Investing In Solar Power
Is solar power the wave (or ray) of the future? It depends on who you ask, but the trend of using the energy of the sun to power your home is becoming increasingly acceptable.
In most cases, residential solar power is initiated by installing solar panels on your home. They may look complicated, but their job is to simply convert sunlight into electricity. Do this and you are not paying monthly bills to a utility company. Sounds like a plan, but is the plan right for you?
Overall, solar panels are meant to power your entire house, so first you should consider what it costs to power your house without solar panels — then compare.
According to the Center for Sustainable Energy, solar panels — both installation and the system itself — can cost between $15,000 and $25,000 on average. The cost of a solar electric system is measured in dollars per watt. The average cost for a residential system is currently $3-5 per watt.
There are also possible tax credits available for installation, in order to encourage Americans to give it a try. The government is very interested in the trend toward residential solar power: The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office supports early-stage research and development to improve the affordability, reliability, and performance of solar technologies on the grid. The office invests in innovative research efforts that securely integrate more solar energy into the grid, enhance the use and storage of solar energy, and lower solar electricity costs.
Learn more about the tax credits available in your state by reviewing the database of state incentives for renewables and efficiency.
Return on investment
This may all depend on your current electricity utility costs. The idea is that solar panels are meant to eventually pay for themselves, so an initial investment may make sense financially.
The amount of sunlight you get
The more sun your environment gets, the more your solar panels will be able to efficiently do their job. Think of states like Arizona and California, which get much more sunlight every day than some other states. Also consider the amount of shade you get on a daily basis throughout the year (tall trees? Larger structures blocking the sun? Smog? Fog?).
Nerdwallet allows you to estimate the efficiency of panels in your area by using their Solar-Estimate calculator. Enter your address, the average cost of your monthly energy bill and your utility provider.
Are solar panels right for everybody?
Actually, no. You may live in a house that has a design that is not conducive to supporting solar panels. You may also live in a part of the country that does not generate enough sunlight, and your house may not face the direction of the sun that would warrant panels.
If you don’t plan to be staying in your home for a long time, you may not opt for solar panels, as you may not be there long enough for them to return your investment. That said, adding solar panels to your home may increase your property’s value.
Another consideration is simply aesthetic: the look of solar panels. Not everybody finds them attractive. They may not seamlessly integrate into the overall look of your house. And even if you happen to like them, prospective buyers may not, and it could be a deal breaker.
The next steps
One way to get answers: contact a local solar installation company (or two, or three) and have them give you a free assessment and quote to see if you are a good candidate for solar power.
According to Solar Reviews: on average, homeowners can expect to save around $1,400 a year on their bill after switching to solar. If you’re eligible for incentives you can anticipate your system paying for itself within approximately 7 years, depending on the system and size you choose.