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Are solar panels worth installing at your home?

Know the costs and downsides before you sign up for solar panels. Ads promise big savings on your electric bills. But, they don't work for everyone.
Are solar panels worth installing at your home?
Posted at 3:00 AM, Apr 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-28 06:00:00-04

The rising cost of utilities may have you considering whether it's time to go solar.

There's the promise of huge savings on your electric bill.

But are solar panels right for your home?

Lenn Isaac and his 2-year-old son are sold on solar.

Isaac loves the solar panels set up in his backyard, claiming they save his family several thousand dollars a year in electric costs.

"For the most part I never have a bill over 30 bucks anymore," he said.

But not everyone who has gone solar is happy.

Victoria Parks says she has had nothing but problems, after paying more than $20,000 for her rooftop panels last year.

"My financing began in October," she said, "and I still don't have any solar energy."

She's been waiting on repairs for months, to get her panels working.

How to know if you should consider solar

So is solar right for you?

According to Heaven Campbell with the non-profit Solar United Neighbors, the potential for savings are real, but cautions that not every home is fit for solar.

"Tree canopies are going to prevent somebody from going solar," she said, "but the good news is trees are great and they actually cool down your home."

Campbell says three "S's" help determine if a house is right for solar:

  • Shading, or lack thereof. Too much shade means the panels won't produce much electricity.
  • Space on your roof for all those panes.
  • South facing roof area. If your home faces north, you won't get the best sun angle.

How much does it cost?

With solar, you can't ignore the cost.

According to the Center for Sustainable Energy, the price tag on a typical residential system is $15,000 to $25,000, before tax credits or incentives. Be suspicious of offers for "free" solar panels. That often means no money down, but you may have to pay $200 a month over a period of time. 

But don't be discouraged. Even if you're not 100% solar, Campbell says the savings will add up over time.

"Solar is inflation proof," she said. 

Once it is installed, your price does not go up. But experts say don't install solar if you think you need a new roof in the next 3 or 4 years — in which case they will have to be removed — or if you plan to move soon. It takes a few years to break even with your investment, in most cases.

Also, check a company's reviews with the Better Business Bureau, so you don't end up with a bad installation from a questionable company. Victoria Parks hopes she can soon enjoy the solar savings that Len Isaac and his little boy see every day.

"I still want to have solar energy," she said, "But I don't want to deal with this company."

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