If you’re big on the green movement, which everyone should be in my opinion, then you’ve probably at least thought about installing solar panels. Solar panels can save you both money and energy, and are a great investment in some cases. I say some cases, because after doing my research and looking around, I decided that the payoff time for me would be longer than the useful life of the panels themselves. For that reason, I want to just discuss a few of the reasons that solar power may or may not work for you.
Why Solar Power Can Save You Money
Let’s start with the positives. If you live in a sunny location then there’s a good chance that solar power can save you money. Not only does it have the potential to save you money, but it can actually make you money if you produce more than you use. That’s because electric companies buy the electricity produced from your solar panels when you are not using it. Whether this will work for you depends on how willing your electric provider is to work with you. In areas where solar power is very common, nearly all companies will buy the energy. In other areas, you’ll have to check with your electric provider. Think of solar power as a type of farming. The more panels you put up, the more energy you can create. Also, solar panels can be placed in unique positions like on the top of your roof or far away from your backyard, depending on your preference.
A second reason why solar power can save you money is because of all of the tax breaks and incentives that local, state and federal governments offer. For a while, the federal government was subsidizing the purchase of solar panels. I think the program I’m referring to has ended, but as energy prices rise, there will be more incentives for people to add solar power. Besides the governments, there are many other programs that offer incentives. Sometimes even your electric company will offer a program to help you install them. For example, in areas like California, where they face rolling blackouts, the big energy companies are looking for ways to reduce their load. Solar power is a great way to do that, and offering their customers incentives can be a big bonus for the customer and the company.
The final reason that solar power is so great is because it helps the environment, and makes your home somewhat self-reliant, in case there is an infrastructure disaster. While it is hard to put a price on this, you can gauge in your mind how good it feels to be green and factor that into your decision on whether or not to go solar.
Also, with the recent oversupply in the solar panel market, prices have come down quite a bit. That could make solar power more cost effective for you. Furthermore, many companies are willing to lease you the equipment for 20 or more years. Depending on your down payment, the breakeven point for installing solar equipment could be very short, and it is worth looking into leasing.
Sometimes Solar Power is Just Not Cost Effective
Unfortunately, in my case, solar panels were not a cost effective solution. That’s because I live in Wisconsin. There aren’t many incentives or tax breaks here, and the cost of solar panels is still pretty high. Furthermore, the weather just doesn’t accomodate solar panels very well. I’m sure that will change with future generations of panels, but between the snow blocking the sun, and the large swings in temperatures from minus ten degrees to one hundred, the toll it takes on the panels reduces their lifetime to the point where they just aren’t cost effective. Hopefully, that will change as newer technologies come out.
I recommend that if you’ve thought of saving money with solar power, that you break out a spreadsheet and add up the costs and savings that you might reap. Then, add in the value of being green and make your own decision. If it doesn’t work out today, check back every few years to see how prices have dropped, what incentives are available, and how efficient the newer models are. Eventually, it might pay for everyone to use solar.
What are your thoughts about using solar power?