Important Home Solar Facts
Solar energy has exploded in popularity because of the rising concern for the environment and the decreasing cost of solar panels. The cost of a home solar system has decreased by 70 percent in the past decade. For residential consumers, home solar panels offer a way to rely less on fossil fuels while also cutting energy costs.
If you are interested in investing in solar panels for your home, it’s important to fully understand the ins and outs of solar energy. We’ve compiled the most common questions homeowners have when it comes to residential solar to help you make the right decision for your energy needs.
Important home solar facts:
- The price of home solar systems has come down by almost 70 percent in the past ten years.
- Anyone who buys a home solar system will be eligible for the federal solar tax credit, which is set at 26 percent.
- Installing a solar system on your roof can increase your home’s value by $15,000.
- Most solar customers stay connected to the power grid for stability and to take advantage of net metering programs.
- Solar panels may not completely eliminate your traditional electric bills, but they can significantly reduce them.
What is the price of a home solar system?
Home solar systems normally cost between $15,000 to $25,000 before factoring in tax credits. With the federal solar tax incentive, the average cost of residential solar panels drops to between $11,100 to $18,500. Keep in mind that cost does not include any rebates or tax incentives at the state or local levels.
The cost of home solar systems is normally broken down into cost per watt. Most systems cost between $3 – $5 per watt. The average solar system size is 5-kilowatts (kWs), which is how we determine the average cost of a solar system for homes. There are several factors that impact the cost of a home solar system, including the solar equipment you purchase, installation costs, any maintenance you perform on your roof, and more.
Curious about the price of solar panels by state? Visit our guide on the cost of home solar panels for a more detailed walkthrough.
How much money could solar energy save me?
Perhaps the most common question consumers ask in the solar industry is how much they could save on energy costs with home solar panels. In theory, purchasing solar panels for your home could eliminate your energy costs because the solar system would generate enough free electricity to cover your energy needs. However, most homes remain connected to the traditional power grid for stability, and the majority of home solar systems do not generate enough power to completely cover a home’s energy consumption.
That being said, solar panels can save a significant amount on energy costs even if they don’t eliminate electric bills entirely. The residential solar energy rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) is already lower than the average traditional energy rate. And according to the U.S. Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), the solar rate for homes will continue to decrease in coming years.
For example, in California, the average monthly energy bill for traditional electricity is $122.95. But the average solar bill for a month of energy is about $26.60, meaning Californians could save about $96.35 every month with solar panels. To find out how much you could save each month with solar panels in your state, visit our solar cost savings guide.
Finally, investing in solar panels also increases your home’s resale value. Experts estimate a working solar system increases a home’s value by an average of $15,000. So, not only could solar panels help to lower your energy costs each month, they can also be a wise investment if you ever decide to sell your home.
Are there solar tax credits that I qualify for?
Yes, there are solar tax credits available that will substantially lower the cost of your home solar system. Every consumer who purchases a residential solar system is eligible for the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). The solar ITC currently credits 26 percent of the total cost of a home solar system back to the consumer. There is no ceiling on this tax credit, although it is set to expire in upcoming years unless Congress renews it.
Depending on where you live, there may be other solar tax credits and rebates available to help lower the cost of solar panels. Many states offer programs to encourage residents to invest in solar energy. And in states like Texas, which does not have a statewide solar program, there could be solar programs at the local level.
To explore the solar incentives in your state, visit your state’s solar page. You can find a list of our state solar pages at the bottom of this guide.
Will I still be connected to the grid if solar panels power my home?
A common misconception in the solar industry is that purchasing solar panels will mean you can automatically live “off the grid”. However, the majority of homeowners who install solar panels will remain connected to the traditional power grid. There are a few reasons for this.
For starters, most residential solar systems do not generate enough power to completely cover a home’s energy needs. Solar panels do not produce electricity 24/7 – when it’s cloudy or during the night, homeowners would need to use power from the grid if they want electricity. There’s also the matter of how much space you have on your roof and your total budget, which can impact how many solar panel modules you can install for your home.
While many homeowners remain connected to the grid for the sake of stability, net metering programs are another reason for this choice. Net metering programs are offered in many states and allow you to sell excess solar power that your system generates back to the grid in exchange for bill credits. If you were disconnected from the grid, you would not be able to take advantage of net metering in your area.
Of course, it is possible to live disconnected from the power grid with solar panels. However, you would need to purchase a much larger solar system and invest in energy storage options – like solar batteries – to ensure you have enough power to cover your energy needs and prepare for periods when your solar panels are not generating electricity.
Will I still have an electric bill if I buy a solar system?
Probably. If you remain connected to the power grid (like most homeowners who buy solar panels), you will still have an electricity bill. But that bill will be much lower because you are using energy your solar system generates to power your home. This means you rely less on electricity from the grid, which leads to a much lower electricity bill.
If you are interested in comparing traditional energy bills with solar energy bills in your state, visit our solar costs and savings guide.
What does net metering mean?
Net metering is a program offered in many states that allows consumers to sell extra solar power back to the electricity grid. In exchange, consumers receive bill credits for when they use power from the grid. Net metering is one of the reasons why so many homeowners who purchase solar panels for their home decide to stay connected to the grid.
How long does it take to install a home solar system?
Installing a home solar system normally only takes one to two days for a licensed solar installation company. However, the overall process of purchasing solar panels is longer than that. Before you can install solar panels on your roof, you’ll need to schedule an onsite visit with the solar company, get approval from your local government officials, schedule an inspection, and have a final consultation with the solar company.
This can seem like a long process. Ask your solar installation company about the timeline and make sure you are both on the same page regarding how long it will take. Thankfully, the installation is normally the quickest step in this process. After your home solar panels are installed, the final step is to take advantage of tax credits and rebates in your area.
How do I know if my roof can handle solar panels?
Before signing a solar panel contract, you should ensure your roof is in good condition and is right for solar panels. If your roof is completely shaded, in poor condition, or older, it may not be suited for solar panels. Ask a solar panel company to perform an evaluation of your home and discuss whether your roof could handle a solar system. It can also be a good idea to get a second opinion, either from another solar company or a licensed engineering company.
If your roof is in poor condition, you may need to factor in maintenance costs before installing solar panels. Most roofs have a lifespan of about 20 years, but solar panels can last as long as 25 years or more. If your roof is older, it could be wise to replace your roof before installing home solar panels.
What happens if I move after buying solar panels?
The lifespan of solar panels averages around 25 years, although some newer models can last much longer. But many homeowners won’t live in a single home for that long. The good news is that having a working solar system installed on your roof increases your home’s resale value by an average of $15,000, which could completely cover the initial cost of the solar system. The average payback period for solar panels is between 7 – 9 years, so it’s best to wait until that payback period has ended before moving in order to fully recoup your investment.
Are there any disadvantages to solar energy?
With all of the benefits of solar energy, there are a few disadvantages that you should consider before signing a solar contract. Here are the three main disadvantages to solar energy:
- The upfront cost. Solar panels have come down in price in the past 20 years, but the upfront cost of investing in a solar system for your home is still high. The overall cost of solar panels is worth considering ahead of time.
- Solar panels might not be right for your home. As we discussed earlier, your roof needs to be in prime condition to handle solar panels. Solar panels also might not be a realistic investment for renters or people living in apartments (although community or shared solar projects could be a good option).
- Solar isn’t always consistent. The sun doesn’t shine every day, and your solar panels won’t generate power at night. This is why most homeowners who buy solar panels stay connected to the traditional power grid.
You can find more details about the top advantages and disadvantages of solar panels on our solar pros and cons guide.