Is Now the Time to Invest in Solar Panels?


solar panels solar energy

Summer 2017 is a scorcher! And as the sun shines on into August, the solar panel market continues to grow. In fact, it had its biggest year in 2016 and is expected to triple in size over the next few years. If you own your home and are tired of receiving big energy bills every summer, you may be wondering if getting solar panels is worth the investment. So is now the time?

The answer is complicated and obviously unique to everyone’s circumstances. Figuring out if solar panels are a good fit for your home requires some research and a measurement of the benefits against the costs. Here are the main pros and cons to consider.

The Pros of Buying Solar Panels

1. They’re good for the environment.

You can’t go long without encountering articles about the dangers of climate change, or worse, encountering the effects of it yourself. For people looking for opportunities to do their part to reduce their carbon footprint, solar panels are a big step in the right direction.

Even with the energy it takes to make solar panels, research confirms that the solar panel industry reduces more emissions than it emits. Consumers primarily interested in solar panels for the environmental benefit can be confident that their purchase will both reduce the use of fossil fuels and cause less pollution.  

2. You can save money on energy bills.

For some consumers, the bigger sell will be lower energy costs. If you live somewhere sunny, solar panels could lead to reduced energy bills, particularly during the summer months when you find yourself cranking the AC.

In some places, if your panels generate more energy than you use, you can even receive money back for the extra contribution your panels make to the electrical grid.  

3. You may qualify for federal and state tax incentives.

For now, you can get a 30% federal tax credit for installing solar panels in your home, and many states and cities offer additional incentives on top of that. These credits can reduce solar panel costs considerably and could tip the scale in a certain direction as you decide whether or not solar panels are a good value for you.  

4. Solar panels add value to your home.

If you live in an area with a lot of environmentally conscious residents, then a home with solar panels is likely to be a big draw for buyers. One study found that solar panels increase home value by an average of $15,000. The value of solar panels in the real estate market will vary based on where you live, but in most cases it will make your home more attractive to buyers.

Solar panels increase home value by $15,000 on average.

And because solar panels affect the value of your home, you’ll need to consider the impact on your homeowner’s insurance as well. The Zebra’s own licensed insurance agent Neil Richardson says it’s possible that your existing policy would cover the panels in the event of any damage, but recommends contacting your insurance agent to understand the details.

“It’s best to check with your insurance company before installing solar panels because they might specify coverage as it relates to ground-mounted panels or roof-mounted panels. You’ll need to clarify the differences in coverage restrictions or learn if, in fact, you don’t have coverage for either,” Neil says. “This would also be a good opportunity to shop around for a new home insurance provider if yours doesn’t offer additional coverage for solar panels.”

solar panels on house roofs

The Cons of Switching to Solar Panels

1. They’re expensive.

Many folks are hesitant to invest in solar energy because the cost of the panels themselves and their installation is in the tens of thousands. While costs vary based on how many panels you buy, who you hire, and where you live, on average homeowners spend around $20,000.

Solar panel companies often offer financing so you don’t have to pay the full amount upfront, but it’s still a pretty hefty chunk of change.

2. They only save money in some cases.

You’ll sometimes hear people talk like the energy savings are a given with solar panels, but the truth is more complicated. Whether or not you’ll save (and how much) depends on factors like how much sun your roof gets, what your average energy bills look like now, and how much traditional energy costs in your area.

Since this information can be completely different based on where you live, you should never trust blanket statements about energy savings from solar panels. For a quick snapshot of whether or not solar panels are likely to pay off for you, put your address in Google’s Project Sunroof. This tool will use Google’s data to make an estimate about how much energy you’ll generate based on the size of your roof and how much sun it will receive.

3. You lose the benefit of them if you move.

It’ll take some time for any investment you make in solar panels to pay off, so if you move within a few years of having them installed, you may never see a return on your investment. (Although, if you’re able to sell your home for more, that helps). Unless the new home you buy already has solar panels, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth installing new ones all over again.

4. They’re likely to get cheaper in coming years.

The cost of solar panels has been decreasing over the years and analysts expect the trend to continue. If you wait a few years, you may be able to spend much less and take advantage of technological improvements besides. Whether or not the incentives in place will be better, worse, or comparable will depend on the political climate, but the cost of the technology itself will almost certainly decline.