How Big of a Solar System Will I Need to Get Rid of My Electric Bill?
As a rough rule of thumb, when oriented properly, each 60-cell panel will typically produce about $2 to $3 per month in electricity in Missouri. Note however that with grid-tied systems, the utility will limit the overall system size so that you cannot install more solar capacity than your total annual power usage.
How Long Will It Take To Pay For Itself and Are There Any Rebates or Tax Incentives?
Larger systems cost more up front but typically earn a higher/faster return on investment. Commonly for medium to larger residential grid-tie systems, the solar system will completely pay for itself in as little as 6-8 years. Small systems will take a bit longer, typically 8 to 12 years. Larger commercial systems with good sites can often pay for themselves in 5-7 years. As far as tax incentives, the 30% federal tax credit was recently extended for a few more years. This credit allows a credit in the amount of 30% of the total system cost.
How Long Will the System Last, and How Long Is The Equipment Warranty?
The systems are highly reliable and designed to last for decades. Panels are typically workmanship warrantied for 10-12 years, but carry 25 to 30 year performance guarantees on power output, and solar panels made many decades ago are still in operation. Inverters typically carry 25 year warranties.
What About the Durability of the Panels, Aren't They Made From Glass? Yes they are, and the glass is quite durable, impact resistant and designed to withstand heavy snow loads and small to moderate size hail. Some manufacturers even have durability testing showing panels being run over by cars! See the video at right to see a more realistic example: a slow-motion impact of a large ice ball fired into a solar panel.
The good news is that if extreme hail comes along, the system is covered by most homeowner's policies. Always verify with your insurer.