Why Go Solar?

Before you make an investment, it's smart to understand what personal, financial, and environmental benefits you gain with solar.

How does solar impact the environment?

Solar power systems derive clean or “green” energy from the sun, thereby reducing our collective dependence on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. Installing a solar module on your home is one way you can personally combat greenhouse gas emissions.

Solar power also creates jobs to boost the economy and contributes to our nation's energy independence, so we don't have to rely on fossil fuel imports.

Will my energy bills be lower with solar?

Solar panels allow you to take control and ownership of your utility costs. The amount of solar savings you will see on your utility bill each month depends on a variety of factors, including solar energy system size, energy use, roof exposure, and local electricity costs.

Financially speaking, the goal of solar is to deliver long-term savings rather than short-term savings, so keep that in mind as you determine your utility and loan payments with solar.

System size/energy use: Installing a larger solar PV (photovoltaic) system that offsets a major portion of your electricity usage will result in higher savings on your electric bill than installing a smaller system that only offsets a minor portion of your electric bill. This is because you'll demand less power to be pulled from the grid.

Roof exposure: If you live in a sunny area, your solar panels will produce more energy than they would if you lived in a shady or cloudy area. More sun means more savings on your energy bill.

Local utility rates: Get a copy of your monthly electricity bills from the past 12 months. The simplest way to break down how much you can expect to save each month in the short term is to compare your average monthly payments against your monthly solar loan payments (if you're financing).

Ask solar companies to calculate your solar payback period, too, so you can determine when you'll see a return on your investment. Solar reps can help you identify long-term savings potential based on expected utility hikes along with other factors.

Remember that if you're financing your system, you'll have payments to make, even if your energy payments drop. Most homeowners in the United States have a solar payback period of between 5 and 15 years. Batteries make for a more expensive system, so it takes longer to recoup that cost.

Can solar allow me to go off-grid?

Yes. Options for solar include a grid-tied system, an off-grid system, or a hybrid system.

If you have access to power lines, a grid-tied system will be the least expensive by far.

But, there is the obvious advantage of energy independence with an off-grid system. If you live in an area with historically unreliable power or severe weather, you stand to benefit even more from being off the grid.

A hybrid system combines a grid connection with an energy storage backup via battery in case of a power outage.

hybrid inverter.

How will solar affect my property's value?

Solar panels generally raise the value of a property, as the running costs of powering the house are significantly reduced.

Nationwide, the average home value is 15 percent higher if it has a solar energy system.

However, it's important to note that an increase in home value typically only comes with solar energy systems that have been purchased with cash or a loan; leased solar power systems generally do not add value to a home, as they are someone else's property attached to the house.

How does solar work?

Nature and technology work together to produce solar energy to power your home.

What is the photovoltaic effect?

Solar energy systems are often referred to as photovoltaic systems or PV systems. The photovoltaic effect is the generation of an electric current, or voltage, in a material when it is exposed to light. Solar panels are made of silicon, an element with conductive properties, so exposure to light generates an electric current.

What are the components of a solar energy system?

The basic system components of solar include solar panels, an inverter (or microinverters), and a mounting system on which to place the solar panels.

Each solar panel is made up of a grid of cells, which are six-by-six-inch squares of silicon with electrical contact plates on the face. Glass covers the panel. A group of panels is called an array, and panels wired into the same inverter are called a string.

microinverters versus string inverter.

You may also have a battery with your system, which is typically placed in the garage or basement, where applicable.

Smaller components include wiring, fuses, and disconnects, as well as monitoring equipment to monitor your output and watch for problems such as shading and defective equipment.

How does a battery work, and should I get one?

Energy storage is still a developing technology and can be costly compared to capacity. If you'd like the peace of mind that comes with knowing you'll have a limited amount of energy stored when the grid goes down, battery storage might be worth it for you, despite the added cost.

But, if you live in an area where you rarely have power outages, it might make more economic sense to wait to purchase a battery pack until costs have come down. You can potentially add a battery to your existing system later.

Have your prospective installer include a battery storage quote when they provide an estimate, even if you're leaning towards a grid-tied system only. Then, you'll know what all of your options are and how much your lump sum or monthly payment would be with or without a battery.

Do solar panels work in cold climates or in non-sunny weather?

Yes, solar panels work in all climates provided that there's adequate space and minimal to no shading. In fact, like any electrical device, solar panels are actually more efficient in cooler, sunny temperatures.

Predictably, while solar panels can still produce a measurable output in cloudy, rainy, or snowy weather, they will not be as effective as they are when the sun is shining directly on them. Your local solar installer should have experience working in your area and be able to recommend the most optimal design for your system based on local conditions, as well as your roof angle and direction.

For safety reasons, most solar energy systems will turn off during a grid blackout power outage. However, if your system is connected to a battery backup, you can use the energy stored to continue to use electricity in your home regardless of what is happening with your local utility company.

How do I pay for solar?

When it comes to paying for a solar energy system, you've got options: outright purchase, loan, lease, or Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).

How much does solar cost?

The actual cost of solar panels for a home or small business varies greatly depending on a number of factors, including system size and design, location, and available incentives.

The only way to determine exactly how much it would cost you to go solar is to obtain solar quotes from the companies that you're considering working with.

As a general ballpark minimum, a solar energy system plus installation will start at around $20,000 for a grid-tied 6-kW system on a 2,500-square-foot home. If you're getting a battery storage system installed with your panels, plan for an additional $10,000.

If you're financing your system with a loan, you won't need to put down any cash, but keep in mind you'll pay more than the quoted amounts over time since you're paying down interest on the loan as well.

Are there rebates and incentives available?

Yes. Note that these apply only to purchased systems, not leased.

The Federal Solar Tax Credit reduces the homeowner's federal income taxes by a specific percentage of the solar energy system's price. The tax credit is 30 percent for systems purchased between 2022 and 2032.

Consumers should be aware that the credit applies to any taxes owed for that calendar year, so your take-home amount will vary depending on your financial situation.

Many states offer their own incentives such as rebates, tax credits, performance payments, and tax exemptions. Select your state in the dropdown menu halfway down this page to see which financial resources are currently available in your state.

What are the different ways to pay?

Upfront cost Monthly payments Customer-owned Solar tax credit Maintenance included
PURCHASE 100% None Yes Yes No
FINANCE 0% or little down Fixed Yes Yes No
LEASE 0% or little down Fixed No No Yes
PPA 0% Flexible No No Yes


If you have the cash, you can pay for your solar system in full upfront. Once you buy your solar system, you own it in full. With that ownership comes a solar tax credit and the equity that builds in your system over time. Plus, you avoid paying interest on a loan as well as any monthly payments.


You can take out a loan to pay for solar through your solar installer's lending partner or through a third-party lender via an unsecured loan or a secured loan, such as a home equity loan. You'll have monthly loan payments to make with this option, but ownership of the system is yours.

If you finance through your solar installer's lending partner and you are under contract to pay off the system, you can also claim the Federal Solar Tax Credit.


If you want to install solar but don't care about owning the system, you can lease the system. You won't get to take advantage of the tax credit, but you do get a warranty, maintenance, services, and a system performance guarantee on the equipment for the 20-year period (or the length of your lease).

In addition, these leases usually come with protection against rate increases for the life of the lease.

Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)

In this arrangement (generally about 20 years in length), rather than pay for the installation and equipment of the solar system, you pay only for the power you use based on a low, fixed-rate — usually a certain price per kilowatt hour. Since the solar company owns the solar system, it maintains and services the system throughout the duration of the agreement.

It also gets the solar tax credit, rather than the customer.

What is net metering?

Net metering is a way you can get your grid-tied energy account credited for producing excess solar energy.

When you install a solar module, it will be connected to the public-utility power grid. While the sun is shining bright, your system will power your home and send any surplus energy that you aren't using back to the grid. At night, when your system is no longer producing, it will draw power back from the grid.

This process is regulated and tracked, and power companies will often credit you for the excess power you've generated for the grid, charging you only for the “net” electricity used.

If you're banking on net metering benefits, make sure you contact your local power company ahead of time to see what the rates are for crediting and billing, as each utility company has its own rates that vary.

What's the process for going solar?

We specialize in customer reviews and company comparisons, so we know a thing or two about how the process works.

How do I choose a solar installer?

We recommend researching top-ranked companies in your area. Read about the pros and cons of each company and read plenty of customer reviews, so you can identify top praises, complaints, and what to expect from the company.

In the reviews section of each company page, you can search for keywords to pull up reviews from your specific state as well as factors most important to you: warranty, cost, customer service, etc.

Once you've identified your top two to three companies, you'll want to get someone from each company to come to your property to assess your home and roof and provide a detailed quote. From there, you can compare products, systems, financing options, and terms to determine which installer is the best fit.

Do I need to repair my roof before installing solar?

If you're thinking about going solar, consider the age, condition, and cost of replacing your current roof.

If you find that your roof does need to be repaired or replaced, it's best to do so before the solar installation process begins so that you won't have to pay to have the panels removed and reinstalled in order to fix your roof a few years down the road.

Unfortunately, customers leaving reviews on our site have shared their experiences needing to do this and have cited fees of around $4,000 for de- and re-installation.

It's well worth discussing the state of your roof with your chosen solar company, as many solar panel installers have partnered with roofing contractors and may be able to land you a discount.

How long does installation take?

Installation is often completed in just one day, but there are steps before and after installation that can take much longer, so plan for one to three months for the entire process, including the following steps:

  • Site inspection (1-2 days)
  • System design (1-2 weeks)
  • Permitting (4-8 weeks)
  • Installation (1-7 days)
  • Inspection (2-4 weeks)
  • Activation (1-2 days)

Keep in mind that the actual timeline will vary depending on your installation company, solar energy system design and products, your city or town, and utility requirements.

What kind of maintenance do solar panels require?

Generally, solar panels require little to no cleaning on your part. Nature provides its own cleaning solution via rain, so proactive panel cleaning isn't crucial.

However, if you live in an area that is particularly smoggy or dusty, you'll want to hose off your panels a few times per year or hire a professional to clean them. If you lease your panels, choose a company that will routinely service your panels as part of the agreement.

You don't need to brush snow off your panels either, as snow will quickly melt or fall off of panels that are mounted at an angle higher than 15 degrees. Keep trees trimmed to avoid obstructing sunlight from reaching the panels.

If you observe excessive debris or damage on your panels, contact your solar installer to have them serviced per your performance or manufacturer's warranties, where applicable.

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