Should You Get Solar Panels for Your Home?

Updated: Nov 14



In theory, I really like the idea of self-sufficiency in terms of utilities, from solar, to wells, to septic. I like the idea of initial investment for long-term savings & the idea of being good to the environment. That said, because the homes that my wife & I own aren’t good situations for solar at the moment, I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. I hope to eventually, but in the meantime of me waiting, solar panels are becoming more efficient and less expensive while grid power is becoming more expensive, where the math will likely eventually work out for me to get solar at some point in my life for my owner-occupied residence. I don’t expect that time to be any time soon for me, but for some, solar is a solid option right now.


I've been asked by at least a few clients about the prospect of purchasing solar panels. The main question that I had for them was the time that they planned to be in the property. Typically they said a low number of years, so I've never actually recommended that a buyer install them that I can recall. With one buyer, they asked me after they had already signed off on a purchase. They were able to send me the documents, I was able to identify the "teaser" rate & how that would negatively hit them when the teaser rate stopped, and thankfully they were able to get out of the contract after signing it from a pressure salesman.


1. Solar Panels Make the Most Sense When A High Number of the Following Are True:

1. Your electric costs are above average

2. You live in an area where heating &/or cooling costs tend to be high due to extreme temperatures

3. You’ve already made cost-effective insulation upgrades if your home wasn’t already well insulated when you purchased it; insulation upgrades should last longer than whatever solar panels you get & need less maintenance than solar; in some cases, other energy-efficient upgrades might be a good idea, such as options to reduce your heating/cooling bills on your windows via tint, film, blinds, functioning interior or exterior shutters, & otherwise.

4. You've already taken other measures to increase energy efficiency like LED lights, energy-efficient systems when replacements were needed, etc. An upgrade to LED lights can sometimes pay for itself in less than 5 years, and it's generally best to make improvements that will pay for themselves the fastest first (especially those things that will last for a long time after paying for themselves), with solar typically taking much longer to pay for itself.

5. You’re in an area with frequent grid power outages (fuel generator power is typically significantly more expensive than grid power or solar power)

6. You plan to be covering the power bills at this home for >30 years

7. You purchase the solar panels in $ or at a low % interest rate with cash reserves to pay it off if needed rather than taking on a high-interest loan for them when unable to pay off the panels in cash if needed. That way, if you need to move, and your home hasn't seen much appreciation since when you purchased, you won't have a big problem on your hands when the panels don't add dollar-for-dollar value to your home.

8. You are in a location with plenty of sun, both in your city/county (# rainy/cloudy days per year) & directly on & adjacent to your property (i.e. trees). The orientation of your roof also matters. Check "Google Project Sunroof" for a better idea.

9. Your local power costs are high


Image courtesy EnergySage


10. You care a lot about the environment, and even if solar didn’t end up making financial sense for you like you expected it to, and your plans changed (i.e. not living in a home as long as you had foreseen), you would prefer to take the risk if it means reducing your carbon footprint.

11. You have main systems that all or mostly rely on electric (i.e. HVAC, water heater, etc.)

12. You have a large household (sq ft & # people)

13. You’re not in a state that is on the cusp of a potential energy revolution that could lower grid energy costs (VA could be such a state due to recent developments & legislation with offshore wind energy)

14. You already have a generator hookup installed at your home (even if you don’t use it for connecting your solar panels, it can be helpful for long-term solar outages to have a gas generator instead of a higher number of additional costly batteries)

15. You’re not in an area where heavy snow is present unless that snow is often accompanied by power outages. According to Arstechnica.com, “snow events caused the greatest reductions in performance (54.5 percent), followed by hurricanes (12.6 percent)”

16. You don't live in an area where there are ever less than 8 hours of daylight (i.e. Alaska) & are ideally closer to the equator than some Northern states of the US where the amount of daily daylight is more consistent with less fluctuation.

17. You’re in a state that provides significant incentives for installing solar. According to Forbes, “States with a high number of solar incentives include California, Texas, Minnesota and New York.”



18. You primarily drive an electric vehicle or expect to in the near future, and put 15,000 miles (14263 is average according to Zebra) or more on your car each year.

19. You're able to sell excess power to your local power company, who ideally doesn't rely practically at all on solar.

20. You have a newer/long-lasting roof (essentially, the newer/longer lasting your roof, the more solar can make sense; putting 25-year solar panels on a roof with only 5 years life expectancy left doesn't make nearly as much sense. Also, solar roofs don't appear very cost-effective at the moment from what I've read, even if your roof is ready for replacement already, though I hope that one day they are more cost effective)

2. Note on DIY Solar

3. Look Out For

4. Use Google Project Sunroof




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