2024 Expert Guide to Solar Panels for Homes

As a homeowner in 2024, you might be considering solar panels for a variety of reasons, like slashing those hefty electricity bills, shrinking your carbon footprint, or gaining independence from the grid. Embracing solar energy has never been more accessible or popular, and it’s a great way to boost your home value while producing clean, renewable power right at home. In this post, we’ll explain some key information homeowners need to know about going solar. 

How Much Do Residential Solar Panel Systems Cost?

If you’re thinking about investing in residential solar panel systems in California, the price average ranges from $17,430 to $23,870, after factoring in the federal solar tax credit. Keep in mind that the cost will vary depending on your home and energy usage, and the overall cost will vary based on how you pay for the system (cash, lease or loan). Remember, solar panels are a long-term investment, and for most homeowners, it takes about eight to nine years to break even on their installation costs. Of course, your specific expenses will depend on your state’s incentives and the size of the system you pick. Researching your choices and getting familiar with these factors now puts you in a great position to make a smart, well-informed decision for your solar energy investment.

Are Solar Panels Worth It?

Generally speaking, yes, solar panels are worth it because the average household can save anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 on electricity costs over the life of their solar system. Solar panels tend to be most worthwhile if:

  • You own your property: If you’re a renter or a business owner who doesn’t own the property, you should talk to the property owner before making any plans to install a solar system.
  • Your electricity bills are high: The more you’re paying PG&E for electricity every month, the faster your solar system will start saving you money. Today, solar adopters typically “break-even” on their investment within seven to eight years.
  • You find a competitive price for solar: In 2023, a typical 10-kilowatt (kW) solar panel system costs around $20,650.

If these points resonate with you, then solar panels are likely a great choice! Moreover, even homes and businesses that don’t perfectly align with these criteria can still benefit from solar energy with the right installation plan.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Home Solar Panels?

On the bright side, solar panels offer homeowners some great perks, like reducing energy bills, shrinking your eco-footprint, and giving your property value a nice boost. But, as with any product, there are a few drawbacks to consider: the initial investment can be steep, not every roof is cut out for solar, and finding the right installer requires some legwork.

How Do Solar Panels Work for Your Home?

Solar panels are generally mounted on your roof, where they soak up sunlight and help reduce your monthly electricity expenses. Solar panels transform light energy into usable electricity for your home (a process known as the photovoltaic or PV effect), which takes place within individual solar cells in your panels. This renewable energy will then power your home and appliances to save you money in the long run while producing more sustainable electricity.

How to Calculate How Many Solar Panels You Need

Most homes typically require around 17 to 21 solar panels to cover their electricity usage. To calculate the right amount for your home, take your system size, divide it by your area’s production ratio, and then divide again by your panel wattage. Other factors like your location, panel efficiency, and your overall energy consumption can impact the number of solar panels you’ll need.

Do solar panels really save money?

The answer is yes, but the exact amount you save depends on various factors. Direct daily sunlight hours, roof size and angle, and local electricity rates all play a role in determining your potential savings. Overall, the more you pay for electricity, the more you can offset by generating your own clean energy.

In a world filled with flashy investment opportunities, it’s natural to be a bit skeptical about claims of “massive savings.” However, a home solar system is an investment you can trust. You’ll save thousands of dollars over your solar energy system’s lifetime and boost your home’s value in the process. To learn more about the savings potential of solar panels, check out our article on how much solar panels actually save.

Are solar panels a good investment?

Yes, solar panels can be a good investment and usually have a higher return on your investment (ROI) than many traditional investments. Once your solar system is paid off, you’ll enjoy free, renewable energy generated right at home. This means you’re safeguarded against rising electricity rates while significantly cutting down on utility bills. Of course, your solar payback period will depend on factors like your energy consumption, solar production from your system, and local utility charges.

To make the most of your solar investment and minimize risk, opt for high-quality modules backed by solid warranties. Keep in mind, solar panels typically last for 25-30 years, and a 2019 study by Zillow revealed they could even boost your home’s value by roughly four percent.

Planning Your Home Solar Panel System: Six Steps

Ready to install home solar panels? There are several crucial steps you’ll need to follow to ensure you’re the right candidate for solar, explore your options, and ultimately get those shiny panels up and running. Let’s explore the six key steps to planning your home solar panel system:

1. Assess Your Solar Energy Potential

When it comes to planning your home solar panel system, the first step is to evaluate your solar energy potential. To do this, take a look at the direction and tilt of your roof. While it’s not set in stone, south-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees generally yield the best results for rooftop solar panels.

Another crucial factor is the amount of sunlight your roof receives throughout the day. Solar panels rely on sunlight to generate electricity, so if your roof is shaded or obstructed by trees, chimneys, or other structures, it may affect the feasibility of going solar.

2.Weigh Your Solar Options:

Don’t want to install panels on your roof or don’t have a suitable roof for a solar installation? Ground mount solar installations provide an accessible way to harness the sun’s power without installing solar panels and racking equipment on your rooftop. Ground-mounted systems offer a straightforward solution for owning and setting up your solar array without worrying about any roofing obstacles.

3. Find Out How Many Solar Panels You’ll Need

Next, you want to get a ballpark figure of your solar requirements so you’re well-prepared to compare solar quotes. The average home needs around 17 to 21 solar panels to cover 100 percent of its electricity usage. However, the actual number of panels you’ll need to install depends on various factors. Your location, panel efficiency, panel-rated power, and personal energy consumption habits all contribute to determining the number of solar panels you need and this number directly affects the overall cost of your solar system.

4. Collect and Compare Solar Quotes

After you’ve determined that solar is a suitable option for you and explored payment and financing options, it’s time to gather and compare multiple solar quotes. In the past, homeowners would typically receive a single solar quote from a company going door-to-door in their neighborhood. However, it’s essential to compare different providers to find the best deal for your home energy needs.

5. Explore Your Payment Options for Solar

When it comes to financing a rooftop solar panel system, you have several options, including upfront cash payments, solar loans, and solar leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs). If it’s within your budget, paying cash for your rooftop solar panel system offers the greatest savings over the system’s lifetime. By fully owning your panels and avoiding interest on a solar loan, you’ll generally see the highest return on your solar investment with a cash purchase. Plus, solar rebates and incentives are available at both federal and state levels to reduce the cost of going solar. At a minimum, you can take advantage of the investment tax credit for solar, which reduces the price of solar installation by 30% and was extended with last year’s Inflation Reduction Act.

6. Choose a Quote and Get Started With Your Solar Installation

After meeting with installers, conducting site visits, and finalizing plans, the actual installation of your home solar energy system typically takes just a few days. However, the exact timeline depends on various factors, such as setting up net metering, which adds extra time until your panels connect to the grid. While the decision-making process for solar panels might take some time, the installation process is pretty quick and straightforward.

Ultimately, solar panels prove to be a wise investment for many homeowners. While rooftop solar panels may not be the perfect fit for everyone, they offer significant benefits to those seeking energy upgrades and reduced electricity bills. If you’re still unsure, check out our article on the pros and cons of solar panels in greater detail.

Is Solar Power the Right Choice for Your Home in 2023?

Deciding to invest in residential solar panels can feel overwhelming, whether you’re still researching or ready to contact a provider and schedule an installation. However, it’s important to remember that this investment not only boosts your property value, but also pays for itself over time.

If you’re ready to power your home with solar, schedule your online appointment today to learn how much you can save and to find the right solar loan for your energy needs.

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