LESLIE: Jim in California is on the line and looking for some info on solar. What can we do for you?
JIM: Yes, I am. I’m considering investing and putting solar panels on my roof. And wondering what the pitfalls of that might be.
TOM: When was the last time you replaced your roof?
JIM: It’s the original one that’s on the house. It was a new house that was built in 2004. And it has a clay-tile roof.
TOM: Oh, so that’s a very durable roof.
OK. Well, first of all, living in California, you’ve got plenty of sunshine. I’d certainly want to take advantage of that. I would investigate the various ways that you can purchase solar-panel installation. You can either buy solar panels outright or sometimes you can lease them for a certain term, after which you can buy them. And generally, when you lease them, you’re getting enough power to pay for most of your electric bill and they’re getting the rest and selling it back to the utility company. So there’s a lot of ways to do that. And plus, there are rebates that are available for solar panels. So I think all of those are good solutions.
The reason I asked you how old your roof is – because once you put this on, if you’ve got to fix the roof or replace the roof, it’s all got to come off. But since your roof is pretty durable, I wouldn’t be too concerned about that.
JIM: OK. How about how – you know, most of the solar-panel companies haven’t been in business too long. Should I be concerned with that?
TOM: It is a pretty new technology and I think like any – hiring any contractor, you’ve got to do your homework. So I would speak very thoroughly with a good number of their clients. I would get a good list and I would call that list.
And I think a lot of times when we tell folks to check contractors' references, they get a list of references but they don’t call them. I would start at the top and work my way down that list. And you want to find people that – ask them for references from people that they worked with last month and last year so you have a good span of time of customers before you make that final decision.
JIM: Alright. And what would I normally expect the payback to be in something like that? How many years?
TOM: Well, I was speaking with somebody who just had solar work done on their home recently, in Middle America. And it was interesting because they found that after they – they used the system where they basically partnered with a company that put the panels up. Didn’t have any installation cost. And they’re finding that they’re covering 90 percent of their power as a result of this installation. That really cut their expenses way down as a result of that. So, I think it depends on what kind of a deal you make.
JIM: OK. So it sounds like it’s something worth investigating.
TOM: Absolutely. Jim, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.