Can I remove my solar panels if I move?

Home solar panels are a big investment. If you need to sell your house, unfortunately you really can't take them with you. Here's why.

Photo of a moving van.
Erik McLean/Unsplash

Moving houses is a big pain. Organizing all your stuff, packing, unpacking - nobody enjoys doing tha†. But for better or worse, packing your solar panels isn’t something you’ll have to worry about.

There’s a few reasons for this that I’ll cover in this article. The bottom line is that if you have solar panels and you’re selling your house, you should plan for the panels to stay behind. While it might be technically possible to do so, it’s not a practical idea to remove your solar panels, take them with you, and reinstall them on your new home.

And that’s okay! Just include the residual value of the panels in the sale price of your home, and make sure that the home buyers understand the value they bring.

Here’s some of the reasons why it isn’t practical to deinstall your solar panels and reinstall them on a different home.

The value of a solar array is much more than just the panels

While they are certainly the most visible component, solar panels and the rest of the hardware represent only about 1/3 of the value of a home solar installation. The rest comes from what are known as soft costs. These are costs related to non-hardware parts of the installation, such as labor, permitting, and system design.

This means that even if you were to take your solar panels, inverters, racking hardware, and wiring to your new home, you would still need to hire a company to do the work of installing all of it at your new home - after going through the work of designing the system and getting the permits and approvals.

Removing a solar array from a home effectively erases that investment you previously made in your home.

If you remove everything, you’ll have to repair the roof

Unless you have a standing seam metal roof, installing solar means putting dozens of holes in your roof. From a waterproofing standpoint that’s fine as long as the hardware is in place, but if you remove the hardware you’ll have to repair all of those holes and replace the roofing material.

One alternative would be to remove the panels and racking but leave the footings in place, but that’s an unsightly approach. If you have a tile roof and the installer used a comp-out or picture framing technique, it’s really not an option either.

Don’t forget about all the electrical work

Components such as wiring, cutoff switches, and monitoring equipment are out of the way and easy to forget about. A complete deinstallation of your system means removing these as well, adding to the cost of the work.

A solar installer isn’t going to want to install used equipment

Despite the reasons not to, let’s say you go ahead and remove all of your solar equipment and pack it with you to your new home. Now what?

If you’ve managed to do that, you’re most likely stuck. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find any reputable solar installer who will look at your used equipment and agree to install it.

Questions about the quality of the equipment, liability for used equipment that they didn’t source, warranty issues, and inappropriate equipment for the design are just some of the objections that would raise.

The last point deserves a little explanation. Installers choose equipment that is appropriate for your site: roof slope, shading conditions, and roof materials are some of the factors they consider. Racking equipment that is appropriate for one roof might not be suitable for another.

Solar panels add value to your home, so it’s better to leave them in place

Whether you already have solar panels installed on your home or you’re planning to but think you might need to move sometime before the panels stop working (which is up to 25 years), you might wonder if it makes sense to remove your solar array and take it with you.

That’s not something you need to consider. For all the reasons described above (and probably more), you can’t move an existing solar installation from one home to another.

The main reason why you might even think about doing this is that some homeowners who aren’t familiar with home solar might object to the panels. Fortunately, that’s an easily addressed issue. Especially in places like California where electricity prices are high, an existing home solar that is purchased and paid for (rather than leased) adds significant value to a home - as much as $24,000 for 6 kW system according to some sources.

That’s a big selling point that your realtor can help communicate to prospective home buyers.

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