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.
DIY solar panels: pros, cons and installation guide
To save money, it’s no surprise that many homeowners are considering “do it yourself”, or DIY, solar. You can install solar panels yourself, but there are some advantages and disadvantages to doing it alone. In this article, we’ll break down the top pros and cons that you need to know about do-it-yourself solar panel systems before making a decision.
Can you install solar panels yourself?
A solar panel system is complicated, which is why so many companies across the U.S. specialize in providing professional solar installation services. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t build your own solar panel system – you can install your own panels, a DIY solar panel setup can be a viable option for some solar shoppers wanting to tap into renewable energy.
According to data from the EnergySage Marketplace, the average cost of going solar for homeowners (after accounting for the federal tax credit) is about 20,650 in 2023. Of that amount, design and installation labor costs contribute about 10% of the total bill; this 10% is what a DIY solar installation will save you since you’ll still have to buy the equipment and components yourself. Regardless, it’s still tempting to look into building your own solar panel installation to save money and be in full control of your home renewable energy project.
Your solar energy system should continue to generate electricity for 25 to 35 years, so you must consider both the upfront costs and the relative financial benefits for all of your solar options. If you buy a home solar kit like the ones for sale at Costco or Home Depot, it may be less expensive per watt, but you aren’t getting the same quality equipment that solar installers can offer you. For the most part, solar installers buy from equipment distributors that don’t sell to the general public – and they’re often getting lower because they’re able to buy in bulk and have access to the best solar panel brands. Going for the more expensive option now may end up saving you money in the long run because you’ll likely have a system built to last a few decades, offsetting your monthly electric bills.
Pros and cons of DIY solar panels and solar panel kits
DIY panels can be a great option for going off the grid and some small home applications. For powering your entire home, however, it may be in your best interest to go with a professional installer.
DIY solar pros and cons
|Provides more energy independence for homeowners by not being tied to the electricity grid.
|Require much more maintenance that would otherwise be covered by an installer warranty.
|Effective in powering smaller items like RVs, boats and other appliances
|For an entire home, installation may be difficult for an individual without the knowledge and experience of a professional installer.
|Allows homeowners to save roughly 10% on the overall cost of installation that would otherwise go towards labor.
|DIY installation may be illegal where you live according to local zoning laws.
Most home DIY all-in-one solar panel solar kits (including items like solar batteries, and inverters) are designed for off-grid use, which means you can’t use them and remain connected to your utility. If you’re an average homeowner, going off-grid is probably not in your best interest – being able to access utility-generated electricity is important if your solar array doesn’t produce enough electricity to meet your needs at all times of the day throughout the year.
However, home solar kits can be a good solution if you’re not trying to power your entire home. RVs, boats, and the increasingly popular tiny houses are all opportunities to explore do-it-yourself solar because they are already off-grid and mobile. Storage kits are also a good option for backup to help in the case of a blackout and can contain battery banks and battery systems.
If you want to install a DIY solar project, compare several options beforehand. Grape Solar is a major manufacturer (among others) and offers a few different DIY products and components for both grid-tied and off-grid systems, which you can find more information on below.
DIY solar options
|Grape Solar 400 watt PV solar panel kit
|Grape Solar 600 watt PV solar panel kit
|Renogy solar 12-volt/24-volt premium kit
|ECO-WORTHY off-grid solar panel kit
When you decide on DIY solar panels, remember that you get what you pay for. A home solar kit may be less expensive, but solar installers offer tremendous value for a relatively little additional cost (remember that 10% figure?). When it comes to installing an expensive electrical system on your property, finding someone who knows what they’re doing can save you both time and money in the long run.
Some of the best solar installers have been in the business for decades – an experience that no amount of online research or DIY guides can replicate. Every state requires that installers are licensed and qualified to install solar, and independent certifications like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Solar PV Installation Professional Certification ensure that the company you choose to work with has an intimate understanding of the process. Because of this, they can provide experienced insight and help you assess what equipment is the best fit for your property and whether a battery system is right for you.
Your solar installer will also help you complete and file the permits and applications that you need to submit to get your solar power system up and running. This is particularly important because your utility won’t let you connect your system to the grid without a sign-off from a certified electrician.
Because of your solar installer’s experience, they’ll also have a strong understanding of the financial incentives for solar available in your area, and might even be able to help you save more money by finding any rebates and tax incentives that you may have missed. Lastly, it is important to note that many equipment manufacturers will only honor their warranties if a qualified installer installed their equipment. Many installers will also offer an additional warranty to back up their work, too.
The 6-step guide to DIY solar panels: how to install solar panels
The DIY solar panel installation process can be simplified into six major steps:
Purchase your solar equipment and components (solar panels, batteries, inverters, racking, etc.)
Equipment and components including panels can be purchased with help from the EnergySage Buyer’s Guide. You can compare panel, battery, and inverter models based on specs like efficiency, warranties, and more.
Install the racking or mounts for the panels on a roof or the ground
Once you have the necessary equipment, designs, and permits in order, it is time to install your equipment. For roof mount systems, this begins with installing your racking and mounting equipment. To start, mark where your system will be installed, drill where lag bolts will be put in place, caulk the holes, put in lag bolts, and lock rails onto them. For ground mount systems, the steps are similar, only the panels will be installed at the ground level on some type of racking system.
Install your equipment
The first items to install are the solar inverters, which convert the electricity generated by your solar panels into usable electricity. After these are installed using provided bolts, you will need to connect a grounding wire. This is a piece of copper wire across the rails that serves as a safety precaution against lightning strikes and other faults. After this, you can attach your solar panels to your racking equipment.
Connect to your main electrical board
After you have fully installed your panel and system, be sure to schedule an inspection with the local construction authority closest to you. This will ensure that your system complies with local ordinances. Once you pass this inspection, you can apply to connect to the grid. The local utility company will give you a meter to record your power exports.
Get in touch with your utility company and request permission to turn on (PTO) if necessary in your area
From there, turn on your system after you have the proper approval and check how the system is functioning with a solar monitoring app.
Maintenance of DIY solar panel systems
One of the benefits of working with a certified solar installer is the warranty that comes with their service. Solar panel manufacturers provide a range of warranties that guarantee you will have support and coverage in the unlikely event of an issue caused by unusual circumstances, such as large hail or falling tree branches. Power output warranties guarantee that panel performance won’t fall below a specified level over the term of the warranty (usually 25 years). For instance, a manufacturer might provide a warranty to guarantee that peak power output won’t fall below 85% for 25 years.
Frequently asked questions about DIY solar panels
If you’re considering a DIY solar panel kit, but still have concerns about the best options, process, and general cost, check out a few of the most common questions we encounter when talking to solar shoppers:
DIY solar panels may be tempting to install, but their long-term worth may be up for debate due to quality alone. Typically, a solar panel system should continue to generate electricity for 25 to 35 years, so it’s important to invest in quality equipment and a reputable installer. If you purchase a home solar panel kit from a retailer, you may be paying less per watt, but you’re not going to get the same efficiency or quality that professional installers usually offer with their products.
You’ll also likely forgo any warranties that come with your solar panel system, as warranties often only apply when the system is installed by a certified installer. It’s also important to mention that if you still need to rely on some utility power and remain connected to the grid, DIY solar panels are typically not worth it. They are best used for small off-grid applications, like RVs, where a solar generator or solar battery bank can provide you power when you otherwise may not have access.
As a DIYer, you don’t need to be an electrician to install solar panels. It’s certainly not illegal to go the DIY route if you choose to. However, when it comes to installing a costly electrical system on your property, we recommend relying on professionals with technical know-how —their experience is invaluable and it can make a huge difference in the overall quality and performance of your system. Plus, solar installers will help you fill out permits and file important paperwork that you might not otherwise know is required.
You can find reliable DIY solar panels at retailers like Home Depot or from manufacturers like Grape Solar, for between 6,000 to 11,000, depending on your system size needs. For lower cost options, some manufacturers sell DIY solar panels on Amazon for anywhere between 1,600 to 2,500. You may be looking at additional costs if you want to install a solar battery and charge controller system as part of your DIY project.
Should you install solar yourself or hire an installer?
If you’re wavering between a DIY solar system and hiring a solar installer, getting a ballpark estimate for an installation may help you in your decision process. With our Solar Calculator, you can see upfront cost and long-term savings estimates based on your location and roof type to determine if a solar installation is the best choice for you. If you’re looking to get quotes from local contractors today, be sure to check out the quote comparison platform in the EnergySage Marketplace.
reading on EnergySage
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How Much Does It Cost To Install Solar Panels In Maine?
To help you make the most informed decision about solar, we designed this free solar calculator. Input details like the exact location of the property, your current electrical usage, and information about your roof’s orientation, shade, and pitch to receive an estimated price and potential energy cost savings for your custom system.
What Type Of Solar Electric Systems Are Available?
The average system costs noted above are for a grid-tied, roof-mounted solar electric system. Grid-tied, rooftop solar systems are our most common type of solar electric system installed throughout Maine.
However, other solar system options are available, such as grid-tied, grid-tied battery backup, off-grid battery-based systems, and ground mounts. To ensure you get the information you need to make an informed decision about what type of solar system will work best for you, we have outlined the options available below.
These are the most common type of solar electric systems in Maine. With this system, your home can be powered by the sun when it is shining. You are still connected to your utility provider (often called the grid), so you still have power when sunlight is unavailable. Net Metering allows the electricity generated by your solar system to offset the electricity used from the grid during the night or on a cloudy day. This ensures that all of the electricity your system produces offsets your usage and ultimately your electric bill. However, if the grid goes down, your system will shut off, and you will lose power. Grid-tied systems are the less expensive option due to not needing batteries and other additional equipment.
Installing a grid-tied solar electric system is an excellent step towards energy independence. However, during a power outage, your system does not provide power. By pairing a grid-tied solar electric system with battery backup, you can bank the energy you produce for times when you need it, like when the grid goes down. Although whole-house backup is achievable, most grid-tied battery backup systems are designed only to power “critical” electrical loads. If you are thinking about going solar now but want to add batteries in the future, we can design your system to accommodate your future battery needs. These systems are more costly than grid-tied alone.
Many people like the idea of installing an off-grid solar system because of its independence. However, it could require a lifestyle change to reduce energy consumption as you cannot rely on the grid. These systems tend to be most popular in rural locations such as camps or where the nearest power line may be miles away. You will need batteries to store your energy, must monitor the battery health, and be aware that you have a finite amount of energy you can collect and store on a daily basis. These systems have special design and operation requirements making them more challenging to install and service than a more common grid-tied system. They also require more components and usually cost more. Maine Solar Solutions has a design and installation team experienced with off-grid solar systems if you would like to learn more.
Rooftop Solar Versus Ground Mounted Solar
There are two common types of solar panel installations for grid-tied solar systems: roof-mounted and ground-mounted.
Most of the solar electric systems installed in Maine feature rooftop solar arrays. But sometimes aesthetic concerns or heavily shaded roofs make consideration of a ground-mounted solar array advisable. Ground-mounted solar arrays typically cost between 15 – 25% more than rooftop solar arrays. The expense of ground anchors, racking, and trenching accounts for this higher cost. Although a ground-mounted solar array costs more than an equal-sized rooftop array, many of our customers have found that a ground-mounted array provides the best balance of cost, aesthetics, and value. Our experienced solar consultants can show you the relative costs of both options and help you determine what makes the most sense.
The Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar In Maine
This free resource is packed with answers to the most common questions we receive about solar energy installations in Maine.
What Factors Affect The Cost Of A Solar Electric System?
During your free solar site assessment, we gather information about your home that we use to design your system. We prepare a proposal based on your electricity usage and we show a couple of different solar panel options. Below is the information that we gather that helps us get you a fixed-cost system price.
- Electricity Usage:We review your electric bills and calculate the amount of electricity you use over the course of a year.
- Roof Information: People often ask, “Is my roof good for solar? Does my house face the right way for solar panels? What’s the ideal roof angle for solar?” To answer those questions our solar consultants will measure the angle or pitch of your roof and determine the orientation of your home towards the south. Roofs that face towards the southeast or southwest may require an additional panel or two to produce the same amount of power as a roof that faces directly south. People are often surprised to learn that even if their roof faces directly towards the east or west, annual solar production can still make installing a solar system an affordable investment.
- Shading Measurements: For electricity production, the more exposed your roof is to sunlight throughout the day, the better. Your roof does not need to have full sun all day to be a good candidate for solar, and a partially shaded roof may only require a few additional panels to match the production of an unshaded roof.
- Solar Panel Type:Solar panels account for the greatest equipment cost for a solar electric system. We offer several different solar panels to choose from. There are many solar panel manufacturers, and each manufacturer offers multiple solar panel models. Solar panels differ in size, wattage, efficiency, appearance, and warranty. Each of these specifications impacts the solar panel’s cost and factors into their relative value. Our customers find it helpful when we present a range of solar panel options and take the time to educate them about the differences in panel features, performance, cost, and value.
What Incentives Are Available For Installing Solar?
The primary incentive available to homeowners installing solar in Maine is the Federal Solar Tax Credit (ITC). Solar electric systems installed between 2022 and 2032 qualify for a 30% federal tax credit. This tax credit is scheduled to fall to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034. It is currently set to expire in 2035. There’s a lot of information about the ITC out there, so to help, we gathered answers to some commonly asked questions about the federal tax credit here.
What’s Included In My Solar Electric System Costs?
Once your system is designed, and you have chosen which solar panels and optional add-ons you would like to include in your system, we prepare a fixed-cost installation contract that includes all of the equipment and labor required to install a safe, code-compliant system. Your fixed-cost solar electric system includes the following:
- Solar Panels
- Inverter system
- Power Optimizers
- System monitoring so that you can watch the entire array and each panel’s output information on your desktop or your phone
- Racking and roof attachment equipment
- Roof-specific attachment points
- Electrical components required for a safe, code-compliant installation
- Installation labor by Maine Solar Solutions qualified electricians and installers
- Maine Solar Solutions 10-year Workmanship warranty
CUSTOMER SERVICE AND PAPERWORK
- Assistance with all required paperwork, utility, and permitting
- Utility interconnection application fee
- Electric and building permits and associated fees
What Are The Additional Costs Involved To Go Solar?
During our site evaluation, we may determine that your electric service or breaker panel will need to be upgraded to accommodate the solar installation. Your solar proposal will detail the cost of any additional electrical work, and the final system cost will include these costs.
What Add-ons Or Options Are Available When Installing A Solar Electric System?
Battery Backup Systems:A grid-tied solar electric system will not provide backup power during a power outage. We offer battery systems for customers seeking to add a backup power source to their grid-tied solar electric system. The most popular battery backup system is the Telsa Powerwall. Battery systems are eligible for the 30% federal tax credit. If you’re curious about batteries, your solar consultant will review options with you. Even if you aren’t ready for batteries during your initial solar installation, your solar electric system can be designed to allow for the easy addition of batteries later.
Electric Vehicle (EV) Chargers:With the growing popularity of electric cars, many of our solar customers are requesting the installation of an electric car charging station at their homes. Combining an electric vehicle with a solar electric system in your home allows you to fix the cost of operating your electric car and truly enables you to operate your EV as a carbon-free, renewable energy vehicle.
Is Going Solar A Good Return on Investment (ROI) In Maine?
Owning a solar electric system is one of the few investments that truly pays for itself in savings over time. A properly sized and designed solar electric system can eliminate nearly your entire annual electric bill. For most Maine homeowners, the solar electric system will pay for itself in as few as 7-10 years. Customers choosing to finance the purchase of their system may see longer payback times.
Once the system has paid for itself, a typical Maine solar system owner will only have to pay their fixed utility service charge – currently around 15 per month. Whether you pay for your solar system out of or choose to finance the purchase you have essentially fixed your cost of electricity and protected yourself from ever-increasing electricity price increases!
For someone in their 50’s, I looked at installing solar panels as saving for my 401K. Because when I am 70, who knows what the price of electricity will be. I am fixing the cost of most of my electricity for life!
– Cathy G., Gorham, ME
What Are The Ways To Pay For Solar Electric Systems?
Most customers choose between paying upfront for their solar electric system or financing the purchase and paying a monthly payment.
Direct Purchase: Choosing to pay for a solar electric system out of will give you the highest return on your investment. You’ll own your solar panels immediately and not have to pay any interest. Many of our customers have taken advantage of low-interest rates and increasing home values to pay for their solar systems with home equity loans or when refinancing their mortgages.
Solar Loans: Financing the purchase of a solar electric system allows you to fix your cost of electricity for the lifetime of your loan. Your fixed monthly payments may at first be higher than your monthly electric bill, but over time as electricity rates go up, your monthly payments will stay the same. Maine Solar Solutions offers solar financing through Mosaic. Mosaic offers no money down, low-interest rates, and a variety of term lengths with no prepayment penalties. Additional financing options may be available through your local bank or credit union.
Cost should not be the only factor when choosing a solar installation company. A solar electric system will last more than 25 years; it’s important to consider a qualified, experienced company that will provide guidance and support throughout the entire system life span. From initial consult, through installation, with ongoing support and consultation, choose a company with a proven track record. Keep in mind that solar electric systems are installed to meet the requirements of the National Electric Code and as such need to be installed by licensed electricians and qualified technicians under their supervision.
Free Solar Site Assessment
Curious to see what a solar electric system would cost for your home?
At Maine Solar Solutions, our goal is to give you the information you need to make an informed decision. Schedule an informative, free, no-obligation solar consultation with one of our knowledgeable solar consultants today and begin your path towards energy independence.
How to Go Solar
There are many options to choose from to power your home with renewables.
Choosing to go solar is a great way to help solve the climate crisis. There are lots of options for you to consider.
Which Type of Solar is Right for Me?
Ground-Mount and Rooftop Systems
Traditional rooftop and ground-mounted solar systems are best for residents open to purchasing and owning solar panels. These systems can have higher upfront costs, and maintenance usually is up to the owners.
Former Mayor Suzanne Jones Checks out a rooftop solar installation in Boulder
Shares in a Solar Garden
In Colorado, Xcel Energy customers have access to community solar gardens. These often provide similar bill credits to roof-top or ground-mount systems, but don’t require roof space on your home. This is a great option for people who rent, live in multi-family buildings or who don’t want to own solar.
A team of residents install a solar garden north of Boulder
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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