Solar panels are arrays of solar cells designed to produce an electric charge when they are exposed to the sun. The panels gather this charge and store it in batteries for later use in a variety of household applications. Solar panels can save money, but they can also come with high upfront costs. Purchase and installation can vary from several thousand dollars to $15,000 or even $40,000 for the largest versions. The largest solar energy systems also save the most money, but owners will need to wait for some time for the system to pay for itself.
Timeframes for fully recovering the costs of solar panels vary, but last at least several years. An average timeframe is fifteen years from the time owners begin using the solar panel system, including installation cost recovery. Smaller or more efficient systems may only take five years to recover, while less efficient systems can take longer.
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Solar Panel Lifespan
The solar panel lifespan is about 25 to 30 years long. This means that owners can expected to spend roughly half the lifespan of the solar panel recouping the associated costs, and the latter half of the panel's life saving money on it. The danger in this is that, in the intervening time, new and more efficient solar panels may be created that can save money more quickly and start the cycle over again.
Costs may be offset by using more than one type of solar system. Homeowners can install both a solar electricity system and a solar heating system that supplements their water heater. This allows homeowners to save money through both applications, and if installation costs are lower overall, they can recover costs more quickly.
The trouble with calculating when solar panels will pay for themselves lies in the large number of variables involved in solar panel energy. Solar panels are not a reliable source of power in all areas. Their efficiency varies based on weather conditions, and may vary from season to season and year to year. Energy costs, which can also rise and fall, play their own part in how quickly money is saved on solar panels.