Solar panels installed on a modern home's roof.

Should I Get Solar Panels For My Home?

6-Minute Read
Published on August 29, 2022
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Buying and owning a home accrues a lot of expenses throughout the years, whether it’s a fix to your back patio or updating the decor in your living room. But your electric bill is a fee that shows up every month. While it’s a necessity, the cost to power your home can take up a significant portion of your monthly budget.

Solar energy continues to grow in popularity across the country, with more and more solar panels popping up on roofs in cities and rural areas alike. Maybe you’re asking “Should I get solar panels?” Before deciding if solar panels are the right option for you, there’s plenty to consider.

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How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar energy is a form of renewable energy taken from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy, typically through solar panels. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, the sunlight emits photons and is absorbed by the PV, or photovoltaic, cells in the panel. This creates electrical charge and causes the energy to flow. In fact, according to Energy.gov, enough sunlight hits the planet in an hour to power Earth for an entire year.

For homeowners, solar panels provide a renewable and cost-effective energy option. However, the impact of switching to solar energy depends on if you have a grid-tied or off-grid home, as they have their differences.

Solar panels convert solar energy into direct current (DC) electricity. An inverter converts the DC into an alternating current that can be used by the home and its appliances, so any power that the home doesn’t consume goes into the grid. The homeowner may be credited for the power their home adds to the grid if their utility company uses net metering. Net metering is when solar power customers sell the electricity that is not used back into the grid, and many states have passed net metering laws.

Reversely, if the home requires more power than the solar panels can provide, the power grid can cover the difference. The home can draw power from the grid at night or other times when the solar panels produce less power.

An off-grid home has no ties with the utility lines, so the power to run the home must come solely from the home’s solar panels.

Are Solar Panels Good For The Environment?

As a form of clean energy, solar power does not release any greenhouse gases or pollutants when operating. When solar power is used to replace energy sources that do create pollution, it can have an indirect yet impactful effect on the environment. Solar panels also reduce carbon emissions because they don’t require vehicles to deliver supplies, which reduces fuel consumption.

The process of creating solar panels is a lengthy and requires specialized skills and hazardous chemicals. Still, solar panels produce more energy in 1 – 4 years than was used to manufacture them. Due to their ability to create so much energy, solar panels are considered one of the key elements of an energy-efficient home.

Is My House Good For Solar?

To determine if your house is a good fit for solar panels, let’s look at your sun number. While it shouldn’t determine whether you should get solar panel, the sun number will determine the solar power potential of your property.

Sun number scores work on a scale from 1 – 100, with 100 being the most ideal for solar power. A score above 70 is considered a great score. If you have a high sun number, installing solar powers could have a major impact on the cost of your electricity bills.

Here are some characteristics that make a residence a good fit for solar panels:

  • Space available on ground or roof for solar panels
  • Condition of roof
  • How long you’re planning to stay in your home
  • The average cost of electricity per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in your state

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

Switching to solar energy require an upfront investment. Some homeowners may purchase the solar panels in cash, use a loan to finance the purchase or lease a solar energy system.

The cost of a solar energy system is dependent on a variety of factors. The current cost of a solar energy system can range from $0.70 to $3 per watt, with the Solar Energy Industries Association estimating the national average cost to be $2.94 per watt.

As a result, the entire solar energy system can cost as low as $3,500 and go up to $35,000, including materials and labor. But this doesn’t reflect incentives such as rebates and tax credits from government agencies and utility companies.

The average system size is approximately 6 kilowatts (kW), bringing the average system cost to $18,240 before incentives.

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Do Solar Panels Pay For Themselves?

The payback period for solar panels is how long it will take for the utility bill savings to pay off your solar power system. Just like the total cost of adding a solar energy system to your home, the payback period depends on different factors, like location and solar incentives. But most homeowners in the U.S. would be able to install a solar energy system that could pay itself off in 9 – 12 years.

To calculate how long the payback period would be for your residency, you’ll need to look at:

  • Your average electricity usage every month
  • The total solar system cost
  • The solar incentives and rebate
  • The energy production from the solar system
  • The cost of electricity in your area

You can calculate the solar panel payback period for your home by visiting Rocket SolarSM and plugging in your information.

How Long Do Solar Panels Last?

The expected lifespan and warranties of residential solar panel systems and their components is about 25 – 30 years, which is much longer than the typical payback period for residencies within the U.S. Even past their lifespan, they won’t stop producing energy altogether. But the amount of energy produced will be decreased significantly and may need to be replaced. Most solar energy systems do include a warranty.

Do Solar Panels Need Maintenance?

If you decide to install solar panels on your home, you can expect to complete some maintenance to keep the panels in top shape. While solar panels are durable and are built to endure tough conditions, they do need routine maintenance. Schedule routine checkups with the solar panel installers and occasionally clean the panels by removing any debris.

Solar Energy Pros And Cons

While solar energy is considered a viable energy option for most homeowners, it may not be the right option for everybody. Here are some factors to consider if you are deciding whether solar panels are right for you.

Pros

    • Reduced carbon footprint and environmental impact. Switching to solar energy can significantly lower your carbon footprint, which helps improve the environment around you. 
    • Cheaper utility bills. While this depends on your sun number and your location, solar energy systems are likely to save you a considerable amount of money.
    • A more stable power grid. To be independent from energy companies can be very helpful to those who live in areas that experience frequent power outages.
    • Government and utility company incentives to reduce installation costs. There are different solar incentives, tax exemptions or rebates available at the federal, state and local levels.
    • Better home resale value. Installing a solar panel system to your home may attract potential buyers if you plan on selling your house in the future.
    • Minimal maintenance costs. It’s recommended that solar panels get routine checkups from the installer, but otherwise only need to be clear of debris to function properly.

Cons

    • High upfront costs. Upfront costs for the solar systems are often significant, but there are solar financing options available.
    • The possibility of choosing the wrong solar installation company. If the solar panel installation process is not set up efficiently, you may not be getting as much power as your residency could potentially receive.
    • Potential difficulty understanding the benefits of owning versus leasing. Deciding how to obtain your solar panels may be a challenge, especially if you are not sure if you plan to move in the near future.
    • May not be aesthetically pleasing. Solar panels on the roof may not be included in your home design plans, but fortunately many modern solar panels have sleek designs.
    • Leave them behind. If you decide to move, solar panels are expensive to relocate, and the net metering agreement is tied in with the property.

The Bottom Line: Home Solar Panels Can Be A Smart Investment

The benefits of home solar panels are dependent on a variety of factors. But in most cases, a solar energy system can help homeowners save money each month, lower their carbon footprint and become more self-sufficient from energy companies. While solar panels have a large upfront cost, homeowners can expect the solar panels to pay for themselves in about 10 years, especially if you can qualify for solar incentive programs.

Ready to go solar? Apply for solar financing today to start your journey toward clean energy and lower electricity bills.

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Apply online for expert recommendations with real interest rates and payments.

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Mary Grace Schmid

Mary Grace Schmid

Mary Grace Schmid is a staff writer covering homeownership, personal finance and lifestyle topics. She has a B.A. in public relations from Baylor University with a minor in political science and enjoys photography, music and reading in her free time.