Man in hardhat with drill installing solar panel

Making the switch to solar is one of the best investments you can make for your wallet and the environment. For many people, the question is why make the change when you already have electricity running into your home? Even if you don't care about saving money or protecting the environment, in an increasingly erratic climate, installing a full solar system with battery backup is an investment in peace of mind. Solar allows you to maintain power even when the aging electric grid is overtaxed by cold snaps in the Southwest or heat waves in the Pacific Northwest. Here's what you need to know about making the switch to solar.

It's Worth It to Hire Professionals

Yes, you can buy solar panels and solar batteries on your own. If you just want an emergency system to run one or two appliances or you're putting solar on your RV, go for it. However, if you want a system for your home it is imperative to work with a professional installer. Not only will they know how to position your panels for maximum impact, but they will also evaluate your roof to make sure the structure is able to handle the weight of panels. With a pro, you won't have to worry about damage to your roof, how to install the electrical transformers, batteries, or a two-way electric meter.

Buy If You Can, Lease If You Must

You'll hear that adding solar adds to the value of your home and in most cases that's true. A solar system adds approximately 4% to the resale value of a home. That, of course, is in addition to the savings you reap from avoiding the ever-increasing price of electricity. However, beware of leasing a solar system unless you plan on staying in your home for the long term. When you sell your home you'll have to also sell your solar lease agreement and it can actually make it more difficult to find a buyer. Even leasing a system is better for your wallet and the environment so it's a better choice than avoiding solar.

You Still Have to Deal With the Utility Company In Most Cases

Another reason to go with a professional installer is they can help you navigate the requirements of your local utility provider. Solar batteries are a newer technology which means they are still very expensive, especially compared to solar panels. Instead, your system will generate electricity during the day and any excess electricity you generate and don't use will be sent back through your bi-directional meter, creating a credit towards your utility costs. At night you'll still pull electricity from the grid and be charged for anything over the credits you've earned. It also means you still have monthly surcharges to maintain the lines and pay the utility employees.

The only way to go completely off-grid is with a battery system. Keep in mind that you'll need enough battery power to see you through cloudy weather and overnight. You should even have an extra battery that acts as a backup generator if anything happens to your main battery storage. If you aren't sure about the battery technology yet, you can combine the two systems, extending your time without using energy from your electric company. As usual, Tesla is at the forefront of solar battery innovation. Their batteries allow you to switch to battery backup without having to throw any switches manually. The batteries will also continue to charge while they're in use.


With the rebates and tax incentives for installing solar, there's really no reason not to. In most cases, solar pays for itself within seven years and homeowners save a minimum of $20,000 above and beyond the cost of installation over the next 20 years. There is no other upgrade you can make to your home that pays you money back, not potential money when you sell, but cash in your pocket every month. 

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About The Author

Mikkie Mills's picture

Mikkie Mills is a freelance writer who's passionate about health, fitness, organic cooking and eating, and yoga. When not writing she loves traveling, hiking, and cooking. Find more from Mikkie on Google+.

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