Rooftop solar keeps setting records in the US. While there’s a lot of it in states known for the sun, like California, Arizona and Florida, states along the East Coast rank high, too. New York and New Jersey are in the top five states for total residential solar installed.
Energy tends to be more expensive on the East Coast than elsewhere in the country, especially once you head south of New Jersey. Still, there are hundreds of thousands of solar installations up and down the seaboard, with nearly 200,000 completed in Florida alone.
The region has pockets that aren’t so friendly to solar by comparison with others, but the foundations are there with net metering and federal tax credits available in all states.
Can solar panels save you money?
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Even in areas that might be thought to have lower solar potential or have fewer incentives in reality, it’s possible to save in the long run by installing solar — both in terms of your checking account and reducing your environmental footprint.
Best national solar panel companies on the East Coast
The best solar company for you is the one that fits your needs. Since each home’s energy needs, usage and roof are different, your best option might vary from someone else in your state. Here are some of CNET’s highest rated national solar companies, but always get multiple quotes before signing a contract.
Local and regional East Coast solar companies
National companies aren’t the only options on the East Coast.
How to choose the best solar panel company for me
Since the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in 2022 and with the decade-long extension of the federal renewable energy tax credit, the solar business has been booming. Installers have been scrambling to keep up with demand, and we’ve been hearing increasingly that customer service is sometimes getting lost in that shuffle.
This means that doing your research and due diligence is very important right now to avoid wasted time and frustration down the road. CNET’s reviews are a good place to start, but it’s not enough. Keep in mind that we don’t test equipment directly for solar systems or go through the ordering and installation process with any solar companies.
You can do research online yourself. We find online reviews to be uneven in reliability, but trusted sources like the Better Business Bureau can help you spot negative trends in reviews with certain companies.
Also talk to local installers, friends, colleagues and anyone else with exposure to the industry in your area. Most importantly, get multiple quotes from trusted installers before making any decision or signing a contract. Keep an eye out for scams and deals that sound too good to be true.
Average East Coast solar panel costs
A complete solar installation cost $3.28 per watt on average nationwide in the first quarter of 2023, according to consulting firm Wood Mackenzie (PDF). The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found the cost of a typical 8.6-kilowatt residential system was $31,558 to install before incentives, or $3.67 per watt. All along the East Coast the cost of solar is below the national average, except in Georgia, according to data from FindEnergy.com.
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How to pay for solar panels on the East Coast
A solar power system is a significant expense, but the industry has grown so much in the past two decades that an entire ancillary market of ways to pay for going solar has sprung up, giving homeowners a handful of major options.
Cash: Paying for a solar system right now with a heap of cash is always preferable to installers, but today is also the best time in years to start saving up some cash for when you’re ready. Juicy interest rates are currently available in numerous high yield savings accounts.
Solar loan: There are a number of financial products and even entire institutions geared toward financing solar systems. Ask local installers, banks and credit unions what they offer in terms of solar.
Other types of loans: There are also plenty of other organizations out there happy to loan you money that don’t specialize in solar, whether it’s in the form of a personal loan, home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC).
Lease or power purchase agreement: There are even options for putting solar panels on your roof for people who don’t really want the commitment of installing an expensive and potentially complicated system. Solar leases are available that function much like a car lease, or you can structure a power purchase agreement in which an installer or utility puts panels on your home, but retains ownership of the system and then sells you the power from that system at a desirable rate. One downside here is that these do still entail some level of contractual commitment that can be difficult to get out of early if you need to move.
East Coast solar panel incentives and rebates
The range of available incentives for going solar varies quite a bit from state to state, especially on the East Coast. States like New York offer fairly generous tax credits and other compensation (while being less so when it comes to net metering) while some, like West Virginia, do little in the way of offering enticements of their own.
The good news is that all states covered in this guide offer some level of net metering, and homeowners in all states are eligible to receive the federal renewable energy tax credit of 30% on new solar installations. That’s a pretty good baseline of incentives to justify going solar; consider any other extras from your state or other local institution to be dessert.
The Sunshine State of Florida stays true to its name by offering quite a number of different incentives and financing options, several of them through local governments.
Jill Kysor, senior attorney and lead of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Solar Initiative, said that incentives in other southeastern states tend to be pretty slim, although introducing rebate programs and net metering revealed lots of pent-up demand for solar in the Carolinas and Georgia.
She also noted that large amounts of solar panels are produced domestically in the region, especially Georgia: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had stable and fair policies on the rooftop solar front available in Georgia where then folks could lean on local panels and really build out and keep some of that wealth in the state.”
The solar potential of the East Coast
Not surprisingly, you’ll find more sun on the East Coast the farther south you head, with Florida leading the way. Anywhere on the East Coast still has enough solar potential to justify solar panels, especially with current technology that produces some power even when it’s cloudy.
It’s important to know how much solar energy can be generated from your location because that will help determine how long it will take a solar system to pay for itself in energy savings. This then goes into the math you’ll have to do to decide what sort of financing arrangement works best for you.
Another factor that plays into this calculus is the average cost of electricity in your state. Floridians face some of the highest energy bills in the country, with Virginia and Maryland not far behind. Most East Coast states have rates above the national average, with New York and New Jersey notable exceptions.
Installation factors to keep in mind
In addition to running the numbers, there are other basic things to consider before signing any solar contract:
- The condition of your roof: Solar panels are installed for the long term. You don’t want to require a new roof just a few years after having panels put on it and then have to reinstall your solar system. If your current roof is more than a decade old, have it checked out first.
- HOA and neighborhood regulations: Solar installers will typically work with local governments and utilities to get necessary permits for your system, but don’t overlook requirements from local homeowners or neighborhood associations that can cause headaches. Also be aware of any solar rights and easements legislation in your state that may help you make your case.
- Insurance coverage: Adding a solar system to your home is viewed differently by different insurers. Check in with yours to see how it affects your policy and premiums before making a decision.
East Coast solar FAQs