Are solar panels worth it in Ohio?

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

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single detached home in ohio with solar panels on the roof

Ohio is one of the best states for going solar. The state offers generous incentives and rebates for the adoption of solar tech. Not only that, but many cities have adopted their own local incentives, making solar especially enticing in many parts of the state.

The main drawback is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing the panels and equipment. On the bright side, once that’s paid for, solar panels can significantly reduce or even eliminate your electricity bills. For many, the long-term savings outweigh the upfront costs within 11.5 years.


Key insights

  • Depending on the size of your system and what financial incentives you qualify for, a typical residential solar panel installation costs $9,461 to $27,031 in Ohio.
  • On average, it takes solar panels approximately 11.5 years to pay for themselves in Ohio.
  • Over 25 years, Ohio homeowners with solar panels avoid $52,568 in total utility costs on average.

7 factors to consider before getting solar panels in Ohio

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. Ohio solar incentives
  4. Net metering buy-back 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 Ohio are comparable to the national average. Before the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), a typical residential system ranges from $13,515 to $27,031. That price drops to $9,461 to $18,921 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 Ohio, the average cost per watt is only $2.75.

Average solar panel installation cost by system size in Ohio

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 Ohio household needs a 10.95 kW system to offset its electricity needs with solar energy. You might need a larger or smaller system, depending on your current energy consumption.

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 Ohio, solar panels usually pay for themselves within 11.5 years.

Given rising energy costs in Ohio 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. Solar panels essentially generate free electricity once the initial installation costs are paid for.

3. Ohio solar incentives: tax credit and loan programs

Ohio doesn’t have as many financial incentives to go solar as other states. The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is the biggest one for most homeowners. 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 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 in the year your system becomes operational.

» EXPLORE: Ohio solar incentives, tax credits and rebates

4. Net metering rates in Ohio: retail rates

Net metering is a system of give-and-take between you and your utility company. It lets you access power from the grid when your panels don’t generate enough electricity. Net metering also lets you earn credits for sending any excess solar energy to the grid. These credits can offset the cost of electricity consumed at other times.

Another way to make money off your excess power in Ohio (that’s somewhat like net metering) is to collect solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs). Utility companies have to buy those credits to meet the state's rules on using renewable energy. For every megawatt-hour your system generates, you'll get paid $9.

5. How long you plan to stay in your house

Solar panel installations are expensive, and it takes a while for electric bill savings to make up for the initial cost — typically 11.5 years in Ohio. 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 $52,568 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.
  • Leasing options: 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. 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 Ohio 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 I you get? Solar panels need regular exposure to sunlight to produce the most energy possible. Ohio 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? Ohio (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 Ohio

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 Ohio

  • 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 Ohio 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 Ohio

  • 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 Ohio. 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 Ohio

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

Do you own or rent?

Ohio solar FAQs

Does Ohio really pay for solar panels?

Not usually. Depending on your municipality and income, you may be eligible for funding to install solar panels. Ask your city if you live in a locally determined Special Energy Improvement District.

» FREE SOLAR PANELS: Are they really free?

Can I get a power purchase agreement in Ohio?

Yes. Power purchase agreements are available in the state of Ohio.

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. 

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

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 Ohio?

Watch out for misleading claims about performance and savings, pushy sales practices and sketchy door-to-door salespeople. Ask technical questions of your sales representative and read your contracts carefully, watching out for unnecessary restrictions. Watch out for people asking for personal information.

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

Going solar in Ohio 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: Ohio 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, "Ohio Solar Programs." Accessed March 29, 2024.
  2. EnergySage, “The cost of solar panels in Ohio.” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  3. Solar Energy Industries Association, "Ohio Solar." Accessed March 29, 2024.
  4. SolarReviews, “How much do solar panels cost in Ohio?” 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.
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