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Understanding Solar Basics: What You Need to Know

By installing solar panels on your roof, you can rely less on traditional energy sources and generate your own electricity. This means not only cutting down on your environmental footprint, but also reducing or even eliminating your electric bills. 

Solar panels can come with a hefty price tag, but luckily, there are a number of financial incentives in place to help homeowners save money. The most widely available is the federal solar tax credit, which allows you to claim a whopping 30% of the cost of your installation as a credit against the federal taxes you owe. 

Solar Installation U.S. Map

Many states also have their own tax benefits and rebates to incentivize homeowners to go solar, but some are lagging behind. So, how solar-friendly is your state? Below are the top states for solar installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s 2021 Solar Market Insight Report.1

If your state isn’t ranked highly on this map, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in solar. In fact, many of the lower-ranking states, like Arizona, Louisiana and Mississippi, have excellent conditions for solar. But they may not have solar-friendly incentives and policies in place to encourage homeowners to make the switch to clean energy. This means you may be one of the first people in your neighborhood to do so.

Is Solar Right for You?

For many U.S. homeowners, going solar is a great way to help the environment while reducing the amount of money you spend on energy over time. But we’re not going to say solar is the ultimate energy solution for every home — because it isn’t. Here are a few key things to think about when deciding whether solar would work for you:

What direction does your roof face? In the Northern Hemisphere, unshaded homes facing south, southwest or west receive the most direct sunlight. Most solar companies won’t install solar on your roof if they’re not facing a suitable direction or are obstructed by trees or other buildings at peak sunlight hours.

How much is your typical home energy bill? If you’re not spending much on energy to begin with, you may not stand to save tons of money over time. However, if your energy bills are higher than you’d like them to be, solar could be a rewarding investment.

Can you reasonably afford to buy or finance your panels? Because the initial cost of solar panels can be steep, many homeowners take out solar loans to pay for their panels. But if you can’t secure a low interest rate, your monthly payments may significantly cut into your overall ROI, making solar less worth it.

How long are you planning to stay in your home? In most cases, you can’t take your solar panels with you when you move. The good news is that homes with solar sell for about 4% more than homes without.2 However, a typical array will last for a minimum of 25 years, so if you don’t plan on staying in your house for at least half of that time, you may want to hold off on making the investment.

Editorial Contributors

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At a central Illinois feed mill, electricity from its rural electric co-op was exceeding grain costs as its biggest operating expense. With a new 3-megawatt solar array, the facility expects to reduce energy costs by about 50%.

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How to Design Clean Energy Subsidies That Work – Without Wasting Money on Free Riders

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West Virginia Customers Pay the Price for State’s Reliance on Coal

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Solar Costs & Quotes

Get Connected With a Local Installer

To see how much you would pay to install a solar panel system on your roof, you can get a free, no-obligation quote from an EcoWatch-vetted local solar company below. A solar company representative can tell you:

  • How much your system will cost
  • How much power your system will produce
  • How much you’ll save on energy bills

Get More Information About the Solar Process

Want to learn more before speaking with an installer? Check out our solar installation guide, which outlines the steps you’ll need to take to put solar on your roof. We cover:

  • Completing a site survey
  • Permitting and approvals
  • Choosing the right equipment
  • And more