Is solar worth it in Vermont?

7 factors to consider in the Green Mountain State

Author pictureAuthor picture
Author picture
By:
Author picture
Edited by:

Do you own or rent?

solar panels on the roof of a home set in a lot with a garden of yellow flowers

Based on feedback from dozens of Vermonters 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.

The main drawback is the high upfront cost of purchasing and installing the panels and equipment. On the bright side, the long-term savings usually outweigh the 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 $11,530 to $32,943 in Vermont.

Jump to insight

On average, it takes solar panels approximately 7.5 years to pay for themselves in Vermont.

Jump to insight

Over 25 years, Vermont homeowners with solar panels avoid $70,243 in total utility costs on average.

Jump to insight

7 factors to consider before getting solar panels in Vermont

Several factors determine if solar panels are worth it for you, including your installation costs, the orientation and shading of your roof and how long you plan to stay in your home. Here’s what to consider before making the switch.

  1. Solar panel installation costs
  2. Your energy consumption
  3. Vermont 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 Vermont are comparable to the national average. Before the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), a typical residential system ranges from $16,471 to $32,943. That price drops to $11,530 to $23,060 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 Vermont, the average cost per watt is only $3.30.

Average solar panel installation cost by system size in Vermont

2. 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 Vermont, solar panels usually pay for themselves within 7.5 years.

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 Vermont household needs a system with a capacity of 8.72 kW to offset its electricity needs with solar energy. You might need a larger or smaller system, depending on your current energy consumption.

3. Vermont solar incentives: tax credits and exemptions

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is a major incentive that reduces the upfront cost of going solar in Vermont. 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.

Residents may take advantage of additional solar incentives in Vermont, including sales and local property tax exemptions.

4. Net metering rates in Vermont: 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. This program is administered by the Vermont Public Utility Commission and is offered by all public utility service providers operating within the state.

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. In Vermont, you're credited at the full retail rate for energy you send to your local grid.

It’s working out well for C. in West Windsor, Vermont. Their system generates more power than used. “I'm net negative, so grid connected, but exclusively using solar power in the aggregate,” they told us. “My project is in Vermont where it's not sunny all the time, but if I look at it over the course of the year, it generated more power than I use.”

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 7.5 years in Vermont. 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 $70,243 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 your loan 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 Vermont 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.
  • What is the size and angle of my roof? Vermont (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.
  • How much sunlight do I get? Solar panels need regular exposure to sunlight to produce the most energy possible. Vermont 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.

Pros and cons of solar panels in Vermont

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 Vermont

  • 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 Vermont 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 Vermont

  • 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 Vermont. 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: Vermont has long, cold winters and receives less sun than states located farther south. Solar panels still can work on cloudy days and actually perform more efficiently in cooler temperatures. However, the overall energy production might be lower than in sunnier climates. Snow cover may also temporarily reduce efficiency until it's removed or melts off.

One resident, John in Mount Holly, Vermont, said his panels don't make power when covered in snow: “If I had a steeper pitch, the snow probably would slide off on its own. But because of a low pitch on my roof, the snow tends to stick. So, every winter, I'm used to going up on my roof, shoveling snow off. That's fine. But it's when my entire roof is covered in solar panels and I have to be gingerly pulling it off, then it becomes kind of an issue. And it's more time-consuming,” he told us. 

» MORE: Solar energy pros and cons

Find solar companies in Vermont

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

Do you own or rent?

Vermont solar FAQs

Does Vermont really pay for solar panels?

We are not aware of any programs for free solar panels in Vermont at this time. However, solar incentives such as net metering and tax exemptions make solar panels a worthy investment for many homeowners.

» FREE SOLAR PANELS: Are they really free?

Do solar panels increase property taxes in Vermont?

It depends. Municipalities are empowered to exempt local property taxes on value added by solar systems, but this is not true across the board. State property taxes still apply.

Can I live off-grid with solar panels in Vermont?

Yes, but there are some additional considerations. Robert in Westfield, Vermont, who lives off the grid, uses a generator to charge his batteries when there’s not enough solar power.

What solar scams are common in Vermont?

Watch out for door-to-door solar scams, as well as misleading lease information, inflated prices and companies that ask for large up-front payments. Solar scams that promise free solar panels often, unfortunately, end up costing people quite a bit of money. To avoid this, ask potential solar providers for references from previous customers.

What is the history of net metering in Vermont?

In 2001, Vermont launched net metering, which lets owners of small renewable energy projects sell excess energy to utility companies. The program was later expanded to include energy cooperatives, encouraging more people to invest in renewable energy.

In 2008, a local utility company, Green Mountain Power, started paying a premium for energy produced by these projects. The Vermont government liked this program so much that, in 2011, they made all utilities in the state do something similar, requiring they pay an extra amount on top of their regular rates for net metering energy.

However, in 2017, it changed to paying out a blended rate based on a weighted average of residential rates of all utilities in Vermont. This meant lower returns for some residents, which has overall reduced the benefits of net metering in Vermont.

Are there any solar options for renters in Vermont?

For Vermont residents who are unable or disinclined to install solar panels on their own properties, the option of community solar, also referred to as group net metering, presents an alternative pathway. Under this model participants can benefit from locally generated solar electricity without the requirement of an on-site system.

The administration of community solar programs within the state can be facilitated by utility providers, private investment groups, project developers or nonprofit organizations. The specific structure and enrollment process may vary depending on the entity overseeing operations.

Residents interested in exploring community solar opportunities are advised to directly contact their respective utility company. The utility will be able to provide comprehensive information regarding any active group net metering programs it currently offers, as well as details on eligibility criteria and the process for enrollment.

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

Going solar in Vermont 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: Vermont 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, "Vermont Programs." Accessed March 29, 2024.
  2. EnergySage, “The cost of solar panels in Vermont.” Accessed March 29, 2024.
  3. Solar Energy Industries Association, "Vermont Solar." Accessed March 29, 2024.
  4. SolarReviews, “How much do solar panels cost in Vermont, 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. Vermont Public Service Department, “A Vermonter’s Guide to Residential Solar.” Accessed April 22, 2024.
Did you find this article helpful? |
Share this article