7 Steps to Solar Panels in Ohio

Ohio is not a state known for its remarkably favorable weather conditions for solar power. And yet, solar panels can save an Ohio homeowner around $12,000 – a substantial amount.

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The average cost of solar panels in Ohio is $2.56 per watt. This is notably lower than the national average of $2.66/W. Moreover, the Buckeye State has a plethora of solar incentives that make buying solar easier.

Add to this the fact that the state is susceptible to power outages from grid failures caused by extreme weather events, and it is clear that going solar in Ohio is worth it in most cases.1

If you are an Ohioan curious about converting to solar, below are the typical steps involved in the process, followed by a detailed description of each step:

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Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels in Ohio 

Despite its clear benefits, solar power offers different levels of savings for different customers, based on multiple factors. It’s essential to consider a few things before deciding on solar panels.

Research If Solar Panels Are a Good Fit For You in Ohio

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), more homeowners are finding the value of installing solar panels in Ohio.2 But it is important to know how solar will impact your finances specifically.

To figure out if solar is worth it for you, you’ll first need to calculate the number of panels needed for your house. You can use our solar calculator to find this number, along with your potential savings. However, connecting with a solar installer may be an easier way to ensure you’re getting accurate information.

Buying higher quality solar panels that can generate more energy allows you to buy less of them. That said, it’s a good idea to research the best solar panels available in the country, and their pricing.

Another key factor to study is the net metering policy in Ohio. Net metering allows you to send the excess energy from your panels to the electric grid in exchange for energy credits. Different utilities pay different prices for these energy credits – make sure you check your utility company’s rate structure for NEM.

Here is a table of the financial aspects of solar in Ohio in comparison to the national scenario.

Ohio Average U.S. Average
Cost of Solar $2.56/W $2.66/W
Average System Size 7.4 kW 9 kW
Average System Cost $18,944 $23,940
Average System Cost After Federal Solar Tax Credit (ITC) $13,207 $16,758
Solar Payback Period 12 years 8 years

Research How to Finance Solar Panels

Despite the relatively lower pricing of solar panels in the state, a typical solar energy system in Ohio still has a five-figure price tag. Not all buyers have this kind of money saved, nor are many willing to spend it outright. This makes solar financing an important feature when buying a new solar system.

There are four main methods of paying for solar panels:

  • Cash purchase: Solar panels cost a lot of money, but buying your system upfront allows you to forgo paying interest and reap the benefits of energy savings almost immediately. Cash purchases let you take advantage of all Ohio solar incentives.
  • Solar loan: A solar loan is a financing arrangement for your photovoltaic (PV) system that works similarly to any other loan. You’ll pay principal and interest each month, which drives up your total system price and reduces your savings a bit. However, it’s a more convenient and accessible way to gain access to solar energy sources with minimal or no down payment requirements. Solar loans also take advantage of all home solar incentives.
  • Solar lease: If you choose to sign a solar lease, you’ll be paying a solar company a monthly fee to rent rooftop solar panels, while taking full advantage of solar energy usage. Unlike cash and loans, leases don’t let you take the federal investment tax credit (ITC) that reduces your solar payment through income tax. The long-term savings are also much lower, but there’s usually no down payment required and less stringent credit requirements.
  • Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): In a PPA, you let a solar installer put panels on your roof and then agree to purchase the electricity they generate to power your home. You’ll see the lowest savings overall with this arrangement, and you cannot take the federal government’s tax credit. However, it’s a highly accessible arrangement and requires little to no money down.

Thankfully, Ohio has some excellent financing options for solar projects. The ECO-Link program offers an interest rate reduction of 3% on loans of up to $50,000.3 The state also offers the C-PACE program, which offers low-interest solar loans to commercial entities and multi-family residences. Although most financing options increase solar payback periods and reduce savings, incentivized loans such as the above offer a balanced solution.

Aside from the incentivized loan options, Ohio also offers the following other national and state-mandated incentives that make converting to solar much easier:

Depending on where you live in Ohio, you may also qualify for property tax exemption for the added home value solar panels provide. Both Cleveland and Cincinnati have property tax exemptions, for example. When it comes time to install, be sure to also ask your solar installer about associated taxes, as well as any additional solar incentives or rebates available to you.

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider 

New electric meters in OH make NEM possible and profitable
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Once you have decided that solar is a good fit for you, it is time to look for the best solar installers serving your location.

Picking a Solar Installer

Ohioans have dozens of solar providers to choose from.4 While choice is a good thing, having too many options can sometimes feel daunting.

To shortlist a few installers of your choice, begin by looking at the best solar companies in Ohio, as well as the best solar companies in the U.S. Once you have a few company names listed down, reach out to each of them and request a quote.

We recommend getting multiple quotes so you can compare installers on parameters such as pricing, warranties, equipment used and other perks. You may even be able to convince your preferred installer to match the price of another one.

What to Expect After Requesting a Quote

The first step after requesting a quote is the collection of some information by the installer. The installer will require your utility bills, home address, and other info such as approximate roof space, orientation, etc. The installer may even decide to visit your location for a quick site survey.

Based on the data collected, the installer will prepare a system design and share it with you in a solar proposal. The proposal will also have other details such as predicted savings, equipment brands, payback period, etc.

This is a good stage to ask as many questions to the installer as you need to. These questions can be about warranties, equipment, and any financing options the installer offers or recommends.

Consider Purchasing Solar Accessories

As you are about to finalize an installer, you can also consider purchasing solar accessories that you may need in the future. These include solar batteries, EV chargers and solar carports. You may also want to consider buying extended warranties for an added cost.

Bundling these accessories with your system can even lower your total cost. Also, be sure to check with your local government for any rebates or discounts available for energy efficiency home upgrades.

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract in Ohio

Solar batteries are beneficial in OH due to frequent power outages
​​Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Once you have all the proposals in front of you, it is time to choose the installer that you think best fulfills your requirements. Before signing the purchase agreement, make sure you read it carefully and even consult a legal expert if needed.

Below are a few things to focus on.

How Do Solar Warranties Work in Ohio?

Solar power systems last 25 or more years, making warranties an extremely important aspect of the deal. Similar to solar warranties elsewhere, Ohio installers generally offer the following types of warranties/guarantees:

  • Equipment warranty: Forwarded from the original manufacturer, equipment warranties secure your solar equipment against faulty manufacturing. Solar panels come with a 10-15 year warranty based on the brand, while inverters and batteries usually come with a 10-year warranty.
  • Workmanship/labor warranty: As the name suggests, a labor warranty applies to the installation work of your system. The solar industry standard is 5 to 10 years, but in some cases, it can be up to 25 years (the lifetime of your system).
  • Performance guarantee: An operational system is of no use if the generated power is much lower than promised. This creates the need for performance guarantees, which promise a certain output from the system at different points in the life of the system. For example, some solar panels come with a performance guarantee of 90% output by year 10 and 80% by year 25 or 30.

When Can I Expect Solar Service To Go Live?

The entire process of going solar – from signing a purchase agreement to switching the system on, can take anywhere between a month and six months. This depends on your location, the system size, complexity, and even your installer’s speed of work.

Ohio Solar Panel Permits

Depending on your location, you will need to obtain one or more permits to install solar panels on your property. These permits may include building/zoning/electrical contracting permits and are required by your local city office and/or utility company.

Fortunately, solar buyers need not worry about the permitting process, since installers usually handle the process entirely. The fees for these permits are also included in the cost of your solar panel system.

Solar & Utility Interconnection

Unless you are powering a remote, off-grid cabin with solar, you will want to connect your system with the utility grid, like most solar power systems. This is called utility interconnection and is an important step to becoming eligible for net metering.

Net metering helps you make the most of your solar panels by allowing you to reduce your energy bills and fight the rising electricity rates. While the interconnection process might add a step and some time to your solar process, it is always worth it.

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day in Ohio

When your installer receives all the necessary permits for your system, they will inform you of the next and most important step – the installation of your solar panels. The installation will involve several steps, from mounting the solar panels and inverters to the wiring between all the components.

Based on several factors, the installation can take between a day and a week. While you do not need to be at home for every stage of the installation process, being present for the procedure will help understand the system’s construction and working better.

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels in Ohio

When your solar power system is installed, there is one final step remaining before it can start churning out clean power into your home – the inspection. Once your system is installed, your local utility company will send someone to inspect the installation. This ensures that the equipment is safely installed, and poses no risk to the homeowners or linesmen working on the grid.

Based on your location, your city office may also want to inspect the system to ensure your roof can easily carry the system’s weight for a long period. The inspection will last an hour or more, and will not cost anything extra.

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO) in Ohio

After your final inspection comes the last step of receiving the Permission to Operate (PTO). As the name suggests, getting PTO is gaining approval to turn your system on. You can switch on your system using the main breaker switch provided by the installer. However, different systems have different layouts and it is always wise to consult your installer on how to operate the system.

You can ask your installer about your system’s monitoring capabilities, and if there is an app/website which you can use to monitor and even control the system.

In case of an emergency, you can call the installer or 911 depending on the severity of the malfunction.

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy in Ohio 

When you turn your system on, it will instantly begin powering your home with sunlight. On your end, all the hard work is done, and you can now sit back and enjoy your clean energy and the savings it will bring you.

Among other benefits, the system will also offset thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions, while also improving the value of your property.

FAQ: Solar Panels in Ohio

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Article author
Aniket Bhor is a solar engineer who has spent nearly a decade studying and working in the solar power sector in the European, Asian and North American markets. He recieved his Master’s degree in Renewable Energies from Germany at Technische Fachhochschule Wildau. He has since worked in the industry in a variety of capacities including Solar Energy Consultant, Business Development Head, Solar Entrepreneurship Trainer, and more recently writing for solar organizations including Venuiti Solutions, Green Integrations, Solengy, Ecotality.com. Overall, he is a climate enthusiast and avid cyclist, and he also loves to lose himself in books and cooking.
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Expert reviewer
Kristina Zagame is a journalist, editor and content writer with expertise in solar and other energy-related topics. Before joining EcoWatch, Kristina was a TV news reporter and producer, covering a wide variety of topics including West Coast wildfires and hurricane relief efforts. Kristina’s reporting has taken her all over the U.S., as well as to Puerto Rico and Chile.

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