September 10, 2023

What is the ROI on a solar system?

Solar Financing

Solar Panel ROI: Is Investing in Solar Panels Worth It?

When it comes to home improvement projects, installing solar panels stands out for a unique reason—it pays back its initial cost over time through energy bill savings. Everyone wants to know about the Return on Investment (ROI) when considering solar panels. In this blog, we'll delve into the intricacies of calculating solar panel ROI and explore how solar panels pay back their investment cost.

Table of Contents:

How Solar Panels Pay Back Their Investment Cost

Solar panels offer two primary ways to generate savings for homeowners:

  1. Energy Bill Savings: Electricity usage is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), and a typical household requires a certain amount of kWh to power appliances and devices daily. Solar panels generate electricity during the day, meeting your home's energy needs. This can significantly reduce or even eliminate your electric bill, except for small fixed charges for grid connection.
  2. Solar Incentives: Beyond energy bill savings, solar panels can earn you money through various incentives. These include tax credits and ongoing bonus payments, particularly if you live in a state with favorable solar energy policies. The right combination of utility bill savings and incentives can make solar panels a better investment than traditional stock market options.

Additionally, many states offer net metering programs, where any excess electricity generated by your solar panels can be sent back to the grid, often resulting in credits towards future electricity use. The specifics of net metering programs can vary from state to state, with some offering full-retail net metering while others provide credits at an avoided cost rate.

Want to know more about Net Metering, check this blog!

Solar Incentives

One of the most well-known incentives for solar panel installation in the United States is the federal clean energy tax credit. This program offers a 30% reimbursement on the total installation costs through your tax return. You can carry over any unused portion of this credit to subsequent tax years.

Other incentives can include rebates, which reduce upfront installation costs, and programs like Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) and performance payments, which reward system owners based on their solar panel output. Some states also offer property tax exemptions for the added home value resulting from solar panels.


Calculating ROI for Solar Panels

Calculating solar panel ROI involves assessing the net installation cost (after incentives) against expected electric bill savings and ongoing incentives over time. While knowing the payback time for solar panels is essential, it's equally crucial to understand the rate of return you can expect over the system's lifetime. This is where the concept of the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) comes into play. IRR is a financial tool used to analyze the returns of an investment.

To calculate IRR, you have to take the initial cost of your solar installment minus the Federal Tax Credit (up to 30%), other economic benefits you may have depending where you live, and the annual electric bill saving (this is the sum of the money safe by using your own energy and the net metering, if it applies to you, over the course of a year). From there continue subtracting the annually saved amount. You can use spreadsheet programs like Excel or Google Sheets. Start by creating a column with 25 cells to represent each year, as most solar panels are warrantied for 25 years. In the first cell, input the system cost after upfront incentives and subtract all first-year cost savings. This result represents the net first-year investment in your solar installation.

For the subsequent 24 years, input positive numbers representing the value of ongoing energy bill savings and incentives. Be aware that solar energy production typically decreases by about 0.5% each year, while utility electricity costs tend to increase by around 2% annually. So even if the effectiveness of your solar panels slowly lowers while ageing, the amount they save you still increases as they help you avoid the utility companies’ increasing electricity costs.

Comparing Solar ROI to Other Investments

A crucial aspect of evaluating your solar panel ROI is comparing it to other potential investments. In addition to energy bill savings and incentives, it's important to consider the opportunity cost of the funds invested in solar panels. You could alternatively invest those funds in other ventures, such as the stock market.

Historically, the S&P 500, which tracks the performance of 500 large-cap American companies, has averaged an annual return of about 8% over the past 90+ years. Comparing this benchmark to your solar panel ROI can help you assess the financial viability of your solar investment.


How to Get the Best Solar Panel Price

Solar panel ROI can vary significantly based on your location, home, and local incentives. To get an accurate estimate tailored to your circumstances, consider reaching out to local solar installers. They can provide you with estimates that factor in your specific costs, incentives, and potential savings.

In summary, solar panels offer a unique investment opportunity for homeowners. They not only reduce energy bills but also provide various incentives to enhance your financial returns. Calculating solar panel ROI can help you make an informed decision about whether solar energy is a worthwhile investment for your home. Remember that state policies, electricity prices, and getting multiple quotes from installers are key factors in achieving a favorable ROI.

Maximizing Solar Panel ROI: Tips and Considerations

While understanding the concept of solar panel ROI is essential, maximizing your return on investment involves several additional factors and considerations. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your solar panel installation:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Before going solar, focus on making your home as energy-efficient as possible. This includes upgrading insulation, sealing air leaks, and using energy-efficient appliances and lighting. The less energy your home consumes, the more significant your solar energy savings will be.
  2. Proper Sizing: Work with a reputable solar installer to ensure your solar panel system is correctly sized for your energy needs. An oversized system might generate excess electricity that goes unused, while an undersized system might not cover all your energy needs.
  3. Quality Equipment: Invest in high-quality solar panels and inverters. While these may cost more upfront, they often come with longer warranties and better performance, which can pay off in the long run.
  4. Comparative Quotes: Don't settle for the first solar installation quote you receive. Get multiple quotes from different installers to ensure you're getting a competitive price. Make sure the quotes include all costs, including equipment, labor, and permitting.
  5. Financing Options: Explore financing options for your solar installation, such as solar loans or solar leases. These can help you spread the upfront cost over time and make solar more affordable.
  6. Monitor and Maintain: Regularly monitor your solar panel system's performance to ensure it's operating efficiently. Keep the panels clean and clear of debris, and promptly address any maintenance issues to maximize their lifespan and energy production.
  7. Understand the Warranty: Familiarize yourself with the warranties associated with your solar panels and inverters. This includes both equipment warranties and performance guarantees. Knowing what's covered and for how long can be crucial for long-term ROI.
  8. Tax Planning: Consult with a tax professional to ensure you're taking full advantage of available solar incentives and tax credits. Properly documenting your solar investment can help you maximize these benefits.
  9. Consider Battery Storage: If you live in an area with frequent power outages or want to further reduce your reliance on the grid, consider adding battery storage to your solar panel system. This can increase energy independence and potentially improve ROI over time.
  10. Track Your Savings: Keep records of your energy bill savings and any incentives or credits you receive as a result of your solar panel installation. This will help you assess the actual ROI over time.
  11. Educate Yourself: Stay informed about changes in solar energy policies, net metering rules, and local utility rates. These factors can impact your solar panel ROI, and being aware of them allows you to adapt your strategy accordingly.
  12. Long-Term Perspective: Understand that solar panels are a long-term investment. While the upfront costs can be substantial, the savings and returns accumulate over the life of the system, often 25 years or more.
Now, if you want to save time and know for a fact that you will get the best possible solar installation for your house and pocket, taking advantage of all the economic benefits that you can access and some extra, then call Shine Solar. We take a custom approach for each client, and we offer extra options to make sure you start saving money from month one!

In conclusion, investing in solar panels can be a financially sound decision for many homeowners. By calculating and optimizing your solar panel ROI, you can make an informed choice about whether to proceed with solar panel installation. Remember that the specifics of your situation, including location, energy consumption, and available incentives, will influence your ROI, so it's essential to tailor your approach accordingly. Additionally, staying up-to-date on solar technology and industry developments can help you maximize your solar panel ROI over the years.


Investing in solar panels is a multifaceted decision that encompasses environmental, financial, and practical considerations. While the initial investment may seem substantial, the long-term benefits, including energy bill savings, government incentives, and potential revenue from excess electricity, make solar panels an attractive option for many.

To determine if solar panels are a sound investment for your unique situation, it's essential to conduct a thorough assessment of your energy needs, location-specific factors, and available incentives. By weighing the costs against the returns, you can make an informed decision that not only benefits your finances but also contributes to a greener and more sustainable future.

In the end, solar panel ROI isn't just about dollars and cents; it's about making a positive impact on the environment while securing a brighter financial future. So, take the time to explore your solar options, consult with experts, and embark on a journey toward cleaner and more cost-effective energy use. Your solar-powered future may be closer and more rewarding than you think.

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Nick Gorden

Nick Gorden is the Co-founder and CEO of Shine Solar. Nick’s energy, enthusiasm, and leadership is contagious and has contributed to attracting a talented and successful executive team. His time is focused on strategic growth, maintaining profitability and creating the optimal customer experience. Nick has started, managed and sold companies within the communications, mortgage lending, insurance and real estate industries resulting in tens of millions of dollars of market value to investors.

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