Is Installing Residential Solar Panels Really Worth It?


Like many middle-class homeowners, I once considered installing solar panels on my roof in the interest of saving some bucks.

But after crunching the numbers, I quickly learned that installing roof panels is not the most practical way for me to enjoy renewable energy in my home. I found out that the costs of installing and maintaining my own panels (not to mention weatherproofing them for the winter) added up to much more than what I was poised to save in power costs!

Anyway, that’s only my personal experience and it’s definitely not applicable to everyone.

So now I’m going to walk you through the factors I considered before deciding that solar panels are not for me. Maybe the situation will be different for you and you’ll find it to be worth it. In any case, I will also be talking about the better alternative I found to enjoy renewable energy without using solar panels — in case you’d be interested in that, too.

Costs to Consider

All companies selling solar panels will give you the same pitch: that utilizing solar power will help you save thousands of bucks every year.

While it’s technically true that solar energy is cheaper than fossil fuel-based energy, you can’t exactly get it for free.

Here are some of the costs you have to think about:

Purchase and installation costs

Aside from paying for the actual panels, you also have to pay someone to install them on your roof.

This is a premium service usually offered by roofing companies. In my experience, these fees are usually hefty, but do check with your local roofing professionals — maybe you’ll have better chances than I did.

Necessary materials/equipment

Surely, you’re thinking of a workaround for those hefty costs I just mentioned.

Well, I thought about that, too. I thought, hey, I could always DIY my way around stuff — so I looked up how to build my own solar system. Sure, it’s doable. But between the cost of raw materials and my own labor, I thought — no, thanks.

Maintenance costs

One of the downsides of having your own residential solar panels is that you are solely responsible for their maintenance. 

It’s nice if your garage or woodshop already has all the tools and equipment you might need to keep the panels in tiptop shape, but if you don’t, you’d have to buy or rent those tools and that would add up to your total capital, too.

Looking at the Incentives

Now that you have a pretty good idea of how much you’d be spending if you decide to install roof panels in your home, it’s time to find out how much you stand to save once you make the switch.

A lot of factors will come into play here, such as how much you currently pay for electricity, and how much power you consume on a monthly basis. If you’re not sure how to compute your potential savings, there are a lot of online calculators that can help you with that.

Ideally, you can also earn incentives from the government for switching to a green energy source. Again, you would have to check what your state is offering because this varies from one place to another.

Now the only thing left to do is check if you will save more money than you will shell out in getting the panels. If the cost is much higher, then all is not lost. As I mentioned earlier, I myself found roof panels too expensive, so I found an alternative way to use renewable energy without breaking the bank or without taking on massive home remodeling projects.

Shared Solar: A Viable Alternative

I’m talking about stumbling upon NJ community solar, although this service is now available in most states.

The idea behind community solar is quite simple and genius at the same time, and I feel really proud of myself for finding out about it. So basically, instead of breaking your bank (and your back, if you try to DIY), shared solar farms allow you to sign up for a subscription, and they will deliver the solar energy to your home for a price.

Doing this basically allowed me to skip all those initial costs I discussed earlier that are connected with buying and installing my own solar panels. In fact, I barely had to do anything. There were no new wires to install because the renewable energy was coursed through the same wires my main electric utility company uses.

The best part for me is that I get to lessen my household’s environmental footprint without worrying about any maintenance work and costs — plus I get to save a few hundred bucks on my power bills every year — so that’s a win for everyone!

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell is a husband, father, martial artist, budget-master, Disney-addict, musician, and recovering foodie having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Whole Foods Market. Click to learn more about me

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