In January 2022, the average US residential electricity rate was up 8% compared to January 2021. This accounts for the largest annual increase in more than a decade. What’s worse, is that in four states (including Florida), rates are up about 15%. With prices of nearly everything increasing and Floridians entering the summer season, when air conditioning becomes a necessity, it is a perfect time to consider alternative energy sources such as solar. With abundant sunshine, average system prices lower than the US average, and programs designed to help homeowners, Florida is one of the best states to consider a conversion to solar energy.
For those thinking about making the switch, it is important to consider all costs, incentives, and savings together in order to ensure that a system is right for the property and budget. The following article explores options and costs to help answer the question: Is solar worth it in Florida?
|Average Cost to Install Solar Panels Before Tax Incentives (Florida)||$15,500|
|Average Payback Period (Florida)||11.6 Years|
|Average 25 Year Savings (Florida)||$13,211|
Cost vs Savings for Solar Panels in Florida
The average cost for installing grid-tied solar panels in Florida is $13,380 to $17,220, with most homeowners paying around $15,500 for a 6kW system of monocrystalline panels installed on the roof. This is a big upfront cost which could potentially lie outside the budget of many. For those considering an off-grid system, the average costs rise significantly and range from $40,000 to $70,000. The range of costs are determined by four main factors: Panel type, inverter type, system type (grid-tied or off-grid), and labor costs. Below, each factor is explained in more detail.
The three most common panel types available for installation are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film. Monocrystalline panels are more costly than other options but better at producing energy and are currently the most common type of panel used in Florida. Polycrystalline and thin film panels are less costly because they are not as efficient at producing energy. The average installation prices mentioned above consider the better and more popular monocrystalline panels.
The inverter's job is to take the DC (direct current) power produced by the panels and convert it to the AC (alternating current) power that a home utilizes. String inverters are the most common and cheapest for this job; however, they must be connected between each panel leading to higher labor costs and the entire system can become compromised if even one single inverter fails. Power optimizers and microinverters cost more than string inverters, but they do not need to be connected thus reducing the overall labor costs. They also have the benefit of being more reliable since they are not strung together. For those who opt to use batteries, or for those going off-grid where batteries are required, a battery inverter is the only option and this will add significant cost to the system.
Off-grid systems, which are not as popular as grid-tied, are legal in the state of Florida; however, some municipalities and HOA’s may prohibit them due to septic system and insurance laws. With an off-grid system, a homeowner should expect to pay significantly more as the system must be large enough to power the entire home and have sufficient battery power for times when the sun is not shining. Grid-tied systems; on the other hand, are permissible in all communities and can be tailored to a homeowner’s budget since they need not account for 100% of power consumption.
Labor costs have a wide fluctuation depending on the area in which the home is located, the slope of the installation location, the type of panels and inverters selected, and the overall size of the system. On average, the labor costs for a 6kW system range between $5,280 and $6,840.
Savings and Payback Period
The average lifespan of a solar panel system is 25 to 30 years and it is standard to calculate savings based on a 25-year period. To determine the savings amount, the average solar production in Florida is ascertained and multiplied by the average electricity rates in Florida (11.27 cents/kWh) which equates to the annual average savings ($987). This is multiplied by 25 and then reduced by the initial average cost of the system (after the 26% federal tax incentive). The final result is an average savings of $13,211 for a 6kWhrs grid-tied system.
Based on these values, it will take an average payback period of 11.6 years for the system to reach its breakeven point. This is calculated by dividing the total average cost of the system (after the 26% federal tax incentive) by the annual savings amount.
The total savings and payback periods will vary per system and overall power consumption; however, on average, 6kWhrs grid-tied systems will pay for themselves in less than half of their lifespan.
What Incentives Are There in Florida?
Floridians have many options and incentives available to them when it comes to installing solar.
A federal solar tax credit of 26% is available to those who earn income and file taxes. This credit is available across the US and while it doesn’t cut the costs immediately, it does allow for a tax credit when annual tax returns are filed.
State specific tax incentives come in the form of sales and property tax exemptions. These help to reduce upfront costs by eliminating the 6% general sales tax rate and alleviate concerns of rising property taxes that would normally occur when a home value increases.
There are several loan programs available as well to help pay for the installation. One of these programs, PACE, is offered directly through the state and is unique in that it attaches to the property rather than the owner. So, should the property be sold, the remaining balance of the loan will become the new owner’s responsibility. This is encouraging to those homeowners who may want to switch to solar but aren’t sure they’ll remain in the home to reach the breakeven point and beyond.
Utility companies also offer incentives to make the switch. Customers can take advantage of net metering, which credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid when they’re producing more than they’re consuming. Additionally, homeowners may qualify for a locally offered battery rebate or loan program. These can vary by region and may have limits or expirations so it is important to check with local utility providers for specifics.
Is It Sunny Enough in Florida?
It is recommended to have at least 4 hours of typical peak sunlight for solar panels to be worthwhile and the Sunshine State does not disappoint. Florida averages about 5.44 hours per day and while not the sunniest state in the US, it is high on the list with top cities ranging between 221 and 266 days of sunshine per year.
Maintenance and Running
Fortunately, solar panels require minimal upkeep and repair throughout their lifespan as they are rigorously tested to withstand extreme weather including high winds, heavy snow, and hail.
Although they’re built to last, there are some extra costs associated with keeping solar panels running; however, they are generally low and infrequent. It is recommended that panels be cleaned once a year for performance improvement and an overall inspection of condition. Professionals that provide annual cleaning and maintenance cost between $300 and $700 on average. Of course, these prices can vary depending on the size and location of the system.
In the case of defective equipment being uncovered during the inspection, the repairs are most often covered by product warranties that are valid for 10-25 years after installation. During inspection, it can also be determined if growing trees must be trimmed back to avoid unnecessary shade or whether any local wildlife has started nesting under the panels. If found, a service call to a local arborist or exterminator can help mitigate the problem.
Is Solar Worth It in Florida?
In a nutshell, solar power is worth installing in the state of Florida. There is adequate sun, financial incentives, and programs designed to help homeowners finance the installation. When these factors are coupled with rising electricity rates, it simply makes good financial sense in the long term. Before making the decision to convert it is important to speak to local solar professionals for tailored advice and quotes as every situation, home, and budget is unique.
Adam Graham is an industry analyst at Fixr.com. He analyzes and writes about the real estate and home construction industries, covering a range of associated topics. He has been featured in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens and The Boston Globe, and written for various outlets including the National Association of Realtors, and Insurance News Net Magazine.