It seems like solar panels are popping up on all roofs these days. Even neighbors you wouldn’t expect are starting to use solar energy. With this renewed interest, many people are wondering, “Are solar panels worth it?” We will see that in this article. We discuss some of the key things to consider when deciding if solar power is the right choice for your home or if it’s just an expensive trend. Read on to find out if it’s worth it.
How Do Solar Panels Work?
Solar panels are not new technology, but how they work is still mysterious. The good news is that they are not that complicated. solar panels contain photovoltaic cells. Exposed to sunlight, these cells capture solar energy and convert it into electrical charges. During this process, photons (particles of light) collide with electrons in atoms, creating an electrical flow. The electricity generated is direct current or “DC”. The problem is that our electrical systems use alternating current or “AC”. For this reason, solar systems require inverters that convert direct current into usable alternating current. This inverter is installed between the solar panels and the home electrical system. In some cases, a solar system can power a bank of batteries to store electricity around the home at night or when cloud cover prevents efficient power generation. In other cases, the system can be connected directly to the home grid, allowing the user to export energy back to the utility, often at a profit. Depending on the size of the system, a PV system like the one described above can significantly reduce a homeowner’s electricity bill. In some cases, the performance of the system can even completely offset the bill. However, it depends on many factors that can decide whether solar energy is worth it or not.
Which Homes Benefit the Most From Solar Panels?
Some homes use more solar energy than others. If you’re making a large initial investment (up to $25,000 in some cases), it’s important to know if your home can take full advantage of solar energy. Much of this has to do with the orientation of their roof towards the southern sky. Speaking of homes in North America, homes with south-facing roofs are much better candidates for solar energy than those with east-west-facing roofs. Even homes without tall trees or buildings on the south side blocking the sky benefit more from solar energy than those near tall buildings or adjacent forest on the south 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 is important. The closer a home is to the equator, the stronger the sun becomes and the more potential energy the solar system can produce. These houses will benefit more in terms of energy production than houses in more northerly latitudes. Also consider a utility company. Homes in states where electricity is more expensive (e.g. California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York) 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
Some incentive programs can make installing a solar panel worthwhile. For example, individuals who install solar panels between 2022 and 2032 are eligible for a solar tax credit of up to 30% of the total system cost. Depending on the cost of the system and the taxpayer’s finances, this may be reason enough to think about it. Second, many states and counties offer similar loans, rebates, or waivers. For example, New York (one of the most expensive states to buy electricity) offers dollar-per-watt rebates, a tax credit of up to $5,000, sales tax exemptions, and bill refunds for generating more electricity than it uses.
Energy Bills and Consumption
The two main points of a solar system are reducing the owner’s dependence on non-renewable electricity and reducing energy costs. In most cases, a solar panel system can reduce a homeowner’s electricity consumption, thereby lowering their energy bills. But under ideal conditions, the best solar system can actually make money for the homeowner. Because the system produces more electricity than the house uses, homeowners can sell the extra electricity to the utility for a few dollars a month. While it’s unlikely to fully offset the cost of your electric bills and plumbing, it does pour money into your home that wasn’t there before.
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 add value to a home by increasing resale profits or by allowing the homeowner to borrow a little more as part of a refinance. How much the value of a system increases depends on the size of the system, but some experts estimate that for every dollar saved in annual utility bills, the value of a home increases by $20.
Decreased Pricing Fluctuation
Utilities are notorious for adjusting their prices. And because solar systems reduce the homeowner’s dependency on electricity, the homeowner is less vulnerable to price fluctuations. Even if a solar panel system completely disconnects your home from the grid, a more predictable energy bill is a significant benefit.
With energy storage systems (such as battery banks), homes with solar panel systems can be better prepared for natural disasters and power outages. For example, if there is a power outage during a thunderstorm, residents can use the energy stored in the batteries until power is restored. And as soon as the sun comes up, the batteries recharge.
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.
While tax credits abound, homeowners still have to bear the upfront cost of installing a solar system. Prices can range from a few thousand dollars to $25,000 or more per system. Of course, this depends on the size and complexity, but these are costs that the owner must bear himself. For those looking to rent solar panels to reduce upfront costs, this can be a solid plan. Keep in mind that leasing is often without a tax benefit.
Many solar panel systems are designed to last 20 years or more without sacrificing functionality, but there are a few maintenance points that the homeowner must consider. For example, disks may require annual or biannual cleaning to maintain performance. Also, if the roof under the panels needs to be repaired or replaced, the panels can add significantly to the cost.
Although solar panels are becoming more popular and less visible, they still aren’t homeowners’ thing. Many people don’t like the look of solar panels, and for historical preservation societies, they may be breaking the rules.
However, there is a solution for both scenarios. Installing an off-the-roof system on a series of racks or stands outside of your home is an option, but keep in mind that this will add to the cost of the project in terms of hardware, cabling, and design.