Things to Consider Before Adding Solar Panels to Your DC Home

  • Solar panels are a technology, which means in the future they will likely be much smaller and more efficient
  • Those considering adding solar panels in hopes of getting an increased home value will have to evaluate when they plan on selling to see if it is really worth it

It’s happening more and more frequently. Over the past couple of years, I am increasingly getting phone calls from past clients considering adding solar panels to their homes. From me, their real estate professional, they want a prediction of whether or not the panels will be a positive or a negative selling point.

Last week, the call went like this: “Hi, Gretchen. I hope you remember me…You helped me and my wife purchase our home in Bethesda 15 years ago. We’re considering adding solar panels to the roof, but the only way it makes economic sense is if the addition of solar will add value to our house when we go to sell in approximately 10 years.”

The interesting thing is that I’ve given this a lot of thought — at least in part because my husband and I considered adding solar to our house last year. The fact that we considered but didn’t act no doubt gives away our final conclusion. I don’t think that adding solar today will increase the value of your home tomorrow. And, in fact, I worry that today’s solar panels will be tomorrow’s lava lamps.

Things to consider before adding solar panels:

For most people considering adding solar, whether by renting or purchasing the panels, the “payback” period takes at least 10 years. When you look at what’s happening in the solar industry, 10 years is a lifetime and the prediction of how the industry will change is phenomenal.

A lot of research is currently going into the materials being used to harness solar energy and there is no doubt that we will end up with more efficient and smaller units as the years progress. Therefore, I fear that the “look” of the panels (not always an attractive feature, for sure) will quickly become outdated and that, in 10 years, today’s solar panels will not be a selling feature.

In fact, it could very well be the opposite, and we may be encouraging sellers who have those “old” panels to remove them prior to marketing their homes.

We all want to help live in a more environmentally friendly world– so adding solar panels to homes is never a bad decision. But, if you choose to do so today, just know that you are doing it to be a good world citizen and not to make money (or perhaps even to recoup your investment) — unless you are planning on staying in your home for at least a dozen years. And, even then, you may find yourself wanting to upgrade your solar system and the industry grows and changes.

Gretchen Koitz is Principal at The Koitz Group.