Are solar panels worth it in Georgia?

7 considerations in the Peach State

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view of one-story house with solar panels on roof

Solar panels are generally worth it if you like the idea of cheap, clean energy. The main drawback is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing the equipment. On the bright side, once that’s paid for, solar panels can significantly reduce or even eliminate your electricity bills. For many Georgians, the long-term savings outweigh the upfront costs over time.


Key insights

In Georgia, a typical residential solar system costs $10,110 to $28,887, depending on the size of your system and what financial incentives you qualify for.

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On average, it takes solar panels approximately 10 years to pay for themselves in Georgia.

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Over 25 years, Georgia homeowners with solar panels avoid $57,429 in total utility costs on average.

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7 factors to consider before getting solar panels in Georgia

ConsumerAffairs has heard from thousands of solar customers who have already gone through the installation process, including several from Georgia. Here’s what to consider before making the switch:

  1. Solar panel installation costs
  2. Your energy consumption
  3. Georgia solar incentives
  4. Net metering buyback rates
  5. How long you stay in your house
  6. How you pay
  7. The solar company you hire

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

Average solar panel costs in Georgia are comparable to the national average. Before the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), a typical residential system ranges from $14,443 to $28,887. That price drops to $10,110 to $20,221 after considering 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 Georgia, the average cost per watt is only $2.95.

Average solar panel installation cost by system size in Georgia

2. Your current energy consumption

Look at your latest 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. A typical Georgia household needs a 11.17 kW system to offset its electricity needs with solar energy. You might need a larger or smaller system, depending on your current energy consumption.

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. In Georgia, solar panels usually pay for themselves within 10 years.

3. Georgia solar incentives: federal and state

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is a major incentive that reduces the upfront cost of going solar in Georgia. 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. For example, if you spend $10,000 installing a solar panel system, the ITC is worth $3,000. If you owe $15,000 in taxes, the ITC reduces what you owe to $12,000.

You may be able to take advantage of additional solar incentives in Georgia. For instance, Central Georgia Electric Membership Corporation has a loan program for up to $25,000, and a new program, Georgia Bright, aims to help low-income homeowners install solar on their roofs.

4. Net metering rates in Georgia: wholesale rate

Sometimes, your solar panels might generate more electricity than your household can use. Net metering lets you sell that extra to the local power grid. In Georgia, the specific value of these credits changes, and is at a lower “avoided cost” or wholesale rate rather than the full retail rates.

Recent regulatory changes introduced a $100 interconnection fee for new solar users. As of publishing, the state has a cap on the program, limiting participation to 5,000 customers or 32 MW of capacity, which has already been reached.

» GREENEST STATES: Georgia ranked 23rd in 2024

5. How long you plan to stay in your house

It takes years for electric bill savings to make up for the initial cost — about 10 years on average in Georgia. If you sell your house and move before then, you might not fully realize the financial benefits of your solar investment.

Solar panels 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 $57,429 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. 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 and receive the benefits of available tax credits; plus, you don’t have to pay interest on a loan. Of course, cash isn’t always an option. That’s when loans, leases and other agreements come into play.

  • Loans: 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.
  • Leases: 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.
  • Home equity loans or lines of credit (HELOC): Eligible homeowners can borrow against equity in their house to finance a solar panel system. These often have variable interest rates, meaning monthly payments can increase over time.
  • Power purchase agreements: 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.

7. The solar company you hire

People have mixed experiences with solar companies. In the best-case scenario, it’s easy to make the switch 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.

One of the most common complaints is related to pushy sales reps who make promises that can’t be delivered. That’s why it’s so important to thoroughly research and verify claims made by sales teams before making a decision. Use NREL’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.

Monthly costs: solar payments vs. savings

Think of going solar in terms of your monthly costs. Given rising energy costs in Georgia 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:

  • How old are my appliances? The first step is to ensure that your electrical loads are as small as possible. If you have an older refrigerator or air conditioning unit, for instance, it’s smart to upgrade those before investing in solar panels. That way, you can get a smaller system, which will be cheaper overall.
  • How much sunlight do I get? Solar panels need regular exposure to sunlight to produce the most energy possible. Georgia averages 4 to 4.5 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 my roof? Georgia (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. For example, 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%.
  • What is the condition of my 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 again.

Pros and cons of solar panels in Georgia

It’s a common misconception that solar panels will 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
  • May increase home resale value
  • Tax breaks

Cons

  • Upfront costs
  • Seasonal production variations
  • Potential roof leaks

Benefits of solar panels in Georgia

With electricity costs continuing to rise, more Georgia homeowners find solar power is financially worth it in the long run. “It was an excellent decision, and a great experience,” one resident, JD in Kennesaw, Georgia, told us. “We are saving so much money and helping the environment.”

  • 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 Georgia uses a lot of power, which adds up to a lot of savings when you switch to solar. Going solar now means that your monthly energy expenses will be more predictable (and very often significantly lower). Solar panels also protect you from future energy cost increases.

Drawbacks of solar panels in Georgia

The biggest disadvantage of going solar in Georgia is the lack of incentives the state offers. It is also more expensive to buy a solar energy system in Georgia than in some other states.

  • 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 Georgia. 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.

» MORE: Solar energy pros and cons

Find solar companies in Georgia

A good solar company helps you navigate local incentives, permitting and net metering policies. Compare our picks for the top solar companies in Georgia to learn more.

Do you own or rent?

Georgia solar FAQs

How much can I save with solar panels?

On average, Georgia homeowners with solar panels avoid $57,429 in total utility costs over 25 years.

» EXPLORE: Where solar savings go the furthest

Does Georgia really pay for solar panels?

No, Georgia does not pay for solar panels.

Do solar panels increase property taxes in Georgia?

Yes, there is a possibility that your new solar panel system will increase your property taxes in Georgia. A solar system can add value to your home and thus increase your property taxes accordingly. There is no property tax exemption for solar panels in Georgia, unlike in some other states.

Can I get a power purchase agreement in Georgia?

Yes, residents can enter into power purchase agreements (PPAs) in Georgia, thanks to the Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act.

What solar scams are common in Georgia?

Georgia residents should be wary of solar companies making unrealistic promises, such as "free solar panels" or guarantees to completely eliminate your power bill. People have reported inaccurate cost projections, poorly designed systems, difficulty getting support from the company after installation, false claims of affiliation with Georgia Power or electric cooperatives and other solar scams.

How long does it take to install solar panels in Georgia?

Installation times depend on a range of factors, especially seasonality and supply chain issues. The actual installation might take only a day, but it takes time to design and plan, you also have to activate the system.

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

Going solar in Georgia might be easier than you think. The main obstacle to going solar is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing solar panels, inverters and other equipment. For a lot of homeowners, it ends up being 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.

Solar costs vs. savings: Georgia 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, "Georgia Solar Programs." Accessed May 22, 2024.
  2. EnergySage, “The cost of solar panels in Georgia.” Accessed May 22, 2024.
  3. Solar Energy Industries Association, "Georgia Solar." Accessed May 22, 2024.
  4. SolarReviews, “How much do solar panels cost in Georgia, 2024?” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  5. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, "Homeowner's Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics." Accessed May 6, 2024.
  6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Solar Power Purchase Agreements.” Accessed May 6, 2024.
  7. Fast Company, “A new Georgia program could slash the cost of rooftop solar—and it’s likely to expand.” Accessed June 25, 2024.
  8. Solar Power World, “Georgia net-metering program reaches cap, jeopardizing rooftop solar growth.” Accessed June 25, 2024.
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