Do Solar Panels Actually Save You Money?


With electric bills on the rise, more homeowners are considering installing solar panels to save money on their energy costs. But do solar panels actually end up saving money over time? There are several factors to consider when evaluating the costs and benefits of going solar. In this article, we’ll analyze the upfront installation costs, ongoing energy savings, available incentives and rebates, return on investment timeframes, system maintenance, warranties, increased home value, and environmental benefits to provide a full picture of the financial considerations around residential solar power. We’ll aim to help homeowners understand if solar is likely to provide them net savings based on their specific circumstances.

Upfront Costs

The main upfront cost of solar panels is the purchase and installation. According to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the average cost to install a solar panel system is around $3.60 per watt in Minnesota ( This means that installing a typical 5kW system would cost around $18,000 before any rebates or incentives. In Kentucky, the average cost per watt is lower at $2.34 per watt, making a 5kW system about $11,700 (

The total installation cost depends on system size, panel efficiency, roof type/condition, permits and electrical work needed. Location also plays a role. Labor and permitting costs tend to be higher in urban areas versus rural. Most installers will provide a detailed quote accounting for these factors.

Ongoing Savings

solar panels can save homeowners money over time by offsetting electricity costs.

One of the biggest reasons homeowners choose to install solar panels is to offset their monthly electricity bill. According to, the average U.S. homeowner saves around $42,000 over 25 years after installing solar panels [1]. However, the actual savings depends on various factors like your location, system size, electricity rates, and more.

For example, a 5 kW solar system in California can offset around 90% of a home’s electricity usage and save $100-$150 per month on the utility bill [2]. In contrast, the same system in New York may only offset 60% of usage but still save $75-$100 per month. Sunnier states like Arizona, Nevada, and Florida tend to see higher savings compared to New England states.

In addition to location, system size also impacts monthly savings. A larger system (e.g. 8 kW) will offset more of your electricity usage compared to a smaller 2 kW system. Electricity rates and net metering policies also play a role. Areas with high electricity costs or net metering will see greater bill reductions from solar panels.

While the specific savings vary, most solar panel systems will offset a significant portion of the average home’s electricity bill each month. Track your utility usage and get quotes to estimate your monthly and lifetime potential savings.

Incentives and Rebates

There are several financial incentives available to homeowners who install solar panels, which can help reduce the upfront costs. The main incentives are federal and state tax credits and local utility rebates.

The federal solar tax credit allows homeowners to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar energy system from their federal taxes through 2023. The tax credit will be reduced to 22% for systems installed in 2024. After 2024, the residential credit will drop to zero for homeowners. Many states also offer additional tax credits or rebates on top of the federal credit [1].

For example, California offers tax credits worth thousands of dollars to go solar. Other top states for solar incentives include Massachusetts, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, New Jersey and more [2].

Additionally, many utility companies and municipalities offer rebates or other incentives for installing solar panels. These local solar rebates can reduce the cost by thousands of dollars. Homeowners should check with their utility provider to see what solar incentives may be available in their area [3].

Return on Investment

The payback period for solar panels refers to the amount of time it takes to recoup your initial investment in the system. This depends on several factors like the cost of the system, available tax credits and incentives, electricity rates in your area, and how much sunlight your panels receive.

On average, solar panels take between 5-7 years to pay for themselves. After this payback period, the electricity generated is essentially free. Given that solar panels can still produce energy for 20-30 years, that’s at least a decade or more of free electricity.

To calculate payback period more precisely, you can divide the total installed cost by the estimated annual electricity savings. For example, a $15,000 system that saves you $1,500 a year on electricity bills would pay off in 10 years.

There are a few ways to improve the payback period. Purchasing solar panels when there are tax credits and rebates available lowers the upfront cost. Situating your panels optimally to maximize sunlight exposure also increases energy production and savings. Finally, electricity rates generally rise over time, so future savings may be even greater than the initial projections.

According to one source, the average payback period for solar panels in 2022 was around 6.9 years in the U.S. However, this can vary significantly by state and local conditions. The key is calculating the payback based on your specific situation. With the right conditions, solar can deliver a return on investment in less than 10 years for many homeowners. (

System Maintenance

While solar panels are very low maintenance, some basic upkeep is required to keep them operating efficiently. The main maintenance tasks are inspecting, cleaning, and repairing the panels as needed.

Solar panels should be visually inspected annually for signs of damage or dirt buildup. As dust and debris accumulates on the panels, it can start to obstruct sunlight absorption and reduce efficiency. Panel glass can also get scratched or cracked over time. Any issues spotted during inspection should be remedied.

Cleaning is recommended every 6-12 months in regions with average rainfall, and more frequently in drier climates. Panels can be gently wiped down with water and a soft cloth or brush. For tougher dirt, an eco-friendly cleaning solution may be used. Professional panel cleaning typically costs $150-300 depending on system size.1

Occasional repairs may be needed over a solar system’s 25+ year lifespan. Damaged wiring, junction boxes, inverters and optimizers are common repair needs. The NREL estimates annual maintenance costs around $21-31 per kW, so a 5 kW system would cost $105-155 per year for upkeep.2 DIY repairs can reduce costs, but should only be attempted by qualified personnel.


Solar panel manufacturers typically provide two types of warranties – product warranties and performance warranties. The product warranty covers defects and premature failures in workmanship and materials. The average product warranty period is 10-12 years, but high-quality panels often come with 25-year product warranties (Source).

The performance warranty relates to power output over time. Industry standard is a 25-year performance warranty that guarantees the panels will maintain at least 80% of their original power output after 25 years of use. Some top manufacturers like SunPower offer performance warranties up to 40 years (Source).

When comparing solar panel warranties, longer coverage periods indicate higher confidence in product quality and lifespan. Reputable manufacturers stand behind their products with strong 25+ year warranties.

Home Value

Installing solar panels can significantly increase the value of your home. According to Shop Solar Kits, homes with solar panels typically sell for about 4.1% more than comparable homes without solar panels. This premium in home value generally offsets the upfront costs of installing a solar energy system over time.

Solar panels are attractive to home buyers for several reasons. Solar panels can reduce or even eliminate monthly electricity bills, providing homeowners long-term savings. This can make homes more affordable for buyers. Additionally, solar demonstrates a home is upgraded with the latest technology. Environmentally-conscious buyers may also specifically seek out homes with solar panels installed.

According to Landmark Title, solar panels are expected to keep increasing the value of homes as solar technology continues improving and providing greater return on investment. With solar panel systems lasting 25-30 years, installing solar panels can be a smart upgrade that adds value for years to come.

Environmental Benefits

Solar panels provide significant environmental benefits by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and lowering carbon emissions. According to ArkA 360 (, solar energy technology helps mitigate climate change by displacing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel-based electricity. Over the lifetime of a solar panel system, the carbon footprint is far lower compared to coal and natural gas. Solar panels reduce the amount of energy required from non-renewable sources like coal, which is burned to create steam and spin turbines for electricity. With fewer fossil fuels burned, there are reduced carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.

While manufacturing solar panels does have some negative environmental impacts, the carbon footprint over the lifetime of solar panels is overwhelmingly positive (Ecowatch, The transition to renewable solar energy is a key strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.


In summary, installing solar panels on your home is a significant investment upfront, but the long-term savings and benefits often make it worthwhile. With federal, state, and local incentives in many areas, solar panels can pay for themselves within 5-15 years in most cases. After that, the panels continue generating free electricity for 10-25 years. This provides protection against rising energy costs, increases your home’s value, reduces your carbon footprint, and gives you greater energy independence. While solar panels require periodic maintenance, reputable manufacturers provide long warranties. Overall, for homeowners who can manage the initial costs, solar panels are a smart way to save money and help the environment over the long run.

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