Skip to content
Are Solar Panels Worth It. House solar installation

Are Solar Panels Worth It. House solar installation

    solar, panels, house, installation

    Going Solar in Fairfax County

    Fairfax County encourages residents to invest in solar energy. By using renewable energy like solar instead of fossil fuels, you help reduce pollution and planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. And solar power can pay for itself in 10 to 20 years, so you’ll enjoy reduced energy bills, tax credits and other incentives, including extra protection from power loss during extreme weather when you invest in storage solutions.

    This webpage provides resources for residents interested in installing solar panels in Fairfax County. For more information about the basics of solar energy, your solar options, and questions to ask solar professionals, refer to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar.

    Solar Benefits

    Fairfax County residents are opting to install solar panels on their homes. Press play to hear from them how they made the switch and how it changed their lives for the better!

    Solar energy uses a renewable energy source – the sun! In addition to reducing your electricity bill, using solar energy reduces your environmental impact and Fairfax County’s carbon footprint. You will also help reduce demand on the electricity grid during peak, sunny hours. Plus, installing solar panels can increase the value of your home. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, every dollar that a solar panel saves you on your electrical bills increases the value of your home by 20.

    Solar Potential

    The first step in getting solar is assessing whether your home or building is a good candidate. A few questions to ask when considering going solar:

    • Is your roof shaded by trees or other obstacles? Direct sunlight for six or more hours a day is ideal.
    • Is your roof relatively new? Solar installations can last 20-25 years, so your roof should be less than five years old.
    • What direction does your roof primarily face? Solar arrays can be configured in many different ways to allow for maximum exposure to sunlight throughout the day but ideally your roof should face south or west for the most exposure.

    You can investigate your property’s solar potential by visiting the Northern Virginia Regional Commission’s NOVA Solar Map. You can also estimate the performance of potential solar projects using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s PVWatts Calculator.

    Finding a Contractor

    Certified solar installers can be found through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners®. Visit the county’s Consumer Services webpage for general tips about hiring a contractor.

    By going through a solar co-op purchasing program, homeowners are granted access to a pre-qualified solar installer for a no-cost evaluation of their property and can take advantage of cost savings should they decide to pursue a solar installation. information on solar co-op purchasing programs can be found below.


    Fairfax County residents should be aware of their rights and the regulations surrounding door-to-door solicitation in the county. If a salesperson comes to your door with information about solar panels or installation, please ask to see their county-issued license before engaging with them. Never provide your personal information (birthdate, social security number, etc.) to a solicitor.

    If you encounter an unlicensed solicitor, please contact the Fairfax County Police non-emergency line at 703-691-2131. information on door-to-door solicitation can be found here.

    Cost and Financing

    Your electricity bill is based on how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity you use. Most homes use between 800 kWh and 1,500 kWh each month depending on weather, home size, energy efficiency and how many electric appliances are used.

    The price of solar electricity is typically expressed in terms of dollars per watt of installed power. Typical pricing for residential systems is in the range of 2.50 to 4.00 per watt, depending on the size and market economics. A 5 kilowatt (5 kW) solar system will produce about 8,000 kWh of electricity per year. At 3 per watt, that system would cost about 15,000 to install.

    By reducing electricity costs and taking advantage of tax incentives, the 15,000 investment can pay for itself in about 10-15 years.

    Residential solar panels can be purchased outright or financed with a loan from a solar installer, bank, or other financial institution.

    Solar Co-Op Purchasing Programs

    Solar group purchasing programs make getting solar easier and less expensive by providing information and benefits to participants. These programs typically offer:

    • A free assessment to find out whether your home is a good candidate for solar installation
    • Bulk discounts on solar systems, ranging from 10 to 15 percent off
    • Access to a qualified solar installer
    • Discounted opportunities to bundle your solar system with electric vehicle charging stations and solar battery storage

    Additionally, some programs offer participants a complimentary, virtual home energy assessment to help improve their home energy performance holistically. Those who decide to pursue solar through a co-op purchasing program typically receive a 10 to 15 percent discount off current consumer rates for solar arrays and systems.


    County Incentives

    Fairfax County offers a number of incentives to encourage residents and businesses to install solar panels. The county’s Land Development Services waives the permit fee for solar permit applications, and the county’s Department of Tax Administration provides a 5-year solar energy equipment tax exemption. To learn about the permitting and inspection process, refer to Land Development Services’ page about Residential Solar Permits.

    Federal Tax Credits

    The federal government currently offers a tax credit for solar PV system installation, to include the costs of the solar panels, contractor labor costs, balance-of-system equipment, and energy storage devices. Systems installed between 2022 and 2032 are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit. The credit will decrease to 26 percent for systems installed in 2033, to 22 percent for systems installed in 2034, and the credit will expire in 2035 unless renewed by Congress. The installation of the system must be complete during the tax year, and there is no maximum amount that can be claimed.

    Solar Rights

    Under Virginia state law (§56-594), residential customers may install systems up to 20 kilowatts and non-residential customers may install systems up to 500 kilowatts. Electric utilities must credit solar panel owners for excess electricity generated through something called net metering. Your solar contractor should coordinate with your electric utility to replace your standard meter with a net meter after your panels are installed. The net meter is bi-directional, tracking electrons flowing both out of and into the grid.

    Under Virginia state law (§67-701), homeowner associations (HOAs) typically cannot prohibit solar installations. However, the law allows reasonable restrictions concerning the size, place, and manner of placement. For more information refer to this Solarize webpage or talk to your solar installer.

    Under Virginia state law (§55-353), property owners can form solar easements with their neighbors. A solar easement enables you and a neighbor to voluntarily form an agreement under which the neighbor will not shade your property. The easement then applies to later owners of the neighboring property.

    County Solar Policies and Processes

    Solar panels are permitted accessory structures on all developed properties in Fairfax County provided that they serve the property and are subordinate in purpose, area and extent to the building or use served. For more information, refer to the last entry on the Department of Planning and Zoning’s FAQ page.

    Are Solar Panels Worth It?

    Lexie came from HomeAdvisor and Angi (formerly Angie’s list) and is responsible for writing and editing articles over a wide variety of home-related topics. She has almost four years’ experience in the home improvement space.

    We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Home. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

    Table of Contents

    It seems like solar panels are popping up on everyone’s roofs these days. Even neighbors you might never expect are taking the solar plunge. With this burst of interest (and government incentives), many folks are wondering, “are solar panels worth it?”

    That’s just what we’ll take a look at in this article. We’ll discuss some of the most important points to consider when deciding if solar is the right choice for your home, or if it’s just an expensive trend. Keep reading to find out if solar panels are worth it for you.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

    solar, panels, house, installation

    Power Your Home With Solar

    Find a network of trusted installers for your solar system, solar panels and electricity needs. Find a solar panel installer today!

    How Do Solar Panels Work?

    Solar panels aren’t new technology, but they still have a Cloud of mystery surrounding how they work. The good news is that they aren’t all that complicated.

    Solar panels contain photovoltaic cells. When faced toward sunlight, these cells collect the sun’s energy and transform it into electrical charges. During this process, photons (the light particles) knock electrons off of atoms, creating an electric flow.

    The electricity produced by this process is direct current, or “DC.” The problem is that our electrical systems use alternating current, or “AC.” For this reason, solar systems require inverters to turn DC into usable AC electricity. This inverter is installed between the solar panels and the home’s electrical system.

    In some cases, the solar system may feed a bank of batteries, allowing the home to store electricity overnight or when cloudy conditions prevent effective electric production. In other cases, the system may wire directly into the home’s grid, allowing the user to back feed energy to the utility company, often for a profit.

    Depending on the size of the system, a solar system like the one described above can significantly lower a homeowner’s utility bill. In some cases, the system’s production may even offset the bill completely. This depends on many factors, however, and these factors may determine whether solar is worth it or not.

    Which Homes Benefit the Most From Solar Panels?

    Certain homes benefit from solar more than others. When making a large upfront investment (up to 25,000 in some cases), it’s important to know if the home in question will be able to take full advantage of solar. Much of this has to do with the alignment of their roof in relation to the southern sky.

    Speaking specifically for homes in North America, homes with a south-facing roof section are much better candidates for solar than those with east- and west-facing roofs. Also, homes without tall trees or buildings blocking the sky to their south will benefit more from solar than those next to tall buildings or butted up against forests on their southern side.

    When Are Solar Panels Worth It?

    There are certainly times when solar panels are worth it. It does depend on a few factors, however.


    The location matters. The closer a home is to the equator, the stronger the sun’s intensity will be, and the more potential energy the solar system can create. These homes will see a greater benefit in terms of energy production than homes in the more northern latitudes.

    Also, consider the utility company. Homes in states where electricity is more expensive (California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, for example) will benefit more from solar panels than those where electricity is relatively cheap (Louisiana, Washington, Oregon and North Carolina).

    Federal, Local and State-Level Tax Incentives

    Certain incentive programs may make installing solar panels worth the investment. For instance, folks who install solar panels between 2022 and 2032 may be able to take advantage of a dollar-for-dollar solar tax credit of up to 30% of the system’s overall cost. Depending on the cost of the system and the taxpayer’s finances, this could be reason enough to consider it.

    Second, many states and counties are offering similar credits, rebates or exemptions. For instance, New York (one of the most expensive states in which to purchase electricity) offers dollar-per-watt rebates, up to 5,000 in a tax deduction, sales tax exemptions and credits back on utility bills for producing more wattage than consumed.

    Energy Bills and Consumption

    The two main points of a solar system are to reduce the homeowner’s dependence on non-renewable electricity and lower their energy bills. In most cases, a solar panel system can reduce the homeowner’s electricity usage, reducing their energy bill.

    But, in ideal conditions, the best solar panel system may actually make the homeowner money. As the system produces more electricity than the home uses, the homeowners may be able to sell the extra wattage to the utility company for a few dollars each month. While it’s unlikely to completely offset the cost of the bill and the installation, it’s money coming into the home that wasn’t before.

    Property Value

    Solar panels will make your home more affordable to maintain over time and energy efficient, and they can positively impact your property’s value. Depending on your location, the quality of the installation and local market conditions, the impact solar panels will have on property value will vary. However, you’ll also want to consider that the impact on property value may not be immediate. The long-term savings on electricity bills can offset the initial solar panel installation cost, making them a wise investment for many homeowners.

    Environmental Impact

    It’s no secret that solar panels are great for the environment. Since solar panels generate electricity without emitting greenhouse gasses or requiring the extraction, transportation or combustion of fossil fuels, solar panels have the lowest environmental impact compared to other forms of energy production. Although the production and disposal of solar panels have some environmental impact, using solar power instead of fossil fuels or other forms of energy production will certainly lessen pollution and environmental degradation.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

    Compare Quotes From Top-rated Solar Panel Installers

    Select a State To Get Started With Your No Commitment, Free Estimate

    How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

    There are a few factors that affect the cost of solar panel s, such as the type and model, the size of your installation and where you live. Therefore, the national average is around 16,000. but it can range anywhere from 3,500 to 35,000. However, it’s important to note that solar panels can save you money over time by generating your own electricity. These savings typically offset the solar panel’s initial installation costs. It’s also worth noting that there are often government incentives and tax credits available for homeowners who install solar panels.

    Potential Benefits of a Solar Panel System

    There are quite a few potential benefits of a solar panel system that may make the decision easier for some folks.

    Increased Home Value

    Solar panel systems can increase a home’s value, boosting profit during resale or allowing the homeowner to borrow a bit more in a refinance. How much the system increases the value will depend on the system’s size, but some experts believe that the home’s value increases by 20 for every 1 saved in yearly utility bills.

    Decreased Pricing Fluctuation

    Utility companies are famous for adjusting their pricing. And, since solar panel systems reduce the homeowner’s dependence on the electric company’s supply, the homeowner will be less susceptible to price fluctuations. Even if the solar panel system does take the home off the grid completely, a more predictable energy bill is a significant benefit.


    In systems designed for energy storage (such as those with battery banks), homes with solar panel systems may be better prepared for natural disasters and grid outages. For instance, if the grid’s power goes out in a storm, the residents can use the stored energy from the batteries until the supply comes back on. And, as soon as the sun comes back out, the batteries will recharge.

    Best Solar Companies By States And Cities

    Potential Drawbacks of a Solar Panel System

    It’s not all butterflies and daisies, though. There are certain potential drawbacks that could send some homeowners running from a solar panel installation.

    Upfront Costs

    While the tax benefits abound, homeowners will still have to pay the upfront costs for installing their solar panel system. can range from just a few thousand dollars to up to 25,000 or more for a system. This obviously depends on size and complexity, but those are costs that the homeowner will have to come up with themselves.

    For those interested in leasing solar panels to lessen the upfront costs, this may be a solid plan. Just note that leasing often means not being able to take advantage of tax benefits.


    Many solar panel systems are designed to last 20 years or more without a reduction in function, but there are certain maintenance items that the homeowner will need to consider. For instance, the panels may need annual or semi-annual cleaning to preserve their efficiency. Also, if the roof underneath the panels needs care or replacement, the panels can significantly add to the cost.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

    Compare Quotes From Top-rated Solar Panel Installers

    Free, No-commitment Estimates


    While solar panels are becoming more popular and less noticeable, they’re still not some homeowners’ cup of tea. Many folks don’t like the way solar panels look, and for historical preservation societies, they could be against bylaws.

    There could be a solution for both of these scenarios, however. Installing an off-roof system on a set of racks or mounts away from the home is an option, just note that this will add to the cost of the project in terms of hardware, cables and design.

    Looking For Hassle-Free Solar Installation

    Find a network of trusted installers for solar system, solar panels and electricity needs. Find a solar panel installer today!

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Can I install my own solar panels?

    Most of the components involved in installing solar panels are relatively simple. Prefabricated parts that simply need assembly make up the majority of the system, and most of the wiring on the roof is plug-and-play. However, tying the panel wiring into the home is a bit more complicated, so DIYers should do their research before attempting their installation. Alternatively the best solar companies usually offer quick, professional, fuss-free installation if you don’t want to DIY.

    Do solar panels increase property taxes?

    Solar panel systems can increase a home’s value, which would appear to increase property taxes. However, since many local lawmakers allow for tax credits or deductions, they’ll have help offsetting or reducing the tax bill.

    Can a house run on solar power alone?

    Depending on the size of your house, how much energy it consumes and how much power your solar panels can generate, you would be able to run your home on solar powers alone. However, the right battery storage system is also necessary to ensure a constant supply of electricity, especially during periods of low sunlight.

    How long do solar panels last?

    Solar panels can last for 25 to 30 years. With proper installation, maintenance and timely repairs, you can help to extend their lifespan.

    How many solar panels do I need?

    The size of your home and the amount of energy you’ll need to power your home will determine how many solar panels you’ll need to install. For example, let’s say your home is roughly 1500 square feet. You’ll probably need between 15 and 18 solar panels to cover the energy needs of that space.

    Get expert advice on your home, design tips, how much to pay for pros and hiring experts, delivered to you daily.

    I agree to receive the Forbes Home newsletter via e-mail. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information and details on how to opt out.

    Can Solar Panels Really Power a Whole House?

    With the advancements in solar and battery storage technology today, solar has emerged as not only one of the most efficient energy sources, but also one of the most cost-effective ways to power a home. (The latest breakthrough is transparent solar panels, which may one day douvle as power-producing Windows in your home!)

    If you have a suitable roof and can afford the upfront investment of both solar panels and a storage battery, solar can be an excellent way to reduce your carbon footprint and lock in long-term savings on your electricity costs.

    The long answer to that question, though, is more complicated.

    While it is possible to take your home completely “off the grid” with the right solar and storage set-up, it is more common to keep your home connected to the grid and source your electricity from a combination of your solar panels and the electric grid.

    Without a storage system, your solar panels will only be able to generate energy to power your home during the daytime. At night, when your solar panels are not producing electricity, you’d receive power from the grid.

    In this case, even though your home isn’t entirely powered by solar, you could still offset your electricity bill by selling excess energy generated during the day back to the grid via your local utility company or state-run program. So, while your home wouldn’t be powered by solar 24/7, you could still generate enough clean energy to offset some of your electricity costs and your carbon footprint.

    How many solar panels do I need to power my home?

    The average U.S. household uses 893 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity every month. That’s just under 30 kWh per day.

    The number of panels needed to meet this daily average will depend on factors like the amount of sunlight your house receives, the size of your solar array, and the power rating of your solar panels (how many watts of power they generate). This is where a little math comes in, but the equations aren’t overly complex.

    High-level, there are three key steps:

    Solar panel power rating: convert watts to kilowatts

    A solar panel’s power rating is measured in watts (W). Panels today typically have a power output ranging between 250 and 400 W, depending on which system you buy. That means they’ll produce 250-400 W of electricity per hour during peak conditions. But we’ll want to turn that into kW, so that you can more easily match it against your own electricity usage.

    1,000 W equals 1 kW, so the average residential panel has an output of between 0.25 and 0.40 kW.

    Estimate hours of sunlight

    The next step is to calculate the daily output of your solar panels. To do this, you need to estimate how many hours of sunlight your solar panels will receive per day (or energy-producing conditions, as panels can still be effective, albeit less efficient, on cloudy days).

    Understandably, your home’s sunlight exposure can vary drastically by location, seasonality, landscaping, and more factors—but there are tools out there to get average estimates based on historical scientific data. Google’s Project Sunroof is one such tool that takes this even further by showcasing your estimated savings and environmental impact, too.

    Also, as part of any good solar contracting and installation process, companies will do this sunlight analysis on your home before recommending what system you should go with and how many panels you need to invest in.

    Calculate the number of panels you’ll need

    To get a rough estimate of how many solar panels you’ll need to meet your energy needs, follow the equation below. (Grab your electricity bill so you have your home’s latest power consumption on-hand.)

    The amount of power your home consumes on average per day in kwH / (Your solar panels’ power rating in kW) x (Average hours of sunlight exposure per day)

    For example, if your home energy usage is 30 kwH per day, you are looking to buy 320 W solar panels (0.32 kW power rating), and your home receives 4 hours of direct sunlight per day on average—you will need 23 panels to power your home.

    Of course, this is just an average. The number of panels needed to power your home will depend on your electricity needs and many other factors. If you have a smaller roof or your home receives fewer hours of sunlight per day, you can purchase panels with a higher power rating to generate more electricity per hour.

    What happens to excess energy produced by home solar panels?

    In many cases, your solar panels will generate more electricity than you consume during the day. When this happens, the excess energy will either be stored in a battery if you have a solar storage system, or it will be sent to the electricity grid.

    Utilities use a system called net metering to measure the amount of energy your home produces. They’ll give you solar credits in exchange for the excess energy you send to the grid. Net metering allows homeowners to offset their electricity bill—so even though you’re still using power from the electrical grid at night, you may not need to pay for that energy at the end of the month. The solar credits could offset some if not all your bill. Talk to your local utility about net metering for more information.

    Will solar panels still power my home when the sun isn’t out?

    On cloudy days, solar panels still produce electricity, just at a slower rate. Usually, on a beautiful sunny day, you’ll be able to generate enough energy throughout the day to power your home. On some days though, you simply won’t receive enough sunlight (or even partial sunlight) to completely power your home. This is where either having a storage system or being connected to the grid will come in handy.

    A battery storage system will allow you to use reserve energy to power your home when your solar panels aren’t producing energy. This is the same reserve supply that you’ll use to power your home at night if you have an “off-grid” home.

    If you don’t have solar storage installed, then your home will source energy from the electric grid when your solar panels aren’t actively producing it (like at night).

    Remarkably, in the future, solar panels may be able to produce energy at night thanks to an incredible breakthrough by Stanford scientists. But that innovation is still a ways away from having practical, real-world uses.

    How much do solar panels cost?

    Installing solar panels on your home requires a sizeable financial investment—especially if you’re going to install a storage system too. The cost of just the solar panels will vary depending on the state, with recent data suggesting anywhere between 13,000 to 19,000 for solar installation. But this price does not include any discounts from federal tax credits or local state exemptions for which you may be eligible.

    Region AVG Cost for Solar Installation
    Northeast 16,020
    Midwest 17,592
    West 15,616
    South 14,836

    Regional price averages calculated using state averages for 6 kW solar installation from Consumer Affairs. Visit the link for state-specific data.

    While the upfront cost may seem like a lot, you can also calculate the long-term savings that you’ll receive once your solar panels are up and running. Over the 20–30-year lifespan of your solar panels, you’re likely to more than cover the cost of installing your panels through those government tax incentives and exemptions, plus the savings that you’ll receive on your electricity costs and excess energy that you may be able to sell back to your utility or state. Look into whether there is a buy-back program in your state.

    Adding storage to your solar system will likely add another couple thousand dollars upfront depending on the system that you choose. There are benefits to this investment too, though. You may be able to completely take your home off the grid—so you can have a completely self-sustaining home, which will come in handy during power outages. Not to mention, your electricity bill will cost 0 every month since you’re sourcing all your electricity from your own supply.

    What if I can’t install my own solar panels?

    Most homeowners and renters are unable to install their own solar panels, whether due to financial constraints or roof ineligibility (not enough sunlight or the infrastructure won’t support solar panels). But just because you can’t install your own panels doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the financial and environmental benefits of choosing solar.

    Community solar programs allow you to access the financial benefits of solar without installing any of your own panels. Instead, you can subscribe to a local solar array near you and support the operations of that solar farm in exchange for discounts on your electricity bill. While you won’t be receiving solar electricity directly to your home, you’ll be supporting the addition of more clean solar power to the overall energy mix on the grid. With a community solar subscription, you’ll be able to save money on your electricity costs (not directly on your bill, but via the credits you’ll receive back)—and help support our transition to a cleaner energy future.

    Check to see if there are community solar programs in your area. To learn more, check out Perch Community Solar.

    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.

    Give this article Share full article

    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.

    solar, panels, house, installation

    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.

    How we handle corrections

    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

    Give this article Share full article

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *