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Solar Lease vs. Buy: What to Know

Thinking about leasing solar panels in New Hampshire? Here’s what you should consider first.

solar on roof Granite State Solar

There’s no such thing as a free lunch—especially when it comes to solar panels. Solar leasing companies often promise free installation or zero money down for solar, but it turns out, you get what you pay for. We explore the common pitfalls of leasing solar.

Before we get too far, we want to be straight with you. Yes, Granite State Solar sells solar, so it’s no surprise that we think that it’s better to buy solar instead of leasing. However, we pride ourselves in acting as our customers’ energy consultants, offering straightforward advice with no hard sales. (If solar isn’t right for you, we’re not afraid to say so.) And there are plenty of repudiable publications out there (including Consumer Reports and Better Homes & Gardens) that have come to the same conclusion we have: You don’t get the same return on investment from a lease as you do from owning your system.

How does a solar lease work? With a solar lease, you pay a monthly fee to have solar panels installed on your property and use the system’s power. You don’t own the panels themselves, so the upfront costs are very low. This set up made a lot of sense when panels were extremely expensive. But the cost of solar has dropped 70% in the last decade, meaning buying solar is much more accessible to more people.

Here are our reasons why buying solar is a smart investment but leasing solar doesn’t have the same payout.

• Sick of utility rate hikes? Don’t look to leases. Many leases have built-in annual cost increases. Over the duration of a solar lease, this can increase electricity costs so that you could end up paying more per kWh from solar than you would have from the utility company.

When you buy solar panels, however, you’re essentially locking in your electricity rate for the life of your system and insulating yourself from rate hikes. Even if you opt to go with a loan, you still have one regular payment that won’t fluctuate. Once your system is paid off, you’re looking at decades of free power.

• Leased solar can’t take advantage of the federal investment tax credit. That incentive goes to the leasing company, not you, the customer.


• Leasing solar can hurt your home’s resale value. To sell, you have to pay off your lease or hope that the next owner will assume the terms. On the flip side, if you own your solar, it can increase the value of your home (according to Zillow research). 


Still not sure what’s right for you? Our solar advisors are happy to answer your questions. Start with a free site evaluation.

—Julia Westbrook

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