Over the past decade, solar panels for residential homes have become much less expensive and much more popular.

Although the value of installing solar panels may not be certain—photovoltaic systems still comprise a hefty initial investment, and solar panel efficiency varies from region to region—it’s worth a homeowner’s time to at least consider the upgrade.

Begin by taking stock of the following benefits that come with relying more on solar energy:

The Environment Will Thank You

When accessing electricity is as effortless as flicking a switch, it’s easy to forget that the energy our homes use is created by burning fossil fuels and nuclear fission, processes with negative consequences for human and environmental health.

Solar power is a rare kind of energy with no environmental collateral damage. Even the fossil fuel- or nuclear-derived energy used to manufacture solar panels is offset; over a solar panel’s lifetime of use, it generates seven to fourteen times the amount of energy required to produce it.

You Can Save Money (and Even Make Money)

Solar panels are most effective when the sun is brightest and other energy consumers are putting the greatest demands on the power grid. Especially energy-efficient homeowners can even generate surplus electricity during the day.

In return for that extra power, as well as the diminished stress on the system, your local electric utility provider may offer a rebate for each surplus watt generated. Over time, this energy rebate, combined with tax credits offered by the federal government and some state governments, can go a long way toward recouping the initial cost of installing solar panels.

With the US Department of Energy estimating that 18 percent of your energy bill goes to heating water, solar water heaters are another solar-powered option that can save you money.

Unfortunately, solar water heaters have some drawbacks—for example, they bring water to the hottest temperatures at midday, when most people have already had their morning shower and headed off to work.

However, homeowners who are able to adjust their habits, including the amount of hot water they use and the time of day they use it, could theoretically bring the amount they spend heating water from several hundred dollars per year to zero.

The Initial Investment Will Pay Off

Adding a photovoltaic system to your home is an investment, although the return has been difficult to quantify due to the relatively low number of homeowners who utilize solar energy.

A recent study conducted by the University of California suggests that solar panels add 3.3 percent to the sales price of a home, and that capitalization rate, along with energy rebates and tax subsidies, allows many homeowners to fully recover the cost of installing a photovoltaic system over time.

As energy prices continue to rise, the perceived value of a residential photovoltaic system could become even greater.

Ultimately, there are many benefits to powering your home with solar panels, and the largest drawback remains the up-front cost.

In this way, installing a photovoltaic system is like many other home improvement projects—it’s up to each homeowner to determine if the upgrade is worth it.

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