Have you thought about installing solar panels on your house? That’s the BIG discussion in my house lately! So I found myself doing a LOT of research to figure out if solar panels will actually save us money, how much it’s gonna cost, what kind of tax credits and rebates we’d get, if solar panels would increase the value of our home, etc etc ETC.
Basically, I just wanted to know – what are the Pros and Cons of solar panels… and are they worth it. Here’s what I’ve learned.
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Is It Time To Go Solar?
All our neighbors are suddenly installing solar panels on their homes so they can save money on their electric bill.
I’m all about saving money while doing some good for the world with clean energy, aren’t you?
I think it’s pretty cool how technology has enabled us to harness all the sun’s energy for heating, cooling and powering our homes in a more environmentally friendly way.
But – here’s the thing.
Now that all the neighbors are installing solar panels…
My husband wants us to install solar panels on OUR house too!
If he says, “Just think of all the money we’ll save!” one more time, I might scream.
Because neither of us know how solar power actually works, how much it costs and if it’s even cost-effective to do it.
Is it REALLY worth it to install solar panels on your house?
If you know me, the next step was…
Educate myself about solar power and solar panels so we can make a smart and INFORMED decision for our home.
Heck, I learned a ton about working with a fence contractor and about the pros and cons of sliding barn doors…. AND about remodeling the basement, so why NOT get to learning about solar powering our home?
Time to learn about solar power – and since Google knows everything, it seems the best place to learn =)
How Solar Power Works
First step was to learn how solar energy is converted into electricity.
I know that if we convert the sun’s power into energy, it is possible to power our homes – but how does it actually WORK?
According to energy.gov, there are 2 primary technologies that can turn the sun’s power into energy.
The solar panels we see on house rooftops (called “photovoltaics” or PV for short), and something called “concentrating solar power (or CSP for short) – which is used in large power plants – ie, not on residential homes.
When it comes to solar panels on a house, this is basically how it works:
When the sun shines onto a solar panel, photons from the sunlight are absorbed by the cells in the panel, which creates an electric field across the layers and causes electricity to flow.
Pretty cool, right?
The conversion process of sunlight to solar power is achieved with solar power systems – the solar panels.
The solar panels capture sunlight and convert it into electricity.
Of course it’s a much more complicated process than that.
This video below from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy really simplifies the whole thing and is worth a watch.
Important Things To Know
Before we even think about installing solar panels, there are a few important things we really needed to know.
First off, we’ll need about 100 square feet of roof (for every square foot of solar panels, you can expect to generate a kilowatt of electricity).
We might capture less solar energy if our roof is partially shaded, or faces southeast or southwest.
Other obstacles to our solar panels working best are shadows from other buildings, trees or overhead cables.
Pretty much anything in the way of the sunshine.
It’s also strongly suggested to be sure your roof is in great shape before you consider installing solar panels.
If your roof needs to be replaced anytime in the near future, it is recommended to get your new roof BEFORE installing solar panels.
It’s a BIG job to remove those panels to put a new roof on – you do NOT want to be in that situation.
(thankfully, we just had our roof replaced so I can check that off the list lol!)
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
I don’t know why I was under the impression that solar panels last forever, but they don’t.
I’ve read that solar panels last around 20-30 years.
What determines how long they last is based on the quality of the solar panels, the climate you live in, how the panels were installed… and of course, how well the panels are maintained.
I asked my neighbor how they’ll know WHEN it’s time for them to replace their solar panels, and the short answer was… When our power bill starts increasing (which means their panels aren’t working as well as they used to).
Solar Panels Cost
While not cheap, there is GOOD news…
The cost of solar panels has come down significantly.
In fact, the cost of going solar has dropped lower every, single year since 2009!
I was pretty surprised by the prices I saw – I truly thought it was stupid expensive to install solar panels on our home, but it’s really not that bad at all.
Especially when you consider…
“Just think how much money we’ll save!”
(yes, that was me mocking my husband again lol!)
How Much Money Will Solar Panels Save Us?
The biggest question I had about solar panels is how MUCH money will installing solar panels on the roof of my home save me each month on my power bill.
Turns out, it’s a pretty healthy savings.
Homeowners that are currently paying $100 a month or more on their monthly power bill will see cost-savings each month by adding solar power.
How MUCH you save each month depends on how much electricity you use and how much solar power your system can generate.
What’s extra cool is that you can also make some money if your home solar panels generate more energy than YOU need each month.
You can turn this excess energy into income through a process through ‘net metering’.
Net Metering involves using your panels to generate additional energy to go back into the wider grid.
In times, seasons, weather conditions when your solar panels don’t make enough for you, you can get energy from that grid as well.
How Much Power Can We Generate With Solar Panels?
This is another big question I had – how MUCH power would the panels on our roof be able to generate.
Turns out, there’s an online tool for that (of course)
The PVWatts Calculator will give you a pretty good estimate of how much power solar panels on YOUR house will make.
The free calculator is here – just enter your address and let it do it’s thing.
I ran the calculator for my house and was pretty surprised at the results.
Just a basic estimate of how much power solar panels on our house can make (with all the default settings in the calculator) shows me that we could save roughly about 30% on our power bill.
(my son is an Electrician so he helped me understand what all that mumbo jumbo actually means lol!)
Nice… but not quite enough to convince me.
I had more questions about solar panels…
Will Solar Panels Increase Our Home Value?
This was a big question for me – will installing solar panels increase the value of our home?
I sure don’t want to spend that money on our home if we won’t be able to get that money back if/when we sell.
Turns out, yes, buyers have been paying around $15,000 more for homes with a solar panel system installed.
That’s good news!
What About Tax Credits For Installing Solar Panels?
I’ve heard our neighbors talk about all the tax credits and incentives they get for having solar panels on their homes… but never really told us how MUCH their tax credits were.
So guess what?
Yep, there’s an online tool for that =)
Here is a huge database of all the incentives for installing solar panels on your home.
Just enter your zip code to see everything available in your area.
For my zip code, there were 45 different tax credits (personal tax credits AND commercial tax credits), rebates, loan programs and grants available to us if we Go Solar.
Solar Panels- Pros & Cons
So now that I’ve done my research on solar power and learn how solar panels work, etc, it’s time to put all the things into a Pros and Cons list to help ME decide if solar panels are really worth it.
Solar Panel Pros:
Turns out, there are a LOT of darn good reasons to install solar panels on our house.
Solar Panels Pros:
- Will save us money on our power bill
- Can MAKE us money by selling unused power
- Qualify for LOTS of personal tax incentives and rebates
- Will increase the value of our home (by up to $15,000!)
- and, best of all, creating our own power source with solar makes us less reliant on our local power company.
Solar Panel Cons:
There’s only one real “con” to installing solar panels that I came up with – the upfront cost.
And, as I talked about earlier, the cost to install solar panels on your home has come down significantly in the past 10-15 years.
Based on all I’ve learned and shared here…
Yep, solar panels ARE worth it.
And yep, it just might be time to go solar.
And double yep, my son, the Electrician, totally agrees =)
More Stuff I’ve Learned: