The benefits of going solar include reducing your carbon footprint, savings on your energy bill, cleaner air, and energy independence. Read on to learn how you can benefit from solar energy.
Table of Contents
- What You’ll Learn in This Section
- #1. Solar saves you money!
- What about the payback period?
- The environmental payback period
- Going solar for free!
- Home solar could generate additional income
- #2. Solar rebates and incentives
- #3. Solar increases property values
- #4. Solar panels fight climate change
- Final thoughts on the benefits of going solar
In 2021, a new solar project was installed every 60 seconds in the U.S., and some experts predict that more than 1 in 7 homes in the U.S. will have a rooftop solar PV system by 2030. No wonder, when the benefits of going solar include reducing your carbon footprint, savings on your energy bill, cleaner air, and energy independence.
Solar power is a reliable form of renewable energy. After all, the sun’s not going anywhere for a while. And thanks to various financial incentives and government investments, solar is also increasingly accessible for homeowners and renters, as well as businesses, non-profits, and government entities.
Going solar is a great way to invest in a greener, more sustainable future. It also offers some instant benefits! Let’s get into the biggest benefits of solar as you weigh the pros and cons of installing a rooftop array.
Installing solar at home can save you money every month. The amount you save will depend on factors such as the cost of electricity where you live, how much electricity you use, and the cost of installing solar.
#1. Solar saves you money!
We run the numbers to give you an idea of just how much you and your family could save each month by going solar. And we offer a guide to calculating your likely cost savings, based on where you live and your energy use. In some places, like Hawaii, going solar could save the average family more than $4,500 a year! Even in North Dakota, not renowned for its sun, families could save nearly $100 a month by going solar.
What about the payback period?
What about the payback period for solar? After all, if it takes too long to recoup the upfront costs of installing solar, the monthly savings aren’t as attractive.
Is solar too expensive upfront for homeowners?
The time it takes to break even on the cost of installing solar is known as the solar payback period. This is an important calculation for anyone asking if they should go solar at home.
For most homeowners, the solar payback period is 8 years. This means that with rebates, tax incentives, and monthly savings on electricity costs, solar panels pay for themselves in less than a third of their guaranteed lifespan. And solar panels don’t just disappear or stop working after 25 years; many will continue to produce power for another decade or more after their warranty expires.
In some places, solar panels pay for themselves in just two years! And even our worst-case scenarios still give well over a decade of guaranteed free electricity and energy independence.
The environmental payback period
Most homeowners considering going solar want to know how long it takes for solar panels to pay for themselves in cost savings. The solar payback period isn’t the only way of looking at the return on investment for solar though.
For some, the more important calculation is the environmental payback period for solar panels. This is the amount of time before a solar power system generates enough electricity to offset the energy required to produce the system (including panels, racks, and so forth).
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Unlike the solar payback period, the environmental payback calculation is a fairly simple calculation. And the good news is that the increased efficiency of solar panels and the increase in stateside manufacture means some solar panels pay for themselves in energy savings in just over a year!
Going solar for free!
One great way to reduce your solar payback period to zero is to go solar for free! That’s right, a variety of solar grant programs are available at the federal, state, and local level. These are designed so that low- and moderate-income households, residents of rural communities, and families with high energy costs can go solar without any upfront costs.
Subsidized loans are also available to help make solar more accessible for everyone. These loans are typically low-cost or interest-free, unsecured, and available even to folks with a low credit rating.
Check our guide to solar rebates and incentives for more information on solar loans and grants to go solar.
Home solar could generate additional income
Free electricity isn’t the only financial benefit to going solar. For some homeowners, going solar can actually make you money each month.
How? In part, thanks to solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs), which give residential solar energy producers an annual credit for renewable energy production which they can sell to utilities.
In some places, residential solar can also make homeowners a little extra money each year through net metering. While it’s usually best to design a home solar array to match your own energy needs, if you do produce more than you use, net metering policies could mean your utility writes you a check at the end of the year!
#2. Solar rebates and incentives
If you’ve ever looked into the cost of going solar and been put off by the sticker price, you’ll be happy to know that a variety of rebates and incentives can help cut the cost of installing solar at home. These include:
- The federal solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)
- State rebates, tax credits, and other financial incentives
Other financial incentives can also help lower the cost of solar installations and reduce your payback period. These include:
- Cash rebates from manufacturers and utilities
- Solar renewable energy credits (SRECs)
- Subsidized, low-cost or interest-free loans
- Solar and energy storage grants
- Sales and property tax exemptions.
Everyone benefits. Federal, state, and local governments all stand to benefit from a move from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, as do utility companies, whether or not they realize it yet. Solar electrical systems are just one part of a greener, more resilient, healthier, and economically viable future. Solar produces economic opportunities, with government rebate programs helping residents invest in their local economy and provide jobs in the solar sector.
#3. Solar increases property values
There’s little doubt that a home with solar can sell for more than a home without. After all, who wouldn’t want a home that provides free electricity and a potential annual income of several thousand dollars from SRECs?
If you’re a homeowner worried about the curb appeal of solar panels, research suggests that any aesthetic reservations are outweighed by the benefits of residential solar.
According to Zillow, solar arrays can increase a home’s value by up to 4.1% compared to a similar home without solar. For the average home in the U.S., solar could add more than $9,000 to the sale price.
In some places, the premium paid for homes with solar could easily cover the cost of installing solar in the first place. For instance, Zillow’s researchers found that homes with solar in the greater New York City metro area sold for 5.4% more than average, netting homeowners who go solar an extra $23,989 come sale time. Homes with solar in Los Angeles also sold at a higher premium, recouping more than $23,000 for homeowners who invested in solar.
The biggest premium, however, was in New Jersey. Homes with solar here sold for 9.9% more than homes without solar. This amounted to a $32,281 premium for the median-valued home in the state in 2019. In 2022, the cost of the average solar installation in New Jersey stands at only $10,000-$15,000.
There’s no guarantee, of course, that you’ll fully recoup the cost of your solar installation when you sell your home. But, with the average solar payback period just eight years, chances are high you’ll more than break even.
#4. Solar panels fight climate change
So far, we’ve mostly looked at the financial benefits of installing a residential solar array. For many homeowners, though, going solar is less about saving money and more about saving the planet.
Residential and community solar power systems can:
- Reduce indoor air pollution from gas furnaces and water heaters
- Reduce outdoor air pollution tied to grid electricity from coal- or gas-fired power plants
- Limit the upstream impacts of fossil fuel production and use, including methane emissions and problems linked to fracking
- Cut your carbon footprint
- for the average family home in Arizona, going solar could offset the equivalent CO2 of more than 233,000 pounds of coal over 20 years
- for the average family home in Connecticut, going solar is the equivalent of planting 150 trees a year for 25 years!
- Cut the national carbon footprint – if the U.S. succeeds in installing 70-100 GW of solar by 2030, this could reduce annual CO2 emissions by 69 to 100 million tons
- Tackle climate change – the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for solar are ten times lower than for natural gas and around 20 times lower than for coal
- Keep water clean – burning fossil fuels leads to air and water pollution
- Keep more water available for drinking, cooking, and for agricultural use – switching from coal and gas to 80% renewable energy could cut water use in the U.S. by 50% by 2050
- Help combat forced migration due to climate change and escalating resource conflicts.
Solar farms may even be a boon to more conventional farmers. A new field of study, agrivoltaics, suggests that growing certain plants under solar panels could increase yields. And solar farms are a great way to use brownfield and abandoned or polluted land during remediation.
Final thoughts on the benefits of going solar
Unlike wind, hydrogen, microhydro, and other forms of renewable energy, solar electrical systems are affordable, cost-effective, and readily installed in most places.
Solar is low maintenance. Home solar is also relatively low maintenance. After the system is installed and turned on, it pretty much runs itself. With no noisy or smelly gas generator or moving parts, solar panels are a breeze to maintain.
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Solar electrical systems pay for their embedded energy use in fewer than two years and take just eight years on average to break even. With solar at home, you could be free from energy bills for the next three decades, meaning you’re protected against rising energy costs, blackouts, and brownouts.
The personal benefits of solar are easy to see, including cleaner air at home, a lower carbon footprint, cost savings, and more. Going solar at home also benefits society as a whole and supports national energy independence.
Solar panels generate 3-25 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels to produce the same amount of energy. They also reduce reliance on polluting fossil fuels, helping to improve air quality for everyone.
Don’t think your personal solar array makes much of a difference? Consider this: Your rooftop array, solar roof, solar shingles, or subscription to a community solar project could all inspire family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors to make greener choices. Is there such thing as a solar snowball? Go solar and find out!
High-efficiency photovoltaic modules mean solar is a great choice all across the U.S., even if you get very little sun most days. Tax incentives and rebates are still available in many places, but with the federal solar investment tax credit set to expire at the end of 2023, now’s the time to go solar.