Solar panels installations on the roofs of more than two million American homes thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or ARRA, and a little bit of those compelling incentives to protect the earth and save some money while you’re at it.
However, as solar technology has improved over the years, so has the cost of these solar installations, and now many homeowners are wondering if it’s worth it?
By the end of this guide, we’re hoping we can help you make an informed decision about solar panel installations that will work best for you and your home.
🌎 How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar energy has been used to generate electricity for more than a century, but it’s only recently become affordable for the masses.
The technology behind solar power is pretty simple while also being extremely complex.
So let us make it a little bit easier to grasp, shall we?
Think of a solar panel as a battery and the sun as a battery charger.
When sunlight hits the surface of the solar panel, electrons in the sun’s energy are transferred into the solar cell, which is basically a tiny battery that stores this energy.
As the electrons travel through the solar cell, they release energy as a currency that can be used to create electricity.
While this is happening, the battery is recharging, slowly building up its charge.
Eventually, the amount of energy stored in the solar cell will equal the energy initially put into the solar panel.
But the economics might be dramatically different depending on where you live, your utility costs for energy, and how much power your unique house consumes.
The solar payback estimate at the beginning of our Solar Panels for Home Beginners Guide helps you determine whether a solar system is right for you.
It also helps you calculate how much money you’ll make by going solar and how much you’ll save on your electric bill.
If you decide that a solar system is right for you, the guide will help you determine the financial benefits of going solar by taking your current power bill and zip code into account; then, we’ll show you how to install it and even help you find a reputable solar installer near you.
You can learn more about the economics of going solar in our Solar Panels for Home Beginners Guide.
🌎 How much do solar panels cost for average homes in 2022?
The U.S. solar industry is growing at an annual rate of nearly 20%.
After deducting the federal solar tax credit of 26%, the average cost of installing solar panels on a home today is between $13,098 and $16,872.
Compared to a decade earlier, solar power now costs less than $3.00 per watt installed, which means the average cost for a typical 1-kilowatt system has dropped by more than 80% since 2006.
By 2020, there should have been enough capacity in the U.S.U.S. to power every home in America with solar panels.
Because solar panels need little to no ongoing maintenance, they are ideal for homeowners and small businesses who want to save on their energy bills.
Solar panels are mostly a one-time purchase that lasts a long time, and with proper installation and maintenance, they will continue to provide clean, renewable energy for decades to come.
Solar energy systems have several advantages over other energy sources: They don’t emit carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, or nitrogen oxide, which are harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
Over the last two years, solar panel costs have stabilized, and we do not expect significant price decreases until 2022.
Even if the average price is fascinating, your home is unlikely to fall into that category.
You must know the cost of installing solar panels on your home based on its location, power use, and payback time.
This question may be answered depending on local weather, utility rates, and whether you’re planning to install a grid-connected or hybrid system.
A grid-connected system connects to the local grid and allows the home to access the grid’s power directly.
It’s generally more expensive than a stand-alone system but will generate more electricity when the sun is shining.
Cost of Grid-Connected Solar System
The average cost for installing a grid-connected solar system depends on your location and how much energy you consume.
As an example, let’s say that you live in a cold region with average temperatures below freezing and no sun for 6 months of the year.
In this case, you could install a system with a small solar panel rated at 10 kilowatts (kW) or 20 kW (depending on your local energy prices).
These panels would be connected to your home’s existing wiring and electrical outlets, allowing them to produce enough electricity to power the entire house.
You’ll save even more by using a passive solar home design.
A well-designed passive solar home is designed so that the building takes advantage of the sun’s maximum heat level in the winter and keeps it from cooling down in the summer.
The best way to learn about passive solar design is to build a few test models.
You can start with an old trailer, a shipping container, or a pre-fabricated home kit.
Here are some resources to help you get started: https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/passive-solar-home-design
In the United States, it’s common to see solar systems installed with a capacity of at least 10 kilowatts (kW) and up to 30 kW.
Systems that are sized at 30 kW are usually installed for two reasons:
- They can produce enough electricity to power homes of about 2,000 square feet.
- They can be installed on a roof with a larger surface area than smaller systems to produce more electricity over time.
As your home’s energy needs change, you can easily add or remove solar panels by adding or removing racks.
Your local utility company will probably offer rebates and tax credits for installing solar panels.
The amount you can get back depends on your location, so check with your utility to see if there are any incentives in your area.
On another note, when it comes to going solar, you don’t have to worry about upfront fees since there are various zero-down financing alternatives, like solar loans, that enable you to go solar and start saving right away.
Solar loans are preferable to leases since you can preserve the tax benefits associated with solar power.
Leasing companies obtain tax advantages for solar installations, but if you sell your house, the buyer has to accept the solar lease’s assignment, which is not essential if you have a solar loan.
The wattage and kilowattage of a solar system should be noted by newcomers to the field since they impact the monthly cost you need to pay.
The larger your system, the more it will cost.
There are ways to keep the whole costs down, such as buying a large-capacity inverter and a system with fewer panels.
I would also recommend using a professional installer if you can and that you contact local utility companies about installing solar at your home.
Some utility companies offer rebates for installing solar, while others have a flat rate for the system.
If you have an electric car, you might also want to consider putting a solar car charger on your roof, which will reduce your electricity bill.
Also, if you have two systems, one will likely produce more power than the other.
Solar leasing companies often charge monthly fees to homeowners, which can add up. However, most companies offer lease lengths of 1 to 20 years, so it’s a good idea to do your research and compare lease costs with other solar companies before signing on the dotted line.
In addition to the monthly payment, solar lease customers must also pay a capitalization fee when they sell their homes.
This fee can vary widely based on several factors, but it is typically between 6% and 10% of the home’s sales price.
The Grid-tied System
Due to their low cost, grid-tied solar systems have been the most often installed on residential properties up until recently.
Because they are so inexpensive, they provide the most rapid return on investment.
However, the downside of a grid-tied system is that it requires an expensive battery system to be installed for power backup since it will only generate electricity when there is enough solar energy to produce it.
This means the battery must be kept charged at all times, or it will not function correctly.
This makes them very expensive and difficult to install.
So, what if you want to install a solar system but don’t want to have to install a battery system?
A hybrid system combines the best of both worlds.
The Hybrid System
The hybrid and off-grid systems for going solar can be confusing, but they’re both a great way to save money on your energy bill and reduce your carbon footprint.
The hybrid system is like the best of both worlds.
It combines solar power with your existing utility service. With a hybrid system, you don’t have to do any work – you just plug in your solar panels and enjoy the benefits.
With a hybrid system, you get the benefits of solar power, but you don’t have to worry about the installation or upkeep.
You can install your solar panels without ever touching a tool.
Once you’ve installed your solar panels, you can enjoy the benefits of clean, renewable energy.
This includes lower energy bills, reduced carbon emissions, and all the free energy from the sun.
🌎 Are solar panels truly more cost-effective than conventional energy sources?
Solar panels may indeed save you money.
In many situations, solar panels will save you money over the long term.
The payback period of a solar panel installation varies with location and type of system installed.
According to some reports from the U.S. Department of Energy, the payback period of 10 years or less is considered to be economically viable, although they may save as much as $50,000 throughout their lifespan if you are installing solar panels on your roof to offset your monthly electricity bills, you may not see any savings for years.
Four to eight years is generally the average time it takes for solar panels to pay for themselves.
For the remainder of its lifespan, your solar panels will be providing you with free power!
Solar savings may mount up to substantial sums because of the compounding impact of rising power rates.
The more solar panel installations you have, the lower your electricity bills will be over time, as renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, are a kind of insurance against rising electricity costs.
There are two main ways people go about installing solar panels in their homes: Pay the total price upfront or pay a small monthly fee to install solar panels.
The full-price option can come in at around $10,000, depending on where you live. You need to invest in all the necessary equipment and infrastructure (e.g., panels, mounting structures, battery storage, inverters, etc.).
This is not a fraud, although it seems too good to be true.
Net metering, a utility program available in most states, allows you to sell excess energy back to your utility company at an agreed-upon rate.
You get credit for all the electricity you generate during the billing period.
As long as you have access to the power grid, you can sell back to the grid, which is another reason solar panels save you so much money.
The amount of electricity you can sell back to the grid will depend on your state’s net metering laws and how much power you generate.
Most states cap the amount of electricity you can sell back to the grid, which means if you do produce more electricity than you use, you won’t receive the total retail value of your electricity.
You also might not receive credit for every kWh you generate.
Although not all net metering regulations are the same, many utilities are pushing to expand their current policies to accommodate for growth and reduce their net metering programs, if they haven’t already.
However, there is a critical difference between some of these policies.
The utility’s policy will affect your net metering program, but it will not affect any other customer’s net metering program.
While the utility may or may not charge you for the power you generate, it will always have a “metering” program that applies to all customers and assigns them an amount based on how much energy they use.
In other words, when you are generating power, you will be charged for the power you use, even though you may not be paying your utility for that power.
Some utilities will have a separate “net metering” policy for their customers participating in net metering programs.
If you are interested in knowing your utility’s policies, you can make an inquire and check with them.
🌎 When the electricity goes off, will my solar panels still work?
In most cases, the answer for you is yes, they will.
Solar panels are battery operated and will continue to produce power even if the grid is off or partially off.
If you have a smart meter, your panel should start producing power immediately when the grid is turned back on.
Most people assume that solar panels will keep their lights on when the electricity goes off.
But they won’t, not without adding a battery system to store some of the power generated by the sun during the day.
In the rare case of a grid power outage, the battery system can be used to keep the house powered for a few days, but that’s about it.
Even if you have solar and batteries, you can’t use them both at the same time because they’re incompatible with each other.
The batteries are designed to store energy, while the solar panels produce it.
During a power outage, solar panels will only be able to power your house if they are coupled with a battery.
What is a solar battery, how does it work, and what is the price?
A solar battery is essentially an insulated box that collects electricity from the sun.
They allow you to utilize your extra power when you need it most, such as in the event of an outage.
Batteries are an essential part of any residential solar system. In most cases, the battery system will provide a backup power source when the sun is not shining, and there is no electricity generated by the solar panels.
Batteries also allow the solar system to store more energy than it would produce during peak periods.
The first commercial solar battery was developed in 1976 by a company called Panasonic, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it became ubiquitous.
A residential solar battery system can last 20 years or longer.
Installation of solar batteries in a house typically costs between $10,000 and $15,000. Thus they significantly increase the price of a solar system.
Luckily, batteries used to store solar energy from a residential solar system are also eligible for tax credits, and there are rebates and incentives available in many states.
For instance, in New Jersey, a residential battery system can be eligible for a 25% rebate on the cost of the system, along with an additional 10% rebate on the cost of the batteries.
This is the result of New Jersey Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard that requires utilities to purchase renewable energy, such as solar, from customers.
Even more importantly, this cuts the overall costs down dramatically.
It’s worth noting that more and more people are embracing the use of solar batteries, despite their expensive price tag, to safeguard themselves against power disruptions.
In fact, about 70% of consumers who use our website to obtain estimates from local solar businesses are interested in battery storage.
Only two years ago, this figure was less than half of what it is now.
The recent trend shows that solar batteries will only grow in popularity.
Is there a better way to keep your lights on than with a solar battery, which is becoming more that just a little widespread in the States?
The entire worth of your solar energy may still be reaped even if your utility doesn’t provide a robust net metering scheme.
As net metering is phased out by more and more utility companies, a new generation of off-grid solar power systems is popping up.
This allows you to get compensated for the surplus solar power you create above your home’s electricity demands when it is produced, while it is not possible without it (in the middle of the day).
🌎 How long does solar panel installation take?
The system’s intricacy determines how long it will take to finish a solar installation, but the average is one or two days.
Several more steps are involved in adopting solar, and the installation is only the beginning.
It may take between two and three months from the moment you sign your contract with an installation to when your system is operational.
Depending on where you reside, solar permits and utility approvals are also required before connecting to the grid.
You’ll need to pay for the cost of electricity generated by your solar system until you receive a credit from your utility.
🌎 What is The Right Number of Solar Panels for Your Home?
When it comes to solar installations, “How many solar panels do I need?” isn’t all that useful.
It also adds unnecessary complexity and costs to your home’s solar system and can even have a negative impact on your power bills, which might dissuade you from the entire process.
More pertinent is, “What size solar panel system do I require? “as each brand and type of solar panel has a different recommended number of panels for a given roof.
It is also important to note that the kW rating of a solar system represents the highest generating capacity of the system installed.
There will be an average of 8 kW in systems in 2022.
You may use a solar panel cost calculator to figure out how many solar panels you’ll need for your particular house.
🌎 Should You Do Solar Installations Yourself?
Installation alone is possible; however, it may not be the best decision since you will not have any expert guidance.
If you do the solar installations yourself, you need to be aware of the dangers involved and better make sure that you have the right tools and that you can handle the project.
Though you can save quite an amount of money on labour expenses, the dangers of working on a roof and doing electrical repairs may outweigh the possible savings.
Warranty voiding and non-eligibility for specific incentives are other possible outcomes of this practice.
Even if you can install solar panels yourself, it is not recommended.
In the end, hiring a professional will save you more time and money than doing it yourself.
It is advisable to receive numerous quotations from solar installers to pick one best suits your requirements.
Aside from learning about the various installation providers, this method also aids in locating the most affordable option.
A reputable local solar installer is what we prefer for homeowners like yourself.
Look for a firm that employs its own staff and has been in operation for at least five years. This will ensure that you are dealing with a company that knows what it is doing.
We would also recommend looking for a company that offers a written warranty and a guarantee of service.
🌎 The Takeaways: Are solar panels a good investment for your home?
While some people may be concerned about the upfront costs, others are interested in how they can really save money on their monthly energy bills.
With net metering rules and municipal solar incentives, solar panels are nearly always an excellent financial option.
As net metering is abolished in more jurisdictions and blackouts become more prevalent, more homes will begin to use battery storage in conjunction with solar panels.
Many solar businesses are working to expedite the permitting process, which is excellent news for homeowners who want to start saving money with solar power right now.
This means the best time to go solar is right now if you want to take advantage of net metering and the 26% tax credit.
It’s cheaper to go solar, but it also reduces your carbon impact and gives you more freedom, mainly when using battery storage in tandem.
Plus, you’ll realize the benefits of solar energy sooner, which means you’ll have more money to spend on the things you value rather than your power bill.
This may not always be an option for those who have nowhere to place them, intend to move soon, or have low energy expenses.
There are environmental costs to producing and consuming energy, and it’s essential to take those into consideration as well.