Installing solar panels at home can increase property values, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint. LeafScore’s head of research, and solar policy expert, Leigh Matthews is here to guide you step by step through the process, from finding local incentives, to choosing a reputable installer.
Table of Contents
The LeafScore Solar Guide is divided into 5 core sections:
Going solar at home can save you money on your energy bill, give you energy independence, and cut your carbon emissions. The average residential solar array pays for itself in 8 years or less, after which, you’re essentially getting free electricity for the next 20 years! With the extension of the Federal Solar Investment Tax Incentive through 2032 at 30%, your payback period will be that much shorter.
No wonder experts predict that more than 1 in 7 U.S. homes will have a rooftop solar PV system by 2030.
Solar photovoltaic technology is complicated, though, and the financial benefits of going solar can vary dramatically depending on where you live, your current cost of electricity, and your lifestyle.
The Leaf Score Guide to Going Solar is designed to help homeowners who aren’t electrical engineers and math nerds make smart choices about home energy installations.
Go solar at home
Get matched with a LeafScore approved solar company
- 100% free to use
- Get matched in under 3 minutes
- LeafScore rated solar companies
Going Solar FAQ
With the United States Congress passing its first ever climate bill, a piece of legislation that focuses heavily on solar energy, consumers are going to have a lot of questions about adding solar panels to their homes. The LeafScore team and I are devoted to answering as many of those questions as possible.
Residential solar is a way for everyday Americans to produce their own electricity at home by installing solar panels on their roofs. When the sun beams down on solar cells, it transfers energy (as photons) to create an electron-ion bond in the electrical field. When that happens, the electron wants to move one way and the ion wants to move the other. This creates movement of charge, which is – if you remember your high school science – electricity!
We offer a comprehensive analysis of the types of solar energy systems available to homeowners, examine which roofs work with solar panels and shingles, and ask key questions like, “What’s an inverter?” and “How long do solar panels last?”
The long and short of it is that wherever you live in the U.S., going solar will save you money long-term. In certain places (hello, Hawaii!), you’ll start saving almost immediately. For more, see our pages on the solar payback period, net metering, and the cost of going solar at home.
Yes, the signing of the Inflation Reduction Act into law ensures that Americans will be able to take advantage of a 30% tax credit for installing solar for the next decade. Homeowners who install solar before the end of 2032 can access the federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). This will save you 30% on your home solar installation right away. Find out how to calculate and claim your credit with our guide.
The federal solar tax credit isn’t the only way to cut the cost of going solar at home. Depending on where you live, you might have access to grants, rebates, and tax exemptions at the state and local level that drastically reduce the cost or even make it free to install a rooftop array or solar roof.
There’s no question that going solar is much more affordable and has a higher return on investment in some cities and states compared to others. This isn’t always a matter of how much sun a state gets. Some states, cities, counties, and utilities offer financial incentives to lower the cost of going solar at home.
For a current list of your state and local solar incentives, see our solar incentives page, which is updated regularly.
Solar advocates had hoped that the reconciliation bill would include a refundability clause for the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit. The final bill doesn’t include this provision, however, meaning that homeowners without a significant tax liability cannot claim the tax credit as a cash refund. For more, see our piece on the solar tax credit increases through 2032.
There’s little doubt that going solar saves money and improves your property value. Especially in states with high electricity costs, potential buyers will factor in the savings created by home solar when valuing your home.
Plenty of homeowners are choosing solar power as part of a greener lifestyle. After all, going solar can cut your family’s carbon emissions and improve your indoor air quality. Did you know that adopting more solar power can also save water too? Here are the environmental benefits of solar energy, with a look at some of the potential downsides of solar power and how to mitigate them.
In 2021, a new solar project was installed every 60 seconds in the U.S. With so much solar being installed every day, the energy grid is beginning to look a lot more sustainable.
Going solar isn’t a surefire way to avoid blackouts and brownouts, though. In fact, if your solar energy system is connected to the electrical grid, your utility requires you to have a safety disconnect to protect workers during power outages. That means you’ll lose power like everyone else, unless you also install solar battery storage.
Our guide covers the different types of batteries, how they work, and how much solar batteries cost. We compare solar batteries and generators, and look at the incentives available offered by states, utilities, and other entities for solar storage.
Not likely, no. I live in Canada. My electricity provider (BC Hydro, a monopoly) used to pay customers nearly 10 cents per excess kWh generated by renewables such as solar and wind. Unfortunately, the company stopped this a few years ago as a handful of people were making tens of thousands of dollars with outsize arrays far beyond their personal use needs. Now, anyone who applies to the net metering program must include their household energy consumption.
Why? Because the utility company has switched to tracking a home or business’s net energy and using any excess power generated to offset the cost of your bill. There are no payments, even if you make more power in a year than you use. Instead, your best-case scenario is that you break even (excepting the application fee for net metering and any unavoidable service charges). For more, see our full post on solar profits.
In our experience, the cost to install solar panels listed in most online sites, with Energy Sage being a good example, significantly underestimates the cost of going solar. Our research has found that the cost of going solar in California is underestimated by as much as 63%! Our research uses real world data from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Tracking the Sun report to give LeafScore readers a real life picture of how much it actually costs to go solar in their area.