I don't know about the rest of the country, but in Massachusetts, green is the new black. The state continues to offer rebates and special deals for folks who decide to put solar paneling on their roofs to help the environment. But as I learned, it's not one-size-fits-all shopping. Here are some things to keep in mind:
Why do I want a solar roof?
Are you looking to become more environmentally conscious, or are you looking to save money? Both are great reasons to go a head and get a solar roof, but you need to keep in mind that a) not all houses can hold a solar roof, b) whether or not the solar roof will add to or detract from the value of your home if/when you sell, and c) what your current electric bill is and what it will be after the solar panels are installed.
Will my house hold a solar roof?
Solar roofs are designed to last twenty or more years, and your roof needs to be facing toward the sun in order for you to even consider having solar panels installed. A solar panel company wants to make sure that they are getting their investment back, especially if a rebate or deal is involved, so they're going to want to make sure that the roof is sturdy enough or new enough to hold the weight of the panels.
With my home, which is over 150 years old, there were several construction snafus that would have made it cost prohibitive to install panels. It wasn't until recently that construction work was standardized, so many older homes are built outside of modern standards and would need a major overhaul to make solar panels feasible. Also, a lot of older homes in my area were turned into duplex homes for renting, meaning there are two separate electric meters which will have to be put onto one meter for the solar panels.
Will a solar roof add to or detract from the value of my home?
This depends on the area that you live in and the type of home you have. Many people aren't going to like the look of solar panels on a classic Victorian home, but people generally don't mind the look so much on a home that was just built. Do you live in a more progressive area where things like recycling and bicycling are popular? Solar panels may be a great fit. Also, how long will you be staying in your home? If you plan on selling in a few years and if you live in a more conservative area, solar panels may make your home more difficult to sell. Remember — the company is looking to have these on your roof for 20+ years.
What is my electric bill now, and how much will it go down after the solar panels are installed?
Your mileage may vary, but in my case, I'd only be saving about $10 per month on my electric bill. If cost is your driving factor, here's where the age of the home comes into play. A newer home that needs little to no construction and that would look more aesthetically pleasing with solar panels may be worth the installation. If your home is older, then how many months of $10 savings are going to make up for the construction cost? If you're on a tight budget, $10 savings may be perfect. But for me, little tricks like using energy efficient bulbs and sticking all your cords on a power strip and then unplugging said power strip while not in use could probably save that $10 without the installation costs. The only things that I regularly keep plugged in are the DVR, fridge, stove, and microwave.
So, in short: if you're looking to be more environmentally friendly, you have the cash to spend, and you plan on staying in your home long-term or live in an area where a solar roof would be a boon, solar panels are something you may want to consider. If you're looking to save costs but live in an older home, you may want to consider other life hacks to save on your electric bill. Good luck, and happy hunting!