How fast will my solar pay for itself?

This is not only a great question, but it is a very fundamental concept that should be considered when thinking about solar. There are a lot of moving pieces to this puzzle such as; net metering, system design, shade management, etc. Ultimately, it comes down to 3 basic factors; a) how much does your solar equipment cost? b) how much power will that equipment produce? and c) what is the value of that power? One very cool thing about solar is that it is freakishly predictable. Assuming the system is designed and installed properly without shading issues, you can realistically project your annual production within a few percentage points. This is, of course, using data from NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory,) which I fully endorse. Anyway, let’s get back to the application. Without filling in the value of X, let’s just stick with generalities and say that the cost of the equipment is the same in both Texas and New York State, which is essentially a true statement. Now consider that the electricity costs are much higher in New York than they are in Texas. Therefore, you would assume that your break-even or “payback” would be faster in New York, but then the third component comes in which is “how much power does your equipment produce?” In this case, the same system in Texas will produce more power than New York so you just balanced the scales, and it is feasible that the break-even point could be about the same.

Reasonably speaking, if your solar can pay for itself in 10 years or less then you are getting a pretty good deal. Less than 10 years is always better, of course, but if you consider that a quality grid tied solar system can feasibly perform for 25-30 years; this is a pretty good proposition. Tax credits help to bring down the cost of equipment and so do rebates. These are significant factors in your break-even calculation. Let’s look at a realistic comparison between what we have to offer and what you might expect if buying from a turnkey solar company at a fair price. For this example (and the one we use in all of our cost,) let’s say that this fair price is $3.50 per watt. Many of our systems cost around $1.35 per watt and let’s also say you spend $.50 per watt additionally in professional help (with your installation). So, our comparison will be $1.85 per watt with Sol-Survivor and $3.50 for a fair priced turnkey installed system. For the sake of simplicity; we will not add any moving targets like speculation on inflation, duration of solar production, etc.


Example 1 with turnkey installation company

6kw x $3.50 per watt = $21,000; which is $14,700 after the tax credit.

6kw may produce 9,000 kWh’s per year x a rate of $0.13 per kWh, which equals $1,170 in energy production.

$14,700 divided by $1,170 equals 12.56 years to break even. This is a nominal example, but a real one.

Example 2, using a system by Sol Survivor

6kw x $1.85 per watt = $11,850; which is $7,770 after the tax credit.

Assuming the same $1,170, divided into $7,770 equals 6.64 years to break even!


As you can see in the example above, we truly do want to help you save money! In addition, we used a reasonable example above to show you how much you can save. Please understand, however, that $3.50 per watt is a pretty competitive price and you can expect to pay much more with some companies.