By Chris Kahn, AP Energy Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Rooftop solar panels usually sound great until you see the price tag. Even with generous tax breaks, a home-installed system can cost as much as an SUV depending where you live.
But what if you could put solar on your roof virtually for free?
Solar companies hungry to get panels on your home have come up with some innovative ways to finance complete solar systems.
Before you sign up, however, do the math and make sure it adds up. With so many local, government and federal incentives, it might be cheaper just to buy the system.
Here are some companies and financing plans that can get you into solar. In some cases the plans require no money up front, and the monthly payment can be paid with the savings from your utility bill.
Solar companies in the Southwest have begun to lease solar systems. Companies like SunRun and SolarCity also take care of maintenance and other service issues you'd be on the hook for if you bought a system outright.
Leasing programs are beginning to expand outside of the sunny Southwest and may be coming to your town soon.
The payoff depends largely on where you live.
Colorado and Oregon residents would likely break even with a solar lease if their current electricity bill averages $50 a month, according to SolarCity. Yet in California and Arizona, where energy costs can run higher, the break-even point rises to $125 a month.
SunRun offers 18- to 20-year leases in California, Arizona, Colorado and Massachusetts.
Homeowners can put as little as no money down. But the more you pay upfront, the smaller your monthly lease will be.