If you own your own home and plan to stay there for the long haul, you should put solar panels on it now. Yes, it costs money to do so, BUT if you’re in your forever house, solar panels could save you tens of thousands of dollars over the long-term, and the environment will appreciate it! How do I know? Partly because I’m a nerd, but mostly because my wife and I have been through the process. Let’s start with some basic science background.
A Brief History of Panels (with just enough science):
Decades ago, when photovoltaic panels first became available for consumers, few people elected to purchase them. In spite of the promise of essentially free electricity (photovoltaic panels, also known as solar panels, turn sunlight into electricity), the panels were not wildly popular because their cost was high. Most consumers simply could not afford a solar array for their homes.
Thankfully, as technology has improved over the past couple of decades, the cost of solar panels has decreased dramatically. Additionally, technological improvements have made solar power a practical option for residents of states that might have previously been at a latitudinal disadvantage. The technology used to be such that direct sunlight and few clouds were required to make the technology worthwhile, which meant the southwest was great for solar, but the northeast, not so much. Now panels have become so efficient that even on a partly cloudy day they can generate enough electricity to power a house.
*You can read more about solar panels here.
As I mentioned before, solar panel cost has decreased, but it’s far from free. That said, as I also mentioned before, solar panels save a lot of money over time. To explain this, I’m going to break down the costs that a family in a 2,000 square foot house might expect to see. Keep in mind that no two installers will quote the same price, so there is always some variation. That said, this is still fairly accurate.
A 2,000 square foot home that has energy efficient appliances and LED bulbs, will have an electricity bill in the neighborhood of $70 per month, and can expect to need 14-15 panels, depending on the placement and angle. Installed, this setup will cost in the neighborhood of $19,000-$20,000 depending on whether or not you pay cash or finance. For this example, let’s assume we’re financing the $20,000.
Now normally I would say this is a big no-no until all other debts are paid off, BUT tax breaks help tremendously here. While you will be taking out two loans for $20,000, the federal and state kickbacks in the first year will equal approximately $10,000. That’s HALF of the cost. #awesome
Now you’ve still got $10,000 in loans to contend with, but don’t stress. The interest rate on these types of loans is 2.99%, and thanks to net metering, you can sell the power you generate back to the grid. If this isn’t good enough, your monthly loan payments will replace your electric bill. #alsoawesome
*Be wary of leasing solar panels. Make sure you buy the panels instead of leasing them. If you lease, you’ll never reap the full benefits of ownership.
OK Ian, get to the point!
What all of this means is that going solar costs about as much as your monthly electric bill. No joke. When my wife and I went solar, our loan payment turned out to be about $18 more per month than our electric bill, BUT that’s because our electric bill was already pretty low. It turns out that the more power you use, the more likely you are to actually pay less per month. Of course, even if you pay more, remember that loan payment replaces your electric bill, and once it’s paid off, your only cost related to electricity is the monthly connection fee. That’s right, in about eight years, I will have no electric bill and no loan payment.
So how do you get started?
Well thankfully, New Hampshire has a lot of options for solar panel installation and based on my experience and the experience of friends, all of them are good. My advice would be to give several a call and get some quotes. Good companies will be upfront with their pricing and their timelines, so choose the one that works for you.