Are solar panels for home worth it

With the 30% federal tax credit reducing at the end of 2019 millions of American homeowners are asking themselves whether they should install solar panels for their homes in 2019. The answer to this question depends on where you live, how much roof space you have, whether it is shaded,  how you use power and what your local utility charges you for electricity.

There are five simple things you need to know to make an informed decision about solar;

  • Is your roof suitable for solar panels

  • What will be the total cost of solar panel installation for your home?

  • how much will solar energy save you (your payback period and ROI)?

  • what is the best type of solar panels to buy? and

  • who are the best residential solar panel installation companies servicing your area (in terms of price and reputation)?

Is your roof suitable for installing solar panels?

Solar energy can power your entire home because net metering gives you credits to cover your night time power use. It is possible for a solar home to have little or no utility bill. However, the typical home needs between 6-8 kW of solar panels to eliminate their electricity bill. This means you need between 360-520 square feet of roof space. Here is a link to a solar roof space calculator. The roof needs to be mostly unshaded from 10 am -3 pm. Sometimes trees can be trimmed.

Does my roof have to face due South for solar panels to produce electricity?

While solar panels facing due south do produce the most overall electricity it can be perfectly fine to have panels facing south west or south east without too much loss of electricity generation. As solar prices fall more and more panels are being put on west facing roof spaces even though they produce about 15% less electricity. This is now common for folks with time-of-use electricity billing who want to move their solar generation to later in the afternoon when peak rates are charged by the electric utility for power.

How much does it cost to install solar panels for a house in 2019?

There are two major sources of data on residential solar panel installation cost in America. SolarReviews partners with the DOE-funded, Lawrence Berkeley institute to publish costs of an estimated 90% of residential solar power systems installed in the US. This data shows the average solar power system cost is currently $3.89/watt.

The other major source of solar cost data is www.solar-estimate.org. Their data shows the average cost of a residential solar system in 2019 is 3.08 per watt for cash purchased systems before the 30% tax credit. So for a 6kw solar system, this is $18,480 before the solar tax credit and $12,936 after claiming the credit back on your taxes.

What is the best solar cost estimator to calculate the cost of solar panels for a specific home? 

The Solar-Estimate solar calculator is the best residential solar calculator because it actually has the specific utility rates charged by each utility company in its database as well as accurate solar panel production data for each location around the United States. It tells you how many solar panels you need and how much solar will save you before you are asked to enter any personal information.

It is often beneficial to have one or more solar companies review the estimate generated by the website because often the system size the calculator recommends may not fit on your roof. The estimate you get at the end of this process is very detailed and includes your cost, savings, payback period, investment return, loan and monthly payment options, the environmental benefits, cash flow graphs, etc. 

Solar cost and savings calculator

Preparing solar calculator...

Which solar panel is best for home?

We had a group of industry veterans sit down and write expert reviews looking at both the efficiency, manufacturing quality and value offered by the solar panels produced by each of the best solar panel manufacturers. These are the brands they ranked as their five best solar panels:

1. Panasonic
2. LG
3. CanadianSolar
4. SunPower
5. REC Solar

You can read our expert summary and the justifications for the ranking of top solar panels manufacturers in 2018 on our best solar panels brands-expert reviews page.

Is solar power for your home less expensive now?

YES, solar panels are cheaper now, in fact, they have fallen around 80% over the last 10 years and a further 4% in 2018.

Are solar panels worth the investment?

The investment return on solar panels is generally more than the investment return you can get from many traditional investments like shares or property, particularly in states with high electricity rates. An internal rate of return on the cost of installation of solar panels on your home averages 12.7% across America but is as high as 22% in Massachusetts and parts of Southern California.

Do you really save money with solar panels?

YES, you save money with solar panels through paying less to your local utility company for power. The security of your solar investment is guaranteed by the fact that it is relatively certain you will continue to use power in the future. With other investments, such as the sharemarket and property, the return can be affected by many economic factors beyond your control.

How long does it take for residential solar panels to pay for themselves?

In states such as California the payback period on home solar systems. given current solar prices, averages 6.5 years but the solar payback period can be as little as 4 years in states like Massachusetts. In other states like Florida, Texas, New Jersey and South Carolina it is a little longer but still better than most traditional investments...and better for our planet.

Do solar panels increase the value of your home?

A study conducted in 2011 by a group of economists in California showed that on average solar panels added a premium to the selling price of a property of $20,914 in mid-range houses valued around $500,000. They did this by studying comparative sales of similar houses with and without solar panels. This  return is in addition to electricity bill savings above.

How many solar panels are needed to power a house?

The number of solar panels you will need to power your house will depend on two factors:

  • The amount of electricity you use;
  • Your location as location determines how much electricity solar panels produce.
There are online solar calculators that can take your monthly power spend and location and work out how many solar panels you need and the cost based on prices of solar companies near you. The solar calculator on solar-estimate.org is probably considered the best.

How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels have warranties lasting 25 years and sometimes 30 years with premium brands. I have seen some old 80-watt Seimens solar panels from the 1970's still producing 60 watts, almost 20 years after the end of their warranty.

Is solar panel installation feasible on my house?

Unfortunately not every home suits solar. You can use the solar savings and payback period calculator to calculate your likely savings from installing solar on your home. Alternatively here is a list of some of the factors that will determine how suitable your house is for installing a solar power system. Things such as the shading of your roof, the direction of your roof and of course the roof size can influence the solar potential of your property.

Do I need to buy a solar battery if I install solar energy panels on my house?

In short, NO it is not necessary to install a solar battery as net metering allows you to store the economic value of solar electricity that is generated by your solar during the day that is in excess of the power needs of your home.

Even though the Tesla Powerwall is now only $7,800 plus installation they still take almost 10 years to pay for themselves. Net metering allows you to economically store the value of the power that your renewable energy system generate without paying for the upfront cost of a battery.

Can you buy and install your own solar panels for home?

We'll......theoretically you can and here is a link to a reputable website that sells solar panel kits but even people I have talked to at this company admit that for 95% of homeowners a DIY home solar panel installation is not advisable. The installation itself is dangerous, there is the real possibility of damaging the equipment, and there will be absolutely no warranty support if you self install because the panel manufacturer will blame bad installation and the installation laborer will blame the equipment. Yes, installing solar panels yourself will save $2,000-$3,000 (if nothing major goes wrong) but you will be on your own for the next 25 years and responsible for your own system.