According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, “Minnesotans are often surprised to learn that our state has annual solar resources similar to areas of Florida and Texas.” As consumers learn more about solar potential here in Minnesota solar usage will grow… and they are here to help.
Almost 50% of respondents to a Forbes survey last fall said they plan to install solar panels in the future, with 75% of survey respondents saying it is important for them to switch to solar within the next five years. Forbes also ranked US states for solar energy based on the following six factors: megawatts of solar installed per state, how many solar jobs are available, number of homes powered by solar, percentage of energy run by solar, how many clear days each state averages per year, the average cost of installation after the federal solar tax incentive.
California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas were at the top of the list… but Minnesota still came in at a respectable 18, indicating room for growth.
According to SaveonEnergy.com, Minnesota generates only about 1% of US solar power, but it is growing. Learn more about solar energy in Minnesota.
The info below from SaveOnEnergy.com answers some frequently asked questions about home solar systems… such as the cost of solar panels for your home, the main components of a home solar system, and the installation process.
Main components of home solar power systems in 2023
Solar panels are the star of the show, but several other parts are essential to a home solar energy system. Understanding the components of a home solar panel network is key before you make a purchase.
- Solar panels or shingles: Photovoltaic (PV) cells that absorb sunlight and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. The average home will need around 20 solar panels (based on average monthly energy use). However, the number of solar panels is ultimately dependent on energy needs. Solar shingles and solar tiles are also becoming a popular aesthetic choice for solar consumers who also want to replace their roof.
- Inverter: An electrical box that converts direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity. AC is what we use to power our homes. The size of an inverter is measured in kilowatts and will correlate to the wattage of the solar panels you select. The physical dimensions are usually a foot tall by a foot wide and can weigh 20–50 pounds. Your installer can advise you on the appropriate inverter for your system. If your inverter is too small, you risk wasting solar energy, but you also don’t want to pay for a larger inverter than you need.
- Mounting racks (fixed or adjustable): As their name suggests, fixed racks mount the panels to your roof at a set angle, while adjustable racks allow the panels to move to take advantage of the sun as it moves across the sky. Both of these options are retrofitting the panels to your roof. Solar shingles are different in that they do not retrofit your roof but rather replace your existing roof.
- Battery: A lithium-ion solar battery is an optional addition to your solar system that allows you to save excess energy for use during off-peak times. Other battery types are available; however, lithium-ion batteries last the longest.
Purchasing solar panels for your home
Selecting your solar panels is the most crucial step in determining the cost of solar panels for your home. When going through the buying process, you’ll want a plan and budget for your solar panels and how you will buy them. We will explain your options below.
How much do solar panels cost in 2023?
The average price of a solar panel system for your home in 2023 is $31,558. The cost of solar panels has been steadily declining in recent years, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Solar costs are getting cheaper as solar technology advances and more companies start manufacturing solar products.
Clean energy incentives, such as those in the Inflation Reduction Act, further reduce the cost of solar panel installation. Declining costs, coupled with the growing popularity of solar and federal tax incentives, make it the perfect season to get solar panels for your home.
However, if you’re considering spending several thousand dollars on a solar home improvement project, you’re probably wondering when you will earn back your initial investment. The good news is that your solar system could end up paying for itself in as few as six years; however, the average breakeven period is closer to nine years. Your payback period could differ depending on the size of your solar panel system and state incentives, among other factors.
In contrast, you’ll begin seeing returns on your investment immediately in the form of savings on your electric bills. The average annual U.S. residential electricity cost is just over $1,500 per year. Your monthly electric bill could be virtually non-existent when your system is optimized for 100% of your home’s energy needs.
Paying for solar panels for your home
You have several options to pay for solar panels for your home. Whether you are looking to pay upfront or need more flexibility, solar financing options are available.
Consider the three types of purchasing options for solar panels and the pros and cons of each:
- Purchasing is when you buy the complete solar system, either upfront with cash or with a financed loan. This option is cost-heavy on the front end, but owning your solar system gives you the most bang for your buck. Financing, or taking out a solar loan, is also an option if you want to own your energy system but would rather pay in installments. (And if you’re wondering if homeowners insurance covers solar panels, the answer is yes, it usually does.) This option allows you to take advantage of the Residential Clean Energy Credit, giving you a 30% credit from the total cost of solar on your federal taxes. The substantial credit can be retroactively applied to systems from the beginning of 2022 and is available through 2032.
- Leasing is when you pay monthly installments for your system. At the end of the lease, you either return the solar panels or buy them. Solar leases can last about 20 years, but there may be shorter contracts. A solar lease will not require an upfront payment but it is also not eligible for the 30% solar tax credit.
- Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) is when a solar developer builds a system on your property and sells you the solar energy at a reduced rate. A power purchase agreement takes all the responsibility of designing and maintaining the system off the homeowner.
Pros and cons of solar panels for your home
Solar panels are an investment in your energy future. But there are a couple of pros and cons to consider.
- Pros: Financial rewards, including net-metering and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs or RECs), are two benefits of solar panels. Net metering refers to the billing credits you can earn toward your monthly energy costs by adding solar energy to the local power grid. SRECs let solar owners earn money by selling energy certificates to the utility. This process helps utilities meet their quota for renewable energy use.
- Cons: A drawback of solar panels on your home is that they will become less efficient over time, eventually needing to be replaced. This decline happens incrementally over a period of 25-30 years.
Solar panel home installation in 2023
Installing solar panels on your home starts with an onsite visit from a solar installer. They can explain each step of the installation, answer questions, and make a recommendation on solar system size. Once you agree on the details, the solar installer will prepare a contract for you to sign.
Next up is a structural evaluation and the physical installation portion, which typically lasts one to two weeks. Lastly, local government approvals are scheduled and interconnection to the power grid is finalized.
How many solar panels will I need?
Many homeowners’ initial question is, “how many solar panels will I need on my house?” Consider these factors that can influence the number of solar panels your home will need:
- Dimensions: The universal standard size of one residential solar panel is about 65” by 39”, although measurements can vary slightly between manufacturers. Put another way, a single panel is about the size of a 75” TV or a twin mattress.
- Wattage: Different types of panels produce different amounts of wattage, and higher-producing panels are more expensive. Plus, any solar panel will lose efficiency over time. More expensive panels have a higher efficiency and will continue to produce energy well past the warranty period.
- Energy consumption: The average home uses about 1,200 kWh per month. Your system size is determined by your consumption history. You can find a 12-month view of your consumption on your electricity bill. Your local utility or provider can help you find this information, too.
- Storage options: Solar panel owners should consider a solar battery to store extra energy for later use. Stored energy can be utilized during peak hours, outages, or periods of low solar production.
- Roof size and shape: Your installer will also assess your roof to determine how to place the solar panels. If your roof is a unique shape or has a particularly shady area, the installer may want to adjust the installation design so you can get the maximum efficiency from your panels.
- Shade and average sunlight: Your home’s natural shade and the average amount of sunlight your area receives can impact the number of solar panels you need.
An installer with firsthand knowledge of your goals and needs can calculate the exact type and number of panels you need.
Keep in mind, solar panels don’t have to go on your roof. Homeowners can also choose to install solar panels on the ground; however, this option is typically seen in large-scale installations or in wide-open spaces, such as solar farms.
Steps to getting solar panels on your home in 2023
Residential solar is a major investment. Here’s what you can expect:
- Consultation: A solar representative will discuss the best panel options, including panel type, placement, and the number of panels based on your solar energy goals.
- Home visit: A solar expert will visit your home to confirm your roof condition and assess the structural integrity of your home.
- Cost quote: You will receive a final estimate for the solar system, including material, permits, and labor. You can then schedule a time for installation.
- Permitting: After you sign your solar contract, permitting will begin. A full-service solar installer will complete this process for you, working with your local utilities. This is often the longest step in the process.
- Installation: Physical installation occurs, which typically takes less than a week. Some installations are completed in just one day.
Type of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and amorphous
There are three main types of solar panels, with their own set of pros and cons. Each type of solar panel is made from a semiconductor called silicon. Your solar installer can help you select the best panel based on your budget and solar needs.
- Monocrystalline solar panels are made from a unified piece of silicon. These are the most compact and efficient type of solar panels. They are also the most expensive and typically last about 25-30 years.
- Polycrystalline solar panels are a composite of multiple pieces of silicon. They are slightly larger and less efficient than monocrystalline, but they also come at a cheaper price. They last about 25 years as well.
- Amorphous solar panels are made of a thin layer of silicon on top of a supporting material, like plastic or glass. These are the largest and least efficient type of solar panels. However, amorphous panels are beneficial because they perform better in low light. Their lifespan is about 10 years.
Most solar panels don’t stop working once they reach their anticipated lifespan. Instead, the panels will slowly degrade over time and become less efficient. Check the efficiency specifications of each panel you are considering.
Guest article from www.SaveOnEnergy.com