Solar Panels

Should I Get Solar Panels And Are They Worth It?

Sidney Richardson8 minute read
December 17, 2021

Thinking about going solar? Installing solar panels can help you reduce or even eliminate energy costs, along with many other benefits to you and your home. If you’re still on the fence or unsure whether your home is a good candidate for solar energy, let’s break down the case for switching to this green energy option as well as all the pros, cons and costs you can expect.

What Are Solar Panels And How Do They Work?

Solar panels are panels containing solar cells which collect light from the sun and convert it to electrical energy that powers your home. Installing solar panels can be a great way to lower your electricity bill and help reduce your carbon footprint to achieve a more energy-efficient household.  

During the day, your solar panels will absorb energy from the sunlight that hits them. This energy creates an electrical charge which is then converted by an inverter into a form of energy your home can utilize. Excess energy is typically stored in photovoltaic batteries so you can still use power generated by your solar panel system even when it’s dark or cloudy. With enough solar panels and appropriate sunlight, you can potentially power everything in your home.

Do Solar Panels Save Money?

Depending on where you live and your current electricity rates, solar panels have the potential to save you a lot of money. If you live in a particularly sunny state, like California, Hawaii, Florida or Arizona, this is especially true. Solar energy saves you money that would otherwise be spent on your electricity bill – so if your monthly bill is through the roof, you stand to benefit greatly from a switch to solar.

According to Consumer Affairs, the average cost to install solar panels in the U.S. is $12,000 (after tax incentives). While this may seem like a steep cost, it’s important to be aware that most solar panels will pay for themselves after 8 years, though this time may be as short as 3 years in sunnier states.

So yes, solar panels do save homeowners a significant amount of money, though savings can vary based on where you live, how many panels you can fit on your roof and the average cost of your monthly electricity bill.

How To Calculate Solar Panel Costs

So, what would it cost you to get solar panels? We’ve already established that the average cost tends to be around $12,000 for a full solar setup, but that number can vary significantly depending on where you live, how many hours of sunlight your home receives in a day, etc.

To help you get a better idea of how much you might expect to spend, let’s go over the steps you should take to calculate your potential solar panel costs.

Evaluate Your Electricity Bill 

The first step you should take if you’re interested in getting solar panels is to look at your current electric bill. In 2019, the average U.S. resident paid $115 a month for electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By using solar power, you can greatly reduce that monthly cost – or potentially eliminate it altogether. If you were paying the average cost every month, you would stand to save roughly $1,380 per year by switching completely to solar energy. Of course, this number doesn’t even account for higher bills in the summer months or states with higher energy consumption due to weather.

Review Costs For Panels And Installation

The savings that come with solar panels don’t come for free, however. It can be pretty costly (upfront at least) to install solar panels on the roof of your home. While each individual solar panel likely only costs $150-$300, depending on the wattage, the total costs can add up once there are multiple panels and installation costs involved. The average solar panel system costs around $15,000-$25,000 prior to tax incentives (which we’ll talk about in a bit), according to the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE).

Keep in mind that there may be other additional charges coming your way in the future as well. If your solar panels break down over time or become damaged, you’ll likely have to pay for maintenance and upkeep of your solar energy system as well.

Assess Your Home’s Sunlight Exposure

Your home’s daily sunlight exposure (or lack thereof) can also be a big factor in what you can expect to spend and save when investing in solar panels. If you live in a very sunny state, your panels will produce more energy, which means you stand to save significantly more on electricity costs. If you live in a less sunny state – like either of the Dakotas, which are consistently rated some of the “worst” states for solar power – you might not be saving as much, thanks to cloudy weather and few solar companies throughout the state.

Consider Solar Panel Financing

Another important thing to consider is how you’ll be paying for your solar energy system. While some homeowners may have $12,000-$20,000 on hand to pay for solar panel installation, most of us likely have to find another way to finance this investment.

One option to consider is paying for your solar panels with a personal loan. Unsecured personal loans are a popular choice for solar panel financing, but you can also finance a solar system by doing a cash-out refinance, using a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC). It’s also possible to lease solar panels, though leasing may not necessarily make financial sense for all homeowners.

Research Government Incentives 

While they do generally pay for themselves and help you save thousands in the long run, solar panel systems can be very costly to install. Luckily, there are lots of incentives created by the federal, state and even local governments that aim to make adopting solar power more affordable via tax benefits and rebates.

To see what policies and incentives might be in place in your state, you can check the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE).

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Pros And Cons Of Solar Panels

Still on the fence or unsure whether solar panels would be a good investment for you? Let’s break down some of the pros and cons of installing a solar system. 

Pros

  • It reduces electricity bills. Solar energy can take the place of the electricity you already pay for and can reduce your bills – or completely do away with them.
  • Solar panels minimize carbon footprint. Solar energy is renewable, has low operating costs and doesn’t produce any harmful emissions, unlike other forms of power.
  • Net metering allows homeowners to profit from excess energy produced. Net metering is a process that allows homeowners in some states to sell excess energy produced by their solar panel system back to the grid for a profit.
  • Government programs incentivize solar power installation. There are many government programs that will give you tax credit for installing solar panels. For systems installed in 2023, you can get a federal solar tax credit of 22%.
  • Solar technology is more advanced and longer lasting than ever. While it might be costly to install up front, your solar system could last and power your home for 20+ years, which is a lot of money saved over time – and is great for the environment.

Cons

  • Upfront solar panel costs can be high. With the installation of a solar panel system costing $15,000-$20,000 upfront (and an average of $12,000 after utilizing tax credits) it isn’t cheap to switch to solar power.
  • Solar efficiency depends on the weather. If you live somewhere where it’s often dark or cloudy, solar panels may not be worth the investment for you and might not provide consistent savings.
  • There may be solar power limitations from your region or state. There are some regions or states with rules in place designed to block homeowners from utilizing solar energy for their home in place of regular utilities, which could make it impossible for you to get solar panels at all.
  • Lower existing electricity costs mean lower savings. If your electricity bill is already extremely low, investing thousands in a solar system that won’t pay itself off right away might not be a financially sound decision for you.

Solar Panel FAQs

Still have questions about installing solar panels? Here are a few frequently asked questions about switching to solar power.

Is my house suitable for solar panels?

Once you’ve determined solar panels would be a good option for you, both cost- and energy-wise, you may be wondering, “Can I even get solar panels for my house?”

The answer depends on a few things – including where you live and what type of roof you have. Your location matters because you want to be sure you are getting enough sun for the investment to make sense and also because your region may have rules in place preventing you from getting solar panels – so be sure to do research into local rules and restrictions, first.

The type of roof you have will also be important because solar panels work best when placed on strong, durable materials. That means if your roof is made of something like wood shake or slate tile, you may have to work with a professional that specializes in working with that type of roof. The condition of your roof may also be an issue if it needs to be repaired or replaced before solar installation.

Can a house run on solar panels alone?

Yes, a house can run on solar panels alone and without any additional electricity. Going fully off the grid can be difficult, since it would potentially require a great deal of panels to accommodate all of your energy needs, but it is very possible.

How many solar panels are needed to power a house?

The size of your home and how much energy you typically consume will determine how many solar panels will be required to run everything. On your utility, you should be able to find your monthly energy usage in kilowatt-hours (KWH). Finding out how much energy you use vs. how much energy a solar system could provide will help you determine the right number of panels to power your home.

According to EFS Energy, the average home in the U.S. (approximately 1,500 square feet) requires 15 – 18 solar panels to power everything. 

Can I install solar panels myself? 

You can install solar panels yourself, though most panels that are sold with the intention of being installed DIY are meant only to power smaller sources, like RV trailers or pool pumps. Installing a full solar system that’s meant to replace traditional electricity in your home will likely require professional installation.

Do solar panels impact property value?

Yes. In many states, having solar panels that supplement some of the energy bill can increase home value significantly. Data gathered by Zillow suggests that homes with solar systems sold for 4.1% more on average than homes without.

The Bottom Line: Should I Get Solar Panels On My House?

So, are solar panels worth it? If you live in an area that gets enough sunlight and could stand to pay a little less on your utility bill – yes, generally, solar panels are a great investment and a good way to reduce your carbon footprint. Before getting any quotes on your own system, however, be sure to double check the rules and restrictions for solar panels in your area and do your research into available incentives and potential rebates.

For more tips on making your home more sustainable, check out our list of eco-friendly changes you can make in your house today.

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Sidney Richardson

Sidney Richardson is an intern writer covering homeownership, mortgage and lifestyle topics. She is a senior at Oakland University pursuing a degree in journalism and advertising.