The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To Solar Panels

Solar energy freakin’ rocks! It’s the best source of renewable energy on the planet!

Now you might think that this is a biased opinion from people who are all about being eco-friendly, but we assure you that solar energy is one of the best forms of energy out there in terms of both environmental impact and cost-savings.

Yep, even better than fossil fuels. How’s that for a bold statement?

Of course, we aren’t going to make these claims by providing some evidence to back it up. In this guide, we’ll be taking an in-depth look into solar power, solar panels, and explaining why solar energy is great for your wallet and the environment.

And don’t worry, we’ll only be sticking to the facts for this guide

So with that said, let’s just jump right in. We’ve got a lot to cover!

The Essential Guide to Mastering Solar Energy

Table of Contents hide

Part 1: Solar Panels – An In-Depth Explanation on Why it’s Amazing for You and the Environment

To understand why solar panels are increasing in popularity, you first need to understand how solar power works.

Put simply, solar power (or solar energy) is energy from the sun. The sunlight and radiation that comes from the sun are converted into power that our electronics can use.

With enough power from the sun, you can turn on the TV, charge a laptop, and microwave your food without needing a power company. You can even continue to use electronics during a power outage. These are just a couple of the many possibilities that solar power can afford.

When you go solar, you are tapping into advantages that would otherwise be lost.

Here are just some of those benefits:

  1. You can significantly lower your electric bill – or cut it out all together!
  2. You can achieve “energy independence”.
  3. You can more easily tackle rising electricity costs.
  4. You can greatly reduce your carbon footprint.

Let’s explain each point in a little more detail.

1. Cut Down On The Electric Bill – Or Eliminate It Entirely

The #1 reason why people want to get solar panels in the first place is that they offer significant savings on the electric bill.

The savings you can get depends on several factors. Here are the most important ones:

  • The size and design of the house you want to put solar panels on.
  • How many solar panels you decide to use.
  • How much sunlight your panels can be exposed to.
  • The type of solar panels you are using.
  • How much electricity you use daily.
  • Whether or not you decide to use a solar power battery.

As you can see, many factors can influence your savings. But it’s not uncommon to save upwards of tens of thousands of dollars.

The potential for huge savings is definitely there.

Home ownership is a long-term investment. If you install solar panels early and live in the right area, you’ll reap some pretty big savings over time.

2. Rely on Power Companies Less – Achieve Energy Independence and Make Money Doing It

Solar panels don’t just save you money. They can also grant you independence from power companies while potentially earning some money. But to completely understand what we’re talking about, you need to understand how solar energy can interact with power companies.

Now, there are two main ways to operate a solar system – off-grid and grid-tied.

Off-Grid – No Power Company to work with

Grid-Tied – Solar + Power Company
100% Energy IndependenceCan Easily Access Power At Night
Most Eco-Friendly Way To LiveCan Earn Cash Credit on Excess Electricity
Free From Power Outages and Other ProblemsDon’t Need A Bulky Solar Power Battery

Off-grid means that solar panels are responsible for generating ALL of your electricity needs. There is no power company in this case. It’s just you and the panels.

This is most common for RV and boat solar panels, but off-grid homes do exist.

Grid-tied means that your solar panels are wired to interact with the power grid, which is a massive network by which your local utility company provides power for your home.

This is common for residential homes.

When people think of solar panel installation, they usually think that a solar system will force you to go solo when it comes to power generation. But this is rarely that case. Instead, solar energy often works in tandem with power provided by utility companies.

There are benefits to being grid-tied.

When your solar panels generate excess energy, that energy is sent back into the grid. You will be paid (usually in cash credit) for the energy depending on the local utility company.

This is called Net Metering and is very popular among solar panel enthusiasts. With smart energy usage, your power bill can turn into a power bonus!

When you are off-grid, excess energy is simply wasted unless you have a solar power battery.

But being off-grid has its benefits too.

You can achieve 100% independence from utility companies and save a substantial amount of money. It’s an incredibly green way to live, which is great for the environment.

You also aren’t at the mercy of power outages and other problems that could arise from your local utility company.

It’s important to check in with your local utility company and discover their policies on solar energy before deciding on Net Metering.

But no matter what you pick, solar panels will help keep your wallet, and the environment, happy.

3. Protect Yourself Against the Rising Cost of Electricity

You probably already know that inflation in the economy exists. But did you know that electricity also has an inflation problem?

It’s not as bad as economic inflation, but it’s never fun to pay more money for the same service.

According to the Energy Information Administration, electricity rates for residential properties have increased nationally by approximately 15% in just the last 10 years.

That may not seem like much, but it’s pretty substantial over the long run. In another 10 years, you could be paying 30% more. It’s like a slow burn – even as it gets worse, you won’t notice it as it wreaks havoc on your finances.

Solar panels give you a fighting chance against the rising cost of electricity. The power they provide will be largely consistent year in and year out, with no worries about your utility company hiking their rates on you.

Even if your solar system is grid-tied, you’ll be insulated against the effects of rising electricity costs. It won’t affect you nearly as much.

4. Significantly Reduce Your Carbon Footprint with Solar Panels

Using solar panels is a great way to support clean energy and greatly reduce the size of your carbon footprint.

Don’t take it just from us! There’s evidence that supports our claim.

A 2011 report shows that the carbon footprint from solar was approximately 85 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per gigawatt-hour (GWh).

Here are the results from other forms of energy:

  • Natural gas = 500 CO2e/GWh.
  • Oil = 735 CO2e/GWh.
  • Coal = 888 CO2e/GWh.

When you put those numbers up against solar:

  • The carbon footprint of solar is 83% smaller than natural gas.
  • The carbon footprint of solar is 89% smaller than oil.
  • The carbon footprint of solar is 91% smaller than coal.

The drop-off between solar and natural gas carbon footprints is remarkably large. This signals the difference between clean and dirty energy.

Other forms of clean energy like biomass, nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind beat it out. But only solar manages to be clean, renewable energy that can be readily integrated into residential homes.

It’s hard to beat the level of convenience, ease, and flexibility that solar panels afford. Also keep in mind that this study was 9 years ago at the time of writing this guide, meaning that solar technology has improved since then.

Now, we aren’t going to pretend that solar panels 100% green from start to finish. Some concessions that must be made to produce these panels due to the current technology that we have.

When silicon-based solar panels are produced (which are most solar panels, by the way), a byproduct called silicon tetrachloride is produced. This substance is highly toxic and can form a corrosive acid when exposed to water.

Most manufacturers take great pains to ensure that this substance, along with other problematic chemicals, is safely disposed of. Otherwise, these substances can cause significant damage to people and the environment.

Thin-film solar panels present additional toxins in the form of concentrated heavy metals like cadmium telluride and copper indium selenide.

But these are only dangerous in unsafe quantities. After all, they are the same materials used in laptops, cell phones, and other day-to-day electronics.

Rest assured, solar panels do not pose a health problem nor an environmental problem when installed on your home. All of the potential problems we listed only take place during the manufacturing stage.

Once the solar panels are ready for home installation, they are safe for both you and the environment.

And when the solar panels come to the end of their life cycle (around 30 years), most manufacturers can properly dispose of them. They can even take the silicon-material and recycle it for future solar panel production.

As solar technology continues to advance, there’s no doubt that the whole life cycle of a solar panel will be greener than ever.

Part 2: Solar Power – How It Works

Time to get a bit scientific on how solar power works.

An excerpt from livescience.com provides an easy explanation:

“Simply put, a solar panel works by allowing photons, or particles of light, to knock electrons free from atoms, generating a flow of electricity. Solar panels actually comprise many, smaller units called photovoltaic cells.”

This is a good summary, but let’s go into more detail. We’ll be listing out each step in detail so that you know exactly how a solar panel (and solar cells) work.

And don’t worry, we keep it simple here.

1. Photovoltaic Cells – How They Work Together to Generate Energy

Photovoltaic cells (also known as solar cells) are small cells comprised of energy-harvesting technology. As mentioned in the excerpt above, solar panels are made of tons of photovoltaic cells.

The cells themselves are typically made from Silicon, though Gallium Arsenide, Cadmium Telluride, and Copper Indium Gallium Selenide are viable alternatives.

These cells come in two forms: positive (p-type) and negative (n-type).

The top and bottom halves of a solar panel are comprised of n-type and p-type photovoltaic cells respectively. Between these two halves lies something called the p-n junction.

The p-n junction is an electric field that exists thanks to the positive and negatives halves. As long as this junction exists, electrons move towards the positive (p-type) side and holes move towards the negative (n-type) side.

In short, negatively-charged particles move in one direction and positively-charged particles move in the other direction.

Now here is where sunlight works its magic.

Light is composed of photons, which are essentially small bundles of electromagnetic radiation/energy. When these photons strike the solar cell, their energy knocks the electrons off of the silicon material. The energy is also transferred to the electrons.

This “excites” the electrons and gives them the energy to move freely. When this happens, an electric current is generated and solar power is born. The movement of electrons continues until they lose their excited state.

This entire process of generating electricity is called the photovoltaic effect.

2. The Importance of Inverters

All that solar energy exists as something called direct current (DC). This means that the current moves in just one direction. It’s simple and has its uses, but is pretty rare in the modern home.

Most residences use alternating current (AC). This means that the current can move in two directions and change them when needed. Home appliances that plug into an outlet almost always use AC.

So how do we get from DC to AC? By using an inverter of course!

An inverter is a power electronic device or circuitry that transforms direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Some inverters can also be used as a backup battery during power outages.

There are primarily two types of converters: “True Sine Wave” (also known as “Pure Sine Wave”) and “Modified Sine Wave” (also known as “Modified Square Wave”).

True Sine Wave inverters are more powerful and efficient. They are particularly useful for households that have high energy-consuming appliances and electronic equipment. However, they are more expensive.

Modified Sine Wave inverters aren’t as efficient and tend to only power a select few things like certain kitchen appliances and lights.

They can’t provide sufficient power to computers, A/C, microwaves, etc. On the other hand, they are much cheaper compared to True Since Wave inverters.

The choices don’t stop there. Within those categories, you can also choose additional types of inverters:

  • String Inverters
  • Central Inverters
  • Microinverters
  • Battery-based Inverters

It’s not too important to know the ins-and-outs of inverters unless you are a professional solar installer. Solar installation companies will provide their own high-quality inverters, and DIY kits tend to come with them as well.

If you want to learn more about these types, solarpowerworldonline.com has a pretty good article on them. Just make sure to come back here once you are finished reading!

3. Switchboard – The Commander of the Currents

Once the DC has been converted to AC, it’s finally time to use that free solar power!

And that’s where the switchboard comes into play.

The switchboard isn’t exclusive to solar panels, but we felt that it’s important to include it as it’s integral to the process.

A switchboard is a device that takes electricity from a power supply and directs it to several smaller areas of usage.

Every outlet is wired to and powered through the switchboard. As you might have guessed, it’s a pretty important piece of technology.

Most modern homes already have a switchboard installed, so you won’t have to worry about this part unless you are DIY’ing it.

That’s how solar power works. Simple, right?

Don’t worry if you don’t get it at first. Unless you are doing DIY solar, you won’t have to mess with the ins and outs of how solar energy works.

If you want a visual to get a better understand, seia.org provides an easy-to-understand animation.

Part 3: Super Solar Savings – How Solar Energy Can Save You a TON of Money

Let’s be honest.

As much as we advocate for the production of cleaner energy, the primary reason why people want to use solar energy is so that they can save on their electric bills.

And frankly, we don’t blame you. The amount of money that can be saved is rather surprising.

1. The Exciting Numbers Behind Solar Savings

APG&E had this to say:

“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average electric bill in 2018 was $117.65. The average amount of electricity used was 914-kilowatt hours and the average cost of electricity was 12.87 cents per kilowatt-hour.”

Let’s do some quick math (please keep in mind that these values are not exact nor are they necessarily representative of your situation):

$117.65 x 12 months per year = $1,411.80 per year.

$1411.80 x 20 years = $28,236 over 20 years.

And of course, this cost continues to rise as years go on. Inflation and the rising cost of electricity can make you pay way more than you ever anticipated.

Utilizing solar power through solar panels can provide massive savings.

Here is an example of what the potential savings if a home decided to install solar panels:

Now, there are a few important assumptions to be aware of:

  1. These numbers come from a residential address in Arizona, a premier location for solar energy.
  2. These numbers are a result of the default values (no premium solar panels) listed on the calculator, which we found sufficient for this example.
  3. These numbers assume average weather conditions for the area and do not account for unusually bad weather.

The average cost of electricity in Arizona is a bit higher than in our previous example. For the sake of a fair comparison, we’ll list the statewide numbers below:

$128.40 x 12 months per year = $1,540.80 per year.

$1,540.80 x 20 years = $30,816 over 20 years.

Now here are the savings:

$1,540.80 – $827 = $713.80 per year in savings.

($1,540.80 x 20 years) – (713.80 x 20 years) = $16,540 in savings over 20 years!

Now, these numbers are actually on the conservative side. With the right installation pro on your side, you can maximize your savings based on the size and location of your home.

And by practicing smart power usage, you can even push the cost of electricity down a staggering 92%!

It’s not hard to add a few extra grand in the number that we calculated, but we wanted to give you a clear example to see just how lucrative solar power can be.

2. Increase the Value of Your Home for Easy Extra Money

When it comes to adding more value to your home, people often think of installing pools and remodeling kitchens. But one little-known way of increase the value of your home is to install solar panels.

According to wholesalesolar.com:

“A recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory concludes that solar panels increase home value by $14,329 on average. Homes equipped with solar power systems sell for 3.74% more than comparable non-solar properties.”

So let’s play with a few more numbers assuming that your home is worth $250,000:

$250,000 x 3.74% = $9,350 in added home value.

When you combine this number with the savings from your reduced power bill, you can see that solar panels pay for themselves rather quickly.

Now before you get ready to toss some panels on your roof and call it an investment, there are a few important things to note regarding this study:

  1. Solar homes can take longer to sell (spent an average of 8 days longer on the market according to the study).
  2. The sample size of the study was relatively small (influenced by California).
  3. Newer systems are worth more. As solar panels age, they can depreciate.
  4. You can take advantage of the increase in value only if you buy the panels. Leased panels (more on that later) will not allow you to tap into that money.

As you can see, solar panels can certainly provide a boost in home value, but only under the proper conditions.

Everyone’s housing situation is unique, so it’s best to work with a solar installation pro in order to get a complete idea of how solar can best put money back in your pocket.

3. Earn Money Back on Your Investment

Did you know that you can get paid to generate solar power?

It’s true! This is called net metering. Keep in mind that this only works for grid-tied solar panel systems.

This is how it works: any excess solar energy is sent back into the power grid controlled by your local utility company. When this happens, the company will credit you based on how much you send them. Your power meter literally moves backward as you send your excess energy.

If you are smart with your power usage, you can earn a lot of money in credits. It’s not uncommon to generate more power during the day than you can use.

That financial “cushion” can result in huge savings if you need to use company-provided electricity down the road.

Always check with your local utility company, however. Some may not support solar integration, though pro-solar places usually do (California, Arizona, etc.).

Part 4: Solar at Home – Important Things You Need to Know Before Putting up Solar Panels

Okay, let’s address the big question that everyone inevitably asks:

“Can I save money with solar panels in *insert city, state, or country here*?”

Short answer: yes, you can.

Long answer: Heck yes, you definitely can!

But we aren’t going to pretend that all places are created equal. In the U.S., here are the top 10 states for solar panels (judged by installed solar capacity):

  1. California – 21,000+ MW
  2. North Carolina – 4,300+ MW
  3. Arizona – 3,300+ MW
  4. Nevada – 2,500+ MW
  5. New Jersey – 2,300+ MW
  6. Massachusetts – 2,000+ MW
  7. Texas – 1,800+ MW
  8. Utah – 1,500+ MW
  9. Georgia – 1,500+ MW
  10. Florida – 1,400+ MW

If you live outside of those states, you might think that your area isn’t right for solar. But luckily, this isn’t the case.

Vivintsolar.com concluded the following from a study:

“If you don’t live in one of the best states for solar, you may now be suffering from Fear of Missing Out. But take heart! All 50 states, even Mississippi which ranked very last in solar-friendliness, have a positive IRR and a payback time of 20 years or less on a 5 kW system owned by the homeowner.”

You can find the full ranking here if you want a closer look.

Alright, let us jump to a few important dpoints regarding home solar installation. When thinking about putting solar panels on your roof, you need to keep the following things in mind:

  1. Environmental Factors Affecting Solar Power Productivity
  2. How Much Energy Your Household Uses
  3. The Size of Your House
  4. The Efficiency of Your Solar Panels

We will provide more details on each of these points.

1. Your Environment Can and Will Affect Your Solar Power Productivity

Your environment is a huge factor in how useful your solar panels will be. This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to miss some factors that end becoming a costly mistake.

The #1 enemy of solar panel efficiency is shade. Less sunlight = less power. It’s that simple.

You might think that clouds and overcast weather are the main issues, but this is not the case. While it’s true that clouds block sunlight, they can’t block all of the sunlight.

Therefore, it’s still possible for solar panels to generate power, albeit at a lower efficiency.

Considering that Germany, a country not known for great weather, is the leader in solar technology, you can be assured that cloudy days won’t be an issue. This is especially the case if said days are fairly sporadic.

That doesn’t mean that shade is off the hook, though. Problematic shade can stem from a couple of sources.

Trees are the biggest offenders. The shade that trees provide can strongly reduce the amount of power that solar panels can generate. If your roof is shaded by trees throughout the most of the day, the trees will have to be shortened or removed entirely.

The layout of your roof can also be a problem. The slants of modern roofs naturally provide shade at certain points of the day. This can be an issue depending on how your home is oriented to the rising and falling of the sun.

Chimneys and other rooftop accessories can also provide unwanted shade.

This may sound like doom and gloom, but there is hope! Solar panels can still generate power in shaded conditions.

The general rule of thumb is that solar panels will generate around half as much power as usual in shade, so you won’t be out of luck even in imperfect conditions.

That said, nobody likes to lose out on solar power. This is also a loss in money by extension. Ensuring that your property is covered by problematic shade is key in getting the most out of your solar panels.

2. You Must Know How Much Energy Your Household Uses on Average

It’s important to know just how much power you use every month. The type and quantity of solar panels will change depending on your average monthly power usage.

If you know that you don’t use much power, then you have a few options. You can probably get away with using fewer solar panels. The more efficient the panels, the fewer you will need. This allows you to save a great on the cost of installation.

You can also choose to get more panels at a slightly lower efficiency. This will allow you to generate more power than you may need, which has its advantages.

If you know that you use a lot of energy, then your options change. You will probably want to have a lot of lower-efficiency solar panels. You can also opt for a decent number of highly-efficient ones.

This will ensure that you have all the power that you need.

But keep the cost in mind. Highly efficient solar panels are more expensive than not-as-efficient ones. It’s best to consult with a licensed solar professional once you have all of your numbers on hand.

That’s the best way to get a good deal no matter what your power usage may be.

3. You Need to Take the Size of Your House into Account

The roof is the most popular location for residential solar panels. It’s the area that’s the most exposed to the sunlight, so it makes sense.

But this is also a limiting factor. The number of solar panels that you can put on your roof is limited by the size of your house. More specifically, it’s limited by the size of your roof.

Wider houses have an advantage compared to taller, narrower houses. These wider houses just have more options to choose from.

That’s not to say that taller, narrower houses can’t use solar panels though. They just might be restricted to using high-efficiency solar panels to make up the loss in quantity.

Houses with large open areas are also great for solar panels. It’s possible to install solar panels on the ground as long as the area is free from shade. This is also a good alternative for houses with weaker roof foundations.

4. You Should Understand Your Options for Solar Panel Efficiency

We’ve already been mentioning this in the other points, but you should understand your options for solar panels in general.

There are three types that you should know:

  1. Monocrystalline solar panels (highest efficiency, most expensive)
  2. Polycrystalline solar panels (medium efficiency, less expensive)
  3. Thin-film solar panels (lowest efficiency, least expensive)

Monocrystalline solar panels are the result of an energy-intensive and expensive manufacturing process. Solar cells that make up these solar panels are made from a single silicon crystal, much of which is “wasted” after production.

Those additional costs are ultimately passed on to you. However, monocrystalline solar panels are by far the most efficient of the three types.

These panels are good for houses or other residential properties with limited space.

Polycrystalline solar panels are made from silicon fragments. The manufacturing process for these solar cells is much simpler as a result, cutting down on costs and transferring the savings on to you.

These panels are great for residential areas with a lot of space. While not as efficient as monocrystalline solar panels, polycrystalline solar panels can make up the difference by installing more of them.

Thin-film solar panels can actually be made from multiple materials. CdTe (cadmium telluride) is the most common and the least expensive. CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide) is comparable to crystalline solar panels in terms of performance and price.

Thin-film solar panels are lighter and take less manpower to install. This makes them a good option for businesses and other large properties that have an ample amount of space. This is especially the case for CdTe, which has the lowest efficiency and needs more panels to make up the difference.

All in all, keeping these 4 points on mind will help you ask informed questions and prevent you from being misled. We always recommend doing your own research before reaching out to a solar professional.

It never hurts to be consumer-smart!

Part 5: The Cost of Solar – Why It’s Not As Expensive As You Think

If you are like most people, you probably think that solar panels are just way too expensive.

And we would not blame you. When looking at the upfront cost of residential solar panel installation, it’s no surprise why people think that solar isn’t in their budget.

Credit to solarreviews.com

There is good news for people who are looking to buy solar panels.

Federal tax credit for solar installation in 2020 allows you to deduct 26% off of your total installation cost, which already gives you thousands of dollars in savings.

But you’ll need to act quickly. This tax credit is slowly being phased out. In 2021, you will be able to only deduct 21%. From 2022 on, that number drops to a mere 10% for commercial properties only.

That means that in 2022, you will no longer be able to receive a tax credit on residential solar panels. Instead, only businesses will qualify for the 10% discount. You, the homeowner, will be expected to pay the whole cost.

We’ll cover the three most important financial points in this section:

  1. Getting a Solar Panel Loan
  2. Leasing Solar Panels
  3. The True Cost of Solar Installation and Massive Potential Savings

Let’s talk a bit about each of these options. We’ll briefly cover the first two points and use an example for the third.

1. Solar Panel Loan – A Profitable Solution for Cash-Strapped Homeowners

Getting a loan for solar panels is pretty simple. You can get a loan through the bank or through your solar installation provider. We recommend exploring both options before commiting in order to get the best rates.

Solar panel loans generally have an interest rate of 3 – 8%. Though the length of the loan can vary, the most common lengths are anywhere between 20 to 25 years.

What’s nice about getting a loan is that you are actually “buying” the solar panels. They belong to you and will typically increase the value of your home. In some cases, the increase in property value will be higher than the installation cost.

You can also take advantage of the federal tax credit.

You’ll need a decent credit score (FICO 660 or higher) to typically be considered for a loan. And like owning anything else, you will be on the hook for maintenance and repairs, some of which could potentially become costly.

PROSCONS
  • Increases Property Value
  • Takes Advantage Of Federal Tax Credit
  • Excellent Long-Term Savings
  • Responsible for Maintenance/Repairs
  • Requires a Decent Credit Score

2. Solar Panel Lease – An “Easy” Solution for Cash-Strapped Homeowners

You can also choose to lease your solar panels. A solar lease contract is between you and the solar installation company. This lease usually lasts 15 – 25 years. For the duration of the lease, you are effectively “borrowing” the solar panels.

A solar panel lease has a host of benefits:

  • It doesn’t require you to have a good credit score
  • You aren’t responsible for maintenance or repairs
  • You can eliminate upfront costs – even $0 down
  • It’s super simple – just sign up and install
  • You can potentially buy out the lease

It’s an attractive option for sure. The monthly payment for a solar lease can range anywhere from $50 – $250. Regardless, you will pay far less in monthly fees than you would through a utility company.

Now, that’s not to say that leasing solar panels is the unquestionable solution. They come with their own set of problems.

The length of the lease can be an unwelcome burden. People on average do not spend upwards of 20 years in a home. If you cannot buy out the lease contract or pay to have them removed, then you have to convince potential home buyers to take over your lease. If they are not interested, then you are stuck with the lease.

You also won’t be able to take advantage of the federal tax credit. That credit instead goes to the solar panel installation company. The panels do belong to them, after all.

And unfortunately, you walk away with less money. Leasing solar panels can save you about a third of what buying solar panels can save ($5,000 vs. $15,000) in the same amount of time. This is mainly because you won’t have the benefit of the tax credit.

PROSCONS
  • Company Takes Care of Maintenance
  • Little to No Upfront Cost
  • Great Credit Score Not Required
  • Fewer Savings Compared to Buying (No Federal Tax Credit)
  • Stuck With Lease if No One Wants It

We always advocate for getting a solar panel loan. The savings are definitely worth the extra work.

But if your credit score won’t allow for it, leasing is a financially viable option.

3. The True Cost of Solar Installation and Massive Potential Savings

Now let’s jump to an example of an actual residential solar panel installation. We’ll be using a solar panel loan for this example.

Note that the following home is in Arizona and the quote is an AI-generated estimate that assumes ideal conditions.

This also assumes that you put $0 down for the panels (yes, you can do that).

Let’s take a look at the monthly payment.

$96 a month can seem like a hefty amount, but you’re actually still saving money compared to utility company power prices.

It’s estimated that you can save up to 100% off your electric bill assuming that your power bill is $150.

That’s right. You can generate electricity for absolutely no cost.

Keep in mind that these savings grow each year since the price of electricity tends to rise over time.

Now let’s go back and take a look at the cost of the system.

It’s estimated that these panels will cost around $22,386. The federal tax credit would take off about $5,560, and other incentives could knock it down by another $1000 or so.

All in all, the estimated total would be $15,826. A 20-year loan at 4.99% interest rate will give you the monthly payment of $96.

Before counting the loan payment, you would be saving $150 a month. Combined with the $96 monthly payment, you would have a payback period of around 7 years and 7 months.

That just means that you would no longer be “in the red” for the panels once you add the savings and the payments together.

After 7 years and 7 months, all of your savings are technically considered profit.

It’s important to note that you will still have a monthly payment for the 20-year loan. Your savings would naturally be greater if you purchased the system in cash, but this not a realistic option for many people.

Financing solar panels is a viable alternative. You are still walking away with an estimated $80,000+ in savings in this example, after all. $56,000+ if you count the loan.

But were aren’t finished yet!

Remember that solar panels typically increase the value of your home. In this example, the property value is calculated to increase by $30,000 using Zillow estimates and prior numbers from sold homes.

In total, you will save $110,214 in this example.

It pays to go solar.

If you subtract the cost of the loan, then you’ll save around $87,000 over 25 years.

That’s a little under $3,500 a year or about $290 a month.

With financing/leasing available, the huge financial hurdle suddenly doesn’t seem so big. And the potential savings are definitely worth it.

Of course, it’s important to remember that these numbers are just estimates and are calculated in optimal conditions (excellent credit score, unimpeded power generation throughout the year, takes place in sunny Arizona, etc). Realistically, your numbers will likely be lower.

But the potential for big savings is there no matter where you live.

Solar panels are affordable whether you decide to lease or get a loan. There’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t have the opportunity to generate clean energy at a steep discount.

Part 6: Solar Panel Installation Companies – How to Spot a Pro and Avoid the Duds

A bad solar panel installation company can quickly turn into your solar dream into a huge nightmare.

People who have worked with bad companies were forced to deal with maintenance issues, electrical problems, or shoddy installation. Sometimes the panels aren’t even fully installed and are just left half-finished on a roof.

That means that these victims are spent a whole lot of money without seeing any of the benefits.

Thankfully, you can avoid these issues by doing your due diligence and researching every solar panel installation company that you are interested in working with.

1. How to Correctly Question Any Solar Panel Installation Company

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your perfect solar company. Here are some key questions that you can ask any solar company:

  1. Do they have all of their licensing, insurance, and documentation in order?
  2. Can you validate their credentials?
  3. Does their installation service come with a licensed electrician onsite?
  4. How long have they been in business?
  5. How large is their service area? Do they work in multiple states?
  6. Are they well-reviewed?
  7. Do they use subcontractors? If so, are they licensed, insured, etc?
  8. Do they have experience working with your utility company?
  9. Are they familiar with the permitting process in your area?
  10. Do they have a local office or someone you can contact locally?
  11. Are there warranties? If so, how many and what do they cover?
  12. Is there a performance guarantee? Do they have data supporting their solar claims?

In general, the best solar companies are ones that have built up a solid reputation over many years. Those companies are the ones that will make the installation process smooth.

You’ll also really want to pay attention to reviews. People love to complain when something isn’t done right, and solar installation is no exception. Likewise, truly satisfied customers will sing a product’s praises.

Look up online reviews and see what people are saying. You can also try to ask the solar installation company for permission to talk to previous customers and see how they feel. If you can’t find anything, proceed very carefully.

And the most important thing is to trust your gut. Seriously, this one is a life-saver.

  • If a representative from the company is trying to pressure into buying something you’re not sure is a good deal, then don’t do it.
  • If the representative is giving you numbers that are too good to be true, then they probably are and you shouldn’t do it.
  • If you feel “off” about the whole thing, then don’t do it.

You are investing a lot of time, money, and energy into solar panels. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t get every bit of information that you can from any reputable solar company. And if the company doesn’t live up to your expectations, then don’t sign with them.

Trust us when we say that your diligence can save you thousands of dollars and prevent a ton of future headaches.

2. Our Recommendation for the Best Solar Panel Installer

If you are interested in the best, then we recommend checking out SunPower.

They are an industry leader for solar panel installation and are highly reviewed. These guys operate in over 30+ states and work closely with their clients throughout the whole process.

They’ll set you up with a free appointment so that they can take a look at your house and give you the best recommendations.

They personalize their services and tailor to your specific needs, so you’ll never have to worry about just being another number to them.

Best of all, their panels are highly efficient (around 20-22% compared to an average of 15-18%), which means more money in your pocket.

Click the button below to check them out and get a free quote!

Part 7: DIY Solar – Good Idea or Dangerous Mistake?

There are a LOT of solar-focused websites that talk about how DIY solar can turn out to be a dangerous and costly mistake. After doing so, they usually point you to their solar installer of choice.

To be fair, they make good points. There are pros and cons to taking up solar installation by yourself.

1. The Potential Dangers of DIY Solar Installation

Residential DIY solar panel installation can be physically dangerous and can become a costly problem when handled poorly. There are stories of people falling off roofs and being electrocuted from DIY solar installation. Shoddy installation has ruined homes before, killing their property values in no time.

You have to know what you are doing. If you aren’t familiar with electrical wiring or aren’t a seasoned handyman, then you’ll probably struggle. You’ll need to know how to connect certain wires and mount the panels without messing anything up.

You should also be ready to spend a lot of energy physically moving panels. Some of the larger properties will require an entire weekend of labor, for example.

Don’t forget about getting permission either! You’ll need to get a permit from your city along with any other paperwork required to be approved.

That said, DIY solar installation isn’t the hardest project in the world. It’s time-consuming and takes a fair amount of effort, but it’s not impossible. With the knowledge and some elbow grease, you can get the job done. There are tons of DIY solar panel kits out there for the adventurous self-installer.

You’ll find the best DIY solar panel kits on gogreensolar.com.

2. The Benefits of DIY Solar Installation

Now there’s one big benefit to DIY solar installation: the savings!

It’s very cost-effective to perform your own solar panel installation. The typical rate for solar installation through companies is around $0.59 per watt according to Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL). A 9 kWh system would cost around $5,310 in installation fees alone, all of which can be saved by doing it by yourself.

There’s also a sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a challenging project like solar panel installation. Self-installers often report feeling proud in their work.

But for those of you who don’t have the technical know-how or don’t want to deal with the labor, there’s nothing wrong with getting a solar installation company to help you out.

Both options are completely acceptable.

Part 8: Solar Power Storage – Is it Necessary?

You might be wondering whether or not you’ll need a battery to hold excess solar power. Or you might just be wondering what the heck a solar battery is.

Let’s address both.

A solar battery is what it sounds like. It’s a battery that’s designed to hold excess solar power generated throughout the day. Their design will dictate how much excess energy can be stored. The more power a battery can store, the more expensive it usually is.

And solar batteries aren’t exactly cheap. They can range anywhere from $5,000 to $7,000+ by themselves. If you add in the cost of installation, these prices can balloon even further.

So what gives? Do you actually need these expensive batteries?

1. Factors that Influence the Need for Solar Batteries

Well, that depends on several factors. You’ll need to evaluate whether it financially makes sense or not.

For grid-tied systems that allow you to take advantage of net metering, you won’t really need a battery. The grid is effectively your battery in this case. And we already know that sending power into the grid translates into more savings for you.

Don’t just assume that you don’t need a battery if your system is grid-tied, however. Some utility companies only pay you a fraction of what they charge for their power. It may cost $0.11 per kWh to use their power, but they’ll only give you $0.04 per kWh for yours.

In this instance, it would be more cost-effective to purchase a battery.

Utility companies that utilize Time of Use (TOU) prices are good candidates for solar batteries. You can use your solar battery to avoid the expensive “peak” electricity usage windows. States like California and Arizona are notorious for having inflated TOU prices.

In this instance, it would be more cost-effective to have your own battery.

But be warned! Solar batteries cannot take your home “off-grid”.

It’s a common misconception that a solar battery can allow you to take your home completely off-grid and only utilize solar energy. A solar battery can only hold a few hours of power in your typical home, making them better as a backup option than as a primary source of energy.

If you wanted to do that, you would have to invest in several solar batteries. While possible, this option is too costly for most people.

In short, solar batteries are not required to install solar panels. They have their benefits and are very useful in certain situations, however. If you live in an area where electricity can get pricy, then investing in a solar battery would be a financially smart choice.

Part 9: Summary – The Key Points You Should Know

We went through a LOT of information! We wouldn’t blame you for forgetting a few things.

So we’ll provide a brief list of the most important takeaways from this guide:

  1. Solar panels generate clean energy
  2. Solar panels can save you thousands of dollars
  3. Solar panels are scientifically interesting
  4. You must know the ins and outs of your home before getting solar panels
  5. Solar panels are affordable for most people
  6. Choosing a good solar panel installation company is extremely important
  7. DIY solar panel installation can save money but at a risk
  8. Solar batteries are optional but can save you a lot of money

Solar panels aren’t for everyone, that much is obvious. But if your home is prime for solar panels, you should consider getting your own. They have a ton of benefits and not many drawbacks.

Even if you live in an area where you don’t think you can use solar panels, it never hurts to do a bit of searching to see if that’s really true. You just might be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

Solar panels. This $52.5 billion industry is here to stay!

So what are you waiting for? Start getting some free quotes today and look forward to a future of green energy production!

BONUS: The Power of LED Lighting

While not directly related to solar, we feel that LED lighting deserves its own section due to its similar benefits to solar.

LED lighting offers that following advantages over other forms of lighting:

  • Long life – Can last years before burning out
  • Energy efficiency – Uses less electricity than other light sources
  • High brightness and intensity – you won’t have to worry about any poor lighting.
  • Low radiated heat – this type of lighting isn’t going to burn you or other things
  • Solid reliability – they are built to function well and for a long time

LED lighting used to be prohibitively expensive compared to other forms of lighting, but this is not the case today. Upgrading your old-fashioned lights to LED lights may be a bit more expensive up front, but the savings later on are worth it.

In fact, LED lighting uses 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent lighting. That’s definitely worth it on a consumer level.

If a company or business hasn’t made the upgrade yet, they are missing out. You might think that it’s just savings you are leaving behind (which are quite substantial, mind you), but that’s only part of it. You are also leaving rebates on the table!

Yep, you can get paid to upgrade! The three types of upgrades are:

  1. Point of Sale (POS) – immediate money in your pocket
  2. Prescriptive – money distributed back in your pocket over a period of time
  3. Custom  – full control over your rebate plan

You can check out all the details at ledlightingsupply.com. They offer a comprehensive guide going into extensive detail about the various rebates programs depending on state and other factors. It’s a must-have resource, especially for business owners.

If you are interested, we definitely recommend that you take a look at their site.


And that concludes our guide.

We hope that you enjoyed it!

Questions, comments, or concerns? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you soon! We love hearing from you guys.

Until next time, let’s continue to strive towards a greener, better way of living!

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