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  • Sarah Lozanova

Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?



There will be 4 million solar systems in the United States by 2023, according to predictions by Wood Mackenzie. As solar installations become more widespread, more homes with solar energy systems will enter the housing market. Therefore, calculating the increased market value of solar homes is essential for homeowners to get a fair market price.


Many prospective solar customers want to know the financial implications of going solar. Although the electric bill savings are relatively easy to estimate, how exactly a solar system impacts the home’s sale price is a bit more complicated. It’s useful to understand how going solar impacts the property value so solar installers can pass this information along to potential clients.


How Much Do Solar Panels Increase Home Value?

There have been numerous studies that solar houses sell for more. In other words, installing solar panels is a home improvement that increases the property value, similar to adding a deck or remodeling the kitchen. Although the exact findings of studies on the resale value of solar houses vary, many conclude that solar panels add significantly to the home’s value.


A Zillow study found that homes sold in 2018 with solar panels sold for 4.1% more than comparable homes without them. This equals an additional $9,274 for the median-priced home. Interestingly, the price difference varied by location. Solar homes in Riverside, California, sold for a 2.7% premium compared to a 5.4% premium in New York City. The premium sales price in Orlando, Florida and San Francisco, CA were nearly identical, at 4.6% and 4.4%.


A 2015 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that solar homes sell for about $4 per watt more if they have solar panels. Thus, a house with a 3.6-kilowatt solar panel system would sell for an estimated $15,000 more. However, this study is getting a bit outdated, and solar energy system costs have fallen since it was written. Thus, the Zillow study may be more accurate in today’s housing market.


Likewise, numerous studies show that energy-efficient homes sell for more money than less efficient homes. This is because the operating expenses associated with the dwelling are less on average overall. Also, some home buyers may find an energy-efficient home more appealing because it is greener and consumes fewer resources.


The Added Resale Value Varies By Location

Studies also show that how much the solar panels add value depends on the location of the home. One reason might be because the cost of electricity varies so much in different areas of the United States. For example, electricity rates in Hawaii can be $0.33 per kilowatt-hour or as low as $0.07 per kilowatt-hour in Louisiana. Some utility companies don’t offer net metering, and they don’t credit solar energy system owners at the retail rate for the power they supply to the electric grid. Thus, the solar savings from the solar panel installation varies by location.


Also, attitudes may vary depending on location. Home shoppers in some markets might better understand the benefits of solar energy, while others might be more hesitant to live in a solar-powered house.


Does Leasing A Solar System Impact The Home Sales Process?

Selling a house with a leased PV system can be a bit more difficult for the homeowner. The Zillow and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studies examine properties where the solar system is owned, not leased. Although owning a solar array is a home improvement, solar leasing arrangements are different because homeowners actually rent equipment. This means that the new homeowner may be asked to take over the solar lease payments.


The terms of solar leases vary by the installer, but some homeowners may need to buy themselves out of the contract if they cannot find a home buyer that will take over the lease contract. In this case, this expense could eat into the potential profits of selling the home. To take over the solar lease, the new homeowner may need to meet credit requirements, and not all home shoppers will qualify.


Why Do Solar-Powered Homes Sell At A Premium?

Houses with solar panels are cheaper to operate because the electric bills are dramatically lower. This is especially true for solar systems that are owned and not leased. When customers can take advantage of net metering, they might only pay the delivery fee on their monthly electricity bill and pay nothing for power consumption. This happens when the solar system’s production throughout the year is equal to the annual electric consumption, and the home is considered net zero.


Renewable energy is growing in popularity partially because it’s a clean source of energy.

Many people are striving to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and gain greater energy independence. For home shoppers who want to reduce their carbon footprint, a solar-powered home is appealing, attracting potential buyers.


A grid-tied solar system with battery storage also helps make a home more resilient during power outages. In some cases, solar batteries can help prevent costly damage, such as pipes freezing, perishable food spoiling, or a basement flooding. Emergency power during grid outages can run a heating system, refrigerator, or sump pump. People that work from home might also experience loss of productivity during a power outage, potentially reducing their income, yet solar batteries can provide electricity to run communication equipment and computers. In addition to preventing damage, living in a house with solar batteries can offer peace of mind, especially during natural disasters or extreme weather events.


How Should You Value A Solar System?

The Solar Energy Industries Association produced a guide on how to value a residential solar system. They highlight three primary methods, which can help home sellers and appraisers can use.


It’s important to note, too, that if the system requires any repairs or maintenance, it helps to do this before listing the home. If a home buyer identifies potential issues, it may make the house less appealing.


Income Approach

This approach values a solar system based on the estimated income a solar system will produce for the new owner for the remaining lifespan of the equipment. This involves calculating the energy-cost savings that the new owner would have paid the utility company for electricity. It is essential to consider equipment degradation when taking this approach because solar equipment is less efficient at producing energy over time. Then, any costs associated with owning the solar system are subtracted out.


Cost Approach

This methodology uses the cost of reproducing the system that is currently installed on the home. The downside of this approach is that photovoltaic solar equipment does depreciate over time.


Comparable Sales Approach

This valuation method involves examining comparable homes with and without solar systems, similar to the approach in the Zillow study above. Doing this requires finding at least two pairs of similar homes, where one has solar, and the other doesn’t. As more homeowners go solar, this method will be easier to conduct.


How To Determine If A Homeowner Has Recouped Their Initial Solar System Investment

There are three primary ways solar homeowners recoup their investment, including the solar equipment and installation costs. One way is through the federal solar tax credit and applicable local solar rebates. Homeowners can take advantage of the solar tax credit when filing their taxes the following April, so they typically see the benefit of this incentive pretty quickly. Solar rebates and other solar incentives are only available in certain areas and vary by state or utility territory.


Next, solar arrays can create a significant reduction in energy bills. In much of the United States, the payback period of a solar system is between five and ten years. The return on investment varies widely depending on net metering laws and the cost of electricity and the solar system.


Finally, the solar system can cause a significant property value increase. If the home is sold after the payback period on the solar system, the increased home value is pure profit. If the home is sold before the solar system has paid for itself in savings, the homeowner can likely recoup their initial investment and potentially make a profit during the sale of the home.


Check out the GreenLancer blog to find more tips and information to share with your customers. Or, fill out our contact form today to talk with a GreenLancer Rep about your solar design and engineering needs.