Guide to Residential Solar: Is It Worth It?

Residential Solar is it worth it (1)

The short answer is yes. In fact, for the foreseeable future, the answer to the question “is it worth it?” will be yes. The price is the lowest it has ever been, the efficiency of panels is the highest it’s ever been, and the need to help our planet be carbon-free is as high as it always should be. As utility costs rise and as the federal government slowly decreases renewable incentives (e.g., Investment Tax Credit phasing out after 2021), you could make the argument that there will be no better time for residential solar than now.

Is Residential Solar Worth It?

There are More Options Now Than Ever

Jobs for Residential Solar Installers are projected to rise by 63% over the next 8 years. Solar Panels are more efficient and more configurable with new technology coming out regularly.

In 2010 the best solar panel struggled to break 15% efficiency, now 20% is expected with many manufactures breaking the 22% threshold on mass production. Even more recent advancements have shown new chemistries, such as peroskvite-silicon solar cell obtaining up to 27.7% efficiency. That means that the space needed to power your home is smaller than ever, and the chances of an installer being near you are growing fast. The number of manufactures has exploded over the last 10 years, and that competition coupled with the increases in technology has driven the price per watt from $2.50 to below $.030 today.

The quality of panels and systems has also improved compared to 10 years ago. The top ten manufacturers all offer top of the line panels that are guaranteed, you no longer have to worry about cheap panels that are weak or inefficient. Many offer 20+ year warranties, which was unheard of in the not so distant past. As a homeowner that means you have a lot of room to shop around and find the best system to fit your needs.

If budget is your primary concern, you can still be confident that the product you install is going to last for many years to come. If quality is your main concern, there are multiple companies like LG and SunPower that sell top of the line, cutting edge systems.

Solar Will Save You Money

The price of electricity is not going down. Since 2008 prices have remained relatively unchanged, hovering between 10 and 11 cents per kWh, putting the average monthly bill in the US at $111.  Over 10 years,  that $111 per month adds up to $13,320, which is higher than the price of having solar installed on your home in many areas. In fact, if you live in one of the states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania that offers SRECs, renewable credits on green energy you can sell to the energy companies, you can be making money off your residential solar panels.

Most states, in fact, offer extra incentive on top of the federal government’s investment tax credit, meaning that the sooner you install solar, the more money you will save over time.

It Makes For A Good Investment

In addition to putting cash in your pocket, right now is the perfect time to look at residential solar as a long term investment. If you installed a system in 2010, it likely cost you $7 a watt. There was a big leap in 2012 where the price dropped to $5 per watt for an installed system, and the number of installations by 2015 skyrocketed as a result.

Now, in 2020, we are seeing costs that are near half that, with some areas costing as low as $2.50 per watt installed. An average 5 kW system will be under $18,000 dollars wherever you are, and if you are in the United States the Federal Government is still offering 26% back in tax credit in addition to many state incentives.

That means for the first time in history your solar panel system may cost less than the value it adds to your home. As of 2019 the average increase in a home’s value from adding solar was 4.1%, meaning on a $300,000 home the $12,000 (after rebates) it cost to install solar will increase the value of the home by $12,300.

Your house is probably one of your largest investments and it’s rare that you will get more value than you spend in repairs and upgrades, solar is a nice way to see that return.

Soon You May Be Legally Obligated To

The government is going green across the nation, and nowhere is that more evident than the state with the largest population in the Union, California.

The California Solar Mandate, which took effect in January 2020, calls for all new construction to have solar panels and push towards zero net energy homes. While it does not specifically mean rooftop solar on every home, they have the option of building large community solar farms to power entire neighborhoods, it does show a clear trend towards forcing the public into the world of solar.

New York, Washington, New Jersey and Nevada have all committed to 100% renewable energy, it’s not hard to see where the US is headed. Your best chance at future-proofing yourself against new laws is to be ahead of the trend and already have solar when the rules change for good.

Time is Running Out on Some Incentives

Another good reason to act now is that those great incentives may be gone in the near future. The federal credit, unless renewed by Congress, will no longer apply to residences in 2022. Many states are ending incentive programs or limiting their terms, with some states like Kansas actually working against installation.

Called Demand Charges, states like Kansas and Massachusetts actually charge citizens money for having solar installed in 2015 and 2019 respectively. If more states want to follow suit, the only way to avoid the charge is to have the system installed before the laws can be made.

There’s Never A Wrong Time To Reduce The Use of Fossil Fuels

As the old adage goes, the best time to plant a tree was 10 years ago. The second best time is now.

It’s impossible to do anything in our modern society without hearing about global warming, the scarcity of resources or the socio-economic tensions caused by reliance on oil and other non-renewables. Installing solar reduces your carbon footprint and decreases the demand for coal, oil and natural gas, and it is the best way you can help the planet without sacrificing your way of life. Even if your primary motivation is the green of cash and not the green of the earth, the entire world is trending towards renewables, it’s much better to be riding the wave of change than having society force your hand.

It Prepares You For The Future

This is still as true now as it was 20 years ago. Whether you believe the earth is moments away from disaster and collapse or we are on the verge of a new utopia, having solar on your home will make sure your home is ready. Should the worst happen and the infrastructure of the nation is compromised, you will still have electricity. Your solar panels will work and keep you warm even if the power companies are gone.

Should the trend towards electric cars continue you will already be prepared to drive one into your garage and hook it up. No matter what, self-sufficiency is always going to be an important part of society, and the ability to create your own power is a necessary part of that.

Residential Solar by State

We’ve put together all-inclusive guides on each state’s solar incentives, whether it’s worth it, and the best solar providers. Check out the write-ups:

For further reading, make sure to read our guide on choosing the best solar company and what’s involved in that process.

Written by Carlos Huerta

Electrical Engineer with background in solar PV designs for residential and commercial projects as well as power systems development. Fan of renewable energy topics and projects. Technical writer for papers, articles and research in related topics to sustainability and especially solar power. Follow Carlos on LinkedIn.