Is Solar Worth It in South Carolina? (2022 Homeowner's Guide)
Here’s a quick overview of solar viability in South Carolina:
- South Carolina ranks 14th in the country for solar installations*
- The average cost of electricity is 12.78 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh)**
- The average solar payback period is 12 years***
- Homeowners are eligible for the South Carolina Solar Energy Tax Credit and the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC)
- The average homeowner saves $24,561 over the lifetime of their solar system***
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South Carolina ranks 14th in the country for solar conversions, but residents in the state pay more than the national average for photovoltaic (PV) equipment and below average for energy. Since the primary financial benefit of solar PV systems is the reduction on electricity bills they provide, many South Carolinians are left wondering if going solar is cost-effective. Generally speaking, it is, but it won’t save every household money. Below, you’ll find a guide on how to determine if solar panels are right for your home and whether or not they will save you money. We’ll also get into the benefits of converting to solar and some things you should consider while you move forward with the installation process.
How to Figure Out if Solar Panels are Worth It in South Carolina
Solar panels are a worthwhile investment for most South Carolina homeowners, but solar isn’t ideal for every home. Below are the metrics you can use to figure out if you will benefit from solar conversion.
What’s Your Home Electricity Consumption?
The first thing you should look at is your monthly energy consumption and electricity costs, which you can typically find on your past energy bills. A general rule of thumb is that solar panels will only be cost-effective if you consume more than 500 kWh of electricity each month. The higher your energy usage, the more you stand to save by going solar. The average electricity consumption in South Carolina is 1,081 kWh, putting the large majority of homeowners in the Palmetto State well above the cutoff for solar viability. Residents of South Carolina also use more energy per month than homeowners in other states, which means solar equipment is more valuable in South Carolina than in most areas throughout the country from an energy consumption standpoint.
How Much Is It To Go Solar in South Carolina?
The price of solar panels in South Carolina averages around $2.72 per watt, which is higher than the national average of $2.66 per watt. That means your money won’t go as far when converting to solar in South Carolina than it will in most states. The typical home in South Carolina requires a system size of around 11 kW, which puts the total that most residents pay around $22,141 after the federal tax credit is applied. Solar panels are more valuable and save more money in areas where the electricity rates or energy consumption are high. The price of electricity in South Carolina is just slightly below average, and the energy usage is well above average. As such, solar will generally be a bit more valuable in South Carolina than in many other states, based on energy usage and prices.
What’s the Payback Period for Solar in South Carolina?
Home solar projects usually pay for themselves over time by providing enough in energy savings to overcome the cost of solar panel installation. The time it takes for this to occur is called the solar panel payback period, and it’s a great metric for determining solar viability. You can estimate your payback period using a solar calculator or by having a local solar installer do the calculation for you. The average payback period in South Carolina is around 12 years, which is right in line with the average throughout the rest of the country. Most South Carolina residents see a payback period between 9 and 15 years. If yours is longer than 15 years but shorter than 25 years, you’re still expected to save money over time, but your return on investment (ROI) will be lower than average, and it will take you longer to recuperate your investment.
What Are Average Buy-Back Rates in South Carolina?
Net metering programs, also called electricity buy-back programs, are mandated in most states now. These programs let solar customers produce more energy than they need using their solar panels and sell the excess power back to their electric companies for some kind of compensation, which is usually a credit to their electric bills. South Carolina mandates net metering for most electricity providers, with the exception of electric cooperatives. The net metering policy in South Carolina doesn’t require a specific buy-back rate, so the rate will vary among providers. You should check with your power company before committing to anything. Additionally, if you have a less favorable program available, you might benefit from installing a solar battery, which can help you get the most out of your solar energy and even eliminate your electric bills.
How Much Sun Does Your Roof Receive?
Solar panels produce energy — and, therefore, save you money — when they absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. As such, areas with abundant sun exposure are better suited for solar panel installation. South Carolina residents experience an average of 216 sunny days per year, which is above the national average of 205 sunny days. In terms of sunlight availability, solar panels are more valuable in South Carolina than in most other states. To determine your home’s solar viability, though, you need to assess your property individually, as there are some factors that can make your home more or less suitable for solar conversion. The direction your roof faces, for example, can make a significant difference. South-facing and west-facing roofs in the US are the best for solar panels, as they receive the most sun. Additionally, you should check your roof for shading from trees and buildings. Any sunlight obstructions can reduce your panels’ efficiency and, therefore, their value.
What’s the Outlook on Solar in South Carolina?
South Carolina generally looks quite favorably on solar energy. The state consumes about double the energy it produces, so any move toward sustainability is welcome.3 Currently, more than half of South Carolina’s energy production comes from nuclear energy, and the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goals are lower than most other states, which suggests a lack of interest in clean energy sources.4 However, residential solar installations are significantly more prevalent in South Carolina than they were a decade ago, and utility-scale solar has soared in the past five years. The solar policies and state incentives are all quite favorable, which is a good sign that the solar industry in the area will continue to grow and expand.
Benefits of Solar Energy in South Carolina
Solar customers in South Carolina are afforded many benefits that make converting to solar all the more enticing. We’ll explain the most substantial upsides to going solar in South Carolina below.
Electricity Bill Savings
Most homeowners thinking of going solar know that the most significant benefit of solar panels is the savings they provide on electric bills. The average South Carolinian spends around $138.16 per month on electricity, making South Carolina the fourth most expensive state in terms of monthly energy expenditure. If you can eliminate your electric bills in South Carolina — which usually requires a solar battery — you stand to save an average of $1,658 per year just by going solar. These energy savings are expected to pay off your total solar panel system installation costs within about 12 years. The remaining 13+ years of system life are expected to bring an additional $24,561 in deductions to your energy bills. Your savings could be even more substantial if energy costs continue to go up, as they have in the past.
Lower Taxes & Access to Other Incentives
The state and federal governments entice homeowners to convert to solar power through solar incentives, which are massive benefits all solar customers in South Carolina can enjoy. One of the most impressive tax incentives is the federal solar tax credit, also called the ITC. The ITC is a credit to your federal tax income liability in the amount of 26% of your entire system cost. In South Carolina, where the typical solar array totals $29,920, the ITC averages out to around $7,779. There are some additional South Carolina solar incentives, which we’ll explain briefly below:
- South Carolina Solar Energy Tax Credit: This is a state tax credit that you can take in addition to the federal tax credit. It’s for 25% of your total installation cost, which, in South Carolina, averages out to $7,480.
- Net Metering: Net metering is a billing policy that helps solar customers pay off their systems more quickly and maximize their returns on investment. Net metering is mandated in South Carolina for most electric companies, although the policy will vary between providers.
- Renewable Energy and Energy Storage Property Tax Exemption: This is a property tax exemption that prevents the bump in value your solar panels provide from causing your property taxes to increase.
- Local Solar Rebate Programs: There are some more local incentives offered by Duke Energy, Palmetto Electric and Santee Cooper, all of which make solar more affordable and accessible to customers.
Home Resale Value Increase
Another massive benefit of solar panel installation is the increase in home value your solar panels provide. Before we get into specifics, it’s worth noting that solar panels will only increase your home value if you use a cash purchase or a solar loan to acquire them. Solar leases and other similar arrangements — like power purchase agreements (PPAs) — will not affect your home value positively. In fact, they could have the opposite effect. Data available from Zillow suggests that solar panels will bump up your property value by around 4.1%.4 In South Carolina, where the average home is worth around $274,401, that comes out to a typical value increase of approximately $11,250.5 Your average value bump could be even more substantial if you live in a more costly area, like Charleston or Columbia.
Clean, Renewable Energy
Converting to clean energy will, of course, provide some environmental benefits as well. Reducing your reliance on fossil fuels means limiting your carbon footprint and the pollution and emissions your home creates. You’ll also gain energy independence when going solar, which means you can avoid electricity price hikes that utility companies are expected to implement in the future.
What to Look Out For When Considering Solar in South Carolina
Going solar isn’t necessarily complicated, but there are some other things you should be aware of and consider before you commit to this renewable energy source. We’ll discuss some other important considerations to make below.
The upfront cost of solar panels is a difficult thing for some homeowners to justify, especially in areas like South Carolina, where the average per-watt price is above the national average. There are a few strategies you can implement to keep your upfront expenses down. Most importantly, you can choose a solar financing option that has a small down payment requirement. Second, you can avoid add-on products like solar batteries, as these can add thousands to your installation costs. Finally, you can choose to install a more affordable solar panel brand to keep costs down.
As mentioned above, your estimated solar panel payback period is a crucial metric to calculate. It can help you determine your solar viability and also estimate your return on investment. The average payback period in South Carolina is 12 years, but anything between 9 and 15 years is considered normal. If your payback period is beyond 15 years, your ROI will be lower than the average of $24,561 in the area, so you’ll have to decide if going solar is worth it for you.
Net Metering Policies in South Carolina
Net metering is a wonderful policy that allows solar customers to reduce their solar panel payback period and increase their ROI by offsetting electric bills with excess energy produced by their panels. Net metering is required for most electric companies in South Carolina, but not all. Plus, the buy-back rate isn’t mandated, so it varies among providers. You should check with your electric company on its policy before signing. If you have a less favorable net metering program available, a solar battery might be necessary to offset power bills.
Pending Policies & Changes to Incentives
The solar industry is constantly changing and expanding, and the policies, solar programs and incentives discussed above are always subject to change as well. Before you sign any contracts, you should look for changes to existing policies, incentives that have since expired and new solar rebate programs that might have popped up. We should mention here that, while you should look for updates before going solar, it’s not financially beneficial to wait for better incentives to become available.
Weather & Climate in South Carolina
South Carolina residents are well acquainted with inclement weather, so many residents worry that the frequent cloudy days will make solar a poor investment in the area. In actuality, South Carolina receives more sunny days per year than most of the United States. Homeowners in the area typically find that the sunlight available is more than enough to make solar conversion a great option. Other residents worry about the extreme weather that frequents the State of South Carolina, including hurricanes, cyclones and tropical storms. These weather events can put undue stress on your panels and potentially damage them, so it’s important for most residents to get a robust warranty with their system. The excessive rain in the area can actually be positive, as it will keep your panels clean and maximize efficiency by removing dust, dirt and debris.
Companies Pushing Solar Leases or PPAs
Finally, you need to be careful which solar company you choose to handle your home solar project. For example, some companies in South Carolina advertise “free panels.” Solar panels are never really free, and this is a marketing technique to entice you to sign a solar lease. Solar leases should generally be avoided, as they don’t boost your home value, they don’t let you take the federal tax credit and they take much longer to pay down, thereby reducing your total ROI. Unfortunately, in areas like South Carolina, where solar is so popular, there have also been reports of solar scams. The state government has warned prospective solar customers about local solar companies that overpromise savings and elimination of electricity bills in an effort to get more business.6 Other more upsetting reports have come out about companies claiming to be representatives of local utility companies and stating that solar conversion is mandatory.7 It’s best only to work with a reputable and vetted solar installer to ensure you don’t fall victim to a solar scam in your area.
Wrap Up: Is Solar Worth it in South Carolina?
For most South Carolinians, installing solar panels is an outstanding way to reduce their carbon footprint and save thousands of dollars on their electric bills over time. However, solar conversion isn’t suitable for every home or homeowner, so it’s important to determine your solar viability before committing to this clean energy source. Some things to remember to consider include your monthly energy needs, your home’s energy efficiency, your total system cost, the system size requirements for your home, shading on your roof, and more. Given how complicated the process can be, we recommend contacting a local solar company to help you decide if solar is a sound investment for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
The EcoWatch team is happy to get questions regularly from prospective solar customers in South Carolina wondering if solar conversion is a good option. Below are some of the questions we see most often, along with our responses.
Solar power systems typically pay for themselves in South Carolina in around 12 years, which is about average throughout the country. Most residents will see a payback period between 9 and 15 years. If your timeline for payback is beyond 15 years, solar might not be right for you, depending on your financial situation. However, provided your payback period is under 25 years, you’re still expected to save money.
In most cases, yes, installing solar panels will save you quite a lot of money. Solar conversion saves you money on your electric bills, and with the average homeowner in South Carolina paying around $138.16 — more than homeowners in nearly every other state — the annual savings can be substantial. After your panels pay for themselves in energy savings, they’re expected to provide an additional $24,561 in savings over the lifetime of the equipment.
Yes, installing solar panels will boost your home value. Research done by Zillow suggests that solar panels will make your property value increase by around 4.1%, or an average of $11,250 in South Carolina. The state also provides a property tax exemption, so this bump in value will not cause your property taxes to increase.
Yes, building permits are required for solar panels in South Carolina. In most cases, they will add a few hundred dollars to your installation costs, but your solar installer will typically include these charges in your estimated solar energy system cost. Your solar company will also usually pull and close out the permits for you as a part of its installation process.
You can install your own solar panels in South Carolina, but it’s not recommended. Getting up on your home to install a heavy rooftop solar system not only puts you in danger but also leaves your home and photovoltaic equipment prone to damage. DIY panel installation might save you some money in labor costs, but it’s not worth the added risk you’ll incur. As such, we suggest leaving the work to a professional solar installer.