thinking of selling your home soon, it’s a good idea to think twice before signing a lease agreement. If you do sign and want to end it early, be aware that companies might charge hefty fees, sometimes over $20,000.
  • Transferring the lease to the new homeowner could be tricky. They might not want to take on certain legal duties or refuse the contract for other reasons. In a tough spot like this, you might have to move the solar panels to your new place on your own dime. This could affect the value of your current home and the sale negotiations. Another option is to cancel the lease, but breaking that contract usually comes with a penalty.

Power Purchase Agreement

In this contract, you’re once again agreeing to have solar panels installed for free and to buy the electricity they produce. But this time, the agreement lasts for a full 12 months instead of monthly payments.

Some companies find it advantageous to enter into as many such agreements as possible with prospective clients. Therefore, they may be willing to offer you a lower tariff per 1 kWh than what you pay the government through monthly bills. Don’t rush to sign a contract with the first seemingly appealing company. Compare offers from several solar panel companies to find the best financial fit for you.

What’s Important to Know

During the signing of the purchase and sale agreement, inquire about:

  • Contract terms for understanding your obligations and rights.
  • The contract duration to determine how long you’ll be purchasing electricity from the company and whether automatic renewal is stipulated after the period ends.
  • Distribution of responsibilities for servicing and repairing panels.
  • Conditions for contract termination, penalties, or rewards.

Solar Panel From the U.S. Government Program

Numerous sources suggest that participating in a special state program can guarantee free solar panels for low-income families. However, these are bold claims. In reality, financially disadvantaged families may qualify for assistance, but it does not necessarily mean receiving 100% free panels.

In most cases, such families may need to make a contribution to the installation cost. Nevertheless, there are various incentives to make solar panels more accessible.

It’s worth noting that a family with an income ranging from $14,580 per person is considered low-income. For accuracy, check the low-income threshold in your state by contacting local authorities.

Types of Government Incentives

Here are some common government incentives available for low-income families to support solar panel installation:

  1. Financial aid
  2. Subsidies
  3. Federal tax credits
  4. Low-interest entrepreneurial loans with extended repayment terms
  5. Interest rate reduction
  6. Net metering activation allows excess energy generated by panels to be returned to the grid
  7. A guarantor for payment reliability if you have an unsatisfactory credit history

Some companies claim to offer free solar panels through government subsidies or grants. Therefore, verify the legitimacy of their claims by independently researching local or government incentives.

Government Programs for Solar Panels for Low-Income Families

Such programs for economically disadvantaged families are actively developed and implemented by U.S. officials to promote the use of renewable energy and reduce environmental impact.

These programs are typically unique to each state, with specific conditions for participants.

StateFree solar panel programRequirements for participation
ColoradoWeatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
  • Family income is not less than 80% of the state’s average income.
  • Residence in owned, not rented, housing.
  • At least one family member receives temporary assistance for needy families or disability benefits.
CaliforniaDisadvantaged Communities – Single-Family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH)
  • The income of a single family member does not exceed 60% of the state’s average income.
  • Residing in owned housing within the 25% least affluent communities of the state.
IllinoisIllinois Solar
  • Income should be 80% or lower than the average regional income.
  • Applies to both homeowners and renters.
New YorkSolar For All
  • Family profit is not less than 60% of the state’s average income.
  • Residing in owned or rented housing with the ability to pay electricity bills independently.
WashingtonDC Solar For All
  • Family profit is below 80% of the region’s average income.
  • The program is available to all families, regardless of credit history.

Not every state has its free solar panel program for low-income families, often offering several options to choose from.

Assistance programs for financially challenged households contribute to both individual well-being and the overall stability of the U.S. economy. Industry Dive reports that promoting solar energy and installing systems in residential homes in Texas and Florida, particularly in families with moderate and low income, have helped narrow the national income gap.

If you’re interested in participating in government programs for solar panels, we recommend reaching out directly to the relevant agencies or organizations responsible for implementing these programs in your state. They will provide information on current requirements and participation conditions.

However, keep in mind that while entirely free solar panels may not be guaranteed, you may qualify for discounts or other incentives from the government. This, in turn, can make your home more environmentally friendly and reduce electricity expenses by up to 50%.

Cash, Credit, or a Loan — Which Financing Option To Choose?

There are diverse ways to finance solar panel installation. It’s essential to carefully consider each, taking into account:

  • Your financial situation
  • The purpose of installing the panels
  • The frequency and amount of payment for services

The choice of financing also depends on the individual circumstances of the household.

We suggest comparing the most popular types of financing as it is an important decision that may impact your financial stability.

 CashTaking a LoanGetting a Loan
AvailabilityThe most straightforward payment method without monthly fees, payments, or interest.Available for those without sufficient cash.Available for those with poor credit history or no cash.
AdvantagesDoes not require credit history or interest. Makes you a full owner from the installation moment.Doesn’t require cash. Option to stretch payments. Possible favorable terms. Immediate access to a significant amount of money.Doesn’t require a credit history, no need to pay interest.
DisadvantagesUnavailable for those without enough cash. High initial payment cost.Requires a good credit history — high interest rates.Offered for a limited period. High concentration of funds until the loan is repaid.

Who Will Pay for Solar Panels?

The answer to this question depends on the financing option you choose. If you pay for the solar panel cost in cash, you will be responsible for their full cost. If you take a loan or borrow money, you will be responsible for paying interest on the use of the loan or borrowing.

You can reduce the cost of panels thanks to:

  • Local government and a government solar panel program may offer benefits, subsidies, or other assistance to help you save.
  • Solar panel suppliers, in their financing programs, may provide discounts, interest-free periods, or other financial incentives.

Discuss with the supplier or a financing consultant to explore all options and compare conditions before making a decision.

It’s important to understand that the answer to “Can you get solar panels for free?” is straightforward — “No.” Obtaining solar panels for free in the USA is not possible. However, government support programs backed by local authorities offer incentives or subsidies to help partially cover the solar panel cost for low-income families, individuals with disabilities, or the elderly.

As of 2023, each state has its own government solar panel program, which includes discounts on solar panels, tax incentives, or grants. You need to monitor your state’s government websites to stay informed about the latest developments.

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Andy Worford
Andy Worford

Andy is a Founder, Chief Content Officer, regular contributor, and idea generator behind Solar Power Systems. He is well-versed in various aspects of solar energy, including photovoltaic systems, solar policy trends, and green technology innovations.

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