Is Solar Worth It in Massachusetts? (2022 Homeowner's Guide)
Here’s a quick overview of solar viability in Massachusetts:
- Massachusetts ranks 10th in the country for solar installations.*
- The average cost of electricity is 21.97 cents per kilowatt-hour.**
- The average solar payback period is 9 years.***
- Homeowners are eligible for the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program and the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC).
- The average homeowner saves $33,013 over the lifetime of their solar system.***
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Massachusetts ranks 10th overall in the nation for solar adoption, but the electricity consumption throughout the state is well below average. Since most of the financial benefit of going solar comes from savings on electric bills, some homeowners in the area are left to wonder if going solar is worth the investment. Generally speaking, it is, but there are some things that might make your home not such a great fit for solar panels. Below, we’ll include all of the factors you need to consider to determine if solar is right for you. We’ll also discuss the many benefits of converting to solar in Massachusetts and some things you should be aware of as you move through the process of finding a solar installer and installing panels on your home.
How to Figure Out if Solar Panels are Worth It in Massachusetts
Installing solar panels proves to be well worth the investment for most Massachusetts homeowners, but converting to this clean energy source definitely isn’t for everyone. Below are some factors you should take into consideration when determining your home’s solar viability.
What’s Your Home Electricity Consumption?
One of the easiest metrics you can use to see if solar will benefit you is the amount of electricity your home uses on a monthly basis. You can usually find your average expenditure on your past energy bills. In general, homes that consume fewer than 500 kilowatt-hours per month aren’t ideal for solar panel installation. However, in Massachusetts, where energy costs are some of the highest in the nation, even slightly below this benchmark should mean solar is a good option for you. Most homeowners in the state use around 602 kWh monthly, which is above this cutoff, despite being well below the national average. As such, most Bay Staters will benefit from solar from an energy usage standpoint.
How Much Is It To Go Solar in Massachusetts?
The price of solar in Massachusetts is usually based on a per-watt average, which hovers around $2.94 throughout the state. Unfortunately, this is significantly higher than the national average of $2.66 and makes Massachusetts the fourth most expensive state for photovoltaic equipment. With that being said, the low energy usage requires a 6.5-kW system, which is much smaller than average, leaving the total price to go solar at just $14,141 after the federal tax credit. Solar panels provide more value for homeowners who have above-average energy usage or pay higher electricity prices. Although energy consumption is low in MA, electricity rates are abnormally high. Overall, this makes solar quite valuable throughout the Bay State.
What’s the Payback Period for Solar in Massachusetts?
With your solar energy system saving you money on your utility bills monthly, the savings are eventually expected to offset the total cost of the system and provide additional savings thereafter. The average solar panel payback in Massachusetts is just 9 years, which is significantly shorter than the national average of 12 years. Generally speaking, this means that solar is a far better investment in Massachusetts than most of the country. You can use a solar calculator to estimate your payback period or have a solar company estimate it for you. A payback period between 6 and 12 years is typical for solar systems in MA. If yours is longer, it will take longer for you to recuperate the cost of the system, and your overall return on investment will be lower than average.
What Are Average Buy-Back Rates in Massachusetts?
Most states mandate an electricity buy-back program, also called net metering. Through interconnection via inverters, the policy allows solar customers to overproduce energy with their panels and sell the excess electricity generated back to the utility provider for a credit to their energy bill. Massachusetts has an outstanding net metering policy that not only mandates the program for all solar customers but also guarantees you’ll be compensated for excess power at the same rate you pay when you pull energy from the electrical grid. This is about the best Massachusetts residents could ask for in terms of net metering, and it means most customers will have the potential to eliminate their electric bills entirely with the addition of an expensive solar battery to their solar project.
How Much Sun Does Your Roof Receive?
Solar panels work by converting solar energy to electricity that you can use in your home, which means exposure to sunlight is required to generate power and save you money. Therefore, homes in areas where sunlight is abundant are better options for solar panel installation. Massachusetts gets around 197 sunny days per year, which is below the national average of 205. MA is far from the best state in terms of available sunlight, but it’s about average. You will need to assess your home on some individual factors as well, though. Among these are the direction your roof faces and shading on your roof. In the US, south-facing roofs are, by far, the best for solar panel installation, while some west-facing roofs are suitable as well. Shading on your roof from trees, buildings or other structures will reduce the sunlight and power production and, therefore, the overall value of your panels.
What’s the Outlook on Solar in Massachusetts?
Solar energy is widely accepted in Massachusetts by homeowners and legislators alike. The state ranks 10th in the nation for solar adoption, with residential solar installations rising year over year for the past five and community solar and commercial solar maintaining a solid foothold in the state as well. The widespread acceptance of solar is largely due to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goals, the favorable net metering policy, the excellent statewide solar incentives and the high cost of electricity in the area. It’s likely that the solar market in Massachusetts will only continue to grow in the future.
Benefits of Solar Energy in Massachusetts
For Massachusetts residents who decide that solar is a good investment for their home, there are a number of benefits they can enjoy when they do convert to this renewable energy source. We’ll discuss the most appealing solar benefits in MA below.
Electricity Bill Savings
With the fourth highest electricity costs in the nation, the savings provided on energy bills will naturally be the most enticing benefit of going solar in Massachusetts. The average MA resident pays around $132.18 per month for electricity. Thanks to the outstanding net metering policy in the Bay State, eliminating your electric bill is a distinct possibility, meaning you could save $1,586 on energy annually. The average Massachusetts solar customer saves around $33,013 over the lifetime of their solar PV equipment, and that’s after the panels have paid for themselves. Plus, going solar basically lets you lock in a lower electricity rate for 25+ years, which means you can plan and budget more effectively.
Lower Taxes & Access to Other Incentives
Solar power systems are so popular in Massachusetts in large part because of the enticing solar incentives available in the state. Perhaps most importantly, all residents will have access to the federal solar tax credit, also called the ITC. This is a credit to your income taxes in an amount equivalent to 26% of your total solar panel system cost. In Massachusetts, the ITC is typically around a $4,969 credit. There are several state solar incentives in Massachusetts available as well:
- Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program: The SMART Program provides a solar rebate for every kilowatt-hour you produce with your system. This solar rebate program is a massive and ongoing benefit that can help pay off your solar equipment and maximize your return on investment.
- Massachusetts Solar Tax Exemption: This is a sales tax exemption that prevents you from having to pay state sales tax on photovoltaic equipment and installations.
- Net Metering: As mentioned above, net metering is mandated in Massachusetts, and the Public Service Commission guarantees you’ll be paid retail rates for all excess power you send to the grid.
Home Resale Value Increase
Solar panels increase your home value quite significantly, which is another important benefit to consider when going solar. According to research conducted by Zillow, the average home in the US becomes about 4.1% more valuable with the addition of a solar electric system.3 Given the average home value of $556,081, most homes in the state will jump up in value by around $22,799!4 This benefit is one that is only available if you purchase your solar array with cash or use a loan to pay for panels. Solar leases and power purchase agreements are not as appealing, in part, because they don’t provide a boost to home value.
Clean, Renewable Energy
Not all benefits of going solar are monetary, and those prospective solar customers who care more about their impact on the environment than their savings will be pleased to know that solar panels are quite eco-friendly. Going solar reduces your dependence on fossil fuels and your utility company. Not only will you be more energy independent when you go solar, but you’ll also help reduce pollution, emissions, global warming and your carbon footprint.
What to Look Out For When Considering Solar in Massachusetts
Even after you confirm that solar panels are a good investment for your home, you’ll still have quite a few things to think about before you install your equipment. Below are some important considerations you should make before you commit to solar panel installation.
The upfront cost of going solar will inevitably be a point of contention for many homeowners, especially in an area like Massachusetts, where the price per watt is much higher than the national average. You can limit your upfront expenditure by choosing cheaper solar panels, limiting your equipment choices to panels alone and avoiding add-on products and choosing a solar financing option that requires little or no money down.
The solar panel payback period helps determine not only how valuable solar will be for your home but also how much you stand to save over time. The average payback period is around 9 years in Massachusetts, with a typical range of 6 to 12 years. If your estimated payback period is between 12 and 25 years, you’ll still end up saving money in the long run. However, your ROI will be lower than average.
Net Metering Policies in Massachusetts
Massachusetts mandates net metering at the retail rate, which means you’ll get a credit for every kilowatt-hour of energy you send to the grid that’s equal to the cost of every kilowatt-hour you pull from the grid. This is huge for any solar customer, but it’s especially crucial in an area like MA, where the cost of electricity is nearly double the national average. The net metering policy helps you eliminate your electric bills and maximize your savings. Most customers will not need to opt for a solar energy storage solution to reduce their utility expenditure to $0 per month. This ultimately saves taxpayers thousands of dollars on installation costs.
Pending Policies & Changes to Incentives
The solar industry is constantly improving and changing, so the policies, incentives and rebate programs we have mentioned above are always subject to change or disappear. New incentives could also pop up in the future. While waiting around for better incentives will likely cost you money in the long run, you should check for updates to policies and incentives before signing an agreement with a solar installer.
Weather & Climate in Massachusetts
Solar panels are most effective in areas with abundant and direct sunlight, which is to say, closer to the equator. Some residents worry that the northern location in the US and the frequent cloudy days will reduce panel efficiency. Massachusetts sees 197 sunny days a year, which is just slightly below average and usually plenty to provide ample sunlight for energy savings. Some homeowners also worry that the frequent nor’easters and hurricanes experienced in the Bay State will put their solar equipment at risk of damage. This is a possibility, but choosing a solar company that provides a robust warranty will usually be enough to set most homeowners’ minds at ease.
Companies Pushing Solar Leases or PPAs
The final consideration and one of the most important ones to make is the solar company you choose to complete your home solar project. There are many companies throughout Massachusetts that advertise “free solar for life” that seem quite enticing. Unfortunately, this is typically a marketing scheme to get you to sign a solar lease. Solar leases are not recommended, as they don’t bump up your home value, they don’t let you take advantage of the federal tax credit and they save most homeowners far less than a purchase or solar loan. Some of the least reputable solar installers have become the subject of news reports from stations like Boston 25 News because of the complaints from customers about misrepresented savings and benefits of converting to solar.5 There have also been reports of door-to-door solar sales companies that make inflated claims about savings and use aggressive sales tactics to push less beneficial solar agreements.6 To avoid these scams and other issues, you should always work with a reputable and vetted solar panel installation company.
Wrap Up: Is Solar Worth it in Massachusetts?
For most Massachusetts homeowners, installing solar panels is an expensive endeavor that ends up saving about three times the cost of the system in the first place. However, solar certainly isn’t for everyone, so you will need to assess your property to see if it’s a good fit for you before committing. Some things you should consider include your monthly energy bills, the direction your roof faces, shading on your roof from trees or buildings, your system size needed, and more. We strongly recommend getting in touch with a reliable solar company in your area to help you determine if your home is a good candidate for solar panels.
Frequently Asked Questions
The EcoWatch team is thrilled to get questions regularly from MA homeowners looking for information on solar viability in the Bay State. Below are some of the questions we see most often, along with our responses.
The average solar panel payback period in Massachusetts is around 9 years, which is well below the national average of 12 years. Most residents will see an estimated payback period of between 6 and 12 years. With that being said, your payback period could fall outside of that typical range. The timeline is based on many factors, including your monthly energy consumption, shading on your roof, the orientation of your home, and more. You can use a solar calculator or contact a solar installer to help you estimate your payback period.
Most of the time, installing solar panels in Massachusetts will save you money. The average resident will see substantial energy savings that pay off the system in around 9 years and then provide additional savings of around $33,013. The savings could be even higher if you use more energy than normal for the area or if electricity rates continue to rise in the future.
Yes! As long as you opt for a cash purchase or solar financing, your home value will increase by around 4.1%, on average, according to research done by Zillow. In Massachusetts, this comes out to an average of a massive $22,799 in added property value. It’s important to note that this will also bump up your property taxes a bit.
Yes, permits are a requirement for all solar panel installations in Massachusetts. Most solar installers will include the cost of permits in your estimated price for going solar, and they will also likely handle the permitting process for you.
You can install your own solar panels in Massachusetts, but it’s typically not a great idea. Installing a rooftop solar system is dangerous. A DIY solution will put you at risk of injury and your home and solar equipment at risk of damage. The minimal amount of money you’d save on labor costs isn’t worth the added risk you’d take on, so we strongly recommend leaving the job to a reputable installer in your area.