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A man pulls a boat through a flooded neighborhood on Aug. 31, 2021 in Barataria, Louisiana. Brandon Bell / Getty Images

As the (still life threatening) remnants of Hurricane Ida continue northeast, survivors of the storm in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana are coming to terms with a different and dangerous reality: extreme heat for weeks on end without power.

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Solar power has been an energy source of growing importance in recent years, as technology has advanced and the cost of solar panels has declined sharply. As a result, many smaller sun-powered products have become available, from solar phone chargers to solar generators to outdoor solar lights.

Whether you're looking for ground lights or flood lights, illuminating your outdoor spaces with a wired system can be both an electrical challenge and an eyesore. Convenience, sleekness and sustainability are just a few reasons so many people are looking for the best outdoor solar lights.

In this article, we'll go over how solar lights work, show you some of the best solar lights available and help you decide whether solar-powered lighting is a good choice for your home.

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Frederic Stevens/ Getty Images News / Getty Images

For nearly as long as solar panels have been gracing rooftops and barren land, creative people have been searching out additional surfaces that can be tiled with energy-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels. The idea has been pretty straightforward: if solar panels generate energy simply by facing the sun, then humans could collectively reduce our reliance on coal, oil, gas and other polluting fuels by maximizing our aggregate solar surface area.

So, what kind of unobstructed surfaces are built in every community and in between every major city across the globe? Highways and streets. With this in mind, the futuristic vision of laying thousands, or even millions, of solar panels on top of the asphalt of interstates and main streets was born.

While the concept art looked like a still from a sci-fi film, many inventors, businesses and investors saw these panels as a golden path toward clean energy and profit. Ultimately, though, the technology and economics ended up letting down those working behind each solar roadway project — from initial concepts in the early 2000s to the first solar roadway actually opened in France in 2016, they all flopped.

In the years since the concept of solar roadways went viral, solar PV has continued to improve in technology and drop in price. So, with a 2021 lens, is it time to re-run the numbers and see if a solar roadway could potentially deliver on that early promise? We dig in to find out.

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Sebastian Rothe / EyeEm / Getty Images

Installing solar panels on your home can dramatically reduce both your dependence on traditional utility companies and your environmental impact. One of the first steps to switching to renewable energy is figuring out where to buy solar panels.

In this article, we'll help you figure out how to buy solar panels, as well as how to find the best solar panels for your home and what other equipment you'll need to complete your solar power system. As you prepare to purchase solar panels, consider a few recommendations about where and how to make a smart investment.

Where Can You Buy Solar Panels?

The first consideration for you to make is where to buy solar panels. Really, this comes down to a question of whether you'll install your home solar system yourself or hire a professional installer.

DIY Solar Panel Installation

Installing your own solar panels can potentially give you the opportunity to save money, and it also gives you greater control over the final configuration of your home solar system. Be aware, however, that there can be significant downsides.

First, this is complex, technical work, requiring careful knowledge of electrical installation and how solar panels work. If you're unskilled or inexperienced working with electricity, solar installation can be difficult and dangerous. Additionally, going with DIY solar panels means you won't reap the benefits of experienced solar designers, who can help you set up the optimal energy-generating, money-saving system.

If you do choose to buy solar panels and install them on your own, you can purchase panels from:

  • Manufacturer websites
  • Hardware stores
  • Amazon.com (where you can buy full solar panel kits)

Choosing an Installer

If you decide to go with professional solar panel installation, you'll need to choose between hiring a local or national company.

A local installer will usually be able to offer you more personalized service, more affordable prices and more intimate knowledge of local solar trends. The flip side is that nationwide installers can often have access to a wider range of solar products, like the most efficient solar panels and the best solar batteries in the industry. This can give you more options to maximize the power output and durability of your system.

There's not really a right or wrong answer here, and in fact, the best approach may be to interview two or three installers that service your area before making your decision.

How to Buy Solar Panels

As for how to buy solar panels, your next steps will once more depend on whether you hire a professional or go the DIY route.

Buying Your Own Solar System

One way to go is to research, design your own home solar system and purchase the parts you'll need.

Part of this is determining how many solar panels will be necessary, which hinges on an array of factors: The amount of electricity your household consumes, the surface area available on your roof, the amount of sun exposure your roof receives and more. Note that, if you have limited roof space and cannot place as many solar panels as you might like, you'll need to ensure that the solar panels you do get are extra-efficient. (We'll get into the different types of solar panels below.)

Also, remember that designing a solar system requires more than just panels. You'll also need to think about other solar equipment, including inverters, chargers, wiring and possibly a battery (which we'll also get into later in this article).

Hiring an Installer

The other option is to hire a solar installer who will buy solar panels on your behalf. Note that, because installers access wholesale prices, they can actually help you save money on your equipment costs, though of course you'll have to pay for the labor.

The general steps in the process are as follows:

  1. Consultation: Meet with a few of your area's top solar companies to compare pricing and solicit opinions about your home's eligibility for solar power.
  2. System design: Once you choose a solar installer, a representative will take a look at your roof and design a solar system that meets your energy goals. This is a crucial step, as solar installation is never one-size-fits-all.
  3. Permitting: Depending on where you live, you may require permits and approvals from your municipality before your solar system can be installed. Your installer can handle all of this on your behalf.
  4. Installation: Once you receive the needed permits, your installer can begin work to assemble your system. This may take anywhere from a day to a full week depending on the complexity of your residential solar needs.
  5. Review and approval: Many municipalities will require you to have your system inspected for safety before it's "switched on."
  6. Using your system: After you get this final approval, you'll be ready to start using your solar panels.
  7. Applying for tax credits: Professional installation companies will often help you identify and apply for any solar tax credits and rebates you may be eligible for through federal and local government programs.

Find a Solar Installer Near You

What Type of Solar Panel Should You Buy?

Before you buy solar panels, it's crucial to know the three basic types of photovoltaic panels that are available to you: monocrystalline, polycrystalline (also known as multicrystalline) and thin-film. The major differentiators of these options have to do with the efficiency and cost of the solar panels:

Type of Solar Panels Advantages Disadvantages
Monocrystalline solar panels Higher efficiency and better performance than either of the other two types Higher upfront cost than the other two types
Polycrystalline solar panels More affordable than monocrystalline Lower efficiency than monocrystalline
Thin-film solar panels Portable and flexible Lowest efficiency of the three types of panels

Other Equipment You'll Need to Buy for Your Solar Panel System

An important note: For homeowners with limited surface area on their roofs, it may be necessary to get the most efficient panels possible. In other words, if you only have space for a small assembly of solar panels, you may need to make them monocrystalline.

If you're doing your own installation, when you buy solar panels, you may also need to purchase the following:

  • Inverter: Converts direct current (DC) solar energy into the alternating current (AC) electricity needed to power your home.
  • Battery: Allows you to store excess energy for future use rather than feeding it back into the electrical grid.
  • Mounting system: Helps you stabilize your solar panels in their proper rooftop position.
  • Wiring: Connects your residential solar system to your electrical panel.
  • Solar charge controller: Helps regulate voltage and prevent batteries from overcharging.

Final Thoughts: Where to Buy Solar Panels

As you consider where to buy solar panels, you'll need to make some crucial decisions about whether to go with professional or DIY installation, as well as the type of solar panels and any other equipment you'll need to buy. Make sure you have a full understanding of your energy needs — and the complexity of the solar installation process — before you make any final decisions about your home's solar power system.

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imaginima / E+ / Getty Images

Interested in making the switch to solar energy, but not sure how solar panels work? Understanding household renewable energy systems can make it easier to find the best solar panels for your home.

Many homeowners are going solar to help lessen dependence on traditional utility companies and slash monthly electric bills. In addition to these cost savings, switching to a home solar system means minimizing your environmental footprint. Between the financial advantages and the improved ecological stewardship, solar energy can seem like a no-brainer.

Let's dive into the science behind solar and how solar panels work to power homes.

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Iaremenko / iStock / Getty Images

If you live in an area that gets consistent, year-round exposure to the sun, then you may be a good candidate to install a residential solar system. Installing solar panels on your roof is by far the most common way to harness the sun's energy, but solar shingles are another option that's becoming increasingly popular.

So how, exactly, do solar shingles work, and how do they compare to traditional solar panels? In this article, we'll explain the answers to these questions and more.

What are Solar Shingles and How Do They Work?

You can think of solar shingles like small solar panels that integrate with your existing roof shingles or a new roof (if you need one). They work the same way standard types of solar panels do, but where solar panels are assembled on top of your roof, solar shingles are used to build a roof.

The most obvious benefit to this type of solar energy system is simple aesthetics; while photovoltaic solar panels tend to be pretty obtrusive, solar shingles allow you to have a completely normal-looking roof.

Like solar panels, solar shingles absorb energy from the sun, some of which may be stored in a solar battery and some of which is converted into useful alternating current. This allows you to power appliances and devices throughout your home with renewable energy.

Note: Those who prefer the appearance of a "tiled" roof to a shingled one may wish to consider solar tiles. These work in roughly the same way that photovoltaic shingles do but integrate with roofing tiles rather than asphalt shingles.

Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

As you consider your options for residential solar power, it's worthwhile to note the pros and cons of both solar shingles and conventional solar panels. Both PV systems can supply your home with energy, but with its own advantages and drawbacks.

Solar Shingles: Pros and Cons

Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether solar shingles are the best choice for your residential solar system:

Solar Shingles Pros Solar Shingles Cons
Solar roof shingles are more aesthetically pleasing Shingles are a newer solar technology, so there aren't as many options readily available
Shingles are typically quicker to install Fewer top solar companies install solar shingles
They can be a more cost-effective if you need a roof replacement anyway Solar panel shingles are much more expensive than regular solar panels
Shingles have a lower conversion efficiency than solar panels
Solar shingles are more difficult to take with you if you move
Shingles are much more dependent on the slope of your roof

Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

Now, consider how standard solar panels compare:

Solar Panels Pros Solar Panels Cons
There are plenty of products to choose from Panels look bulkier and do not have the same elegant aesthetics
There are many solar installers that work with panels You'll need your roof to be in good condition before you can install solar panels
The cost of solar panels is much lower than that of solar shingles The solar panel installation process is usually a little longer than solar shingle installation
Solar panels are more efficient than solar shingles
You can more easily adjust panels to get an optimal position

Generally speaking, solar shingles are a better option if you:

  • Need to replace your roof
  • Care a great deal about the aesthetics of your roof
  • Have a roof that is already well-positioned and sloped to capture sunlight

If you don't fit into any of those categories, you may be better off pursuing solar panels, which are the more time-tested, widely available, energy-efficient and affordable option.

How Much Do Solar Shingles Cost?

As a rule of thumb, you can assume that solar shingles will be more expensive than panels. With that said, the exact cost of solar shingles can vary depending on which company you go with.

According to Solar Magazine, the average solar shingle installation cost runs somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000. But of course, there are some outliers. High-end solar shingles from a company like Tesla may cost as much as $70,000 or more for full roof installation.

Before installing, it's best to shop around and compare rates from at least two or three different solar shingle companies, ensuring you get the best value.

Also, keep in mind that the solar tax credits, rebates and other incentives for homeowners who buy solar panels are also available for those that opt for solar shingles. The current federal incentive program will give you 26% of the cost of your system back as a tax credit.

Installing Solar Shingles: How Many Do You Need?

Installation of solar roofing shingles may take up to a week; old shingles will need to be removed from the home, new shingles put into place, and the entire solar system connected through your inverter and solar battery.

Before the installation process begins, an installer will join you at your home to help you assess how many solar shingles you'll need. There are a couple of factors that will determine how many shingles you need: The size of the shingles you select, the square footage of your home and the amount of energy you need to generate.

One thing to keep in mind is that most homeowners do not need to cover their entire roof with solar shingles; you can intermingle them with traditional roof shingles to cut costs while still generating plenty of solar power.

Where to Buy Solar Shingles

Solar shingles are still relatively new, which means there aren't a lot of companies offering them. Some of the heavy hitters in the solar shingle industry include:

Tesla

Though the Tesla Solar Roof system is one of the most expensive options on the market, many homeowners find it totally worth the cost. Indeed, Elon Musk's high-efficiency solar shingles may actually be more cost-effective than traditional solar systems, at least in the long run. And while they only come in one style, their sleek aesthetics will be appealing to anyone who prefers a more contemporary look.

SunTegra

A bit less expensive than Tesla's system, SunTegra shingles are notable for their low-profile appearance, ease of installation and high level of efficiency.

CertainTeed

CertainTeed was one of the companies that pioneered solar shingles, and its products are still top-notch. They have a number of options to choose from, including solar shingles as well as solar roof tiles.

Luma

Luma's shingles are efficient and aesthetically pleasing and fall somewhere in the middle of the pack with regard to price.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Shingles

If you're thinking about switching to solar shingles, here are some other questions you may have:

How long do solar shingles last?

While it depends on the product, most solar shingles will last somewhere between 25 and 30 years.

Can you walk on solar shingles?

While most solar shingles are made to be fairly durable, and can probably accommodate you walking on them, you probably don't want to walk on your roof any more than is necessary.

Can you go off-grid with a Tesla Solar Roof?

Yes, if you want to completely break away from dependence on traditional utilities, Tesla roofs can offer you an off-grid option.

Are solar shingles worth it?

Given the high cost of solar shingle installation, they are unlikely to ever "pay for themselves." However, they can reduce your monthly electric bills considerably; factor in tax incentives and increases to your property values, and shingles can certainly be a reasonable investment.

Whether solar shingles are worth it for you will likely depend on how much it would cost for you to install a standard solar panel array. To get a free quote for your home system, you can fill out the form below.

PavloBaliukh / iStock / Getty Images

Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.

Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.

Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.

What Is Net Metering?

Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.

For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.

If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.

How Net Metering Works

There are two general ways net metering programs work:

  1. The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
  2. The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.

In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.

How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?

Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:

  • You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
  • If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
  • Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.

With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.

You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.

Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.

Is Net Metering Available Near You?

Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.

In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.

If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:

  • Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
  • Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.

Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.

Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar

Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:

  • The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
  • State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
  • Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.

In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.

Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering

Why is net metering bad?

When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.

In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.

How does net metering work?

With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.

Can you make money net metering?

You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.

On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.

The new battery will be double the size of the South Australian one that had been the largest in the world when it was built in 2017 (pictured). Tesla

The Australian state of Victoria will build the largest battery in the Southern Hemisphere to assist in its planned transition to renewable energy.

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A pair of fish swim near the ocean floor off the coast of Mauritius. A motion calling for an end to deep sea mining of minerals was adopted at the world congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature this week. Roman Furrer / Flickr

By Julia Conley

A vote overwhelmingly in favor of placing a moratorium on deep-sea mineral mining at a global biodiversity summit this week has put urgent pressure on the International Seabed Authority to strictly regulate the practice.

The vast majority of governments, NGOs, and civil society groups voted in favor of the moratorium at the world congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Wednesday, after several conservation groups lobbied in favor of the measure.

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KangeStudio / iStock / Getty Images

One of the biggest obstacles to going solar is the initial cost of solar panels. However, incentives like the federal solar tax credit can take thousands of dollars off your initial investment.

Homeowners who wish to install a residential solar system may have sticker shock when they find out what they'll need to spend in order to get the right equipment. In this article, we'll break down the federal solar tax credit, also called the investment tax credit (ITC), and help you understand whether you qualify for the credit and how much you can get back.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on for and is not intended to provide accounting, legal or tax advice.

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Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.

It likely comes as no surprise that the world's best-selling electric vehicle manufacturer is also one of the top solar companies in the U.S. Tesla solar products like the Solar Roof and Powerwall have made a name for themselves in the renewable energy industry, and in this article, we'll dive into whether they're really worth the hype.

Read on to learn more about Tesla solar panels, the Tesla Solar Roof system and the Tesla Powerwall solar battery.

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sl-f / iStock / Getty Images

Before installing a residential solar system, you may stop to wonder: Do solar panels increase home value? It turns out, the answer is a resounding yes.

In this article, we'll go over how much solar panels can increase the value of your home, as well as how that increased value affects property taxes and whether buyers are really looking for homes with solar energy systems. With this knowledge, you can make an informed decision about whether solar panels are a good investment for your home.

How Much Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?

Many homeowners, buyers, and appraisers know that the installation of solar panels and solar batteries can increase a property's market value. In fact, one study confirmed that solar installations increase a home's resale value by up to $5,911 for each kilowatt of solar panels installed, and another estimated an increase of 4.1% of the home's value.

Where do these figures come from, exactly? To begin with, consider a Zillow study, which notes that homes with solar installations tend to sell for about 4.1% more than homes without. Of course, this is an average. Some locations show a higher value-add (5.4% for New York City), and some show lower (2.7% for Riverside, California). An older study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reveals an increase in resale value of approximately $5,911 for each kilowatt of solar power that's installed.

So, how much do solar panels increase home value? Let's take a look at some averages:

Home Solar System Size Amount Solar Panels
Increase Home Value*
4 kW $23,644
6 kW $35,466
8 kW $47,288
10 kW $59,110

*Figures based on study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

It's worth noting that these amounts are roughly in line with the total cost of a solar panel system, which may be just the incentive you need to finally take the plunge into solar power.

Factors That Influence the Value-Add of Solar Panels

While these simple calculations can give you a ballpark, there are a number of factors that influence the value-add of solar panels. Some of the most prominent include:

  • Geographic location: Different communities experience different electrical costs (and higher electrical costs result in greater value from your solar panels). Additionally, geography can influence the amount of sun exposure you get, as well as the social benefits of installing solar power.
  • Local solar installation prices: Another geographic factor is the cost of getting a new system in your area. If a buyer would save money by purchasing a home with a system already installed, it will make your home that much more valuable.
  • System output: As you can see from the chart above, a larger system with more energy generation will provide more added value.
  • System age: If you have an older solar system, you'll need to account for depreciation. Older systems won't add that much value to your home when you sell it, as there's a higher chance the buyer will need to do repairs or replace parts sooner.
  • System replacement value: Along the same lines as system age, how expensive or difficult parts of your system would be to replace affects the added value of the system overall.

Are Buyers Looking for Homes with Solar Panels?

Another question to consider when figuring how much solar panels would increase your home value is just how enticing a solar system is to buyers in your community. This is something that will vary by geography, and specifically by local solar literacy. Simply put, buyers won't be as willing to invest in a solar system if they don't really understand how solar panels work or how they can benefit from them.

With that said, there's some data that shows homeowners to be pretty open to energy efficiency features, for the most part. For example, more than 80% of homebuyers say that energy efficiency is a priority, according to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report.

Some earlier data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that homes with solar panels sell 20% faster and for 17% more than those without. (Granted, this information is about 15 years old; there's now greater supply and greater demand for homes with solar panels, but these data points should be promising nonetheless.)

How Do Solar Panels Affect Property Taxes?

Of course, when your property values go up, that usually means that your property taxes increase as well. The good news is that many states offer exemptions, meaning that when you install a solar system, your property taxes do not go up, even if your property value rises.

Here's a rundown of property tax exemptions by state:

Solar Property Tax Exemption States*
100% exempt Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida,
Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota,
Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island,
Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin
Local exemptions Alaska, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia
100% exempt for 20 years Massachusetts
100% exempt for 10 years Montana
100% exempt for 5 years Iowa, New York, North Dakota
100% exempt until 2025 California
80% exempt North Carolina
System-based exemption Illinois, Nebraska, Tennessee
Tax exemption of $50,000 or 70%
of total property value
South Dakota
No exemption Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky,
Maine, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania,
South Carolina, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming

*Accurate as of date of publication.

Do Solar Panels Make Sense for Your Home?

As you weigh the pros and cons of solar energy, it makes sense to consider the overall impact on your property value. You'll also want to take into account factors including:

  • How much you spend on utility bills each month: If you live in an area that has high average electricity rates, you'll get a better return on your solar energy investment.
  • How much sunlight your home gets throughout the year: Some homes are better positioned for solar panel installation than others. If your home is situated at an optimal angle for harnessing the sun's energy, it makes more sense to go solar.
  • Financial incentives available to you: All American homeowners are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, but many states and municipalities have added rebates, low-interest loans and other financial incentives for their own residents as well.

For many homeowners, the question of whether to buy solar panels comes down to cost. If you want to see how much solar panel installation would cost for your home, you can get a free, no-obligation quote from a top solar company in your area by filling out the form below.

FAQ: Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?

Do solar panels hurt the resale value of your home?

Generally speaking, the opposite is true; installing a home solar array actually increases the resale value of a home, particularly if you have a high-efficiency system that helps lower monthly energy bills.

Solar literacy in your local community is an important factor here, but for most homeowners, the answer to this question will be a resounding no. Multiple studies have shown that buyers are looking for more energy-efficient homes to reduce their carbon footprints and help save on electricity bills.

Do bigger solar installations present a better value-add than smaller systems?

Bigger solar installations may present a better value-add than smaller systems. However, in many cases, it's not the number of panels that matters so much as the power output. A smaller system, assembled with the most efficient solar panels can be just as impactful as a larger, lower-efficiency system.

The aesthetics of the system may also be a factor, with many buyers actually preferring smaller, less conspicuous systems.

How much value does solar add to the home?

A few studies have shown that solar installations increase a home's resale value by up to $6,000 for each kilowatt of solar panels installed, or by about 4.1% of the home's value. However, this can vary quite a bit from one geographic location to the next, even for comparable homes with similar solar panel systems.

Do you really save money with solar panels?

While the initial investment may be steep, solar panels can definitely help to significantly reduce or even eliminate your monthly electric bills. These ongoing energy savings are a nice addition to the elevation in property values.

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Solar energy is growing in popularity — especially amongst homeowners who are looking to reduce their carbon footprints, lower their electric bills and move away from being dependent on traditional forms of energy. Nicknamed the "Sunshine State," it's no surprise Florida has been a top state for solar installation in the U.S.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the state of Florida has the fourth-highest solar installation rate in the country, lagging just behind North Carolina, Texas and California. The state's total solar investment clocks in at $9.6 billion — and that number is only expected to grow.

Of course, even in one of the sunniest states in America, solar energy is more popular in certain geographic areas than others, which may leave you wondering: What are the top cities for solar in Florida?

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A man pulls a boat through a flooded neighborhood on Aug. 31, 2021 in Barataria, Louisiana. Brandon Bell / Getty Images

As the (still life threatening) remnants of Hurricane Ida continue northeast, survivors of the storm in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana are coming to terms with a different and dangerous reality: extreme heat for weeks on end without power.

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Solar power has been an energy source of growing importance in recent years, as technology has advanced and the cost of solar panels has declined sharply. As a result, many smaller sun-powered products have become available, from solar phone chargers to solar generators to outdoor solar lights.

Whether you're looking for ground lights or flood lights, illuminating your outdoor spaces with a wired system can be both an electrical challenge and an eyesore. Convenience, sleekness and sustainability are just a few reasons so many people are looking for the best outdoor solar lights.

In this article, we'll go over how solar lights work, show you some of the best solar lights available and help you decide whether solar-powered lighting is a good choice for your home.

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For nearly as long as solar panels have been gracing rooftops and barren land, creative people have been searching out additional surfaces that can be tiled with energy-generating photovoltaic (PV) panels. The idea has been pretty straightforward: if solar panels generate energy simply by facing the sun, then humans could collectively reduce our reliance on coal, oil, gas and other polluting fuels by maximizing our aggregate solar surface area.

So, what kind of unobstructed surfaces are built in every community and in between every major city across the globe? Highways and streets. With this in mind, the futuristic vision of laying thousands, or even millions, of solar panels on top of the asphalt of interstates and main streets was born.

While the concept art looked like a still from a sci-fi film, many inventors, businesses and investors saw these panels as a golden path toward clean energy and profit. Ultimately, though, the technology and economics ended up letting down those working behind each solar roadway project — from initial concepts in the early 2000s to the first solar roadway actually opened in France in 2016, they all flopped.

In the years since the concept of solar roadways went viral, solar PV has continued to improve in technology and drop in price. So, with a 2021 lens, is it time to re-run the numbers and see if a solar roadway could potentially deliver on that early promise? We dig in to find out.

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Installing solar panels on your home can dramatically reduce both your dependence on traditional utility companies and your environmental impact. One of the first steps to switching to renewable energy is figuring out where to buy solar panels.

In this article, we'll help you figure out how to buy solar panels, as well as how to find the best solar panels for your home and what other equipment you'll need to complete your solar power system. As you prepare to purchase solar panels, consider a few recommendations about where and how to make a smart investment.

Where Can You Buy Solar Panels?

The first consideration for you to make is where to buy solar panels. Really, this comes down to a question of whether you'll install your home solar system yourself or hire a professional installer.

DIY Solar Panel Installation

Installing your own solar panels can potentially give you the opportunity to save money, and it also gives you greater control over the final configuration of your home solar system. Be aware, however, that there can be significant downsides.

First, this is complex, technical work, requiring careful knowledge of electrical installation and how solar panels work. If you're unskilled or inexperienced working with electricity, solar installation can be difficult and dangerous. Additionally, going with DIY solar panels means you won't reap the benefits of experienced solar designers, who can help you set up the optimal energy-generating, money-saving system.

If you do choose to buy solar panels and install them on your own, you can purchase panels from:

  • Manufacturer websites
  • Hardware stores
  • Amazon.com (where you can buy full solar panel kits)

Choosing an Installer

If you decide to go with professional solar panel installation, you'll need to choose between hiring a local or national company.

A local installer will usually be able to offer you more personalized service, more affordable prices and more intimate knowledge of local solar trends. The flip side is that nationwide installers can often have access to a wider range of solar products, like the most efficient solar panels and the best solar batteries in the industry. This can give you more options to maximize the power output and durability of your system.

There's not really a right or wrong answer here, and in fact, the best approach may be to interview two or three installers that service your area before making your decision.

How to Buy Solar Panels

As for how to buy solar panels, your next steps will once more depend on whether you hire a professional or go the DIY route.

Buying Your Own Solar System

One way to go is to research, design your own home solar system and purchase the parts you'll need.

Part of this is determining how many solar panels will be necessary, which hinges on an array of factors: The amount of electricity your household consumes, the surface area available on your roof, the amount of sun exposure your roof receives and more. Note that, if you have limited roof space and cannot place as many solar panels as you might like, you'll need to ensure that the solar panels you do get are extra-efficient. (We'll get into the different types of solar panels below.)

Also, remember that designing a solar system requires more than just panels. You'll also need to think about other solar equipment, including inverters, chargers, wiring and possibly a battery (which we'll also get into later in this article).

Hiring an Installer

The other option is to hire a solar installer who will buy solar panels on your behalf. Note that, because installers access wholesale prices, they can actually help you save money on your equipment costs, though of course you'll have to pay for the labor.

The general steps in the process are as follows:

  1. Consultation: Meet with a few of your area's top solar companies to compare pricing and solicit opinions about your home's eligibility for solar power.
  2. System design: Once you choose a solar installer, a representative will take a look at your roof and design a solar system that meets your energy goals. This is a crucial step, as solar installation is never one-size-fits-all.
  3. Permitting: Depending on where you live, you may require permits and approvals from your municipality before your solar system can be installed. Your installer can handle all of this on your behalf.
  4. Installation: Once you receive the needed permits, your installer can begin work to assemble your system. This may take anywhere from a day to a full week depending on the complexity of your residential solar needs.
  5. Review and approval: Many municipalities will require you to have your system inspected for safety before it's "switched on."
  6. Using your system: After you get this final approval, you'll be ready to start using your solar panels.
  7. Applying for tax credits: Professional installation companies will often help you identify and apply for any solar tax credits and rebates you may be eligible for through federal and local government programs.

Find a Solar Installer Near You

What Type of Solar Panel Should You Buy?

Before you buy solar panels, it's crucial to know the three basic types of photovoltaic panels that are available to you: monocrystalline, polycrystalline (also known as multicrystalline) and thin-film. The major differentiators of these options have to do with the efficiency and cost of the solar panels:

Type of Solar Panels Advantages Disadvantages
Monocrystalline solar panels Higher efficiency and better performance than either of the other two types Higher upfront cost than the other two types
Polycrystalline solar panels More affordable than monocrystalline Lower efficiency than monocrystalline
Thin-film solar panels Portable and flexible Lowest efficiency of the three types of panels

Other Equipment You'll Need to Buy for Your Solar Panel System

An important note: For homeowners with limited surface area on their roofs, it may be necessary to get the most efficient panels possible. In other words, if you only have space for a small assembly of solar panels, you may need to make them monocrystalline.

If you're doing your own installation, when you buy solar panels, you may also need to purchase the following:

  • Inverter: Converts direct current (DC) solar energy into the alternating current (AC) electricity needed to power your home.
  • Battery: Allows you to store excess energy for future use rather than feeding it back into the electrical grid.
  • Mounting system: Helps you stabilize your solar panels in their proper rooftop position.
  • Wiring: Connects your residential solar system to your electrical panel.
  • Solar charge controller: Helps regulate voltage and prevent batteries from overcharging.

Final Thoughts: Where to Buy Solar Panels

As you consider where to buy solar panels, you'll need to make some crucial decisions about whether to go with professional or DIY installation, as well as the type of solar panels and any other equipment you'll need to buy. Make sure you have a full understanding of your energy needs — and the complexity of the solar installation process — before you make any final decisions about your home's solar power system.

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Interested in making the switch to solar energy, but not sure how solar panels work? Understanding household renewable energy systems can make it easier to find the best solar panels for your home.

Many homeowners are going solar to help lessen dependence on traditional utility companies and slash monthly electric bills. In addition to these cost savings, switching to a home solar system means minimizing your environmental footprint. Between the financial advantages and the improved ecological stewardship, solar energy can seem like a no-brainer.

Let's dive into the science behind solar and how solar panels work to power homes.

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If you live in an area that gets consistent, year-round exposure to the sun, then you may be a good candidate to install a residential solar system. Installing solar panels on your roof is by far the most common way to harness the sun's energy, but solar shingles are another option that's becoming increasingly popular.

So how, exactly, do solar shingles work, and how do they compare to traditional solar panels? In this article, we'll explain the answers to these questions and more.

What are Solar Shingles and How Do They Work?

You can think of solar shingles like small solar panels that integrate with your existing roof shingles or a new roof (if you need one). They work the same way standard types of solar panels do, but where solar panels are assembled on top of your roof, solar shingles are used to build a roof.

The most obvious benefit to this type of solar energy system is simple aesthetics; while photovoltaic solar panels tend to be pretty obtrusive, solar shingles allow you to have a completely normal-looking roof.

Like solar panels, solar shingles absorb energy from the sun, some of which may be stored in a solar battery and some of which is converted into useful alternating current. This allows you to power appliances and devices throughout your home with renewable energy.

Note: Those who prefer the appearance of a "tiled" roof to a shingled one may wish to consider solar tiles. These work in roughly the same way that photovoltaic shingles do but integrate with roofing tiles rather than asphalt shingles.

Solar Shingles vs. Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

As you consider your options for residential solar power, it's worthwhile to note the pros and cons of both solar shingles and conventional solar panels. Both PV systems can supply your home with energy, but with its own advantages and drawbacks.

Solar Shingles: Pros and Cons

Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether solar shingles are the best choice for your residential solar system:

Solar Shingles Pros Solar Shingles Cons
Solar roof shingles are more aesthetically pleasing Shingles are a newer solar technology, so there aren't as many options readily available
Shingles are typically quicker to install Fewer top solar companies install solar shingles
They can be a more cost-effective if you need a roof replacement anyway Solar panel shingles are much more expensive than regular solar panels
Shingles have a lower conversion efficiency than solar panels
Solar shingles are more difficult to take with you if you move
Shingles are much more dependent on the slope of your roof

Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

Now, consider how standard solar panels compare:

Solar Panels Pros Solar Panels Cons
There are plenty of products to choose from Panels look bulkier and do not have the same elegant aesthetics
There are many solar installers that work with panels You'll need your roof to be in good condition before you can install solar panels
The cost of solar panels is much lower than that of solar shingles The solar panel installation process is usually a little longer than solar shingle installation
Solar panels are more efficient than solar shingles
You can more easily adjust panels to get an optimal position

Generally speaking, solar shingles are a better option if you:

  • Need to replace your roof
  • Care a great deal about the aesthetics of your roof
  • Have a roof that is already well-positioned and sloped to capture sunlight

If you don't fit into any of those categories, you may be better off pursuing solar panels, which are the more time-tested, widely available, energy-efficient and affordable option.

How Much Do Solar Shingles Cost?

As a rule of thumb, you can assume that solar shingles will be more expensive than panels. With that said, the exact cost of solar shingles can vary depending on which company you go with.

According to Solar Magazine, the average solar shingle installation cost runs somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000. But of course, there are some outliers. High-end solar shingles from a company like Tesla may cost as much as $70,000 or more for full roof installation.

Before installing, it's best to shop around and compare rates from at least two or three different solar shingle companies, ensuring you get the best value.

Also, keep in mind that the solar tax credits, rebates and other incentives for homeowners who buy solar panels are also available for those that opt for solar shingles. The current federal incentive program will give you 26% of the cost of your system back as a tax credit.

Installing Solar Shingles: How Many Do You Need?

Installation of solar roofing shingles may take up to a week; old shingles will need to be removed from the home, new shingles put into place, and the entire solar system connected through your inverter and solar battery.

Before the installation process begins, an installer will join you at your home to help you assess how many solar shingles you'll need. There are a couple of factors that will determine how many shingles you need: The size of the shingles you select, the square footage of your home and the amount of energy you need to generate.

One thing to keep in mind is that most homeowners do not need to cover their entire roof with solar shingles; you can intermingle them with traditional roof shingles to cut costs while still generating plenty of solar power.

Where to Buy Solar Shingles

Solar shingles are still relatively new, which means there aren't a lot of companies offering them. Some of the heavy hitters in the solar shingle industry include:

Tesla

Though the Tesla Solar Roof system is one of the most expensive options on the market, many homeowners find it totally worth the cost. Indeed, Elon Musk's high-efficiency solar shingles may actually be more cost-effective than traditional solar systems, at least in the long run. And while they only come in one style, their sleek aesthetics will be appealing to anyone who prefers a more contemporary look.

SunTegra

A bit less expensive than Tesla's system, SunTegra shingles are notable for their low-profile appearance, ease of installation and high level of efficiency.

CertainTeed

CertainTeed was one of the companies that pioneered solar shingles, and its products are still top-notch. They have a number of options to choose from, including solar shingles as well as solar roof tiles.

Luma

Luma's shingles are efficient and aesthetically pleasing and fall somewhere in the middle of the pack with regard to price.

Frequently Asked Questions About Solar Shingles

If you're thinking about switching to solar shingles, here are some other questions you may have:

How long do solar shingles last?

While it depends on the product, most solar shingles will last somewhere between 25 and 30 years.

Can you walk on solar shingles?

While most solar shingles are made to be fairly durable, and can probably accommodate you walking on them, you probably don't want to walk on your roof any more than is necessary.

Can you go off-grid with a Tesla Solar Roof?

Yes, if you want to completely break away from dependence on traditional utilities, Tesla roofs can offer you an off-grid option.

Are solar shingles worth it?

Given the high cost of solar shingle installation, they are unlikely to ever "pay for themselves." However, they can reduce your monthly electric bills considerably; factor in tax incentives and increases to your property values, and shingles can certainly be a reasonable investment.

Whether solar shingles are worth it for you will likely depend on how much it would cost for you to install a standard solar panel array. To get a free quote for your home system, you can fill out the form below.

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Through net metering programs, homeowners who have installed solar energy systems can get utility credits for any electricity their panels generate during the day that isn't used to power home systems. These credits can be "cashed in" to offset the cost of any grid electricity used at night.

Where net metering is available, solar panels have a shorter payback period and yield a higher return on investment. Without this benefit, you only save on power bills when using solar energy directly, and surplus generation is lost unless you store it in a solar battery. However, net metering gives you the option of selling any excess electricity that is not consumed within your home.

Generally, you will see more home solar systems in places with favorable net metering laws. With this benefit, going solar becomes an attractive investment even for properties with minimal daytime consumption. Homeowners can turn their roofs into miniature power plants during the day, and that generation is subtracted from their nighttime consumption.

What Is Net Metering?

Net metering is a billing arrangement in which surplus energy production from solar panels is tracked by your electricity provider and subtracted from your monthly utility bill. When your solar power system produces more kilowatt-hours of electricity than your home is consuming, the excess generation is fed back into the grid.

For homeowners with solar panels, the benefits of net metering include higher monthly savings and a shorter payback period. Utility companies also benefit, since the excess solar electricity can be supplied to other buildings on the same electric grid.

If a power grid relies on fossil fuels, net metering also increases the environmental benefits of solar power. Even if a building does not have an adequate area for rooftop solar panels, it can reduce its emissions by using the surplus clean energy from other properties.

How Net Metering Works

There are two general ways net metering programs work:

  1. The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your utility company, and a credit is posted to your account that can be applied to future power bills.
  2. The surplus energy produced by your solar panels is measured by your home's electricity meter. Modern power meters can measure electricity flow in both directions, so they tick up when you pull from the grid at night and count down when your solar panels are producing an excess amount of electricity.

In either scenario, at the end of the billing period, you will only pay for your net consumption — the difference between total consumption and generation. This is where the term "net metering" comes from.

How Does Net Metering Affect Your Utility Bill?

Net metering makes solar power systems more valuable for homeowners, as you can "sell" any extra energy production to your utility company. However, it's important to understand how charges and credits are managed:

  • You can earn credits for your surplus electricity, but utility companies will not cut you a check for the power you provide. Instead, they will subtract the credits from your power bills.
  • If your net metering credit during the billing period is higher than your consumption, the difference is rolled over to the next month.
  • Some power companies will roll over your credit indefinitely, but many have a yearly expiration date that resets your credit balance.

With all of this in mind, it is possible to reduce your annual electricity cost to zero. You can accumulate credit with surplus generation during the sunny summer months, and use it during winter when solar generation decreases.

You will achieve the best results when your solar power system has just the right capacity to cover your annual home consumption. Oversizing your solar array is not recommended, as you will simply accumulate a large unused credit each year. In other words, you cannot overproduce and charge your power company each month.

Some power companies will let you pick the expiration date of your annual net metering credits. If you have this option, it's wise to set the date after winter has ended. This way, you can use all the renewable energy credits you accumulated during the summer.

Is Net Metering Available Near You?

Net metering offers a valuable incentive for homeowners to switch to solar power, but these types of programs are not available everywhere. Net metering laws can change depending on where you live.

In the U.S., there are mandatory net metering laws in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Most states without a mandate have power companies that voluntarily offer the benefit in their service areas. South Dakota and Tennessee are the only two states with no version of net metering or similar programs.

If net metering is available in your area, you will be credited for your surplus energy in one of two ways:

  • Net metering at retail price: You get full credit for each kilowatt-hour sent to the grid. For example, if you're charged 16 cents per kWh consumed, you'll get a credit of 16 cents per kWh exported. This type of net metering is required by law in 29 states.
  • Net metering at a reduced feed-in tariff: Surplus electricity sent to the grid is credited at a lower rate. For example, you may be charged 16 cents per kWh for consumption but paid 10 cents per kWh exported. Feed-in tariffs and other alternative programs are used in 17 of the states where retail-rate net metering is not mandatory.

Note: This is just a simplified example — the exact kWh retail price and solar feed-in tariff will depend on your electricity plan.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about net metering and other solar power incentives in your state. You can also look for information about solar incentives by visiting the official websites of your state government and utility company.

Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar

Net metering policies are one of the most effective incentives for solar power. However, there are other financial incentives that can be combined with net metering to improve your ROI:

  • The federal solar tax credit lets you claim 26% of your solar installation costs as a tax deduction. For example, if your solar installation had a cost of $10,000, you can claim $2,600 on your next tax declaration. This benefit is available everywhere in the U.S.
  • State tax credits may also be available depending on where you live, and they can be claimed in addition to the federal incentive.
  • Solar rebates are offered by some state governments and utility companies. These are upfront cash incentives subtracted directly from the cost of your solar PV system.

In addition to seeking out solar incentives available to you, you should compare quotes from multiple installers before signing a solar contract. This will ensure you're getting the best deal available and help you avoid overpriced offers and underpriced, low-quality installations. You can start getting quotes from top solar companies near you by filling out the 30-second form below.

Frequently Asked Questions: Solar Net Metering

Why is net metering bad?

When managed correctly, net metering is beneficial for electricity consumers and power companies. There have been cases in which power grids lack the capacity to handle large amounts of power coming from homes and businesses. However, this is an infrastructure issue, not a negative aspect of net metering itself.

In places with a high percentage of homes and businesses using solar panels, surplus generation on sunny days can saturate the grid. This can be managed by modernizing the grid to handle distributed solar power more effectively with load management and energy storage systems.

How does net metering work?

With net metering, any electricity your solar panels produce that isn't used to power your home is fed into your local power grid. Your utility company will pay you for this power production through credits that can be applied to your monthly energy bills.

Can you make money net metering?

You can reduce your power bills with net metering, using surplus solar generation to compensate for your consumption when you can't generate solar power at night and on cloudy days. However, most power companies will not pay you for surplus production once your power bill has dropped to $0. Normally, that credit will be rolled over, to be used in months where your solar panels are less productive.

On very rare occasions, you may be paid for the accumulated balance over a year. However, this benefit is offered by very few electric companies and is subject to limitations.