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Solar Panels in Illinois: Cost and Savings

Illinois has seen a significant increase in residential solar panel installations over the past several years. This comes as no surprise since solar power can help lower your electricity costs, reduce your carbon footprint, and make energy independence possible for you.

If you live in Illinois, you may find yourself asking: Is solar worth it?

Luckily, it often is. Keep reading to learn how much solar panels cost in Illinois, what you can save, and other important considerations to know before installing solar panels on your home.

Cost of solar panels in Illinois

The cost of solar panels in Illinois varies based on several factors, including the size and complexity of your residential solar system, as well as local labor and permitting costs. 

In general, you can expect to pay between $3 and $5 per watt, with an average price tag of between $15,000 and $25,000 for a residential system. Keep in mind that this price is before any tax credits and rebates, which can help to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Solar panel setup

One of the most important factors that determine the cost of your solar system is the components you choose to include. Certain components are necessary for every residential solar system, while others are optional. Here are some of the most common pieces of equipment:

  • Solar panels: Panels are generally either monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin-film, each of which comes with its own unique cost and performance. These can be in the form of a solar panel roof on your home or attached with mounting and racking equipment.
  • Battery: If you produce more energy than you use, you can store the excess to power your home when the sun isn’t shining.
  • Solar cell: The cell is the part of the solar panel that converts your sunlight into electricity.
  • Inverter: The solar panel inverter converts direct current (DC) output into alternating current (AC) power, which is used by appliances in your home.

You’ll have the option to either buy or lease your solar panels, which will also affect the upfront cost. While buying solar panels has a larger up-front price tag, it offers a better long-term financial payoff than leasing does.

Solar incentives and rebates in Illinois

While solar panels can be a large investment, federal, state, and local governments have put incentives in place to make it more affordable and attractive for homeowners to invest in this green energy.

First, the federal government offers a solar panel tax credit, allowing you to reduce the cost of your solar panels by 26 percent in 2021. The credit will be around for a few more years but is set to be reduced in future years and could expire if Congress does not renew it.

There are also several incentives specific to Illinois residents, including:

  • Net metering: Illinois allows net metering, which means you can sell your excess electricity back to the grid in exchange for credits on your electricity bill.
  • ComEd solar rebates: ComEd provides rebates to commercial and industrial solar customers to increase out-of-pocket costs.
  • Property tax exemption: Even though your solar panels are likely to increase the value of your home, they won’t increase your assessed value for purposes of property taxes.

Solar energy in Illinois may help lower your electric bills 

Not only are there tax credits and rebates in place to help you save money on your solar panels, but you’ll also experience long-term savings in the form of lower electric bills.

Let’s say you purchase a home solar system for $15,000. Thanks to the federal tax credit, you’ll save $3,900 right off the bat. Then, you’ll save money each month when you don’t have to buy electricity. In May 2021, the average Illinois electric rate was 14.24 cents per kWh. Even if you only save $100 per month, that’s $1,200 per year. Below you can see how that would affect your return on investment.

Energy independence in Illinois can help you

When you install solar panels on your home, you have the potential to achieve energy independence, which means you aren’t reliant on the traditional energy grid to power your home.

There are several benefits to energy independence. First, you aren’t vulnerable to electricity price hikes when demand is high (and therefore, electricity rates are high). You also aren’t at risk of losing power since you can generate your own solar electricity when the grid is overwhelmed during times of high demand.

Not only does energy independence allow you to save money on electricity, but if you can store your excess energy using a solar battery, you can resell it back to the power grid through net metering programs.

How to buy solar panels in Illinois 

Are you ready to buy solar panels for your Illinois home? Residential solar systems can be expensive, and so it’s important to do your research. There are several resources you can visit to learn more. For example, the Illinois Solar Energy Association has been promoting renewable energy in the state since 1980. The organization can help you learn more about installing solar panels on your home.

There are also some other factors to consider before you install solar panels on your home. For example, solar panels are most effective on south-facing roofs with angles standing between 15 and 40 degrees. They’re also best on roofs that won’t need to be replaced in the near future and that get plenty of sunlight.

Additionally, be sure to check with your homeowner’s association to find out if there are any restrictions around solar panel installation in your neighborhood.

The future of energy is solar in Illinois 

Like many states, Illinois started embracing solar power only recently. While the state had policies in place years ago to encourage homeowners to install residential solar systems, it’s only in the past few years that solar energy has really taken off.

Today, Illinois ranks 23rd in the nation for solar energy generation. It gets roughly 0.38 percent of its electricity from solar power, which is enough to power nearly 90,000 homes. There are also more than 310 solar companies in the state that create more than 5,200 solar jobs.

Over the past few years, Illinois has experienced a huge increase in residential and commercial solar installations. And in 2020, the state started investing heavily in community solar projects.

Solar energy FAQs

Do solar panels save you money in Illinois?

Solar panels can certainly save you money in Illinois. Not only can you reduce your electricity bill significantly by installing solar panels, but you can also increase the resale value of your home and even sell excess electricity back to the electricity grid.

What is the life expectancy of solar panels in Illinois?

Solar panels have a typical lifespan of between 20 and 30 years, but how long your solar panels last will depend on many factors. Before choosing a solar installation company, ask about the typical lifespan of the panels you’re considering and whether the company offers warranties or guarantees on the solar panels.

Are there disadvantages to using solar energy in Illinois? 

While there are plenty of perks to installing solar panels on your home, it’s also important to talk about the downsides of solar energy. First, solar panels come with a huge price tag, though this can be offset with tax credits and energy savings. It’s also worth noting that not everyone can have solar panels where they live. Consider whether your home is right for solar panels before signing a contract with a solar company.

How does solar power help the environment?

Traditional electricity generation emits carbon dioxide into the air, which pollutes the air and water and contributes to climate change. Solar power is a form of green energy and doesn’t have the same negative environmental consequences because it does not emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.

Is it better to buy or lease solar panels?

While both buying and leasing solar panels are legitimate options, buying panels tends to have a better long-term financial payoff. However, if purchasing solar panels upfront is not an option for you, a solar lease can allow you to take advantage of the solar benefits.