A few weeks ago, we received a comment on our Facebook page (have you “liked” us?) that seems to sum up what a lot of people think about solar at home—that it would be great because of the environmental and energy security benefits, but who can afford it? While it still is an investment in a home, today’s lowered costs have broadened the appeal of installing a photovoltaic system. In fact, a recent study conducted in California found that 62 percent of new residential solar systems are being installed on middle-income homes. Many of the homeowners we have helped go solar reflect this trend as well.

For a variety of reasons the cost of photovoltaic panels has dropped over the last year or so, and as a result the average system costs have come down a lot, too. Today, the average upfront investment after incentives is around $15,000. Factoring in the avoided cost of utilities for the next 25 years, which have historically increased at approximately 5 percent per year, gives a clearer idea of when a system will  “pay for itself.” In many cases, it works out to fewer than ten years, which gives homeowners fifteen years or more to enjoy free solar energy.

Some have compared the purchase of a solar array with that of a car. There are some similarities, but one huge difference—once the array is paid off, the owner will still have many years of worry-free use. With a car, you will continue to pay increasingly for maintenance long after you own it. Since most solar systems are warranted for 25 years and provide residual value from avoided costs of energy among other financial benefits, solar is low risk and a great return on investment. And, with rising costs of electricity, it’s worth looking into…now.