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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 26% of the cost of your installation as a credit against the federal taxes you owe.
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.
Karsten Neumeister, EcoWatch Solar Writer
Karsten is a solar energy specialist passionate about sustainable development. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology.
Kristina Zagame, EcoWatch Solar Writer
Kristina is a writer with expertise in solar and other energy-related topics. Before joining EcoWatch, Kristina was a TV news reporter and producer, covering topics including West Coast wildfires and hurricane relief efforts.
Dan Simms, EcoWatch Solar Writer
Dan is an experienced writer and a solar and EV advocate. Much of his work has focused on the potential of solar power and deregulated energy, but he also writes on related topics like real estate and economics.
Roger Horowitz, EcoWatch Solar Adviser
Roger empowers communities to adopt solar as the director of Go Solar programs at Solar United Neighbors. SUN, a nonprofit, fights for energy rights and builds solar co-ops to make it easier for homeowners to make the switch.
James Lawler, EcoWatch Solar Adviser
James is the founder of Climate Now, an expert-driven resource for decision-makers seeking to better understand the science, technologies, and economic and policy opportunities to achieve net-zero emissions globally by 2050.
Syd Kitson, EcoWatch Solar Adviser
Syd, a former NFL offensive guard, is Chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, a Florida-based real estate company. Syd developed Babcock Ranch, a master-planned community that's considered "the nation’s first solar-powered town."
J.P. McNeill, EcoWatch Solar Adviser
J.P. is the founder and CEO of Ando, the first banking service that allocates 100% of customer deposits to carbon-reducing projects (e.g., solar installations for businesses and residences, often in underserved areas).
Melissa Smith, EcoWatch Solar Editor
Melissa is an editor who has worked on content pertaining to solar and other renewable energy sources for the past several years. Her background spans both eco news outlets and environmental nonprofits.
Solar Reviews See All
Solar News See All
The LEGO Group has announced plans to build a $1 billion dollar factory in Chesterfield County, Virginia, complete with a solar facility to power the factory. The company’s goal is for its first U.S. factory in over 16 years to…
President Joe Biden has taken steps to boost the solar industry in the U.S. The administration announced plans to pause tariffs on solar panels and use the Defense Production Act to boost the domestic manufacturing of clean energy technology including…
Solar panels are a popular form of harvesting clean energy, but they aren’t without their limitations. They work best in…
Swedish furniture-giant IKEA wants to bring the power of the sun into U.S. homes. The company announced on May 12…
Many gigawatts worth of solar power have been installed in the U.S. through all sorts of installations, from rooftop residential…
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
Can solar panels be recycled? We look at the long-term impacts.
Supporting Black-owned solar businesses combats racial and environmental injustices.
As the climate crisis worsens, state and federal officials are increasingly looking toward renewable resources.
We discuss benefits, shortcomings and what you'll need to go off-grid.