Are solar panels worth it in Maine?

7 factors to consider in the Pine Tree State

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white house with blue roof and solar panels on the roof in maine

Maine is actually one of the better states for solar panels. The environmental benefits alone are enough to justify the cost for some. Others go solar to gain energy independence and hedge their bets against inevitable power outages. For most, though, it ends up being worth it for the long-term energy cost savings.

The biggest drawback is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing the system. On the bright side, for many Mainiacs, the total utility costs avoided outweigh the upfront costs over time. 


Key insights

Depending on the size of your system and what financial incentives you qualify for, a typical residential solar panel installation costs $12,386 to $35,387 in Maine.

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On average, it takes solar panels approximately 10.5 years to pay for themselves in Maine.

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Over 25 years, Maine homeowners with solar panels avoid $64,522 in total utility costs on average

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7 factors to consider before getting solar panels in Maine

ConsumerAffairs has heard from thousands of solar customers who have already gone through the installation process. 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. Your energy consumption
  3. Maine solar incentives
  4. Net metering buyback rates
  5. How long you live 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 Maine are comparable to the national average. Before the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), a typical residential system ranges from $17,694 to $35,387. That price drops to $12,386 to $24,771 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 Maine, the average cost per watt is only $3.57.

Average solar panel installation cost by system size in Maine

2. 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. A typical Maine household needs a 8.95 kW system to offset its electricity needs with solar energy. You might need a larger or smaller system, depending on your current energy consumption.

Maine has some of the highest electricity costs in the country, and it’s not likely they'll go down anytime soon. Switching to solar now is a smart way to make your monthly utility bills more predictable.

3. Maine solar incentives: federal and state tax breaks

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is the most significant solar incentive for most homeowners in Maine. 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.

Maine also has a property tax exemption, meaning your property tax bill won’t go up if solar panels increase the value of your home. The state’s new Solar for All is expected to launch soon.

» EXPLORE: Maine solar incentives

4. Net metering rates in Maine

Net metering lets homeowners with solar panels sell any excess electricity they generate to their local power grid. Maine residents have the benefit of retail buyback rates, which means they earn more for their solar energy than people in other states.

Maine has two types of net energy billing programs. One compensates you for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity you generate. The other offers dollar credits instead, which can be helpful to offset future demand charges. The Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) establishes the rates for these programs each year.

» GREENEST STATES: Maine ranked No. 3  in 2024

5. How long you plan to stay in your house

Solar panel 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 10.5 years in Maine. 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 $64,522 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, paying cash is not always an option. That’s when loans, leases and other agreements come into play.

  • Solar 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.
  • Solar 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.
  • 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.

7. The solar company you hire

People have had 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 Maine 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 ask yourself 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. Maine averages three to five 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? Maine (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 Maine

It’s a common misconception that solar panels will completely eliminate your monthly power bill — this is not always the case. Some parts of Maine only around three peak sun hours per day, which may not be enough to fully power your home if you want to use solar for 100% of your energy needs. 

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 Maine

  • 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 Maine 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 Maine

  • 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 Maine. 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 Maine

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

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Maine solar FAQs

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 carry over to reduce the taxes you'll owe in future years. 

Do solar panels increase property taxes in Maine?

No, Maine has a property tax exemption for solar panels, which means you won’t pay property taxes on the increased value they add to your home.

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

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.

What solar scams are common in Maine?

In 2023, a man from Manchester was accused of scamming a homeowner in York County, Maine. The homeowner said she paid $33,000 for a solar panel installation, but investigators said the man’s business address was fake and he cut off communication once he received the payment upfront.

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

Going solar in Maine might be easier than you think. The main obstacle 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. 

Solar costs vs. savings: Maine 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, "Maine Programs." Accessed March 29, 2024.
  2. EnergySage, “The cost of solar panels in Maine.” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  3. Solar Energy Industries Association, "Maine Solar." Accessed March 29, 2024.
  4. SolarReviews, “How much do solar panels cost in Maine?” 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. WMUR-TV, “Man accused in Maine solar panel scam.” Accessed May 21, 2024.
  7. State of Maine Governor’s Energy Office, “Solar.” Accessed May 21, 2024.
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