Are solar panels worth it in Maryland?

It’s one of the best states for going solar, according to our research

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Do you own or rent?

a brick house with solar panels on the roof

Maryland is a good state for installing a solar panel system. Relatively high electricity rates mean that you can save a lot over time. The state also has financial incentives and policies to encourage renewable energy adoption.

The main drawback is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing the equipment. For many Maryland homeowners, the long-term savings outweigh the upfront costs within 9 years.


Key insights

A typical residential solar panel installation costs $10,280 to $29,371 in Maryland, depending on the size of your system, what financial incentives you qualify for and other factors.

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Over 25 years, Maryland homeowners with solar panels avoid $64,703 in total utility costs on average.

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Community solar is available for renters, so even if you don’t own your home, you can join the energy revolution.

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7 factors to consider before going solar in Maryland

Based on feedback from thousands who have already gone solar, it’s generally worth it if you like the idea of lowering your monthly utility bills, helping the environment and gaining more energy independence. But it doesn’t work out for everyone. Here’s what to consider before making the switch.

  1. Solar panel installation costs
  2. Maryland solar incentives
  3. Net metering buy-back rates
  4. Your energy consumption
  5. How long you live in your house
  6. The solar company you hire
  7. How you pay

1. Solar panel installation costs: $10,000 to $30,000

Average solar panel costs in Maryland are comparable to the national average. Before the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), a typical residential system ranges from $14,686 to $29,371. That price drops to $10,280 to $20,560 after the full 30% tax credit.

Most installers set the price according to the system's wattage, with a typical cost between $2.50 and $5 per watt. “Cost per watt” is a little like looking at the price per square foot when you buy a house. It helps you compare the value of solar energy systems in different sizes. In Maryland, the average cost per watt is only $3.01.

Average solar panel installation cost by system size in Maryland 

2. Maryland solar incentives: federal and state tax breaks

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is a major incentive that reduces the upfront cost of going solar in Maryland. The ITC provides a 30% tax credit on your total system costs, including equipment, labor and permits. It will drop to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034.

Don’t get confused: The ITC is a credit, meaning it directly decreases the amount of taxes you owe. This is different from a deduction, which reduces your taxable income. It isn’t a rebate or a refund. It only offsets your tax liability; you can't take advantage of the ITC if you don’t owe taxes in the first place. However, the credit rolls over to the next tax year if you don’t use the full amount.

Maryland is committed to transitioning to green energy. To further that goal, the state offers lots of local and state tax incentives to make it easier to get solar on your home. You can also sell your energy credits back to the utilities to help them meet their green power requirements.

» MORE: Maryland solar incentives, tax credits and rebates

3. Net metering rates in Maryland

If you install a solar system in Maryland, you can get into the net metering program. That means the electric company will give you full price credit for any extra energy your system generates, up to 200% of what you normally use. Your system must be under 2 megawatts. The state has a 3,000-megawatt cap on the whole net metering program, so it might get shut down once it hits that limit. But for now, you can sign up with any utility company to get in on it.

4. Your current energy consumption

A typical Maryland household needs a system with the capacity of  10.18 kW to offset its electricity needs with solar energy. You might need a larger or smaller system, depending on your current energy consumption.

Look at your most recent utility bills to see how much electricity your house needs each month. This tells you what size and capacity your solar system needs to be. Once you know your current energy consumption, you can calculate your potential savings and the time it should take for your solar installation to pay for itself.

5. How long you plan to stay in your house

Solar installations are expensive, and it takes years for electric bill savings to make up for the initial cost. Solar panels typically pay for themselves within 9 years in Maryland. If you sell your house and move before then, you might not fully realize the financial benefits of your solar investment.

Solar panels are designed to last 25 to 30 years.

A Zillow study found that, on average, houses with solar panels sell for 4.1% more. Let’s say you spend $25,000 putting solar panels on a house that costs $400,000. It might sell for $16,400 more in a few years, according to Zillow. But, you miss out on some of that $64,703 in total avoided utility costs over 25 years.

In other words, don't get solar panels just because you want to sell your house soon. Instead, consider a home improvement project with a better return on investment, like remodeling the bathroom or kitchen.

6. The solar company you hire

People have had mixed experiences with solar companies. In the best-case scenario, it’s easy and you’re happy with the system’s performance. In the worst-case scenario, you end up paying thousands for mid-tier solar equipment from a company with poor customer service and no follow-up or support.

That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly research and verify claims made by sales teams before making a decision. Use the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's PVWatts Calculator to estimate how much electricity a solar panel can produce over a year on your house — just type in your address. Project Sunroof is a free solar savings estimator powered by Google Earth imagery.

7. How you pay

If you can, it’s often financially strategic to pay for the whole thing upfront. You own the system from day one, get the tax credit benefits and don’t have to pay interest on a loan. Of course, paying cash is not always an option. That’s when loans, leases and other agreements come into play.

  • Loan: Solar loans work like any other type of loan. They have relatively low fixed interest rates. Once you pay it off, you own your system outright.
  • Lease: Leasing panels is one way to get the benefits of solar energy without the high upfront cost. A solar lease works like a car lease — you get to use the panels but don’t own them. Leasing can be good if you have limited savings. Solar lease agreements typically last 20 to 25 years.
  • Power purchase agreement: Similar to leasing, a power purchase agreement (PPA) lets homeowners install solar panels without the upfront costs. You sign a long-term contract with a solar services provider to purchase the electricity generated by the panels at a predetermined rate. The provider owns and maintains the panels throughout the agreement, which usually lasts 10 to 25 years.
  • Home equity loans or lines of credit (HELOC): Eligible homeowners can borrow against equity in their house to finance a solar panel system.

Monthly costs: Solar payments vs. savings

Think of going solar in terms of your monthly costs. Given rising energy costs in Maryland and elsewhere, financing solar panels makes sense as long as your monthly loan payment is less than what you would be paying the utility company anyway.

Is my house a good candidate for solar panels?

Going solar ends up being worth it for many homeowners as long as their house is a good candidate to support a solar panel installation. Here’s what to think about before you commit:

  • What is the condition of your roof? If you have to replace your roof, do that before you install solar panels. Solar panels are designed to last up to 30 years, so you want your roof to last just as long. Otherwise, it could cost thousands to remove the panels, fix your roof and reinstall the panels — an expensive and frustrating process that you can avoid.
  • How old are your appliances? It’s smart to ensure that your electrical loads are as small as possible. If you have an older refrigerator or air conditioning unit, for instance, upgrade those before investing in solar panels. That way, you can get a smaller system, which will be cheaper overall.
  • How much sunlight do you get? Solar panels need regular exposure to sunlight to produce the most energy possible. Maryland averages 3 to 4 peak sun hours each day. However, lots of shading — like trees or tall buildings above your roof — could make your solar system less efficient.
  • What is the size and angle of your roof? Maryland (and the rest of the United States) is in the Northern Hemisphere, so solar panels perform best on south-facing roofs. The worst place to install would be on north-facing roofs, especially if those roofs have a high pitch. If the only place you can install is a north-facing roof with a 30-degree pitch, your costs will likely go up by 30% to 40%.

Pros and cons of solar panels in Maryland

It’s a common misconception that solar panels always completely eliminate your monthly power bill — this is not always the case. Still, you’ll likely be paying much less than you would for traditional utility bills.

Pros

  • Long-term savings
  • Better for the environment
  • Low maintenance costs
  • Federal and state tax breaks

Cons

  • Upfront costs
  • Seasonal production variations
  • Potential roof leaks

Benefits of solar panels in Maryland

  • Better for the environment: Traditional energy sources like coal and natural gas release carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants into the air. Solar panels generate electricity from sunlight, a clean and renewable energy source. Installing solar panels on your roof helps the environment primarily by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Higher home resale value: Installing solar panels can significantly increase a home's value. According to the study mentioned above, houses with solar panels sell for 4.1% more on average. The exact increase in value varies by location, with homes in active solar markets sometimes seeing even higher boosts.
  • Cheaper energy bills: The average homeowner in Maryland uses a lot of power, which adds up to a lot of savings when you switch to solar. Many residents are happy to see their electric bills fall after switching to solar power. Going solar now means that your monthly energy expenses will be more predictable (and very often significantly lower). It also protects you from future energy cost increases.

Drawbacks of solar panels in Maryland

  • Solar equipment is expensive: Even with rebates and other financial incentives, the price typically starts between $10,000 and $30,000. It’s even more expensive if you want a solar battery for energy storage. Solar battery costs are generally between $7,000 and $18,000. Getting a solar battery might be strategic if net billing rates continue to decline in Maryland. That way, you can store energy at home instead of tapping into the local grid when you need to.
  • Potential roof leaks: The installation process involves drilling holes into the roof to anchor the panel mounting systems. If not done correctly, this can lead to leaks or structural damage.
  • Energy production varies: Solar panels are dependent on weather conditions and seasonality. Solar panels still work on cloudy days, but less available sunlight does affect how efficiently they produce energy. Snow cover may also temporarily reduce efficiency until it's removed or melts off.

» MORE: Solar energy pros and cons

Find solar companies in Maryland

A good solar company helps you navigate local incentives, permitting and net metering policies. Watch out for door-to-door solar scams that attempt to gather your personal information, misleading claims, false advertising and aggressive sales tactics. Compare our picks for the top solar companies in Maryland to learn more.

Do you own or rent?

FAQ

Does Maryland really pay for solar panels?

No. However, incentives such as tax breaks, low-interest loans and rebates will make solar panels worth it for many homeowners. Sometimes sales reps might make it sound like a solar lease or PPA is “free,” but it’s not really. There are also plenty of local and federal solar incentives that can make your upfront costs close to $0.

» FREE SOLAR PANELS: Are they really free?

Do solar panels increase property taxes in Maryland?

No. Home solar is property tax-exempt in Maryland.

Can I get a power purchase agreement in Maryland?

Yes. Power purchase agreements are available in Maryland.

How does the federal solar tax credit work?

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) reduces your federal income tax liability by 30% of what you spent installing solar panels on your home. It’s nonrefundable, meaning you can only claim a credit up to the amount of tax you owe for the year. In other words, you won’t get the excess amount refunded to you if the credit is larger than your tax bill. However, any unused portion of the credit can be carried over to reduce the taxes you'll owe in future years.

How long do solar panels last in Maryland?

Solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies, more commonly known as solar panels, are designed to last 25 to 30 years.

Bottom line: Is going solar in Maryland worth it for you?

For a lot of homeowners, solar panels are worth it as long as their cost savings over time outweigh the initial investment. Others are happy to go solar for the environmental benefits alone. The main obstacle to going solar is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing solar panels, inverters and other equipment.

Solar costs vs. savings: Maryland and nearby states

*For 100% usage offset; **Over 25 years

Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. DSIRE, “Maryland Programs.” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  2. EnergySage, “The cost of solar panels in Maryland.” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  3. Solar Energy Industries Association, “Maryland Solar.” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  4. SolarReviews, “How much do solar panels cost in Maryland?” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  5. Solar United Neighbors, “Net metering in Maryland.” Accessed April 10, 2024.
  6. Maryland Office of People’s Counsel, “Residential Rooftop Solar in Maryland: Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed April 15, 2024.
  7. Environmental Protection Agency, “Solar Power Purchase Agreements.” Accessed May 9, 2024.
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