Science Energy Buying vs. Leasing Solar Panels: What Should You Do? By Olivia Young Olivia Young Twitter Writer Ohio University Olivia Young is a writer, fact checker, and green living expert passionate about tiny living, climate advocacy, and all things nature. She holds a degree in Journalism from Ohio University. Learn about our editorial process Updated August 22, 2021 Fact checked by Elizabeth MacLennan Fact checked by Elizabeth MacLennan University of Tennessee Elizabeth MacLennan is a fact checker and expert on climate change. Learn about our fact checking process Share Twitter Pinterest Email deepblue4you / Getty Images Energy Renewable Energy Fossil Fuels In This Article Expand Cost of Leasing vs. Buying Maintenance and Repairs Impact on Home Value Is Leasing or Buying Better? Frequently Asked Questions About half of Americans surveyed in a Pew study released in late 2019 said they had either considered or already installed solar panels at home. Despite the growing interest in renewable energy, the elevated cost of a residential solar system—with panel cost averaging between $2 and $3 per watt—is an impossible hurdle for many. Those reluctant or unable to drop up to $25,000—more than a third of the average middle-class American's annual income—on a home setup can lease the equipment for a lower cost. Whether to buy or lease your home solar system comes down to your budget, tax credit eligibility, and willingness to commit to a contract that could impact your house's market value. Cost of Leasing vs. Buying The principal reason for leasing solar equipment instead of buying it is to save money. A full residential solar setup, including the 20 to 25 panels needed to completely offset the average electricity bill, can cost between $15,000 and $25,000, depending on the quality of the equipment and locality. Considering the average cost of fossil fuel-generated electricity in the U.S. is about $115 per month, the system would pay for itself in 10 to 20 years, and that's without all the available solar tax credits and incentives. In 2021, solar panel purchasers are granted 26% in investment tax credit, which can take up to $6,500 off the total bill. Leasing solar equipment doesn't qualify you for those tax credits and incentives but can cost as little as $50 per month (for a small, 3.8-kilowatt Tesla system, for instance) with little to no down payment. Larger installations can cost upwards of $150 per month. Purchase Power Agreements Purchase power agreements (PPAs) are another form of solar rental, but contrary to a lease, in which the consumer pays monthly to utilize a company's panels and equipment, PPAs permit a company to use your property for solar coverage and charge you just for the power itself, not the panels. Depending on the agreement, you could be charged a fixed monthly rate or for the amount of electricity you actually use. The latter agreement can cause monthly costs to fluctuate throughout the year, like a normal electricity bill would, but it typically winds up being comparable, price-wise, to a lease agreement annually. Both agreements last between 20 and 25 years on average. Maintenance and Repairs Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty Images Solar panels require very little maintenance save the occasional light cleaning, but when they do need repairing or replacing, the cost won't come out of your pocket if you have a lease agreement. According to HomeAdvisor, a home repair marketplace powered by Angi Homeservices, solar panel repair and renewal can cost $196 to $1,219. Solar panel technicians charge about $100 per hour, and annual maintenance costs about $18 per panel—so, about $400 for a full solar set. The glass can break (that's $20 for a DIY epoxy job or hundreds for a full replacement), the metal can crack (requiring one or two hours of labor), connections can fail, and solar panel owners are responsible for all those damages. Impact on Home Value HaizhanZheng / Getty Images A 2018-19 analysis of listing descriptions and transactions by the online real estate marketplace Zillow showed that homes with solar panels sold for 4.1% more than those without. However, although solar power is widely considered to be a house "upgrade," a leased solar kit can actually deter buyers. The requirement of entering into a decades-long solar contract is a much harder sell. What's more, transferring a lease may be tricky—or impossible, at worst—if the new homeowner doesn't meet the credit requirements. According to Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, the manufacturer of your leased panels can also place a lien on your property, making it even more difficult to sell your home. Is Leasing or Buying Better? Overall, it's better to buy a home solar system than to lease one, given you have the means to do so. Although purchasing panels comes with steep upfront costs plus the burden of maintaining and repairing them, the equipment is a smart investment likely to boost your home value and lead to bigger savings in the end. That said, leasing is a great alternative for those who are keen to switch to renewable energy but don't qualify or prefer not to take a loan, or aren't eligible for the federal tax credits and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) that help offset the cost. It's crucial to know exactly what you're getting into—including the implications of canceling your agreement or selling your home—before entering into a long-term contract with a solar leasing company. Frequently Asked Questions Is leasing or buying solar panels cheaper? Leasing solar panels is cheaper than buying a whole setup outright, but the money you would save in the long run with your own solar system far exceeds the money you would save by renting. Can you put solar panels on a rental property? Putting solar panels on a rental property is a great investment for a landlord—especially if the landlord charges utilities with rent. If you pay your own utilities, there's little financial benefit for the landlord. You might be able to convince a landlord to allow leased solar panels, but make sure the contract specifies that you can terminate the agreement anytime. Do you own your roof if you have solar panels? If you rent solar panels from a leasing company, then that company technically owns a portion of your roof and can prevent you from making changes to it. If you own your solar panels, you can do whatever you want with them and the roof they sit on. View Article Sources "U.S. Public Views on Climate and Energy." Pew Research Center, 2019. "The Cost of Solar Panels in 2021: What Price for Solar Can You Expect?" EnergySage. "Income and Poverty in the United States." U.S. Census Bureau, 2019. "How Many Solar Panels Do I Need for My Home?" EnergySage. "Average Monthly Electricity Bill for U.S. Residential Customers Declined in 2019." U.S. Energy Information Administration. "Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)." Solar Energy Industries Association. "Tesla Solar Renting Program: What You Need to Know." EnergySage. "2021 Cost of Solar Panel Removal, Replacement and Repairs." HomeAdvisor. "Homes With Solar Panels Sell for 4.1% More." Zillow. "How Solar Panels Can Affect Getting a Mortgage." Rocket Mortgage. 2021.