Is it worth it to install solar panels

Just a quick question for anyone who might have good information on the topic.

If it matters at all, I live in central/northern NJ, and my roof gets a lot of sunlight.

Is it worthwhile to have solar panels installed, or is it a “scam?”

Thank you.

No surprise but the answer is maybe.
How long do you plan to live in the house? It takes 7-10 years for a system to pay for itself in my experience and doesn’t add much value to the house for resell yet.

Are you installing to own or installing for a solar company? The second choice usually has deals where you get a 15% discount on your electric charges, but not distribution charge so the actual discount is lower yet.

Have you checked if there are currently any NJ programs to help pay for the panels or Federal Tax breaks for the install? For my first install, NJ paid 70% of the cost, this was when panels were fairly new and still very expensive. That system paid for itself in 7 years or maybe a little less. The second set of panels got me up to about 10,000 watts and it is slowly paying for itself. In this case I just got a Federal Tax discount.

Programs | NJ OCE Web Site is the place to start for NJ help & info.

Part of the payback are SRECS, you get paid for the power you generate by companies. SRECs are pretty helpful. Of course you also save a lot on electric. I had 4 months this year with bills under $5. The hottest month of the summer was maybe $100.

If you need the name of a good honest company to talk through the options, please PM me and I’ll send you over the company I’ve worked with twice. Small business and very good guy.

Some concerns I’d have about panels in NJ would be how much energy would hit the panels because of it’s northerly location, and snow covering the panels during the winter. Panels in the south are productive all year long. They get more direct sunlight and don’t get covered by snow in the winter. Make sure you find out the typical payback period of panels for people in your area.

I get the feeling that panels really only make sense for people who are doing it for environmental reasons rather than cost savings. The long payback period means there’s lots of time for things to go wrong that would incur maintenance costs. The panels could fail, could break from storm damage, roof repairs become more complicated, etc. All those things will extend the payback period, or even mean that the panels never recoup their cost.

The Green reason is a good reason. The payment is not fast, but it is reasonable like most energy efficiency improvements.

The snow is not as bad as you think, I still generate power through up to about 12" of snow and in NJ it is rare to get biggest storms. It is reduced generation, but it generates.

Pitch of the roof generally determines if the panels are self clearing. My first set of panels are pitched just enough and run right down to the edge of the roof and the snow slides off usually in the late morning or early afternoon after the storm as the sun warms up the panels.

My second set is over the garage and a lesser pitch and not down to the edge, so these panels don’t self clear anywhere near as well and I often use a roof rake to clear the panels. The roof rake cost me $40 and is now about 5 or 6 years old.

While the panels make a roof repair more complicated, the panels protect the roof pretty damn well under the panels.
If you go through with an install, ensure the installing puts in squirrel guards. The panels are typically raised a small distance over the roof, mine are only 2" but often it is a bit higher. A friend of mine had about 4" clearance and the squirrels got under the panels and chewed on some of the wires. These days most panels have a fence like guard around them to keep squirrels and chipmunks out. It apparently happened often enough to be a significant worry.

Panels should recoup their cost, but not in a few years, in 7-10 years. I also hold out hope that eventually they’ll add value to a house, but as I said, not yet.

Thank you, What Exit?

I’m trying to send a PM but it doesn’t look like it’s working.

I plan to move out in 5-6 years, so I might not reach “pay back.”

FWIW, I know people who have panels installed in upstate New York State, and they’re quite pleased with them.


I do not believe that word means what you think it means…

i would think the panels will add significant value to your home at time of sale. I’d certainly pay more for a house that could generate electricity.

It should and for some people it will but overall it doesn’t at this time. I just spent almost a year heavily involved in house shopping and selling and the panels are basically a bonus but don’t add much value. I think this is changing but not yet.

Pools are kind of the same situation for different reasons. Some people love the idea of a pool and some hate the cost and work. Overall pools don’t add value to a house, install a pool for your enjoyment, not for resale value.

Nor you. :smiley:

This article says it adds 4.1% to the selling price across the US, but as others noted, it’s more about doing what’s right for you.

I have a secondhand view of this - my dad decided one day to install solar panels. He went whole hog - he happens to own a large plot of land behind his and two other houses, which in my youth was used for a cornfield and and orchard. Not that he’s grown corn for a while - as a diabetic it’s no longer on his diet. So he decided to rip out the fields and the still-being-used-by-my-mother orchard, and put in a ton of solar panels back there too.

The installation process didn’t go well - he wanted to be able to exist completely off the grid indefinitely without sacrificing any power usage, and despite being told that wasn’t possible. He argued with his contractors about what they’d promised, things got delayed, eventually over a hundred grand was spent on all this.

The general consensus is that it was a massive waste of money that needlessly killed a number of trees and resulted in various other inconveniences and incidental damage. He will will most certainly never make his money back.

All of us debated with him about the madness, both in advance as as it proceeded, but he brooked no argument. His motivation for all this, I eventually teased out of him, was prepper thinking. Not that he’s a prepper in other ways, but apparently he wants power during the apocalypse, or whatever.
I’m not saying don’t do solar panels, but don’t to them like that.

Using panels as an emergency power source adds another layer of complication. You pretty much need a good size battery system to charge and an automatic cutoff switch from the power grid like a whole house emergency generators have.

I don’t know much about this part. I think a 10k system* would cost $5000 more but I’m really not sure. That was a rough quote from 2006 or so.

  • Not the right term but roughly could match what a 10k generator would provide.
    If anyone ever decides to build a house and actually has at least a 1/2 acre of property, consider a geothermal system for heating and cooling. They’re only really cost effective for new builds as opposed to adding on later. This is something else I looked into as I actually have an old well on the property and 2 acres. It still wasn’t going to pay for itself very well. More like a 15 year payback. If I recall for a new build it was more of a 6-8 year payback.

A friend of mine put up 8 panels at his property in Virginia and calculated the payback period is about 8 years. Overall he saves about $80 a month in electric costs.

We just finished putting solar on our house this week. We live in Southern California where it is hot and sunny most of the year. We run the AC a lot, have a pool, and an electric car so our electric bill is/was pushing $300/month. With the tax rebates we expect to break even in 6-7 years.

I would be surprised if solar didn’t add to the value of the homes down here. It would at least make it easier to sell.

As has been touched on in this thread, “Is it worthwhile” could refer to a number of different motivations:

In economic terms? Maybe, over a lengthy ROI period

In environmental terms? Quite possibly, if it gives you comfort that you’re “doing your part”

For emergency preparedness? Depends on how much importance you put on electricity, in an emergency. To do it right you’d probably want batter banks and the like, which probably increases the cost of the whole system substantially.

Just curious, if you don’t mind sharing, how much did your system cost, and how did you pay for it? I think a lot of people who consider the potential economic benefits of a solar system don’t evaluate the opportunity cost (the other things they might have done with the money in the intervening years while they’re waiting to ‘break even’).

If you subtract out the cost of the electrical work that needed to be done anyway (100A service is not enough for a pool and electric car), it was ~$18k. After the tax credit of 30%, that is reduced at the end of the year, our cost will be $12.6k. We paid cash so there was no financing involved.

It would be a very good idea in parts of California–those parts where PG&E have promised 10 years or so of electricity interruptions due to the danger of wildfires.

One thing which hasn’t been mentioned is what the current cost of electricity is–there are very wide variations across the country.

Not all systems will work if the main power is off; some work only through the grid. Some utilities, I’ve heard, won’t allow a system that works when the grid is down, at least theoretically because they don’t trust the cutout systems not to energize wiring that they expect to be off and so endanger workers.

So if you’re doing this in part to have a backup system, make sure that’s what you’ll be getting.

I would say most systems won’t work without grid power. Mine shuts off, but at least in my case with SCE, it’s not because they wouldn’t allow it, it’s because the extra costs involved in making it standalone tipped it into the “not feasible” category.

I dimly recall several hoops to jump through. One, the additional wiring and reconfiguration to add an automatic cutoff required more electrician costs plus an additional layer in permitting and inspections. I then might not have qualified for net metering at that point also.

The biggest blocker was the batteries and inverters I’d need to install to make use of the system when grid power was down. Can’t count of any specific amount of power production; clouds might pass by, it could be early or late in the day when the sun is low in the sky, etc. Without a battery, you’d constantly have to be monitoring the load to not exceed what you’re producing. Whole house batteries as still expensive, and were even more so just a few years ago.