Should You Get Solar Panels For Your Home?
8 - Minute Read
May 10, 2022
Have you ever thought about solar panels for home installation? The notion of potentially saving money, helping the environment and maybe even tackling off-grid living may appeal to you.
We’ll explore what you should know about the benefits of home solar energy production and the costs involved as well as the pros and cons of a solar system for your home. We'll also answer some frequently asked questions you may want to know before you jump into your own home solar system installation project.
The Benefits Of Home Solar Energy Production
There are major benefits of solar energy beyond just potentially saving money (though the perk of saving money is hard to ignore!).
According to Pew Research, 87% of individuals who were considering solar said "concern for the environment" was important in their decision. Ninety-six percent of homeowners said they want to save money on their electric bill.
In 2011, residential solar produced 972.5 megawatt hours (mWh). By Q3 2021, that number was up to more than 22,150 mWh. This makes the grid cleaner for utility companies as well.
You may also qualify for federal tax credit incentives. When you get solar panels, you may be able to take advantage of a 26% tax credit (for systems installed in 2020-2022) or a 22% tax credit (for systems installed in 2023). Note that the tax credit will expire in 2024 unless Congress renews these tax incentives. In addition to these federal incentives, many states offer solar rebates for home solar power systems.
Net metering also allows homeowners to export power to the grid and reduce electric bills. Your utility company will measure the amount of electricity that you generate and use. The utility company can credit you for any extra production your solar system generates. Check with your local utility providers to see if they offer a net metering program.
Another perk: As more and more individuals opt for solar energy, solar jobs also increase. In the U.S., 100,000 workers were employed in solar in 2010 and that figure rose to 230,000 in 2020, according to an annual survey by the National Solar Jobs Census.
Finally, electricity produced by solar cells (also called photovoltaics) is clean and quiet. PV systems silently produce clean energy, never releasing harmful substances into the air or water during production. Furthermore, you'll never annoy your neighbors with noisy energy production.
Understanding Solar Power For Homes
There are various ways to generate solar power, including:
● Grid-tied solar systems: Grid-tied simply means that your solar system is connected to the electrical power grid on a permanent basis. You can pull power from the grid to supplement your solar energy production. This way, you don't have to purchase batteries for your system, which can get expensive.
● Off-grid solar systems: Off-grid solar systems sound exactly like what they are – solar systems that don't connect to your utility company or other power source. Your solar system alone supports your own energy generation. Unless it’s physically or financially infeasible to connect to a utility power grid, most people choose a grid-tied system.
● Grid-tied systems with battery backup: Often called a "hybrid system," a grid-tied system with battery backup has a solar battery that stores energy generated by solar panels in your system. The size (and cost) of your batteries depends on how much electricity you use and how much your solar panels will produce. You may want a battery in case of disruptions in the electric power system or if your utility company charges different rates for power usage based on the time of day or amount of energy you use.
● Solar lease: You can also get a solar lease rather than buying a full solar system. A solar lease is a financing option that allows you to pay monthly to lease a solar system instead of owning solar panels outright.
The right option for you ties into your specific goals and needs.
The Cost Of Home Solar Panels
What do solar panels for your home cost? It's a great question, and realistically, they aren't cheap.
However, there's good news: the average residential solar panel system costs have fallen since 2010, from about $4.70 per kilowatt hour (kWh) to $2.70 per kWh in 2021. A significant contributor to this is module costs decreasing about 85% in the past decade.
To learn about the costs, let's consider a 5 kilowatt (kW) system. A system this size can produce up to 30 kWh on a sunny summer day, though the system is more likely to produce an average of 20 kWh because real life conditions are usually not the most optimal. The average cost to install a system of this size could range between $15,000 to $25,000 or more prior to rebates and tax credits.
The good news is that most solar panel systems usually don't need much ongoing maintenance, keeping most of the costs upfront. In addition, government incentives such as tax credits and rebates from federal and local agencies can reduce the cost if you qualify.
However, you'll also want to calculate how much you'll save over time compared to how much you spend initially. Homeowners who invest in a 5 kW solar system can save between $44 and $187 on average per month, according to the NC Clean Energy Technology Center at North Carolina State University’s research on 50 of the largest U.S. cities.
A solar panel calculator can help you estimate your solar savings. Just input your address, electricity bill and roof type.
Pros And Cons Of Home Solar
Deciding whether you should get solar panels isn't a decision you want to take lightly. Here are a few pros and cons to consider.
● You could decrease (or possibly eliminate) your monthly electric bill
● You could lower your overall carbon footprint by switching to a renewable energy source
● A solar installation may be eligible for federal, state or local tax incentives
● Solar often increases the overall value of your home
● You can access a wide range of solar products that often offer great warranties
● Solar panels don't cost a lot to maintain
● You may be able to sell excess energy back to the grid
● Solar panels come with expensive upfront installation costs
● It may impact your ability to refinance your mortgage
● Your roof might not be ideal for solar installation (and you might be limited by the amount of space you have)
● Solar systems require a sunny environment to work best – if your home is surrounded by towering evergreens, for example, it may not work for you
FAQ: Solar Panels For Homes
Let's take a look at a few FAQs for solar panels to help you decide whether you should get going on your own solar project.
Can solar panels power my home completely?
The amount of "coverage" you get from your solar panels depends on the amount of energy your household consumes. At night and in cloudy weather, most homes with solar will rely on the utility grid for power. At other times (such as during many consecutive days of sunny weather), your solar array may add more energy to the grid than it uses. Your geographic location, panel efficiency and panel power also factor into whether your solar panels can power your home completely.
With a properly sized system and with energy-efficient habits and appliances, your home’s average production over a year could match your consumption.
You can use a formula to determine the number of panels that you'll need:
Number of Panels = System Size / Production Ratio / Panel Wattage
From there, you can figure out how many panels will cover all your energy needs.
What’s the ROI of home solar?
The return on investment (ROI) you receive from your solar system depends on a few factors, including government incentives, your system size, the type of system you install and your location.
However, typical payback periods range from 10 – 20 years.
You can estimate your ROI using a solar panel calculator, and for more accurate estimates, it's a good idea to keep tabs on your electric bills. Once you know your numbers, you can divide the total cost of the system by the yearly benefit you'll receive once you install your solar panels.
How long do solar panels last?
Home solar installations have an industry standard 25- to 30-year life expectancy. They don't completely quit producing after this amount of time. Instead, they decline in efficiency but still produce power.
Fortunately, the warranty period for solar panels usually matches the life expectancy, so if something goes wrong before then, you can usually get your solar panels replaced.
Note, however, that the inverter in a photovoltaic system usually has a shorter warranty than the panels. You need an inverter because the electricity in your solar panels comes out as direct current (DC) electricity, and in order to use it in your home, DC electricity needs to be converted to alternating current (AC) electricity. An inverter does just that – it converts DC electricity to AC electricity.
What maintenance do home solar panels need?
Most home solar installers recommend cleaning your solar panels regularly because dirty solar panels lose their efficiency if they're very dirty. Items like bird droppings, pollen, dust, leaves and even sea salt can become a problem for solar panels. You can clean them yourself with regular dishwashing soap or window soap. It's important to note that since solar panels are often located on steep and pitched roofs, cleaning them can be a safety issue. If you're concerned about safety, you can also hire a professional to clean them. The cost will vary depending on the types of cleaning services in your area.
What if I don’t have space on my roof for solar panels?
You may want to consider ground-mounted solar panels or a solar carport if you have a small roof or a roof that isn't conducive to solar panels.
Just as it sounds, a ground-mounted solar array refers to a system that stands on its own. It can be mounted on a frame or on top of a single pole coming out of the ground. A solar carport, on the other hand, is a structure that shelters vehicles that can also produce solar energy.
Your solar installer can help you determine the best option for your home.
The Bottom Line
Are you ready to get solar panels? There are major benefits of solar energy beyond just potentially saving you money, and as with many major purchases, you'll want to consider all the angles before you buy. Solar panels can reduce your impact on the environment, make the grid cleaner for utility companies and even increase solar jobs.
It's a good idea to consider your goals and needs before you choose the right solar system for you. You can choose from grid-tied systems, off-grid systems, grid-tied systems with battery backup and even a solar lease. In other words, you can choose from many different options as soon as you decide that solar power makes sense for your short- and long-term goals.
If you’re researching solar panels for your home, be sure to decide whether your house is a good fit for producing solar energy. Don't forget to weigh all the pros and cons before you buy.
Rocket Solar does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.