Solar vs. The Grid: Is Solar Power Worth It?

Renewable energy is becoming more important than ever as climate change makes its presence increasingly, dramatically known. Solar power is becoming more affordable every year – but it’s still a pretty large investment. If you set aside the environmental concerns, is solar power worth it yet?

How Much is Solar Power?

There are a number of ways you can get solar power in your home, but the most popular option is solar panels. Depending on where you live, the cost of solar panels can vary quite a bit, but that’s not the only cost you’ll incur. Homeowners also need to factor in the cost of installation. On average, a solar panel setup can cost $11,060 to $22,100 depending on the system.

One important thing to note is that these prices reflect the cost of a solar panel system after the federal solar tax credit, which may not be available in future years. The federal solar tax credit currently offers a 30% investment tax credit until 2019. After that, it drops to 26% in 2020 and down to 22% in 2021. In short, there’s a chance you may save more money by purchasing your solar panels sooner rather than later.

Are There Other Options?

There are other options for obtaining solar panels. One of the more popular options is to lease solar panels from an energy company. This option isn’t available for everyone in the United States, and it comes with some significant caveats. First of all, homeowners have to pay a monthly fee for their panels. Second, they aren’t eligible for tax credits. Finally, it can be difficult to sell your house after the panels are installed. It’s possible to add the cost of leasing the panels into the price of the house like a buyout, but you run the risk of scaring away potential buyers.

Do You Save Money?

Different systems can save a varying amount of money. The power needs of your home affect the size of the system you need. Where you live can affect your savings, as well. For one thing, areas with plentiful sunlight obviously make solar a better bargain. Additionally, the cost of installing solar panels can vary from region to region, and the cost of supplying energy to your home depends on where you’re plugged in. The gap between those two costs affects your long-term savings forecast. In New York and Massachusetts are you could save anywhere from $28,446 to $30,243 after 20 years. However, in a state like Washington the average 20-year savings is only $7,484.

Do You Need Approval?

Finding affordable solar panels isn’t the only battle. Some places require you to get approval for solar panels from your municipal electric company. Some municipalities may disallow solar power altogether. (On the opposite end of the spectrum, some cities offer assistance in moving to solar.) Before looking too far into solar power, it’s best to call your electric company to see if you’re eligible.

Is Solar Power Worth It?

Back to our final question: is solar power worth it? The easiest answer is yes, but in reality, it depends on several factors. If you live in a state with little sun – or in a state with low energy costs, the return on your investment over 20 years is going to be pretty low. It’s also worth noting that we’re talking about a time frame of 20 years, here. Solar is more likely to be worth it if you’re fairly settled – you don’t want to spend all that money on solar panels and then move away in 3-5 years before you get your money back. But for the right person, in the right place, it’s a move worth making.