Affordable Solar 2

Finding the Most Affordable Solar

Going solar should be a no-brainer

It’s great for the environment and it helps to reduce (or eliminate) your energy bills. It provides independence and security.

The main holdup for most people is the upfront cost. Yes, you might be able to save a few dollars on your utilities every month, but the average cost of solar panel installation is between $17,538 and $23,458—and that’s even after the 26% federal solar tax credit!

If you’re interested in going solar but find the cost of entry way too high, there are more affordable solar options out there that won’t cost an arm and a leg but will still give you all the cost and environmental benefits solar has to offer.

Affordable Solar Panel Alternatives

If you don’t have an extra $20,000 laying around to install solar panels, that doesn’t mean you have to go without. There are a few affordable solar panel alternatives that’ll help you reduce your utility bills and save the planet without the high cost of entry. Here are a few of the most effective:

Community Solar

Community solar is by far the most effective cost-saving alternative to solar panel installation.

Instead of buying expensive panels and installing them on your home, you can subscribe to get your energy from a local solar farm that’s already active.

Since people all over the state share in the installation and maintenance costs, community solar is much more affordable than standard solar panel installation.

Want to know the best part? The average community solar participant saves 10% on their energy bills!

aerial photography of grass field with blue solar panels

In addition to the cost-savings, you also could be eligible to benefit from solar tax incentives, even if you don’t own the panels or install them on your home directly. That’s right, you can enjoy all the benefits of solar without the high installation costs!

As if the lower cost wasn’t good enough, community solar also brings solar power to people who would otherwise not be able to install panels like renters, people who live in apartments, or homeowners with houses that don’t have “solar-ready” roofs.

As long as you live near a community solar project, you can get access to solar power. As of 2021, 41 states and D.C. have community solar projects up and running, with more on the way! 

The main downside to community solar over panel installation is that you’ll never be able to go completely off-grid. You’ll still need to rely on standard utilities for a portion of your household energy need, just not all of it.

Portable Solar Panels

Another affordable solar option is portable solar panels. Instead of those gigantic and expensive panels installed on your roof, you could purchase a few smaller panels to power devices and small kitchen appliances. 

While portable solar panels won’t power your entire home, they can charge up your devices like phones, tablets, and laptops, while larger portable panels can even run small kitchen appliances like your toaster, coffee maker, or Instant Pot to name a few. 

Obviously, since they’re much smaller, these portable solar panels are much more cost-effective than the large arrays installed on your roof. There are plenty of portable solar panel kits for sale online for under $300. Just set them up on your porch or in a window and let the sun power the gadgets around your house.  

This option might not make a huge dent in your monthly utility bills, but it’s something! Plus, you can enjoy the peace of mind knowing that you’re helping the environment ever so slightly. 

Solar Water Heaters

Your water heater uses a lot of energy. In fact, it’s responsible for around 17% of your household’s total energy usage! In most cases, heating water will cost homeowner’s an average of $438 per year. 

Instead of buying portable solar panels to power a bunch of small appliances around your house, you can purchase a solar water heater kit to power one of your most important (and energy-hungry) appliances. After all, your water heater runs for hours and hours each day, while your coffee machine really only works in the morning. 

Solar water heater kits do cost a bit more than typical portable panels, but they quickly pay for themselves. You can get a solar water heater kit for anywhere between $250 and $1,200. Considering it’ll save you an average of around $440 per year, it’ll only take about three years for you to recoup the costs.

We need to adopt more clean energy for our kids’ future

Solar water heater kits do cost a bit more than typical portable panels, but they quickly pay for themselves. You can get a solar water heater kit for anywhere between $250 and $1,200. Considering it’ll save you an average of around $440 per year, it’ll only take about three years for you to recoup the costs.

Again, this might not power your entire house with clean, renewable energy, but it’s at least a start and won’t cost tens of thousands of dollars upfront.

Choosing the Most Affordable Solar Panels

If you’re dead set on installing a solar array on your roof or property (and your home is suitable for solar), there are ways to ensure you’re getting the best “bang for your buck.” Here are a few tips to ensure you’re getting the most affordable solar panels possible.

Cheap vs. Affordable

There is a difference between “cheap” and “affordable.” Cheap solar panels might cost the least, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best bargain. As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.” 

Saying a solar panel is cheap considers only the price tag. It might be the lowest price, but there’s a reason for that. It was probably made with the lowest quality materials. It’ll look fancy sitting on the roof of your house, but it probably won’t generate much power (or last very long).

Solar farms all across the country provide solar access even if you can’t own panels

Affordable solar panels consider more than just the price. It takes the quality of the construction, efficiency of the panels, warranty, and yes, the cost, adds them all up, and tells you which solar panels give you the best bang for your buck overall. They might not be the absolute cheapest, but they’re going to give you the best value in the long run.

Before deciding on which solar panels to install on your home, take the following considerations into account to determine if a certain set of panels are affordable or just cheap:

  • Solar Efficiency – How much energy a solar panel can produce with a certain amount of sunlight. The most efficient solar panels you can buy are around 23% efficient. That means you can generate more power with fewer panels, but of course, the more efficient the panel, the higher the cost. 
  • Wattage – How much power a panel can produce at maximum capacity. A small high-watt panel can produce more than a large low-wattage panel. Most residential solar panels operate somewhere between 300 and 350 watts. 
  • Warranty – Issues with solar panels can be expensive. That’s why warranty is just as important to consider as wattage or efficiency when selecting affordable solar panels. The average warranty for solar panels is 25 years. 

Before you select solar panels you might think are on-budget, make sure to think about efficiency, wattage, and warranty. Some solar panels might seem affordable, but when you take these considerations into account, they’re just cheap. You’ll save more money in the long run if you choose panels that check off at least some of these boxes, and that’s the true essence of affordability.

And remember, solar panels are an investment that create a financial return for you too. Assess both sides of the return on investment to get the best picture of its potential impact on your finances.

Find a Solar Solution That Works for Your Budget

No matter your budget or need, there’s an affordable solar option out there for you.

Whether you choose to join a community solar farm near you, purchase a few portable panels, or install a full array on your roof, you can enjoy the benefits of solar, save a few dollars on your monthly utility bills, and help to save the planet without breaking your budget. Any way you spin it, that’s a win!

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