residential solar panels

Expert guide to solar panels for homes

Over the past decade, home rooftop solar use has exploded around the country as Over the past decade, rooftop solar use has exploded around the country as a very popular investment strategy. 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 are becoming more and more popular. 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 eight to nine 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.

Are solar panels worth it?

In general, yes, solar panels are worth it. Solar panels are usually most worth it if:

  • You own your property. Renters or business owners who do not own their property should speak to the property owner prior to making any plans to install a solar system.
  • You pay a high price for electricity. The higher price your utility company is charging for your monthly electricity bill, the faster your solar system will save you money. These days, solar shoppers “break even” on their solar investment in seven to eight years.
  • You get a good price for solar. In 2022, an average 10 kilowatt (kW) solar panel system costs about $20,000 on the EnergySage Marketplace. Prices on EnergySage are usually lower than market prices, so you know you’re getting a good deal.

If you fit these criteria, solar panels are probably worth it! What’s more, even homes and businesses that don’t meet these points perfectly can benefit from solar with the right installation (or community solar subscription).

Do you live in a favorable area for solar? 

The cost of your solar energy system largely depends on the incentives available in your state. Here are some of the most favorable states for solar:

New york

Rhode Island




How do solar panels work for your home?

For most homes, solar panels are installed on your roof, generating electricity from the sun and helping you reduce your monthly spending on electricity. Solar panels work by converting light energy to usable electricity (this is known as the photovoltaic (PV) effect, and happens at individual solar cells in your panels). This energy production can then be used 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 to 24 solar panels to account for electricity use. In order to calculate how many panels you will need, find the system size, then divide by the production ratio, and again by the panel wattage. There are many different factors that impact how many solar panels you’ll need, 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 – 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.

Are solar panels a good investment?

Solar panels are a good investment – in fact, solar energy systems typically provide an even higher return on investment (ROI) than many common types of investments like the S&P 500. Once you’ve paid off your solar system, you’ll be generating free, renewable energy right at home, protecting yourself from rising electricity rates by significantly lowering your utility bills. Ultimately, your solar payback period will depend on the amount of energy you use, the solar production from your system, and how much your local utility charges for electricity.  

To keep your solar investment as low-risk as possible, make sure to choose high quality modules with robust warranties. Remember: your solar panels will likely last 25-30 years and, according to a 2019 study by Zillow, could even increase the value of your home by about four percent.

What are solar inverters?

As part of your home solar PV system, you’ll also need inverters. Inverters work by converting the direct current (DC) electricity generated by your solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity, which the appliances in your home use. There are a few different types of inverters, including microinverters, inverters + power optimizers, and string inverters. Learn more about these different types and the best solar inverters available.

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 energy potential

There are a few things to consider when scoping out your home for rooftop solar. First, you’ll want to understand 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. Whether you live in California, Texas, New York, or anywhere in between, solar can work for you!

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 24 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, this number 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 is that 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. And remember – solar rebates and solar incentives are available at both the federal and state levels to lower your cost of going solar. At the very least, you’ll be able to take advantage of the investment tax credit for solar, which lowers the price of going solar by 30%.

6. Pick a quote and install

Once you’ve 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.

What are the pros and cons of home solar panels?

At a high level, solar panels for your home provide several benefits: lowering energy 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 battery 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 providing battery backup 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 backup power 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?

Solar prices have increased slightly in recent years, primarily due to pandemic-related supply chain constraints and an increased emphasis on domestic manufacturing. However, overall, U.S. solar panel installation cost has dropped by around 70 percent over the past 10 years. There’s no question that solar energy has evolved from a clean tech 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.

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 solar 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.

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 one and three days.

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 from solar companies by signing up for a free account on the EnergySage Marketplace.

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47 thoughts on “Expert guide to solar panels for homes

  1. KoryK

    I’m glad I had solar panels installed. I’m enjoying the extremely low electric bills. I regret not having batteries installed, though. It might be something I’m looking to have done in the future.




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