Solar Power for Homes: What to Consider

Thinking about installing solar panels on your home?

Amid concerns about rising energy costs and the effects of climate change, more homeowners than ever are looking at alternative energy sources.

More than 40% of adults say they have seriously considered installing solar panels at their home in the past year, according to a 2019 survey. They cited reasons such as saving money on utility bills, helping the environment, and the chance to get a solar investment tax credit.

But what can you expect from a home solar power system, and is it right for you? Here are some things you should consider.

Benefits of a home solar power system

Here's what a home solar power system could mean for you:

  • Lower electricity bills
  • Solar tax credits
  • Smaller carbon footprint
  • Likely positive affect on the home’s value
  • The ability to live “off grid”
  • Peace of mind due to having an additional energy source

Home solar power has plenty of benefits. The question is whether solar panels make sense for your home in particular—for your budget, your energy needs, and environmental factors like the amount of sunlight you get.

How much does solar power for home cost?

While a home solar power system could potentially end up paying for itself, there’s no doubt that it requires a hefty initial investment.

How many solar panels does it take to power a home? The average house requires 28 to 34 solar panels to fully offset electricity bills with solar energy. 

In addition to paying for the solar panels and other equipment, you’ll likely want to pay a professional to install them on your house.

To provide power for an entire house, you could expect to pay in the five digit range. The Center for Sustainable Energy estimates that the average 5-kW residential system will cost $15,000 to $25,000, before any tax credits are applied.

You also need to consider whether solar will actually save you money on energy costs. This depends on a number of factors, including the size of your system, the amount of electricity you consume, and whether your utility will compensate you for extra solar energy you send back into the grid. Use a tool like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s PVWatts Calculator to estimate energy production and cost.

Solar power kits vs. professional solar panel installation

When you look at the costs involved, it’s tempting to try a DIY method of solar panel installation.

One can find a variety of home solar panel kits for sale online and in hardware stores. These kits include solar panels and the accessories needed to capture and convert solar energy.

While the lower cost can be tempting, solar power kits often can’t provide power for your entire house. DIY-savvy homeowners should reserve solar power kits for the following uses:

  • Power a smaller piece of property such as a boat, RV, or tool shed
  • Provide power to part of your property that isn’t on the electric grid
  • Home power backup

When it comes to providing solar power for your entire home, it’s best to leave installation to professionals who work with high quality solar panels. 

Compromise with a solar generator

Even if a complete home solar power system isn’t right for you, you can still harness solar energy with a generator. 

A solar generator typically includes solar panels, an inverter, solar panel battery, and battery charger. Like gas generators, these can be portable or set up as a backup system for your home. They can be used to combat a power outage when there’s a natural disaster or other extreme weather. Solar generators are a great option for homeowners who want some off grid energy capabilities, without the high price tag of a complete home solar power system. 

Solar power is a worthwhile addition to any home, but it's important to consider which format makes sense for you. Just like with any other serious home improvement, be sure to do your research and compare prices before you get started.