Solar Power Systems

Investing in Home Solar Power: How Much Should You Spend?

by Mary Butler

Buying rooftop solar panels for your home is an investment similar to replacing windows: you may not recoup your costs right away. You can begin to realize the fruits of your investment from day one, however, through a difference in your energy bills. And as energy costs rise, you should be able to switch on your air conditioning without as much as a second thought.

Assessing the Cost of Rooftop Solar Panels
Most homes require between a 1- and 5-kilowatt photovoltaic (PV) rooftop system, costing between $8,250 and $40,000 before government subsidies and reimbursements, which vary from state to state. The size of the system you need depends on the size of your home and where you live. In sunny California, an average 4-kilowatt system produces more than 80 percent of the electricity needs for a typical ratepayer, but in cloudier New Jersey, it typically takes a larger 5.1-kilowatt photovoltaic system to produce the same amount of electricity. If your PV panels net more electricity than you use, you can receive energy credits to be used on cloudy days or at night.  

Use the U.S. Department of Energy-affiliated Web site, FindSolar.com, to assess your home solar power needs and find more information about rebates and subsidies available where you live.

Reaping the Benefits of Your Green Home
In California, where using solar energy has long been encouraged with subsidies, it usually takes between seven and ten years for rooftop solar panels to pay for themselves in energy savings--in cloudier states, the payback could be twice as long. 
So why invest in home solar power? The biggest reason is the rising cost of energy. Electricity and natural gas are more expensive than ever, and they're not expected to get any cheaper. Even if you anticipate selling your home before you recoup the cost of your PV system, homebuyers should clearly see the financial and environmental advantages of your green home.

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