Should I get solar panels?
March 9, 2022 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Hi, I'm starting to notice electricity usage go up significantly. I wanted to get some analysis from Mefi's if I should commit to a major purchase on my home.

I'm starting to notice electricity usage go up significantly. My wife and two children live in Regina, SK. I am tempted to get solar panels installed to alleviate energy usage during the day. My mom, my brother, and my university friends live in Saskatoon (about 250 km away). I've talked about moving up to Saskatoon, but we've been hesitant about giving up facility daycare as that's a luxury we feel is important to our kids. We also get childcare tax credits, so our tuition was reduced significantly. My older daughter starts grade 1 this year, but my younger daughter has three more years of facility daycare. It would be nice to have my mom occasionally babysitting the kids so both my wife and I could go out for a movie night, but that seems to be the only benefit to moving up right away. If we moved close to my mom, my mom could function as a before and after school transition point. My mom hasn't decided where she's moving to. My dad died so she no longer needs a five bedroom house all to herself. My wife has to find a new job, which isn't hard for her. I can just transfer locations as my work has both a Regina and Saskatoon office and my IT department is spread between the two offices. Moving now involves a $20000 fee to real estate agents and lawyers, which I could be using to buy solar panels. I would also benefit in not having to pay for mileage when I make a trip between the two cities. My younger daughter creates a mess so showing the home would involve a lot of extra cleaning. Two of my university friends in Saskatoon have children the same age as my older daughter. She may have some ability to adapt to the move more easily.

If I buy solar panels for my house, I receive an increased cashflow now. The federal government offers a credit of up to $5000 for rooftop solar panels. If I decide to move three years later once we no longer need facility daycare, will that purchase be a wash? I suspect solar panels can be added to the property resale value.
posted by DetriusXii to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What we found was that, if you own, rather than doing a weird lease thing, it basically ends up being a wash. It doesn't raose the value more than the cost, but you generally don't lose money on having them.

Granted, I'm in Hawaii, so ymmv.
posted by DebetEsse at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

So the choice is between "get solar panels" or "move closer to mom to Saskatoon"? It sounds like you don't really want to move to Saskatoon right now. Whether solar panels make sense seems like a completely separate question. How much would you expect to save each month on your electricity costs for your $20K investment/$5K credit? Are their other ways you could save on your electricity costs? Has your actual usage gone up (and if so, do you know why and are there steps you could take to be more energy-efficient) or has the cost of the electricity you use gone up?
posted by mskyle at 12:50 PM on March 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Yes solar panels will increase the value of the house, too, so getting them with a good government credit sounds like a win now and a win later, whether you move or not.
posted by ldthomps at 12:59 PM on March 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

Agreed that solar panels add to the value of the house, so if you have the cash, it's a good investment. (In my California experience, it was a net win due to the savings in electricity and gas costs.) If you're going to sell anytime soon, buy the panels outright rather than leasing them; it will make the actual sale smoother.

Whether you should move to Saskatoon is a different question that's harder to map into a cost savings ...
posted by chbrooks at 1:36 PM on March 9, 2022

The solar salespeople should be able to estimate the payback period for you. Mine was estimated at around 10 years.

One critical piece of info: how old is your roof? The panels have to be removed to replace the roof, so the ideal is to install on a new roof and put that off as long as possible.
posted by mersen at 1:43 PM on March 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

I can't parse the psychological/emotional pieces of moving closer/farther to family/friends, so I'm going to pretend it's a math problem.

I'm in the US, so you'd have to check for local/province/federal tax credits to figure out the bottom-line. We put enough solar panels on our house to run all our electricity and charge a small plug-in hybrid car; 10 months/year my electric bill is just the fees for staying connected to the grid. That saves me (ballpark) $100/month, or $1,200/year.

I spent $20,000 out of pocket (round numbers) for the solar panels, and got about $10,000 back from power company rebates and federal tax credits. If I put $10,000 in a CD right now, I'd earn $200/year if I'm lucky. $1,200/year > $200/year, so I went with solar. (My understanding is that you may or may not get back the cost of the panels over the asking price of your house, but I don't plan on moving in the next 10 years at least. Also, if you do go to sell, of two similar houses [one with solar, one without] the solar house supposedly sells faster.)

If you do go solar, this thread was chock-full of sound advice.
posted by adekllny at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2022

We've got 37 panels here on our roof in Seattle. We are also an all electric household, (heat pump, stove, cars). I always feel that the panels were a good decision. The solar water heater tubes setup, not such a great investment.

But your situation has way too much other stuff to know what you are asking. Saskatoon feels really far north/not tons of sun so, YMMV
posted by Windopaene at 4:27 PM on March 9, 2022

Have you had a site survey done to see how viable solar is at your house? Surprisingly small amounts of shade can dramatically reduce its generation capability.

I suspect solar panels can be added to the property resale value.

Talk with a real estate agent. Some people love solar, some people hate it.

It sounds like there's a good chance you'll move to Saskatoon within a few years. Based on that, if I were you, I would probably not make a major home improvement that will take some time to amortize. Unless the tax credit combined with the estimated reduction in your electric bill is enough to break even in 3 years, my gut feeling is that you should keep the money in cash or consider investing it.
posted by Candleman at 9:23 PM on March 9, 2022

Saskatoon feels really far north/not tons of sun so, YMMV

About 300 miles north but it's the 600+ miles east into the middle of the comparatively-dry prairie that really makes the difference. Saskatoon gets on average 100 hours more sunlight per year than Seattle, including over 50% more average sunshine hours in January and over 60% more sun in December. Those crispy cold but bright and clear winter days can be pretty great for solar power generation, certainly according to my friends here in (even further-north) Edmonton who built a net-zero home seven years ago.

Hope that wasn't too off-topic! But addressing the original question, like others above I'd probably lean towards saving your money towards an eventual move up closer to your family in Saskatoon. As far as adding value to your present home for resale, it might be better to look at things like kitchen and bathroom improvements, which would be more likely to appeal to the vast majority of Western Canadian home buyers (at least, according to the recent experience of some other friends here, whose well-kept, roomy [2500 sq. ft.], reasonably-priced 4-bedroom-plus-finished-basement home in a good neighbourhood took ages to sell because most buyers wanted a THIRD [!!?!] full bathroom, two fulls and two halves being not quite enough for today's needs, apparently...).
posted by hangashore at 11:08 AM on March 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

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