Deciding whether you should install solar panels on a property often boils down to a simple value proposition. If the math says the expected value is positive, then there's likely to be a solar installation for you in the near future. How do you properly assess the value of going solar though?

Available Sunlight

Foremost, you want to figure out how much sunlight is going to be available at the target location. Ideally, you might be able to target multiple spots on a property so you can pick the best one. However, many properties have specific and highly local limitations such as nearby hills, trees, or buildings. You want the target location to be the one that receives the most sunlight throughout a typical day. Understandably, this means many solar panels end up on roofs or in open fields.

You also should look at the available solar generation capacity for your general region of the country. This is a good starting point for figuring out how efficient the system will need to be to provide sufficient and cost-effect electricity. Check out this map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to start doing the math.

Local Electricity Prices 

You will also want to balance the cost of a solar installation against the price of electricity. Utility rates almost never go down so you can expect the future costs to be higher than what you're paying now. Especially in regions where electricity prices have shot up rapidly, solar panels are quickly becoming a more appealing option than they have been in previous years.

A major advantage of solar is that it allows you to lock in your costs for the coming decades. Even in ideal economic times, inflation in the modern era has driven prices up. Done well, a solar installation is an excellent inflation hedge.


Federal, state, and local programs exist to encourage solar power. It is a good idea to contact your state's energy agencies to learn what incentives are available. Also, talk to neighbors who've installed solar panels. They may be able to tip you off to local incentives that aren't as easy to track down as things like federal tax rebates.

Capacity Requirements

You should also perform a full energy audit for your household. Many people are surprised to find out that they can totally unplug from the grid based on their energy needs. Even if you can't, you may be able to feed electricity into the grid at peak hours and realize a sizable credit.

Contact a local solar installation service to learn more.