As the weather heats up, many of us will be feeling more heat under our collars, because air conditioning is about to skyrocket our energy bills. Between those high bills and the desire to protect our environment, solar panels start to look attractive.
Are solar panels worth it, though? Will they save you enough money to make up for the upfront costs? It depends on a variety of details in your situation. Here’s how to tell if you should take that plunge.
1. Net Metering in Your Area
For many people who install solar panels, their primary goal is to save money on their electric bills. Depending on where you are, though, you could do more than that.
If you’re in an area that supports net metering, you may get money from the utility company instead of paying them. With net metering, if your solar panels produce more energy than you need, the utility company can buy it from you.
Keep in mind that this isn’t available everywhere. The laws vary from state to state, so find out your state’s net metering policy.
2. The Trees on Your Property
It makes sense when you think about it but few homeowners think about it ahead of time: their yard. For solar panels to work well, they need access to plenty of light. If you have any trees that are shading your roof, your solar panels will be less effective.
To find out if your trees will interfere, check out where they cast their shade. Be sure to look at different points in the day too.
Depending on your property’s layout, you may need to arrange your solar panels based on where they’ll get the most light. You should also keep the panels in mind when you plant trees in the future. Consider how tall you expect them to get and whether they’ll shade your panels.
Keep in mind that none of this means you have to choose between your trees and solar panels. There’s nothing wrong with having solar panels if they’re under shade for part of the day. You just need to be aware that they won’t be as efficient.
3. Your Home Owner’s Association
Solar panels help the entire planet, so your home owner’s association or HOA should be fine with them, right?
Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Some HOAs disapprove of solar panels because they make your home’s appearance look less consistent with your neighbors.
Before you set up an installation, read your HOA’s rules on solar panels. You may need to restrict them to certain parts of your home or adhere to other limitations. Some HOAs prohibit them altogether.
4. Your Roof’s Condition
No roof is permanent. They need replacement every 20 years or so depending on the type of roof you have.
When you install solar panels, remember that you’ll have to remove them when it’s time to replace your roof. That adds one more expense to the job.
If your roof is due for a replacement soon, it may be better to wait until then to install your panels. If your roof has another 10-15 years left, though, you’ll get more value from a single installation of your solar panels.
5. Types of Solar Panels
With that last point in mind, don’t forget that you have many choices when it comes to solar panels.
For instance, as PoweredPortableSolar.com explains, you can choose portable options instead. This cuts down on the roof replacement issue we mentioned above. It’s also a great choice for eco-friendly folks who move often.
6. Varying Prices
Anyone who’s ever moved across the country knows how different the cost of living can be from one place to the next. That price variation applies to solar panels too.
A Midwesterner may say, “My friend in California told me how much their solar panels cost and there’s no way I could afford that.” Before you make assumptions, get real estimates from companies in your area. It might be more affordable than you think.
As you shop around, get estimates from at least three companies if possible. Be wary of any estimates that are dramatically lower than the others. This could mean they do poor work or that they’ll change the price after they get started.
7. Tax Credits
Installing solar panels may seem like a big one-time expense, but you have some help. The federal government has an incentive that saves you 30% off the cost of your installation. That 30% comes in the form of a tax credit.
Some states provide their own additional incentives for installing solar panels. The more tax credits or other support you can get, the sooner you’ll be able to enjoy the savings from your solar panels.
8. Financing Options
Too many people look at the total cost for solar panels and installation and say, “I don’t want to spend so much money at once.” In truth, there are more financing options than you may realize.
Solar panel companies often provide financing, or you can get third-party solar loans too. Be careful, though to look over all the fine print. You don’t want to commit to a loan with such high interest rates and fees that you can’t get out from under it.
So, Are Solar Panels Worth It?
Chances are that your home is the largest investment you’ll ever make. You need to treat all your choices about the home like they’re investments, too. Do the math and make sure you’re getting the most value you can out of your improvements.
Are solar panels worth it? Will you get more out of them than you put in? From an environmental standpoint, the help you’re offering the Earth is worth your hassle. From a financial standpoint, solar panels typically pay off. It all depends on the variables above.
To find more ways you can use technology to save the planet or fatten up your wallet, check out our technology blog.