The Benefits Of Solar Energy And Residential Solar Panels
6 - Minute Read
Sep 15, 2022
Have you ever taken a look at your heating and cooling bills and thought to yourself, "There has got to be a way I can save more money."
Maybe in addition to saving money, you're interested in helping the environment, supporting local businesses or committing to energy independence.
In this piece, we'll cover the overall benefits of solar energy, the environmental benefits of solar panels and the specific benefits to homeowners with residential solar panels. We'll also cover the potential downsides of solar panels.
If you're on the fence about residential solar panels, you'll likely find some nuggets of information in this article that can help you decide your next move. Let's get started!
Environmental Advantages Of Using Solar Energy
Many individuals choose to get solar panels because of the environmental advantages that can benefit the whole planet, not just you as an individual homeowner.
Reduces Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions
Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere and warm the planet. A greenhouse gas is any gas that can absorb infrared radiation emitted from Earth's surface and send it back down to Earth. These types of gases contribute to the greenhouse effect. Three examples of greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor.
When greenhouse gases like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide are released into the atmosphere, it can have negative effects on weather, crops, animal habitats, people, and even buildings. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is one of the main benefits of going solar, since solar panels emit no greenhouse gases.
Reduces Reliance On Nonrenewable Energy Sources
Solar panel manufacturing emits less carbon during the manufacturing process than coal-powered processes. Common nonrenewable energy sources include fossil fuels, which are made when organic materials are experience heat and pressure over millions of years.
Solar panels can help you avoid using nonrenewable energy sources in your home, such as through natural gas and liquid natural gas for heating, cooking and generating electricity to power lights, televisions, air conditioners and kitchen appliances. Turning to solar reduces full dependency on fossil fuels.
Decreased Water Consumption
You probably already realize that solar panels do not require water to generate energy. However, solar panels save more water because other energy sources - like coal mining and fracking use a lot of water in their processes.
In addition, nonrenewable resource drilling (such as drilling for coal) can cause other water issues. For example, drilling can contribute to declining groundwater levels and cause drinking wells to dry up. Drilling can also redirect surface and groundwater flow.
Shrinks Your Carbon Footprint
Collectively, all of the benefits above – reducing greenhouse gas emissions, veering away from nonrenewable energy sources and decreasing water consumption – helps you reduce your personal carbon footprint.
Individuals in the U.S. have a carbon footprint of about 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world. The average of individuals in some other countries goes up to just 4 tons. Using solar energy can help you reduce your individual footprint.
Save With Solar
Benefits Of Residential Solar Panels To Homeowners
Now, let's focus on the cost and value benefits you homeowners can expect to benefit from when you install residential solar panels. We'll go over long-term return on investment, increases to home value, lowering of electricity bills and promoting energy independence.
Long-Term Return On Investment
A single solar panel can cost approximately $200 – $250, depending on the brand and size you buy, and with installation of multiple panels, you're looking at a hefty investment (more on that later on in the article). You can expect to use at least 20 panels on a single home.
However, over time, solar panels pay for themselves because you pay less on your electricity bills. It can take about 5 – 10 years for solar panels to pay for themselves, depending on your situation. Many reports show that you can save $600 – $800 per year on your electricity bills. This means that once you chip away at your initial investment, you can save thousands of dollars over the course of approximately 20 years, the typical life of solar panels.
In addition, you can tap into other advantages of using solar energy, such as tax breaks, rebates, credits and other incentives by using solar power, which we'll discuss later on in this article.
Increases To Home Value
Buyers typically like the idea of green living, and in many areas of the country, homes with solar systems sell faster than homes without them. In 2019, homes with solar systems sold for 4.1% more on average than comparable homes without solar power. This translated to an additional $9,274 on a home sale, according to Zillow research. In certain areas of the country, homes will sell for more or less, depending on the individual market. For the following cities, you can expect a home to sell for 2.7% – 5.4% more than homes without solar panels.
- New York: 5.4%
- Orlando: 4.6%
- San Francisco: 4.4%
- Los Angeles: 3.6%
- Riverside, California: 2.7%
If you're thinking of selling your home, consider the benefits of adding solar to your home prior to listing with an agent.
Lowers Electricity Bill
You can lower your electricity bill by lessening the amount you spend on electricity. You can also return the energy back to the grid for a meter reversal or store it in a home battery.
Your energy provider may also offer performance rebates or payments, also called performance-based incentives (PBIs). You can get extra cash through a per kilowatt-hour credit for the electricity that your system produces.
Promotes Energy Independence
Energy independence measures how much you rely on nonrenewable and renewable energy. Relying on solar energy, particularly during peak times of the year (like hot summer days) means it puts less demand on the grid.
You can choose several variations of grid reliance, opposite 100%, total grid reliance: partial grid reliance and total self-reliance. Partial grid reliance means you stay connected to the grid but have solar and batteries to meet your requirements. Total self-reliance means you cut ties with the grid completely and only use solar to power your home, though you might use backup batteries and generators.
Incentives Can Decrease Upfront And Lifetime Costs
Not only do solar panels decrease your lifetime costs of electricity, Congress offers tax credits for qualifying homeowners to install them. You may be able to get a 30% tax credit if you install a photovoltaic system by the end of 2032. The tax credit will be reduced to 26% and 22% for systems installed in 2033 and 2034, respectively.
There are several eligibility requirements to qualify for the tax credit. For example, the solar system must be at your primary or secondary residence if you intend to put it on your home. You must also own your system – you do not lease or purchase electricity generated by a system you do not own. You must also use your solar system new or use it yourself for the first time, as an original installation. And, importantly, you must have a tax liability to take advantage of the solar tax credit.
You may also tap into additional state tax credits and cash rebates, upfront cash rebates from municipalities and utility companies and more. Consult your local municipality and utility company for more information about how you can save.
Disadvantages Of Solar Panels
Now that we've gone over the benefits of residential solar panels, what about the key disadvantages? We'll also go over some steps you can take to overcome some of the key issues.
Solar Might Not Work On Your Roof
The size of your roof or where it's located may not be conducive to having solar panels. Some roofs are not large enough and others aren't angled in a way that makes sense for solar. In addition, if your roof is completely shaded (maybe you live in a home surrounded by towering pine trees), solar panels may not work for you.
High Upfront Costs
One of the most common questions: How much do solar panels cost? Typically residential solar panels systems cost anywhere from $16,000 - $25,000 or more on average to install, according to EnergySage.
You will also face ongoing some costs for routine maintenance and replacement parts for your solar panels. You'll also have to pay for fuel for a generator, if you have one!
Backup Power Considerations
You may not hit a home run with just your solar panels alone. You'll likely need a combination of solar and batteries to provide you with a system that will give you several days of support. For example, you might face inclement weather or use more energy when eight relatives come to visit.
Ready For Fun In The Sun?
Now that we've walked through the advantages of solar panels and the benefits of solar energy to the environment, what do you think? Are they for you?
While you may instinctively consider the upsides of using solar energy (saving money, rebates, off-grid independence, earth-friendly characteristics and all!), it's also important to consider the challenges of solar energy as well. You'll need to consider whether your home can be retrofitted for solar panels. You'll also need to consider whether you have the cash on hand to purchase and install them.
For many homeowners, solar panels are a great option for saving costs and protecting the earth. Use this guide to get started on your journey to going solar!