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Solar panels aren’t just good for the environment – you can benefit from serious savings over the lifetime of your solar panel system.
How much will solar panels save you? Key points to consider
- Solar panels cost money upfront, but will save you money in the long term
- The average home can save between $10,000 and $30,000 over the lifetime of your solar panel system
- Start comparing custom quotes on the EnergySage Marketplace to see your estimated savings from solar
How much do solar panels save? Do solar panels really save you money?
The simple answer to the question “do solar panels really save you money?” is yes. That being said, how much
you’ll save depends on a number of factors. Direct hours of daily
sunlight and the size and angle of your roof are both important, but local electricity rates play the biggest role in determining how much solar can save you.
With so many trendy investment opportunities available in today’s day and age, it’s easy to be skeptical of new products that boast promises of “saving you tons of money.” Solar panels are no different – saving money by reducing your electric bill is one of the main appeals and selling points for solar as a product and home upgrade.
How much money do solar panels save you on electric bills?
first step to understanding how much solar can save you is to calculate
how much you are currently spending on electricity every year. For
example, the average annual electricity use required for a U.S.
household is 10,972 kilowatt-hours (kWh). Multiply that by the national average electricity rate as of October 2019 ($0.1284 per kWh) and you’ll find that the typical American family is spending just over $1,408 a year on electricity alone.
you have to consider the volatile nature of electricity prices and
determine what utility rates will be in years to come. When you compare
the cost of utility electricity with home solar, you should keep in mind
that you can expect electricity rates to increase annually. Over the
past decade, national electricity costs have increased at a rate of
approximately 2.2% per year. Utility rate inflation is an added
incentive for solar: when you generate your own energy with a rooftop PV
system, you’re locking in energy costs at a constant rate so that you
no longer have to consider variable utility rates.
Because of the
nature of solar as an up-front investment, the only costs associated
with a solar system will be the cost of your installation and any added
electricity costs in the event that your panels do not completely offset
100% of your electricity use. Whether or not your system will
completely offset your electricity needs is primarily determined by how
accurately you size your PV system – you can calculate how many solar panels you’ll need to secure that percentage.
provide a snapshot for typical bill savings from a solar installation,
the following table offers state-by-state data for 20-year savings
estimates with solar. The data incorporates a number of assumptions:
- System size: 6 kilowatts
- Electricity demand: 10,972 kilowatt-hours per year (the national average)
- Utility rate inflation: 2.2%
- Percent needs met by solar panels: 94% (Solaire marketplace average)
- Electricity rate: State average as of October 2019 (according to EIA)
- Ownership of the solar panels is assumed
2019 Solar panel savings estimates by state
|State||Average price (6 kW solar system)||Average electricity rate per state ($/kWh)||20-year savings|
*Note: the 26% federal tax credit IS applied to the above table
Do you still have an electric bill with solar panels?
common misconception about installing solar panels is that your
electric bill will go away entirely. Even if you install enough solar to
completely offset your electricity use, you will still receive an
electric bill from your utility as long as your property remains
grid-connected. However, this doesn’t mean you will always be paying
money on your bill – here’s why:
Thanks to a policy called net metering,
which is available in most states, energy your solar panels produce
that you don’t use immediately is sent to the grid in exchange for
credits on your electric bill. This allows you to draw energy from the
grid during the night (when the sun isn’t shining and powering your
solar panels) but not pay any extra money, as long as you draw back the
same amount or less than you provided to the grid. When you receive your
monthly electric bill, any net metering credits you used that month
will be indicated and you won’t be charged for that power. The remaining
electricity you pulled from the grid that wasn’t offset by net metering
credits and wasn’t produced and used immediately at your home is where
you might see small charges for electricity.
In summary, yes, you will still receive an electric bill when you install solar panels.
Importantly, the bill may not ask you to pay anything, and may simply
indicate how your usage was offset by net metering credits for the
month. In the case where you provide more electricity to the grid than
you pull, your utility will usually roll over your unused bill credits
to the next month for you to take advantage of. Regardless, installing
solar panels will almost certainly lead to lower average monthly
electric bill charges, and may eliminate your monthly electric bill in
How much can solar panels reduce your carbon footprint?
returns are a major incentive for going solar, but money isn’t the only
thing that solar panels save. When you install solar, you’re also
improving the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That’s
why the question “How much can solar panels save?” can be answered two
ways: how much money solar can save and how much CO2 it can save (avoid being emitted into the atmosphere).
The Environmental Protection Agency
provides a formula to help you calculate how various green practices
result in carbon emissions reductions. The below table converts
solar energy production into greenhouse gas offsets using the metric
converters 7.44 × 10-4 metric tons CO2 / kilowatt-hour of energy produced and the national average for solar panel production ratio, 1.42 kilowatt-hours / watt of power.
You can get a $0-down solar loan today. See the top loan offers in your state.
CO2 Reductions by Solar System Size
|System size (kW)||Annual Solar Energy Production (kWh)||Carbon Emission Reductions per year (metric tons)|
A good comparison point to use when thinking about carbon emissions is that a typical vehicle emits 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide
every year. This means that a 6 kW (6,000 watts) solar panel system
comfortably offsets the emissions produced by one fossil fuel automobile
in a year. In addition to significant bill savings, a solar system
comes with the satisfaction of “taking a car off the road,” so to speak.
Solar panels can create big savings
Ultimately, regardless of whether you’re looking at finances or carbon emissions, a solar panel system will generate big savings for homeowners. As the first data table illustrates, 20-year electricity savings from solar can be significant, ranging from the low end of $10k to almost $30k. The deciding factor will primarily be the cost of electricity, which varies significantly depending on where you live. Nonetheless, a good rule of thumb is if you live in a state with middle- to upper-level utility rates, solar will be a risk-free investment with major returns. On the emissions side, as panel system size increases, so do the CO2 reductions in the surrounding environment, making solar an eco-conscious investment. If you’re looking for customized estimates not only around potential solar savings but also around the cost of a solar panel system, try our Solar Calculator. Reference: Energy Sage
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