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7 Ways Solar Panels Will Save the Planet and Make You Rich

We show you how installing solar panels on your home can put money back in your pocket and help the environment in the process.

Randy Nelson

Content Manager

116 articles, 53 comments

Solar Panels Infographic

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With the global capacity for solar energy production more than doubling every year, the question of whether or not to jump on this growing trend is one that homeowners are being faced with on a more regular basis. This has become especially true with the rise in the number of companies offering to outfit homes with solar panels at little to no cost to the owner—with some caveats we’ll get to in a moment.

With that in mind, we decided to take a look at what you stand to gain from going the solar power route. As it turns out, there’s quite a lot. Some of the biggest benefits beyond contributing to a greener planet are:

  • The federal government and some states offer large rebates for installing solar
  • You can eliminate your monthly electric bill
  • If you don’t use all the electricity you generate, you can sell the surplus to utilities
  • Excess power can be used to charge electric vehicles for free
  • Installing solar panels can increase the value of your home

Of course, having solar panels installed on your home is still a pretty pricey endeavor. Even though the price per watt of photovoltaic panels—the most common—has dropped more than 20 percent since early 2010, the system required to power the average American home still runs more than $55,000. Fortunately, like we mentioned above, going solar actually costs less than the initial sticker price thanks to some nice financial incentives from the government.

You can get a solar power system installed for next to nothing, but the companies that provide them do so in exchange for signing an equipment lease and turning over government rebates and a cut on any extra energy produced.

Let’s take a closer look at the upsides of solar power.

When Going Green Earns You Green

Solar Panels

Solar panels might not be the prettiest things, but their benefits are extremely attractive. Photo: Flickr user futureatlas.com

Using the handy and popular calculator available here, you can get an estimate of how much it would cost to install a solar power system capable of providing enough energy to run your home. What’s more, it’ll provide some insight into how much you’ll be able to take off the rather sizable cost for hardware and installation right off the bat.

In most cases, this includes a 30 percent federal tax credit based on the gross cost of setting up the system. In addition, the state you live in will have its own form of rebate. In California, for example, the rebate amounts to several hundred dollars. In some states it’s in the thousands. You can see a breakdown of federal, state, and utility-offered rebates.

Beyond getting a good chunk of the upfront cost covered, you’re actually able to sell electricity you generate to your utility company in some cases. This often takes the form of a credit that accumulates throughout the year and becomes a nice payout depending on how much you have to sell.

Say Goodbye to Your Bill

In most situations, installing solar power on your home doesn’t entirely liberate you from the power grid. After all, you need a way to send the excess power to the utilities and without some rather large and expensive batteries there’s no way to store power for later use. Even though you’re still connected to the power company, the amount of energy you’re generating can more than take care of your needs, so you’ll no longer be paying an electric bill.

For many households, this can mean a savings of hundreds of dollars per month, especially during the summertime when electricity usage is higher.

Power More Than Just Your Home

Nissan Leaf

Fully electric cars like the Nissan Leaf can be charged directly off your home's solar array. Photo: Flickr user NCDOTcommunications

Installing solar panels can not only let you bid adieu to your home electric bill, but also some of the cost of operating a car—if you’re willing to go all-electric for your transportation. That’s because if you’re producing more electricity than you need to power your home and decide to invest in a fully electric automobile like the Tesla Model S or Nissan Leaf, some of that extra juice can go to charge your car without incurring any charges from a utility.

If you switch from a fossil fuel powered car, the savings each month can reach into the hundreds of dollars depending on how much you drive. Even if you had an electric car to begin with, you stand to save money—and the environment.

Sparking an Increase in Home Value

According to a nine-year study conducted by the Department of Energy, installing solar panels on your home can produce an average increase in its value of $5.50 per watt of energy generating capability. For a system capable of generating 3,100 watts—the average in the study—it amounted to more than $17,000 of added value.

Considering that the cost of having solar panels installed is nearing the $5.50 mark in the U.S. depending on the company you contract to do the work, you’re actually looking at adding nearly as much value to your home as you’re spending on adding the panels. This is in addition to the other benefits we’ve discussed, which really sweetens the deal.

Plus, like we said earlier, this is all in addition to the considerable benefits that switching to solar power can have for the environment. In fact, based on data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the use of solar power reduces oil consumption on a global basis by 75 million barrels annually and keeps 35 million tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. This number is only growing as countries like Germany, the No. 1 user of solar power on the planet, continue to expand their capacity.

All in all, it’s a win-win deal in the long run—for your pocketbook and the planet.

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posted on: April 11, 2013
767 views, 7 comments

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7 Comments

  1. Robert E

    There are 7 billion individuals on the planet with the last billion boarding between 1999 and 2011. The average carbon footprint in the world is 4 tons/yr (20 tons/yr US) or 4 billion tons of CO2 from population growth alone from 1999 to 2011 not counting green house gases from other sources. A 400 MWe solar plant will offset 400,000 tons/yr CO2. You would need 40,000 utility scale solar plants just to keep up with population growth. Good Luck

  2. Roberto Alvarez

    I guess these folks “didn’t get the memo” – the scientific facts prove… there is no such thing as “man-made global warming / climate-change!” And… even if they “assume” there is… all the “man-made” efforts in the World, wouldn’t reduce the “assumed temperature” in their falacious models a 100 years from now, by as much as even a half of a degree.

  3. John R

    At $55,000 on average, say good bye to your bill and hello to a new mortgage. What a stupid idea.

  4. Al

    Without tax breaks and high amount of sunny days per year, solar doesn’t pay off. Don’t forget battery replacement, higher taxes, monthly power company fees, and electric buyback amounts.
    I figured out that in cold weather states, it would be best to buy 6 small windmills from Menards. Run them 7 months out of the year in cold weather when it’s windy.
    Convert the power directly into heat. 1000 sqft home.
    No batteries needed, roi 2 years, no tax help needed.
    Store them 5 months in summertime, so as not to annoy the neighbors. Downside is you have to fight city hall.

  5. ADZ

    I priced out installing solar panels on my home because I wanted a backup for all the power interruptions from my utility. I found a number of things not mentioned in this article, which really glosses over the facts. First, since my roof was not perfectly oriented to the south, I would have lost 20% of the potential energy. Second, to have the panels take over during a utility power loss requires a huge bank of batteries – nice of you have the room, but still bloody expensive. When I ran the numbers, my payback for the investiment was 15 years, and that ONLY by selling “carbon credits” in Al Gore’s marketing scheme. Without that, my payback was 25 years. Oh, also, the solar panels only last for about 20 years, and their output diminishes year-by-year, so the net effect would be a huge loss if the government cuts the carbon credit program, which is exactly what Spain did when their economy tanked, and I expect what the US will eventually do, too. Oh, yeah, you have to synchronizse with your shingle replacement on the roof. Bottom line is that the program is too risky with nowhere near the payback this article claims.

  6. Rick B

    1) Most solar panel installations are owned by private companies who sell the solar power to home owners – companies can remove the installation any time they wish.
    2) Federal energy rebates go to the companies who own the panels, not to homeowners.
    3) The efficiency of solar panels degrades over time, so ROI may be longer than the useful life.
    4) People who are likely to experience severe storms don’t run down to the hardware store to buy solar panels. They buy fossil fuel generators. There’s a reason they do that.
    5) When power goes out during storms, solar arrays on housetops are automatically disconnected from the grid and the home they are sitting on (UL 1741).
    6) “Green” energy sources cause an increase in traditional (reliable) energy capacity as backup when the wind stops blowing or when the sun goes down. In the Pacific NW, BPA is mandated to keep an additional 1 GW of power on standby for unreliability of wind power.

  7. Brian

    This presentation is very one sided. I would like to know the costs and carbon footprint in the construction, replacement and disposal of these panels. I believe that there are a few hazardous materials involved in the production and operation of these panels.

    Also, how often do the panels and batteries need to be replaced? How long do the batteries hold a charge? If I generate excess power in December, will the batteries hold the charge until June when my A/C consumes more power than I can generate?

    I am undecided on the carbon-footprint and cost savings of solar panels, but single sided presentations from either side of the debate do not assist in a sound decision making process.

 

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