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Looking to get into solar energy? Wondering how much it costs to get a system up and running? Surprisingly, 64% of the total cost of a Photovoltaic system (solar panels) are soft-costs. Soft costs are non-construction related costs, including labour, permitting, taxes, and much more. Here are five tips to cut down on your soft costs and have your investment returned sooner!
1) Do Your Homework
Regulations for solar panels can be radically different depending on your country, state or province, and even municipality. It is well worth your time to contact the appropriate authorities as regulations are changing rapidly. As governments and private sector leaders are working together to reduce administrative soft-costs, depending on where you are, waiting a few months until legislation passes could save you thousands in tax-breaks or other clean energy incentives!
2) Shop Around Online Marketplaces
Many solar-installation companies offer to figure out the entire process for you, however, this is where new buyers really run up their costs. Savvy consumers can buy their own panels and contract a company only for the installation. There are business-to-business marketplaces (energybin.com) that help businesses cut indirect corporate costs and also installation marketplaces to shop for the best installation quotes.
Although the installation of some solar panels can be quite difficult, there are some panels which can cut installation costs significantly. There are currently many "peel and stick" panels on the market which homeowners can easily install themselves. If installing peel and stick panels is a daunting task, prospective solar buyers should still consider completing as much of the process as they can themselves. Although unavoidable for some steps, the moment consumers allow a third-party to manage the purchase and installation of solar panels, soft costs rise.
4) Install out of Season
Particularly in places with cold winters, most solar panel installations occur in Spring and Summer. During these times, installation companies are busy and are unlikely to offer any discounts. Come Fall, however, these companies are scrambling to find jobs to close out the year and could be more open to offering discounts to customers. At the very least, waiting until the off-season lets consumers pick from any number of available installation companies and makes comparing rates easier.
5) Buy Strategically
There are many different sizes of solar panels that are used depending on the project. In general, buying two smaller panels is cheaper than buying one large panel for many reasons, just one of which is the supply chain cost. This soft cost can be cut by buying smaller panels that are easier and therefore cheaper to ship. Many smaller solar panels can be shipped via FedEx or UPS at a much cheaper rate than large panels which must be sent via Freight.
As you may have noticed, cutting down on soft costs means shouldering a lot of the hard work. Consumers can always choose to have a company organize their project start to finish, but if you are serious about cutting soft costs, you'll have to roll up your sleeves and get down to business!