Adding Solar Panels to Existing System
Solar panel technology is one of the most popular and rapidly growing renewable energy sources of the modern era. It has become the primary energy-producing alternative for most households worldwide, especially in the United States, where there are over 3 million installations.
Solar panel systems are continuously advancing and now you can even get solar systems for boats and portable solar panels for camping. Additionally, you now can upgrade existing systems to stay in touch with the latest solar technology.
If you want to add additional panels to your existing solar panel system but are unsure of the process and the steps to take, then you’ve come to the right place.
The following article will aid you in the setup process of adding extra panels to your solar system, as well as the benefits associated with the new additions.
Things to Consider Before Expansion
Modern systems allow you to increase the number of solar panels in your existing system, which further improves its ability to convert and store solar energy. If your energy needs aren’t being met, then this is the easiest way to give your system that extra kick it needs.
The ability to upgrade your solar panel system, in addition to reducing your monthly energy bills, is why so many people are making the switch to solar energy.
Before we can go ahead and add a solar panel to our existing solar systems, there are a few considerations that we have to take into account.
These factors are integral to every solar system and cannot be overlooked when expanding your existing system.
There are a few things that need to be put into place before installing an extra panel or two. Adding a panel without these considerations can lead to electrical damage and high maintenance costs.
There are three main considerations, so make sure you take them into account before going ahead and installing additional panels.
Your Energy Needs
Energy needs, which are the first step in building a solar system. are also the most important factor in deciding whether or not to add additional panels to your existing system.
If you experience an increase in energy consumption, then it’s probably time to add an extra panel to your system.
You could be using much more electricity since your first installation and now you require a few more panels to offset the increase in additional power.
You can work out the number of panels by yourself or you can visit ShopSolar Kits where we can advise you on the number of additional panels you need to cover your energy needs.
Most solar panel owners experience months where their electrical usage has substantially increased, especially in the winter months when heaters and lights are left on for longer periods.
Adding an extra panel to your system can help cover your increased usage so that you have energy enough energy to power your home without interruptions.
Do You Have the Space for Extra Panels?
If you notice that you need an extra panel, it’s a good idea to scout the available space on your roof before purchasing one.
Unfortunately, if your roof doesn’t have any available space, then you won’t be able to add a solar panel to the existing array.
Thankfully, solar panels can now be ground mounted so you have an alternative to roof installations provided you have the yard space.
Make Sure of Solar Compatibility
Before adding a solar panel to your existing system, it’s important to make sure that the additional panel matches the existing one.
It’s always good practice to install the same type of panel as your original solar array. This ensures that there is no discrepancy in energy. Additionally, it ensures that the power outputs and efficiencies are the same.
If you’re unable to get the same brand of panel, the next best thing would be to get a panel with similar output. Getting a panel that exceeds the existing output can damage the entire solar array.
Adding the Solar Panel
Now that you know about the intricacies of adding extra panels to your existing system, you can move on to installing them.
If you have the additional roof space, it’s easier to install the panel directly to your array. It saves you from linking the wiring from one array to another which can be tricky if you don’t have much electrical experience.
Your additional panel can be installed directly into the existing string of panels. This gives you increased energy capacity without any significant changes in your existing system.
There are 3 other options that you can use to install additional panels.
Use the Same Inverter
The next best option and the simplest one is just to keep the same inverter and add your new panels. To ensure that everything runs smoothly, it’s important to keep the total kilowatts below the prescribed amount.
However, you can exceed your inverter’s peak power by around 133%. That means that the power output of your array can be significantly larger than your inverter. You can do this because there’s a substantial loss in kilowatts between your solar array and solar inverter.
To put it into perspective, let’s say you have a solar array with a power capacity of 3 kW. In reality, this solar array will only produce around 2.4kW of power. This means that you can have a solar array of 4kW to account for the power loss.
Replace Your Inverter Before Adding Panels
Replacing your inverter with a newer improved model allows you to add significantly more solar panels to your existing array.
This is the next best option if your new array exceeds your inverter power by a substantial amount. Modern inverters can help you overcome these issues because they can hold a larger electrical load.
Additionally, these new inverters have multiple inputs, which makes it easier to combine your new array with your existing array.
A Separate Solar Array
The last option, if none of the two previous ones works for you, is to have a separate solar array installed.
This option costs you the most money because it involves installing a new solar array with a new inverter and solar battery.
The upside of having a separate array is that you qualify for additional government incentives and tax rebates, so your second panel will pay for itself fast.
Adding solar panels to your existing system is an easy task, but for newcomers, it can be a bit daunting. It’s important to take the previously mentioned considerations into account before even thinking about adding a panel.
If you are having trouble finding the right information or need assistance from professionals, then visit Shop Solar Kits for the best advice. You can also find the best solar panel kits for the home. solar panel systems for RVs. and small solar systems for general use.
We are more than happy to take you through the process of installation and advise you on the appropriate panels that can be added to your existing array.
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Are Solar Panels Worth It? (2023 Guide)
In most cases, installing solar panels on your home is worth it. Get connected with a trusted solar professional today to determine if solar is right for you.
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Faith Wakefield is a writer based in North Carolina. She holds economics and English degrees from UNC Chapel Hill, and her work has been featured on EcoWatch, The World Economic Forum and Today’s Homeowner. In her free time, she loves to binge-watch personal finance videos on YouTube, collect books and spend time in nature.
Tori Addison is an editor who has worked in the digital marketing industry for over five years. Her experience includes communications and marketing work in the nonprofit, governmental and academic sectors. A journalist by trade, she started her career covering politics and news in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her work included coverage of local and state budgets, federal financial regulations and health care legislation.
Karsten Neumeister is an experienced energy professional with subject-matter expertise in energy policy and the solar and retail energy industries. He is currently the Communications Manager for the Retail Energy Advancement League and has prior experience writing and editing content for EcoWatch. Before EcoWatch, Karsten worked for Solar Alternatives, curating content, advocating for local renewable energy policy and assisting the solar engineering and installation teams. Throughout his career, his work has been featured on various outlets including NPR, SEIA, Bankrate, PV Mag and the World Economic Forum.
In most cases, installing residential solar panels is worth it. Solar panels typically last 25 years or more and can dramatically reduce or even eliminate your electricity bills — you can save an average of 1,346 annually on energy bills by going solar.
Solar is a large upfront investment. But the cost of installing a system has decreased by more than 50% over the last 10 years, and incentives like the 30% federal solar tax credit can lower your cost even further.
However, certain conditions and roof features can mean solar isn’t worth it for you. For instance, if your roof is shaded, does not have enough space or is oriented north, your panels may underperform. Additionally, if you live in an area that experiences many cloudy days and has few solar incentives, you may see fewer savings over the lifetime of your panels.
Every roof and solar project is different. Before completing your solar project, your solar installer will survey your home and determine if your property is suitable for solar panels. Get connected with a trusted professional today to see if solar is worth the investment.
- When Are Solar Panels Worth It?
- How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?
- Pros of Switching to Solar
- Cons of Switching to Solar
- The Bottom Line: Are Solar Panels Really Worth It?
Offers a range of financing options 24/7 customer service line Panel insurance protects against theft and damage
Packages include 24/7 system monitoring 25-year warranty guarantees power production, product performance and workmanship Installation process is handled 100% in-house
When Are Solar Panels Worth It?
For instance, if you live in a state that receives a lot of sunlight and has ample solar incentives, in addition to having a large, south-facing roof, the savings you’ll see from solar will be very high. On the other hand, if you live somewhere with less sunlight, fewer solar incentives and a steep roof, solar may still be worth it for you, but your overall energy savings will likely be lower.
The location of your home plays a vital role in the value of a solar power system. If you live in a part of the country that gets lots of sunlight exposure throughout the year, you will get more out of using solar panels than others.
The data analysis site Stacker determined the following 10 states receive the most exposure to sunlight in the U.S.:
Though sunny states like Florida, Texas, California and Arizona are excellent regions to install a solar system, your panels may not generate enough energy to offset the upfront cost if your home experiences a lot of shade from trees or buildings. But if your roof is unshaded or faces south, southwest or west, your panels will receive more direct radiation from the sun and generate more solar energy.
As mentioned, locations that see more extreme weather events and power outages are also better suited for solar systems with independent power storage. You can use a solar battery to store excess energy during the day to use during blackouts, at night or on cloudy days.
Your Home’s Roof
The size, shape and slope of your roof are also important factors to consider. According to Garrett Nilsen, the deputy director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, roof structures can be one of the biggest roadblocks to going solar.
“If there are trees near your home that create excessive shade on your roof, rooftop panels may not be the most ideal option,” he said. “Solar panels perform best on south-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees, though other roofs can be suitable too. Installers can model roofs to determine if the orientation and slope are suitable for energy generation.”
Steep roofs make installation challenging and can increase labor costs or require additional mounting equipment. Roofs with plenty of surface area and few obstructions — such as skylights and chimneys — are ideal. You can still add solar panels to smaller roofs but should choose more efficient panels, such as monocrystalline panels, that generate more power using less space.
Solar tax incentives and rebates are available at the federal and state levels. The federal tax credit. formally called the solar investment tax credit (ITC), allows you to claim 30% of your total system cost as a credit toward your federal tax burden.
It’s worth mentioning that if you don’t owe thousands of dollars in taxes each year, you won’t be able to make as much use of the ITC. You may need to work with a tax adviser and re-evaluate your withholdings to fully capitalize on the credit.
Other solar incentives vary from state to state. Many state governments and local utility companies offer solar rebates, credits, sales and property tax breaks, net metering and more that can make solar more affordable. We encourage you to use the Database of State Incentives for Renewables Efficiency to learn what other rebates and solar tax credits are available in your state.
Before installing solar, you should take stock of your monthly energy consumption. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average household uses around 893 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month. On average, a residential solar setup can produce between 350 to 850 kWh per month. Therefore, going solar can help you save as much as 95% off your utility bill.
If you live in a state with high electricity rates, switching to solar will likely be a good investment. However, if your home does not require a lot of energy consumption to operate day-to-day, you may not save enough to offset the installation cost. Residential solar systems can cost anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 or more.
You should also contact your local utility company to see if it offers an established net metering program. Many states mandate net metering, which can help maximize your energy savings. Net metering allows you to send the excess energy your solar system produces back to the grid in exchange for billing credits. Your utility company will deduct any credits from your monthly electricity bill, saving you money by providing clean energy for your home.
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?
According to our 2023 survey of 1,500 homeowners with solar, respondents reported paying an average of 15,000 to 20,000 for their solar panel systems. However, every solar installation is different, and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that a solar installation can cost upwards of 25,000.
The total cost of your solar panel system can vary depending on where you live and the solar provider you choose. You can compare average price points for some of the top solar providers in the U.S. below. Cost figures represent the total cost of a solar panel system with installation.
Cost figures are based on results from our 2023 survey of 1,500 homeowners with solar. Your costs may vary depending on individual factors.
The state you live in can also factor into how much your solar panel installation will cost:
In addition to your location and the provider you choose, other factors can influence the cost of your solar system, including:
- Your home energy needs
- Your solar system size
- The type of panels you install
- Additional equipment like solar batteries or inverters
- Other related services, such as tree removal, energy efficiency audits, electric vehicle (EV) chargers, etc.
The only way to know exactly how much your solar panel system will cost is to get a quote from a trusted solar installer in your area. To get matched with a top provider, click here for a solar estimate today.
How Much Can You Save With Solar?
The average payoff period for a solar panel system in the U.S. is around 8.5 years. After paying off your solar system, you’ll enjoy significant savings by drastically reducing or eliminating your energy bill. Considering the average solar system lasts 25 years or longer, that’s over 16 years of net savings. Most people who install solar on their homes will save thousands of dollars in energy costs over the lifespan of their solar energy system.
There are, however, some instances when solar panels may not yield as high of returns as you want. According to Nilsen, local electricity rates, your total system cost and whether you pay up-front, take out a loan, or lease your system can all affect your return on investment (ROI). Changing compensation patterns with your local utility or an unexpected lapse in your system’s performance may cause your payback period to take longer.
In these rare instances, Nilsen advises contacting your solar installer about your system’s expected production and any discrepancies with the current output.
In addition to offering protection against rising electricity prices, a solar installation with a storage system provides a valuable backup during power outages. If you live in an area prone to severe weather or blackouts, installing solar panels with a backup battery can be more worthwhile.
Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?
Affiliate Disclaimer: All products and services featured are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
Solar panels reduce your carbon footprint and increase your energy savings. but did you know they can also increase your home’s market value ? Our guide explains how, plus provides tips to maximize your added value with a quality system from a top solar company.
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Available in 23 states 25-year warranties for the product, labor, and inverter Power protection guarantee
25-year workmanship and product warranty Perks for new construction homeowners Available in 20 states
How Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?
Most homeowners know that solar panels reduce energy costs and carbon emissions. Those long-term savings help boost your home’s property value. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory ( NREL ), your home value increases by 20 for every 1 you save on energy bills. For example, if your solar energy system saves you 700 per year, the value of your home increases by 14,000. Real estate agents and home appraisers have found that this also increases your market value when selling your home. A 2021 Zillow housing trends report found that 67% of homebuyers considered energy efficiency to be a “very to extremely important” inclusion for a potential home. Homebuyers are willing to pay 15,000 or more for a solar powered-home. according to a large-scale solar home study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). This push for energy-efficient homes translates to higher home sale for sellers. Prospective buyers will spend 4.1% more for a solar-powered home. or around 9,274. These boosted resale values are even higher in certain housing markets. In New York. for example, buyers will pay an additional 23,989 for a solar home versus comparable homes.
Factors That Impact the Added Value of Solar Homes
Installing a solar system doesn’t always guarantee increased home value. Several factors affect your property value. such as your location, electricity rates. and solar system. We’ll discuss these in more detail below.
Local Electricity Rates
Solar power is most impactful in areas with high electricity rates. where producing your own energy will lower your monthly electricity bills. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that the average residential utility bill is 117.46 per month. If your monthly electricity bill is significantly lower than this, you may not save money by switching to solar power. States such as California. Connecticut, Texas, and New York have higher-than-average electricity rates.
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
Residents in states with little to no solar market growth might not benefit from the boosted market value of going solar.
Solar Panel Ownership
If you plan to sell your home after installing solar panels. it’s important to choose the right financing option. You must legally own your solar panel system to include it in your home sale. Ownership is also necessary to use available solar incentives and reduce your solar panel costs. Only homeowners who purchase their systems outright or take out a loan are the owners of their panels.
Other financing options make solar home sales more complicated. If you choose a solar lease. your solar provider will remain the system’s legal owner. You must buy out the lease or transfer it to the new owner to sell your home. Depending on how much time is left in the lease, this may require a substantial payment. Afterward, the buyer can start a new lease with the solar company.
You may also be able to transfer the lease to the new owner. allowing them to take over the remaining time on your contract. This doesn’t require a significant payment from either party, but the new homeowner must meet the qualifications to become the new lease owner, including a credit check. A lease transfer could slow down the selling process if you can’t find a buyer that meets the solar company ’s lease qualifications.
Solar System Condition
Homes with up-to-date solar systems have higher values than houses with aging systems. Solar systems typically last 25 to 35 years, so a home with a 15-year-old system can only provide another 10 to 20 years of service. Keep this in mind if you plan on selling a home with a solar system older than 10 years old.
Homeowners should have their systems serviced and maintained to maximize their potential home sale. High-quality solar panels typically have longer warranties than inexpensive panels.
Manufacturers’ warranties cover any defects or issues with the panels, while workmanship warranties cover installation errors. Use these warranties to make any necessary repairs and upgrades to keep your system in top condition. Additional coverage, such as a power production guarantee, protects your panels’ power output and production through the length of your warranty.
If you’re considering buying a home with a solar panel system. review all of the system’s documentation, including maintenance records and warranty coverage. These details should also include any replacements or upgrades completed during ownership. If you plan on selling your solar-powered home. keep it in peak condition.
How Do Solar Panels Influence My Property Tax?
Installing a solar system increases your property value. so your property taxes will also increase. However, 36 states have laws that exempt solar owners from paying increased property taxes. These laws vary from state to state and differ in amount. While some states offer 100% exemption, others limit the exemption to a certain number of years. Check your local state legislature for exemption laws in your area.
Maximizing Your Solar Panel Investment
Choosing the best solar technology raises your property value and potential selling price. Consider investing in a high-quality system with maximally efficient solar panels. The following solar programs and upgrades can help decrease your up-front costs while bringing the highest return on investment.
Solar Incentives, Credits, and Rebates
Solar incentives on the federal, state, and local level can lower your system costs. For example, the federal solar tax credit provides a tax reduction equal to 30% of your installation costs. Check for state and local incentives in your area on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE). You may also find city- and utility-specific rebates.
Most quality solar systems produce more energy than your home needs. Net- metering programs allow homeowners to sell this surplus energy back to the grid for credits on their utility bills or annual payouts. Net- metering programs vary throughout the country and may be enforced at the state level or by a specific utility company. Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables Efficiency ( DSIRE ) for programs in your area.
If net- metering is unavailable in your location or you’d rather store excess energy for your own use, you can install a solar battery instead. You can use this energy during blackouts, low sunlight days, or at night. Homeowners looking to live off-grid without any ties to a utility company can use solar batteries to sustain their homes. If you choose to remain on the grid, solar batteries can offset periods of high electricity rates. increasing your energy savings.
Installing a solar panel system offers long-term clean energy and boosts your property value. How much your home value will increase depends on your location, local policies, and electricity rates. but most homeowners see a significant increase from going solar. Homeowners looking to sell a solar-powered home should keep the system up-to-date and in pristine condition. Home buyers interested in a solar home should ensure the system is in working condition and available for ownership transfer.
If you’re considering adding a solar system to your home, we recommend getting quotes from at least three solar companies to find the best equipment and financing options.
How Solar Panels Can Add Thousands to Your Home’s Value
Solar panels can make your property worth more, but it depends on where you live.
Dan is a writer on CNET’s How-To team. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
There are many benefits of solar panels that homeowners know about.- they lower your energy bill, reduce your carbon footprint and can even earn you a healthy tax credit.
But did you know going solar also increases the value of your home?
A 2019 report from Zillow indicated that properties with rooftop solar installations sold for 4.1% more than comparable residences without them. For a median-valued home, that’s equal to roughly 9,300.
Can solar panels save you money?
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And residences with solar are 24.7% more likely to sell for more than their asking price, according to property listings site Rocket Homes.
Tony Accardo, a Compass realtor in Los Angeles County, says solar is a huge selling point in his conversations with prospective buyers.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
If there were two identical homes, but one didn’t have solar and was 50,000 cheaper, the one with solar would sell first, Accardo told CNET.
Here’s what you need to know about how and why solar panels can increase your home’s value.
How much solar panels increase your home’s value
There are tax breaks available when you buy and install a rooftop solar system, most notably the federal solar tax credit.
When it’s time to sell, though, how much of a premium having a rooftop solar system brings depends on a variety of factors.- including where you live, the cost of electricity and what kind of system you have.
What’s most attractive to homebuyers is how much of your home’s energy needs your installation covers. If it can provide all of it, that can reduce your electricity bill by an average of 1,500 a year.- equal to about 37,500 over the life of the system.
If solar panels aren’t on buyers’ want list, it’s something they plan to install themselves, Accardo said. They want to offset energy costs and have a better resale situation themselves.
Solar is even more of a get than having a pool, he added.
An older couple looking at your house maybe isn’t going to care you have a pool. Or even see it as a pain, Accardo said. This is direct savings that everyone can take advantage of.
Where you live matters
The value of a solar setup varies substantially by market. Unsurprisingly, buyers in states where electricity bills are higher place more of a premium on solar panels.
In January 2023, residential electricity bills were highest in California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and across New England, according to the Energy Information Administration.
With over 10.7 million homes relying primarily on solar, California overwhelmingly has the largest residential solar market.
Below are the top 10 states for solar, based on data from the Solar Energy Industry Association on the cumulative amount of solar energy capacity installed through 2022 and the number of homes powered by solar.
States with the top solar markets in 2022
|MW of solar installed||Number of homes powered by solar|
Many of these states offer credits to homeowners who give excess energy back to the grid. And at least 36 states offer property tax exemptions for a home solar system. So while it will increase the value of your home, it won’t increase your tax bill.
A 2015 analysis by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that buyers in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina and New Jersey paid 15,000 more for a home with a typical 3.6-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system. (The equivalent to about 4 more per watt generated.)
Specific metro areas have also risen to the top when it comes to adopting solar panels: Last year, they were most in demand in Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Phoenix, San Jose, San Antonio and New York City, according to a survey by the Environment California Research Policy Center.
In New York, having solar panels upped the closing price of a property by 5.4%, compared to the 4.1% increase nationwide, Zillow reported. For a median-priced home in the Big Apple, that worked out to about an additional 24,000.
Electricity will remain high
Overall inflation slowed to 5% in March.- and could go as low as 3% by the end of the year. But Mark Wolfe, director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, told USA Today that electricity may increase by as much as 10% in 2023 and possibly in 2024, as well.
That’s because liquified natural gas, which fuels over a third of Americans’ electricity, has become scarcer as the US exports a record amount to Europe, which has been struggling to replace the supply it no longer gets from Russia after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Unprecedented export volumes are, for the first time in history, binding American household energy bills to global calamities, Wolfe wrote in an open letter last fall to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
He described the situation as a domestic energy pricing crisis.
Asked about the reasons for adding solar panels, almost all (92%) homeowners who have installed them or considered doing so pointed to saving on utility bills, the Pew Research Center reported.
People aren’t altruistic, Accardo said. They’re interested in solar because of saving, not because of the environment.
Will solar always add value to my property?
Having a well-maintained rooftop solar system is highly unlikely to ever lower your property’s value, Accardo said. Even if you don’t have solar panels, buyers may pay more for a house with roofing that’s well-suited to installing them later.
But changes in state regulations can make solar less of a selling point: California recently altered its solar incentive from a net-metering system, where homeowners get a near-dollar-to-dollar credit for excess energy, to a net-billing program where your surplus is sold to the utility at a substantially lower rate.
Systems installed after April 14, 2023, could earn homeowners 75% less if they don’t also have a home battery setup, according to the California Solar and Storage Association, the state’s largest solar trade organization. (Existing systems are grandfathered under the current net-metering structure.)
Similar policy changes decreased the uptake of solar in Hawaii, Nevada and Missouri, the nonprofit Environment America reported.
In Arizona, new fees and regulations nearly doubled how long it takes solar panels to pay for themselves, leading to a decline in adoption of between 50% and 95%, EA reported. (Despite it being the sunniest state in the union, fewer than 200,000 homes in Arizona are powered by solar.)
The state of your panels and your home are also a factor. If a buyer sees that they’re going to have to invest in repairs, it will likely drive the price down.
And as other states adopt net billing, having solar panels paired with a home battery backup system will be increasingly important to get the most value for your home.
For more on solar panels, find out how to avoid scams and learn about the big changes to California’s solar incentives.
Interested in Solar Panels? Here Is Some Advice.
Buying a solar energy system can be expensive and confusing. Here are some things to think about if you are in the market for solar panels.
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Thanks to technological and manufacturing advances, costs for solar panels have tumbled in the last decade, making solar energy more popular for homeowners. But figuring out how to add a solar energy system to your roof can be daunting.
Workers installed a solar and battery system this winter at my home in a New York City suburb. It was a major investment but has already begun paying off in lower utility bills and providing peace of mind that we will have at least some electricity during power outages, which are common here because storms often knock down power lines.
Interest in rooftop solar systems is high and growing as energy rise and concerns about climate change mount. Many people are also worried about blackouts caused by extreme weather linked to climate change. A Pew Charitable Trust survey in 2019 found that 6 percent of Americans had already installed solar panels and that another 46 percent were considering it.
“The biggest thing is that solar is a lot cheaper than it used to be even in places like New York City and Boston, where it tends to be more expensive than in the suburbs,” said Anika Wistar-Jones, director of affordable solar at Solar One, an environmental education nonprofit in New York City that helps affordable housing and low-income communities adopt solar energy.
If you are interested in solar, here are some things to consider.
Can you add solar panels to your roof?
This question might seem simple, but finding the answer can be surprisingly complicated. One installer told me that my roof was so shaded by trees that solar panels would not generate enough electricity to make the investment worthwhile. Hearing another opinion was worth it: The installer I hired allayed those concerns and recommended some tree trimming. On sunny days my system often generates more power than my family uses.
It can also be difficult to find out what your local government and utility will permit because the information is usually not readily available in plain language. I learned that lesson at my previous home.
When I lived in New York City, it took months of research to learn that I couldn’t install panels on my roof. The city requires a large clear area on flat roofs like mine for firefighters to walk on, it turns out. And I couldn’t install solar panels on a canopy — a rooftop framework that elevates the panels — because it would violate a city height restriction for homes on my block.
The best approach is to cast a wide net and talk to as many solar installers as you can. You might also consult neighbors who have put solar panels on their roofs: People in many parts of the country have banded together in what are known as solarize campaigns to jointly purchase solar panels to secure lower from installers.
“That has been really successful in neighborhoods and communities all across the country,” said Gretchen Bradley, community solar manager at Solar One.
Can I afford a solar installer?
You should seek proposals from several installers. Comparison shopping services like EnergySage and SolarReviews make it easy to contact multiple installers.
When reviewing proposals, pay attention to how much the system will cost per watt. This tells you how much you are paying for the system’s electricity-generating capacity and allows you to compare offers.
The median quote for new rooftop solar systems is 2.75 per watt, according to EnergySage. That works out to about 26,125 for an average system of 9,500 watts before taking into account a federal tax credit. For the 2022 tax year, the credit stands at 26 percent of the cost of solar system; it is slated to drop to 22 percent in 2023 and end in 2024. Many states, including Arizona, California, New York and Massachusetts, also offer residents incentives to install solar systems, such as rebates and tax breaks.
can vary greatly because of location, local labor costs and other factors, like what kind of home you live in and whether other work is needed before installation. If your roof is old or damaged, for example, it might need to be replaced before a solar system can be installed.
Rooftop solar systems can reduce monthly utility bills, depending on electricity rates, how much energy a home uses and state policies. Systems that save more money will help buyers recoup their investment faster. Vikram Aggarwal, the chief executive and founder of EnergySage, said solar systems should ideally pay for themselves within 10 years.
The excess electricity that rooftop systems produce is sent to the electric grid, and utilities typically compensate homeowners for that energy through credits on their monthly bills. The value of those credits varies by state.
How should I pay for it?
If you can afford to buy a solar system outright, you will get the best deal by paying cash. Systems purchased with loans or through leases tend to cost more, especially over the life of the contract. Shopping around is your best hedge against falling prey to dubious or predatory agreements.
The main advantage of leasing a solar energy system is that your costs are typically fixed for the duration of the contract. But experts caution that leases can be hard to get out of and could become a burden when you sell your home, because buyers might not want to take on your contract.
Mr. Aggarwal noted that leases “make sense” for some people who may not earn enough to claim the federal tax credit. He suggested that people interested in solar leases get three or four quotes from different installers.
Should I buy a battery?
Adding a battery to your solar system will allow you to store some of the excess electricity it generates to use during a blackout or in the evening and night. A solar system without a battery will not keep you supplied with power during an outage because most residential systems are automatically turned off when the grid goes down.
Batteries can be expensive, especially if you want to run large appliances and provide power for many hours or days. A 10- to 12-kilowatt-hour battery, which can store roughly a third of a home’s typical daily electricity use, costs about 13,000, according to EnergySage.
The federal tax credit for rooftop solar systems applies to the costs of batteries that are purchased with solar panels or if they are added in a following tax year. About 28 percent of residential solar systems installed in 2021 included batteries, up from 20 percent in 2020, according to a survey by EnergySage.
The Wirecutter, a product recommendation service from The New York Times, has a detailed guide for buying solar and battery systems.
Can I use my electric car as a backup battery?
Most electric cars cannot provide power to homes. Only a few models, like the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Hyundai Ioniq 5, have that ability, and they are in incredibly short supply.
But many energy experts believe that it will eventually be common for car batteries to send power back to homes and the electric grid.
In many parts of the United States, extended power outages may happen just once or twice a year. As a result, Mr. Aggarwal said, it may not make sense to invest in an expensive home battery, which usually holds much less energy than electric-car batteries. “Everybody is starting to talk about using your car to run your home.”
If I can’t install solar panels, can I still buy solar energy?
You might be able to join a community solar project, which are usually installed on open land or on the roofs of warehouses and other large buildings.
While the rules vary by state, community solar programs generally work in similar ways. Members get two bills a month: one from the community solar project and one from their utility. The projects sell electricity at a discount to the rate charged by your utility, and each kilowatt-hour of power you buy shows up as a credit for a kilowatt-hour of energy on your utility bill.
New Yorkers who join a community solar project, for example, can save about 10 percent on their monthly electricity bill, Ms. Bradley said. “It doesn’t cost anything to sign up or leave a project,” she added.
While most states allow community solar, a majority of such projects are in just four states — Florida, Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts — according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
You can search for projects in your area on websites including EnergySage and PowerMarket or through state agencies, like the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
`An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the timing of a tax credit for the cost of batteries on a home solar energy system. Taxpayers can claim the credit for the batteries in a tax year after the year in which they installed the solar panels; it is not the case that solar panels and batteries must be purchased in the same year to qualify for the credit.
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Vikas Bajaj, an assistant editor in the Business section, was previously a member of the editorial board and a correspondent based in Mumbai, India. Before that, he covered housing and financial markets from New York. @ vikasbajaj
A version of this article appears in print on. Section B. Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Going Solar? Here’s What You Need Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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