residential solar panels

A guide to solar panels for home

Over the past decade, home rooftop solar use has exploded around the country as home solar becomes a very popular investment. Homes and businesses across the country are transitioning away from a fossil-fueled electricity grid towards a clean energy economy, driven by a need to reduce emissions in a time of global climate change. Amidst this period of energy reform, rooftop solar panel systems for houses are taking off at a remarkable rate. It’s time to give residential solar the credit it deserves.

Key takeaways about home solar panels

  • Home solar panels usually go on your roof, and provide many benefits. 
  • In 2022, solar panels for home cost about $20,000 after taking into account the federal solar tax credit.
  • Financing a rooftop solar panel system is possible with solar loans, leases, and power purchase agreements. 
  • The average solar panel system lasts for about 25-30 years, and they increase the value of your property. 
  • Visit the EnergySage Marketplace to compare quotes from our pre-vetted network of solar installers.

What you’ll learn in this article

How much do residential solar panel systems cost?

In 2022, homeowners are paying between $17,538 and $23,458 after taking into account the federal solar tax credit.Home solar panels are a long-term investment, and shoppers on the EnergySage Marketplace usually break even on their solar installation in seven to eight years. The specific answer to the question of how much solar panels will cost depends on your state and system size. Check out our data that can help you estimate what solar panels cost in the U.S based on factors like state, manufacturer, and system size.

How do solar panels work for your home?

For most homes, solar panels for home means rooftop solar panels – a solar array installed on your roof that generates electricity from the sun and helps you reduce your monthly spending on electricity. Solar panels work by converting light energy to usable electricity (this is known as the photovoltaic effect), which we can then use to power our homes and appliances. Solar panels save money over time on electricity costs and provide low-carbon, sustainable electricity.

How to calculate how many solar panels you need

The majority of homes will need 20-24 solar panels to account for electricity use. In order to calculate how many panels you will need, find the system size, divided by the production ratio, divided by panel wattage. There are many different factors at play with this including location, efficiency, and personal consumption habits.

Do solar panels really save money?

The simple answer to the question “do solar panels really save you money?” is yes. That being said, your exact savings depends on many 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. This is because the more you pay for electricity, the more you can offset by producing your own solar energy.

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.

Read more in our article about how much solar panels actually save.

Planning your home solar panel system: six steps

Home solar panels don’t just appear on your roof – there are many steps you’ll need to take to ensure you are a good fit for solar, understand your options, and eventually put panels on your property. At a high level, there are a few big steps to keep in mind (click any step to skip to it):

  1. Determine your solar potential
  2. Compare your solar options: rooftop vs. community solar
  3. Estimate your needs
  4. Get solar quotes
  5. Understand how to pay for solar
  6. Pick a quote and install

1. Determine your solar potential

There are a few things to consider when scoping out your home for rooftop solar. One factor to consider is the direction and tilt of your roof – although this is not a hard and fast rule, rooftop solar panels perform best on south-facing roofs with a slope between 15 and 40 degrees. 

It’s also important to know how much sunlight your roof gets throughout the day. Solar panels need sunlight to produce electricity, so if your roof is shaded or otherwise obstructed by trees, chimneys, or anything else, that will impact how viable solar is for you. Try out our Solar Calculator to see your unique home’s potential for solar panel savings.

2. Compare your solar options: rooftop vs. community solar

Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the residential solar energy sector is the list of options for homeowners who want to go solar but do not have a suitable roof. Ground mount solar installations and community solar subscriptions are two common ways to access power from the sun without actually installing anything on your rooftop. Community solar involves connecting with members of a group or your neighborhood to share a solar system, while ground-mounted arrays are an easy way to own and install your own system while bypassing any roofing hurdles.

3. Find out how many solar panels you will need

Next, it’s time to roughly understand your solar needs, so you’re well-equipped to compare solar quotes. We estimate that a typical home needs about 20 to 25 solar panels to cover 100 percent of its electricity usage, but the actual number you’ll need to install depends on many factors. Location, panel efficiency, panel rated power, and your personal energy consumption habits all play a role in determining how many solar panels you need. Importantly, the number of solar panels you need for your home directly impacts the price you pay for solar.

What percentage of your home can you power with solar electricity?

Ideally, the answer to this question would be 100 percent. However, although a solar panel system can theoretically offset all of your energy use, it’s not realistic to expect that level of panel production every day of the week. Manufacturers and installers often recommend that homeowners factor in a 25 percent fluctuation in generation when calculating their target for solar panel offset. The main reason for this: solar panels cannot operate at maximum efficiency all the time. There will be certain days when grid connection is necessary to fully cover your power usage. However, the beauty of net metering is that you can benefit from surplus production days and never pay anything to your utility while still relying on the grid for backup storage.

4. Get solar quotes

Once you’re certain you’re a good fit for solar and understand your payment and financing options, it’s time to gather and compare competing quotes for solar. Historically, most solar shoppers only saw a single solar quote from a company going door-to-door selling solar in their neighborhood. But how can you be sure that you’re paying a fair price for the right system without gathering multiple quotes to compare? 

When you register for an account on EnergySage, we collect up to seven customized solar quotes from qualified, experienced installers near you. And we help you save: solar shoppers receiving quotes on EnergySage generally pay 20 percent less for solar than solar shoppers who don’t.

5. Understand how to pay for solar

There are many options when it comes to financing a rooftop solar panel system purchase; the main three are a cash purchase, solar loans, and solar leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs). If you can afford it, paying in cash for your rooftop solar panel system is the most surefire way to save money over the lifetime of your system. With full ownership of your panels and no interest to pay on a solar loan, you’ll usually see the highest return on a solar investment with a cash purchase.

6. Pick a quote and install

Once you have met with the installers and done all necessary site visits and planning, the actual installation of your home solar energy system will only take a few days of work. The exact time depends on a number of factors. For example, if you are setting up net metering, that process will tack on additional time until your panels are properly connected to the grid. Overall, while the decision process for solar panels can take some time, the installation timeframe is very quick and fairly simple.

How long does it take to install solar panels?

Once the pre-installation steps are complete, the actual process to install solar panels onto your home will take between 1-3 days

What are the pros and cons of home solar panels?

At a high level, solar panels for your home provide several benefits: lowering electric bills, reducing your environmental impact, and increasing the value of your home, among others. As with any product, there are drawbacks to consider: high upfront costs, not every roof is right for solar, and finding an installer can be difficult.

The pros and cons of solar panels for your home

Pros of solar energyCons of solar energy
Lower your electric billDoesn't work for every roof type
Improve the value of your homeNot ideal if you're about to move
Reduce your carbon footprintBuying panels can be expensive
Combat rising electricity costsLow electricity costs = lower savings
Earn money back on your investmentFinding local solar installers can be difficult
Solar is a versatile energy source
Solar electricity can be sold back to the grid

All in all, solar panels will be a smart money investment for the majority of homeowners. Rooftop solar panels aren’t the perfect fit for everyone, but that’s okay. Like any other home efficiency product, solar panels provide clear benefits to homeowners that are in need of energy upgrades and electricity bill reduction. Not everyone fits that description. To learn more, read our article breaking down these pros and cons of solar panels in more detail.

What are solar batteries?

The primary function of solar energy storage is to store energy produced by solar panels that can be drawn on at a later time. Storing energy for later provides many benefits, from financial savings to being a backup source of power in the event of a grid outage.

The main advantage of installing a solar-plus-storage energy system is that it gives you the ability to use your solar electricity even when the sun isn’t shining. When you install a solar panel system without a home battery, the excess electricity that your system generates gets sent back to the grid. With solar energy storage, that energy can be stored and drawn on when the sun goes down, and you’ll only need to draw and pay for energy from the grid when your battery is depleted.

Learn more about solar batteries.

How can you find a solar installer?

Choosing between different installers can be a daunting task, but EnergySage is here to help. We thoroughly vet the installers in our Marketplace, present installer-specific differentiators in the quotes you receive on EnergySage, and have created an installer-tiering badge system that helps you find the top solar installers in your area.

By doing the legwork for you, EnergySage makes it easy to find reputable solar installation companies in your area. We’ve already vetted all of our installer partners, and keep a close watch over their performance to ensure their installations and customer satisfaction are up to the levels that you–and we–expect. Get started receiving quotes from reputable installers in your area by creating a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace today.

Frequently asked questions about home solar panels

Residential solar panels are one of the best ways to save money in the long term and create a positive environmental impact. Before you go solar, make sure to read through our key points to keep in mind about home solar panels:

How much has the price of residential solar dropped in recent years?

If you’re an optimist looking for feel-good statistics, the cost of solar in the past decade is a great place to start. U.S. solar installation cost has dropped by around 70 percent over the past 10 years. In the last year alone, the residential market saw a five percent decrease in cost. There’s no question that solar energy has evolved from a cleantech commodity to a sensible home upgrade that millions of Americans are considering. Getting solar panels on your roof is one of the smartest decisions you can make in today’s age.
However, if you’re still hesitant about making an upfront investment in solar panels, rest assured that there are warranties that can give you peace of mind and confidence that you’ll see significant savings come your way. Solar panels for home use typically have two major types of warranties: a product warranty and a power warranty. Also known as a  materials warranty, a product warranty covers the integrity of the equipment itself and typically lasts at least 10 years, with top product warranties generally lasting 25 years. A power (also called performance) warranty will usually guarantee 97% production at 1 year and 80% at 25 years, with top power warranties guaranteeing at least 90% production at year 25. 
To learn more about solar panel warranties, check out this article breaking down some of the most important factors to consider.

What is the difference between solar for business and solar panels for home use?

A commercial solar project might power a town or a company’s operations. As a result, they vary dramatically in terms of scale and cost. By comparison, residential solar systems tend to hold a consistent size (between 6 and 12 kilowatts on average). Thanks to their relatively small scale, rooftop solar panels for homes are an attainable energy upgrade that can generate serious electric bill savings for homeowners at any income level. Commercial solar, on the other hand, necessitates a major investment and a collective group of investors.

How much do solar panels cost for a 2,000 square foot house?

The average 2,000 sq. ft house has an estimated electricity need per year of about 9,420 kWh which requires around 29 panels. The total cost of the panels plus installation would be around $16,000 and $18,000. For more information, check out our blog that breaks down how many solar panels you would need for your home. 

Are residential solar panels right for your home?

Whether you’re still doing your research, or you’re ready to contact a provider and schedule installation, choosing to invest in residential solar panels can be a daunting task. But, it’s important to remember that your investment will increase the value of your property and pay dividends in the long run. If you’re considering the pros and cons of solar panels for your home, get the answer to your most asked question—is solar really worth it? And, if you’re ready to go solar, start comparing quotes by signing up for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace.

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45 thoughts on “A guide to solar panels for home

  1. White Fox Marketing Lab

    With the increasing cost of everything…. thanks inflation… it is becoming more apparent that we need to switch to a more sustainable and less expensive form of energy. Our monthly electric bill is well over $400 every month… If we ever get the opportunity to switch to solar power, you bet we will.

  2. SentriForce

    Thank you for sharing such a comprehensive article about solar energy. Even though there are some disadvantages of solar energy, there are such great advantages as the fact that solar energy is a more environmentally friendly source. Additionally, solar energy can be used where it’s not possible to use familiar sources such as electricity.
    There is a good example of this: nowadays people active use solar energy on remote construction sites. Since it can be quite difficult to keep track of the safety of equipment at a remote construction site, safety cameras powered by solar energy help out well.

  3. Stew Fried

    I have been told by several companies that I am only allowed to generate as much power that I have been using
    Who would we contact to change the laws that would allow us to generate as much as possible

  4. David Campbell

    Renewable energy is important because it can help reduce the pollution that contributes to climate change. All over the world people are realizing this and are working to install more renewable energy sources. In some cases, renewables are becoming cheaper than traditional forms of energy, so it’s an important issue economically as well as environmentally.

  5. Cedar Roof Vancouver

    I just read your article on residential solar, and I really enjoyed it. You did a great job of explaining what’s going on from the person who is installing the panels to the person who is buying them. It was really informative, so thank you for writing that post.

  6. propertygeek

    I have learned so much from your article. I encourage you to keep on posting propertygeek has also started talking about this.

  7. Hardy

    Great article!
    Yes, a house can definitely be self-sustainable by running on solar power alone. High-quality solar system packages with a significant number of solar panels can provide enough energy to power up all my lighting, appliances, and other electrical needs.


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