2012-02-22

Do You Like Money? If So, Solar Panels May Be For You

This infographic shows that installing solar is way less expensive than you think, powers your house much cheaper than the electricity you’re paying for now, and will pay for itself way faster than you might guess.

Solar panels might be the power source of the future, but they seem quite daunting. The idea of getting something large installed on your roof sounds both time consuming and expensive. And, indeed, solar installations aren’t cheap, but they’re probably much less expensive than you thought. They’re about as expensive as a new car (depending on what state you live in).

But unlike a car, which starts losing value the minute you drive it off the lot and racks up costs in gas and repairs, solar panels instantly start saving you money and, after a time, start actually giving you money back. Plus, they make your house more valuable. If you’re willing to make a long-term investment, that initial solar panel outlay will pay itself back many times over. A new ]infographic from solar company 1BOG helps crunch some of the numbers for you about how much solar costs.

How much a solar installation will cost varies widely, because different states have vastly different policies regarding tax breaks and incentives for solar installations. But in many states, you can get solar power for less than $10,000. In Louisiana, you can have them for less than $5,000. That’s a bargain right there.

Now that your panels are installed, you’re getting power from the sun instead of the power company. That means you’re spending less money on your electric bill each month. How much less? That also depends on where you live. Utility prices have something to do with it (you’ll see that New Yorkers get a big savings because electricity there is so expensive), but sunny places--where you’re drawing more power from the sun, like Florida or the Southwest--also see big bonuses.

You probably wouldn’t embark on a major improvement project like solar panels unless you planned on staying somewhere for a while. So it’s important to look at the savings over long periods of time. The national average is $20,000 over 20 years, though many states top out over $30,000.

You could do some simple math to figure out how long it will take before your solar panels pay for themselves, or you could just look at the map above. In many states, you’re looking at somewhere between 10 and 20 years. That seems like a long time, but many people own houses for that long. And in some states, the number is drastically lower. In Massachusetts, your panels are paid for in savings in just four years. After that, you’re just taking home extra cash every month.

So, before you write off solar panels entirely as an expensive boondoggle, make sure you crunch some numbers. It may less wasteful--and more beneficial long term--than you think. Check out the full infographic here, or below, to get the full picture.

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8 Comments

  • Al Munroe

    Nice article but I cannot find any system size to the prices you show in each state.  Am I missing it somewhere?  I assume they are all less the 5 meg Watt.

  • S4solar.com

    This is a GREAT article! I operate a solar power company in New Zealand where there are NO government subsidies at all (because we are already 85% renewable thanks to Hydro and Geo-thermal). For our customers I have calculated and graphed the ROI on our Grid-Tie products and the payback is around 9 years (at a 1:1 feedin tarrif) and after 30 years of life (which you will get out of a quality panel) you get a return of seven to eight times your investment. The ONLY thing wrong with solar power is mindsets, and they are changing fast.

  • ecopolitidae

    If we had a well designed Renewable Energy Power Purchase (feed-in tariff) policy in the US like much of Europe has, that priced solar energy at its full value millions more would be putting panels on their roofs, parking lots and backyards.  Right now (unless you live in CA, OR, NJ, Palm Desert,  Gainesville, FL and a handful of other places), ratepayer/generators only get credited at a discounted "avoided cost" rate through net-metering.  People need to push for better policies in the US:  http://www.renewablecommunitie...

  • Aaron

    Big Question... what's the average life of a solar panel??  5 years? 10 years?  What's service and upkeep cost?
    Big Problem...  Most Solar Equipment today will never become NET positive in energy output divided by energy input necessary to manufacture, produce, and install.  Not that it's not viable in off the grid places, but there are FAR more efficient AND cost effective carbon reducing options out there...

  • Tracerdoc

    Is it to presumed then that equipment manufactured for other forms energy and the energy needed to mine/extract/drill for all fuels is net positive even if you count the cost exploring, extracting, refining and transporting etc etc  

  • Guest

    The live of a PV system is typically in the 25-30 year range. Most module manufacturers have 20-year warranties and more and more inverter manufacturers are matching those warranties.

    The energy payback on a PV system will be positive and relatively short (6 months to 4 years depending on technology and location).  Vasilis Fthenakis at Brookhaven National Lab has written on this extensively. The idea that PV systems have a negative return on energy investment is an old myth.

  • EnergySage

    Solar PV systems are a great way to produce carbon-free energy over the long-term.   

    The average life of a solar panel is 30+ years.  A well manufactured panel can keep producing electricity for over 50 years.   They do not have any moving parts and thus require little to no maintenance over their life.  Inverters may need replacement every 15 years or so.  Several studies suggest a solar panel will become NET positive in about 3 years.

    Posted by:  Energysage.com

  • Joe

    Great article, thanks for the valuable info.

    Just a comment why would a state like Florida which experience so much sun year round and with a buy-back program in place take longer then a lot of northern states to see your return, seems like politics at it's best again.  Thx again for this info. very valuable