California-based Sunrun and Harris Interactive recently announced the results of a survey of 2,211 adults (1,475 homeowners) about the cost and desirability of installing a home solar system.  The main sound bite is the one-liner that “97% of Americans overestimate the cost of going solar,” as well as the stat that “nearly 8 out of 10 of those who do not already have solar panels say they would install solar if cost were not a factor.”

The survey asked respondents to guess: ** the actual cost to install solar panels with solar power service on an average-sized home.**

You may disagree but I view this as a trick question to see if anyone really knows what a “solar power service” is.  That is to say, only 3% responded with what could be seen as a correct answer of “less than $1,000.”

With a solar power service – i.e., third-party owned solar in the form of a solar lease or a power purchase agreement, depending on the state – the purchaser doesn’t own the panels, so the upfront cost to the homeowner is nominal compared to purchase cost of the same system.  With a solar power service, one could “go solar” without buying the panels.

As a side note, it’s hard to tell if the question clarifies whether “actual cost” is viewed from the homeowner’s perspective or from the installer perspective.  Regardless of purchase, lease, or other financing, the actual cost is what it is – someone pays for the solar panels and that someone is probably the homeowner in the form of a lease or power purchase payment over time.

In any event, Sunrun found that nearly eight out of 10 homeowners who do not already have solar panels would install solar if cost were not a factor.  That to me is another way of saying: if the solar panels were free, would you like to have them?  Most likely (unless you’re thinking nothing in this world is free), the answer is yes.

Seems like the real takeaway from the survey is many Americans have no idea how solar panels can be leased or financed under various contractual models that tie into state laws.  And this lack of familiarity means the decision to “go solar” should be made after diligence, investigation, and full understanding.

[+] Americans Overestimate Upfront Cost of Installing Solar.

Credit: Sunrun.