If you’ve been thinking about installing solar panels, you’re not alone. Solar power has been heating up—and with good reason: It’s cheap, clean, and scalable. With just an hour and a half of sunlight, this renewable energy source could meet the world’s energy consumption for an entire year. But is solar power the right investment for you and your home? We chatted with experts to weigh the pros and the cons.
Pro: Installing solar panels will save you money on utilities.
One of the most obvious reasons to install solar panels is that doing so can significantly reduce utility bills—by about $1,500 per year on average, based on monthly electricity bills of around $120. The exact amount, of course, depends on the size of your roof, your sunlight exposure, and how much you spend every month on electricity. As a general rule, the more you spend, the more you stand to save.
But, says Connecticut architect Duo Dickinson, homeowners really need to do their own research. Start with an online solar calculator, like Energy Sage or PV Value; the latter requires registration but is endorsed by the Appraisal Institute.
Con: Installing solar panels is expensive.
Solar panels don’t come cheap. Even after factoring in tax incentives, you can expect to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000. If you’re saving $1,500 per year on electricity costs, it’ll take years, not months, to recoup that initial investment.
On the other hand, solar panels have become “much more financially viable in this last decade,” Dickinson says. The panels themselves “are cheaper and they produce more energy. And they’re easier and cheaper to install.”
Pro: Installing solar panels probably will increase your home’s value.
Research consistently shows that adding solar increases the value of your home—and Twin Cities, Minnesota-based Realtor Brandon Doyle agrees: “Most savvy buyers will understand that they’re getting something that creates power for them every month, saving them money during their ownership.”
How much depends on a number of factors, like where you live and how much money those solar panels save you on your annual utility bills. According to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, you can expect your home’s value to increase about $20 for every $1 reduction in annual utility bills. Based on the average annual savings of $1,500, sellers could expect their home value to increase by $30,000.
Con: Installing solar panels may deter some buyers.
While companies like GAF are changing the aesthetics of solar panels, the vast majority of options on the market right now aren’t very attractive, says Dickinson. And, he adds, they’re something you probably see everyday when you come home. Said differently, while you might embrace solar panels for the savings and greener source of energy, there’s no guarantee the next buyer will.
Pro: Solar panels are a renewable source of energy.
Cost aside, the fact that solar power is a renewable source of energy with zero greenhouse gas emissions is a huge plus. Of course, as with most things, there are mitigating factors, including the environmental impact of manufacturing and the issue of solar trash. But the overall environmental impact of solar panels over their lifetime is a net positive.
The bottom line
“Long term, solar is a great investment,” Doyle says. If you think you’ve found your forever home (or even your five-to-10 year home), you’re going to come out ahead financially. What’s more, improvements to technology mean we’ll see more options and lower prices in the years ahead, making solar panels an even more attractive option.
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