- Buyer beware
There are not that many pre-existing solar-powered houses on the market right now, so it’s not surprising that the duty is going to be mostly on you, the prospective buyer, to know the risks when you start your search for a place to call eco-home.
- Consider an energy efficiency audit
Even if your main objective is buying a house with solar powered systems, it’s a good idea to have a full energy efficiency audit carried out for the whole house. No point buying a solar powered house if it’s going to be bleeding energy.
- Do you know how to maintain solar systems?
If you have no experience with solar heating and power generation systems, you might want to read about them. This way you’ll be able to make a better judgment on whether you’re prepared for the amount of maintenance you’ll inevitable have to carry out regularly.
- First impressions matter
Take a good look at the structure and orientation of the house. Make sure it has southern windows (if in the northern hemisphere) and there aren’t too many obstacles to getting the maximum sunlight possible. Look around to see if there are any trees that might need cutting down.
- Don’t judge a book just by its cover
There are some things that you can consider concerning the interior design. Does the main room face south with large windows? You don’t want lots of winding hallways or a sprawling room layout due to inefficiency. Windows are best when they’re functional and decorative.
- If there’s an existing solar system, inspect it
Check if your energy efficiency auditor can do this for you. You can do it yourself if you’re familiar with these systems. Alternatively, ask a local contractor, but be aware they may want to try and sell you a new system.
- Room for improvement?
An important consideration is potential for expanding the system. If the inverter rating is safely within limits and the current output is small, you can simply add some more PV panels. Water heating systems can often be quite simply expanded by adding new collectors.
- Ask questions
Try to find out details about the solar equipment. How old are they? When and by who were they installed? Is there a warranty and is it still in date? Is it transferable? Have any repairs been needed? When, why and how many times? Does the current owner still have manuals?
- Check the energy bills
Once you’re satisfied with all your investigation so far, try to see if you can inspect the energy bills. If the homeowner is proud about their solar energy systems they should be proud to show you the savings. Sometimes you can get these numbers from the utility company.
- Listen to your heart…and your head
Of course, the bank will be most interested to hear about the facts of your investigations and the monetary value that these translate into, but you’ll have to factor your own non-factual costs into the estimate, your gut feeling and emotional attraction to the place.