4 Things to Consider Before Installing Solar Panels on Your Home

Plus, how solar energy works, according to experts.

If you want to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, one way to start is by considering changes you can make from home. While everything from recycling to composting food scraps are excellent ways to start, you can also make bigger changes, like investing in solar panels. Implementing solar energy in your home is a greener way to live since it cuts greenhouse gas emissions, which helps preserve the environment. 

Solar panel cells work when sunlight hits them. This creates an electric field across the layers of the cell, which causes the electrons to flow and generate direct current (DC) electricity, says Ben Talplacido, the vice president of brand strategy and marketing at Sunflare.

"An inverter converts the DC electricity produced by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity used in the house, which powers lights, appliances, and other electrical devices," says Talplacido. "If the solar panels produce more electricity than the house needs, the excess can be returned to the grid for credit (Net Metering) or stored in a battery for later use."

home with solar panels

schmidt-z / GETTY IMAGES

Here's what to do before you consider installing solar panels on your home, according to the experts. 

Assess Energy Usage

Experts recommend thinking through how much energy you currently use in your home before investing in solar panels. This will help you understand if solar energy is best for you. "Factors such as the size of their home, the number of occupants, and their energy consumption habits all play a role in determining the ideal size and capacity of the solar panel system they need," says Talplacido. 

Look for Trustworthy Providers

Make sure you do your research and contact the right professionals. With that in mind, never sign a contract you don't understand, says Krystal Persaud, the co-founder of Wildgrid. "Solar sales people tend to earn high commissions and want to close sales deals as quickly as possible, without thinking about the repercussions for the homeowner," she says. Consider a company that will give you a quote and educate you about the pros and cons of solar panels. 

Check Your Roof

While you can get solar panels installed on a garage or in your yard, says Persaud, it is still common to get them added to the roof on a home. Here are some factors to assess with your roof. 


Make sure you know how old your roof is before investing in solar panels, says David Steckel, home expert at Thumbtack. If your roof is more than 10 years old, he recommends doing the math on how much it would cost if you needed to replace solar panels and get a new roof, as asphalt roofs only last between 15 to 20 years. Since solar panels last between 25 and 30 years, you want to make sure that your roof has a similar lifespan, says Talplacido. 


 Figure out the angle of your roof: "Solar panels work best when they face the optimal right direction and have an angle between 15 to 40 degrees," says Talplacido. "It may be less efficient if your roof faces a non-optimal direction or has a flatter or steeper angle." 


Plus, you'll need to check the structural integrity of your roof, says Talplacido. "Traditional solar panels can be heavy, and it's essential to ensure your roof can support the additional weight," he says. "A structural engineer can assess your roof's load-bearing capacity to determine if it suits solar panel installation."

Evaluate Cost

Aside from the cost of the solar panels themselves, you'll need to pay for installation. "Homeowners should consider their budget and weigh the upfront costs against the long-term savings in energy bills to determine if solar panels are a financially viable investment," says Talplacido. "There may also be some state and city incentives to consider when deciding."

The typical upfront cost is $20,000, says Persaud. However, there are financing options, too. "You can finance solar into affordable monthly payments," she says, adding that you usually need to have a credit score above 600. Federal and local incentives and rebates also help make solar panels a more affordable investment. "The federal tax credit means you can deduct 30 percent of the cost of solar off your taxable income," says Persaud. "The average install price is $15,000 to $20,000 (before incentives) which means a $5,000 reduction in taxable income." 

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