I Installed Solar Panels on My Roof and Here’s What Happened

In the past few decades, solar panels have gone from an expensive novelty to an increasingly popular source of power generation. Today, more and more homeowners are using solar to fill some—or even all—of their energy needs. If you’re thinking about installing a solar system, click through to find out how this collection of homeowners feel about the solar array on their roof.

  1. Looking to Install Even More

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    Installing additional solar panels

    A strong supporter of renewable energy, Bernice Cagan of Montgomery County, Indiana, had a 3.6-kilowatt solar array installed on the south side of her 1902 Victorian cottage. “Having the solar panels installed cut my monthly utility bills by almost half,” Cagan says. She’s had the panels up for two years, and they’ll be paid off in five more. She then plans to have more panels installed on her garage roof.

    Related: These Surprising Stats Reveal How Much Pollution Americans Create

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  2. Cut Utility Bills by 60 Percent

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    Solar panels cut utility bills

    The Brandt family of Lincoln, Nebraska, had a 6-kilowatt solar array installed in 2015. “We’ve seen a big reduction on our electric bill—about 60 percent,” Jennifer Brandt says. Though she used to worry about running the AC in the summer because of the cost, they're not "skimping on staying comfortable anymore. Now, I keep the thermostat set at 72 degrees, and the whole family is happy.”

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  3. Reduced Their Carbon Footprint

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    Solar panels reduce carbon footprint

    Doing his part to slow down climate change is very important to Dan Thompson of Columbia, Missouri. “I’m happy knowing that I’m no longer contributing to the use of fossil fuels when I cool my house, or even use my toaster,” Thompson says. He had a powerful 8.25-kilowatt array installed on his modest ranch home three years ago. “Now, I’m getting a credit from the electric company almost every month for power I generate in excess of what I use.”

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  4. Leased Solar Made a Difference

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    Leased solar panels vs installing solar panels

    “We didn’t have the money to install a solar system,” admits Amy Davis of Detroit, Michigan. “But our neighbor told us how he was able to lease his solar panels, and we signed up too.” The Davises now pay the solar company directly for their electricity, along with a small monthly fee. “It’s reduced our electricity bill about 25 percent, so we’re pretty happy.”

    Related: 18 Ways You're Accidentally Wasting Energy

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  5. A Shady Roof Didn't Stop Them

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    How to install solar on a shaded roof

    George and Christy Nelson wanted solar but refused to part with a tree that kept their roof shaded for most of the day. “Our roof was too shady, due to a huge oak that’s almost a century old,” George Nelson says. The solution was to mount a south-facing solar array on the ground behind the Nelson’s garage. “Just because you have a shady roof doesn’t mean you can’t have solar.”

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  6. Loves Lower Electric Bills

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    Solar panel low energy bills

    Susan Miller had to persuade her husband to install solar panels on their home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, four years ago. “He resisted because he thought the installation costs were too high,” Miller says. “But now he’s happy because our electric bill used to run over $400 a month and now it never goes over $150.”

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  7. Ready to Sign Up Again

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    Renewing solar panel PPA

    The Coopers signed a three-year purchase power agreement (PPA) to have solar panels installed on their Chicago townhouse, and they’ve since saved more than half on their monthly utility bills. “At the end of our term, we have every intention of renewing the PPA,” Randy Cooper says. “It’s a no-brainer. It’s like money in the bank.”

    Related: The Greenest Cities in America

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  8. Loves Being Off-Grid

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    Solar panels for off-the-grid house

    While most homeowners install a grid-tie solar system, which allows them to use electricity from the utility company when the sky is overcast, Andy Gonzales of rural Westcliffe, Colorado, wanted an off-grid system. Gonzales’s solar array provides 100 percent of his energy needs. “There are no power lines up here, so I needed an off-grid system,” he says. “If it’s cloudy, I cut back on my electric use, but on sunny days, I have plenty of electricity for my cabin.”

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  9. Beating High Power Costs

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    Solar panel return on investment

    The Garon family of San Diego, California, couldn’t justify the utility costs for their sprawling 4,500-square-foot home. “San Diego has high utility rates, and with our family of seven, someone is always turning on lights, watching the television, or using their computers,” Lorraine Garon says. “It cost us nearly $30,000 to have our solar system installed two years ago, but we saved over $6,000 just the first year in electric costs!”

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  10. Unhappy with the Utility Company

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    Solar panel vs utility company

    Not all homeowners are thrilled about their solar panels. Kathy Henderson of Lawrence, Kansas, had solar panels installed four years ago. “It was great at first, but then the electric company started charging us a ‘demand fee’ for electricity used between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.—even if we’re generating the electricity," she says. "They claim solar customers don’t pay as much as non-solar customers, so they’re charging us an extra fee.” The demand fee has added as much as $215 to her monthly bill, and Henderson feels she’s being punished for wanting to help the environment.

    Related: 12 Companies That Are Making It Easier to Produce Less Trash

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  11. See the House of the Week

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    Discover and admire beautiful and innovative home architecture, from grand Victorians to quaint cabins and all the styles in between. Take a look at the latest images and inspiration!