Solar heating for homes is a hot topic these days. The idea of fueling your home with a free natural resource is certainly enticing.
But homeowners must carefully consider the practicality of harnessing this “free” resource, which comes with significant installation and maintenance costs.
According to Esurance, the efficacy of installing a solar system depends on these factors:
How many hours of direct sunlight your home gets each day
- The size of system your roof will accommodate
- Whether your system will be stand-alone or attached to the grid
- Local permit requirements
EnergySave also notes that what you currently pay for electricity is an important factor. “In some parts of the country, you can pay as little as 8 cents per kWh; in others, you’ll pay 20 cents or more.” No surprise, “homeowners with high electricity rates from their utility are the ones who save the most when they switch to home solar power.”
Those considering cost issues can use this online Solar Calculator for a customized estimate of what they might save and how quickly that investment might pay off.
Meanwhile, here are some other aspects to consider:
Cost: The good news first: “The price of solar has plummeted in recent years,” notes Esurance, which credits the development to declines in the cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels. The cost of installation and inspections have also dropped (although they still make up around 64% of the total cost of installation). The bad news: Installing solar panels can be a costly investment nonetheless, one that takes years in lowered energy bills to recoup.
Maintenance: Panels need to be regularly inspected and washed routinely, which can be done with a garden hose or by a professional cleaner. Also, Esurance notes that ice can damage the panels; those living in cold climates, such as Colorado, may need more frequent inspections, something to factor into the operating cost.
Lifespan: PV systems have a lifespan of around 25 years, according to Esurance. Solar companies generally guarantee the panels will operate at 90% efficiency or better for the first 10 years and at a minimum 80% efficiency for the full 25 years. The longer you plan to stay in your home, the more likely you are to recoup the costs of installation.
Home value: Esurance cites a recent study noting that PV systems add an average of $24,705 to a home’s sale price. Denver’s Whitney Painter, of Buglet Solar Energy, estimates that a 5kWh system installed locally adds $10,000 to the value of a home.
But others disagree that solar panels enhance home values. For example, a recent RISMedia article notes, with no small measure of sarcasm: “Try putting a solar system on the front of an upscale home and see what happens to the value and the difficulty with which it will sell.”
In the end, “no two situations are exactly alike,” notes Esurance. Do your research: Get professional estimates, factor in installation and maintenance costs, compare all costs to the yearly savings you might realize – and then let the math be your guide.