Is Solar Worth It? A Comprehensive Guide to Calculating Solar Panel ROI for Your Home in 2024

Solar Guide

By Smartpowr

Are you considering installing solar panels on your home but unsure if it’s a smart financial move? You’re not alone. Many homeowners are intrigued by the potential savings and environmental benefits of solar energy but want to know if the upfront investment will pay off in the long run. The key to answering this question lies in calculating your solar panel return on investment (ROI).

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process of determining if solar is worth it for your specific home and situation. We’ll explain what solar ROI is, the factors that impact it, and provide a step-by-step method to calculate your potential savings. By the end, you’ll have the knowledge and tools to make an informed decision about whether solar panels are a bright idea for your home.

What is Solar Panel ROI?

Before we dive into calculating ROI, let’s clarify what it means in the context of solar panels. Solar panel ROI refers to the amount of money you can save over the lifetime of your solar system compared to the initial cost of installing it. In other words, it’s a measure of whether your solar savings will exceed your solar investment.

Calculating Solar Panel ROI
Calculating Solar Panel ROI

Factors That Impact Solar Panel ROI

To accurately predict your solar ROI, it’s important to understand the key variables involved. Here are the main factors that will determine how much you can save with solar:

System Cost

The biggest factor in your solar ROI calculation is the total cost of your solar panel system and installation. As of 2023, the average cost of a residential solar system ranges from $15,000 to $25,000 before incentives. However, this price varies based on the size of your system, type of panels and inverters, roof characteristics, and local labor costs. Generally, larger systems have a higher upfront cost but also generate more electricity and savings over time.

Electricity Rates

Your local electricity rates play a major role in how much you can save by switching to solar. The higher your current electricity rates, the more you’ll save by generating your own solar power. Homeowners in states like California, Hawaii, and New York tend to see the biggest savings due to high electricity costs. You can estimate your solar savings by comparing your current electric bill to the expected production of solar panels.

Sunlight Exposure

The amount of direct sunlight your roof receives has a big impact on how much electricity your solar panels will generate. More sun means more solar production and higher savings. South-facing roofs with little shade are ideal for solar, while north-facing or heavily shaded roofs will generate less power. Solar installers can use tools like sun path analysis and 3D modeling to predict your roof’s solar potential.


Solar incentives can drastically reduce the net cost of your solar panel system, improving your ROI. The most significant is the federal solar tax credit, which offers a 30% credit on your solar installation costs through 2032. Many states, cities, and utilities also offer additional incentives like cash rebates, property tax exemptions, and solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) that can further lower your costs. Be sure to research and factor in all available incentives when calculating your ROI.


How you choose to pay for your solar panels can also impact your ROI. Paying for solar in cash provides the highest lifetime savings, since you’ll own the system outright and avoid paying interest. However, solar loans have become increasingly popular, offering the ability to finance your system with no money down and lower monthly payments than your current electric bill. Other options like solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) involve third-party ownership and tend to provide lower savings. Evaluate all of your solar financing options to find the best fit for your budget and savings goals.

How to Calculate Your Solar Payback Period

One of the most common ways to evaluate solar panel ROI is by calculating your solar payback period – the amount of time it will take for your solar savings to equal your initial solar investment. Here’s how to estimate yours:

  1. Determine your net solar panel system cost by subtracting any incentives from the gross cost. For example, if your total system cost is $20,000 and you’re eligible for the 30% federal tax credit, your net cost would be $14,000.
  2. Estimate your annual electricity savings based on your system size and local electricity rates. Most solar installers provide savings estimates as part of their proposals. For instance, a 6 kilowatt (kW) system that generates 8,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year at an electricity rate of $0.15 per kWh would save $1,200 annually.
  3. Divide your net system cost by your annual electricity savings to calculate your payback period in years. In the example above, the calculation would be: $14,000 net cost ÷ $1,200 annual savings = 11.7 year payback period

So in this scenario, the solar panels would pay for themselves in electricity savings after about 11-12 years. After that point, all additional savings are essentially profit. Typical solar payback periods range from 5 to 15 years depending on your location and the specifics of your system. In general, a payback period under 10 years indicates a strong solar investment.

Calculating Total Lifetime Solar Savings

While the payback period is a helpful metric, it doesn’t capture the full long-term value of your solar investment. Most solar panels are warrantied to last 25-30 years and will continue generating savings for decades after your initial payback period. To calculate your total lifetime solar savings, you can use this formula:

Lifetime savings = Annual savings x (25 – Payback period)

Let’s apply this to the example from above with an 11.7 year payback period:

$1,200 annual savings x (25 – 11.7) = $15,960 total lifetime savings

That means after recouping your initial investment, you’d save nearly $16,000 in additional electricity costs over the 25+ year lifespan of your solar panels. Keep in mind this is a simplified example that doesn’t account for inflation, panel degradation, or rising electricity rates over time. More sophisticated calculators can provide a more detailed lifetime savings estimate.

Other Solar ROI Considerations

While financial savings are the primary driver of solar ROI for most homeowners, there are other benefits to consider as well:

Increased Home Value

Installing solar panels can significantly increase the value of your home. A recent Zillow study found that homes with solar sold for 4.1% more on average than comparable non-solar homes across the U.S. So in addition to monthly electricity savings, you could recoup your solar investment in the form of a higher resale price. Solar panels are an increasingly sought-after feature for home buyers looking for energy efficiency and savings.

Environmental Benefits

Beyond the financial ROI, many homeowners are motivated to go solar for environmental reasons. Generating electricity from solar panels produces zero carbon emissions and significantly reduces your home’s reliance on fossil fuels. Over its lifetime, the average residential solar panel system will offset over 100 tons of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of planting 2,400 trees. So while it may not show up directly in your ROI calculation, the environmental payback of solar is a compelling benefit.

Energy Independence

Solar panels can provide a sense of energy independence and security that’s harder to quantify but valuable nonetheless. By generating your own electricity, you’re less reliant on the grid and protected from future utility rate increases. If your system includes battery storage, you’ll also be protected from power outages. With solar, you have more control over your energy usage and costs.

When Solar Might Not Pay Off

While solar is a smart investment for most homeowners, there are some scenarios where it may not make financial sense:

Shaded Roof

If your roof is heavily shaded by trees, buildings, or other obstructions, your solar panels will generate significantly less electricity. Excessive shading can lengthen your payback period and reduce your overall ROI. Before investing in solar, have a professional assess your roof’s solar potential and see if tree trimming or other solutions could improve it.

Moving Soon

Solar panels are a long-term investment, so if you’re planning to move in the next few years, you may not own the home long enough to recoup your initial costs and see the full financial benefits. However, as mentioned above, solar panels can increase your home’s value and help it sell faster, so this factor may offset a shorter ownership timeline. Evaluate your expected time in the home against your estimated payback period.

Low Electricity Rates

Homeowners in states with low electricity prices will save less by switching to solar than those in high-cost states. If your current electricity rates are well below the national average of about $0.14 per kWh, your solar savings may be more modest. However, keep in mind that electricity prices are likely to rise over the 25+ year lifespan of your system, so your solar savings could still add up significantly over time. It’s also worth exploring if your utility offers time-of-use rates or net metering policies that could boost your solar savings.

Next Steps for Determining Your Solar ROI

If you’re interested in finding out your home’s unique solar ROI, here are your next steps:

  1. Get quotes from reputable local solar installers. Look for experienced, licensed and insured companies that offer free consultations and savings estimates. Compare quotes to find the best overall value. Check out our guide on how to choose a solar installer and financing options.
  2. Evaluate your solar financing options and incentives. Decide if you want to pay in cash, finance with a solar loan, or explore other options like leases or PPAs. Research and factor in all available tax credits, rebates, and incentives to lower your net cost.
  3. Use a solar calculator to estimate your payback period and lifetime savings. Reputable online calculators like Google’s Project Sunroof can provide more detailed estimates based on your specific roof and location. Compare estimates from a few different calculators.
  4. Compare solar savings to other home improvement or investment options. Consider your solar ROI in the context of other financial priorities like home renovations, college funds, or retirement savings. While solar is a smart investment for most homeowners, make sure it aligns with your overall financial goals.


For most homeowners, solar panels provide a strong return on investment, with payback periods averaging under 10 years and the potential for tens of thousands in lifetime savings. Of course, your specific solar ROI depends on key factors like your system cost, local electricity rates, sunlight exposure, and available incentives. By crunching the numbers and calculating your payback period and lifetime savings, you can make an informed decision about whether solar makes sense for your home.

If you’re ready to start exploring your solar options, consult with reputable local solar installers and use online calculators to estimate your potential ROI. With the right system and financing plan, solar panels can be a bright investment in your home’s energy efficiency, environmental impact, and long-term savings. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our experts for personalized guidance on your solar journey.