The numbers below are estimates for the average home in Houston. Your home is unique, and your financial estimates depend on that uniqueness. If you’d like to get personalized solar estimates for your home, our network of solar experts are on call to assist you.
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Installing solar panels on your home in San Antonio is a brilliant idea, and we’ll tell you why. You can save thousands on your CPS Energy bill over the next 25 years, during which time your solar installation will be protected by multiple warranties, ensuring it’s ready to kick out the kilowatts for the long haul.
There’s a lot to cover when it comes to home solar in San Antonio, so here’s a quick guide to what you’ll find below:
- The cost of solar panels in San Antonio
- How you save money with solar panels in San Antonio
- Are solar panels worth it in San Antonio?
- How to pay for solar panels in San Antonio
All ready to learn? Let’s dive in.
The cost of solar panels in San Antonio in 2018
Let’s get right to it: to offset its entire energy bill, the average home in San Antonio needs a solar system of about 7.7 kilowatts (kW), which will cost somewhere between $19,500 and $21,500 after a solar rebate from CPS Energy. That price is before the federal solar tax credit, which earns you an additional 30% of the cost back as a tax credit. Now let’s look at where we got those numbers:
The average San Antonio home uses about 11,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, and spends about $1,250 on electricity annually. A 7.7-kW solar system that will offset all that usage and save you around $1,145 a year (with the remaining $105 going to CPS’s $8.75 monthly minimum bill). That’s about 22 350-watt solar panels which take up about 480 square feet of roof space.
Solar panels are priced based on cost per watt, and in San Antonio in 2018, you can expect to spend between $3.15 and $3.40 per watt, depending on the age and geometry of your roof, as well as other factors. That’s the price before the CPS Energy solar rebate and the federal solar tax credit. CPS’s solar rebate takes $.60 per watt off the cost of your system, instantly reducing your cost to between $2.55 and $2.80 per watt.
But there’s a way to reduce that cost even further, if you use local equipment to build your solar installation.
CPS Energy solar panel rebates
CPS offers an interesting bundle of solar rebates for San Antonio homeowners. The main incentive is a $.60/watt rebate off the cost of your solar installation, but the utility offers an additional $.08/watt if you use locally-manufactured solar modules (panels), and another $.02/watt if you use a locally-manufactured solar inverter.
Using the numbers above, that $.60/watt can equal 17-19% discount, and if you can get the $.70/watt rebate, that’s like 20-22% off. The rebate is worth about as much as 4 or 5 years of energy bill savings from solar, so has the effect of shaving 4 or 5 years off payback time, before you even sign the paperwork.
San Antonio solar panels that qualify for additional rebate amounts
Chances are you know about San Antonio’s Mission Solar, which makes solar panels in their factory on the south side of town. If you choose one of our San Antonio solar installers, ask about how using Mission Solar panels qualifies you for an extra $.08/watt rebate, which equals an additional $616 off the cost of the average 7.7-kW solar installation.
What you may not know is that San Antonio also has a solar inverter manufacturer, KACO. The German company has a warehouse on the northeast side of town, and their solar inverter products qualify your installation for another $.02/watt rebate.
Remember: these figures are estimates. Your home is unique, and how much money solar will save you depends on that uniqueness. Thankfully, we know some solar experts in San Antonio. Just sign up for personalized savings estimates and one of them will be more than happy to go over all those details and help you craft a plan to get the maximum savings from a solar power system in your home. Your quote is 100% free, so go ahead and shop around… grab two or three, or five, and compare all your possible options.
The federal solar tax credit
All solar systems installed on homes in the United States and paid for using cash or a solar loan qualify for a federal tax credit equal to 30% of the cost to install the system. Now, this is a tax credit, not a rebate, so you have to owe taxes in order to qualify, but even if you don’t pay a ton of taxes, you can roll over your credit to future years.
The 30% federal solar tax credit for our example 7.7-kW system would equal about $6,150 (30% of the average $20,500 cost). With the federal tax rate at about 12% for most folks, a married couple making more than about $52,000 per year can expect to owe that much in taxes, and collect their full tax credit by the end of the year.
The further reductions from the tax credit bring the cost down to $14,350, and that’s before you consider the effect of energy bill savings (which we’ll get to below)
Other Texas solar incentives
To put it mildly, Texas lawmakers haven’t been the biggest advocates for solar power, but let’s be charitable: they got one thing right! Texas offers a property tax exemption that eliminates the value that solar panels add to your home from being included on an appraisal for tax purposes.
That’s good news for Texas homeowners who want to keep a little more of their money in their pockets and not with the tax collector!
How you save money with solar panels in San Antonio
The way solar panels save you money is by generating electricity that reduces your energy bill. But even if solar panels make exactly as much electricity as you use in any given month, they tend to make that electricity at times you don’t need it, like when you’re away from home during the sunny daylight hours. That’s why CPS energy has a policy called “Net metering,” which means that every kilowatt-hour your system generates goes to reduce your bill, whether you use it to power your home or send it onto the grid for someone else’s use.
CPS’s net metering policy ensures you get full credit for the kWh your system produces, and if you end up producing more than you can use in a given month, they’ll give you a credit to reduce your next month’s bill. That credit can “carry over” for as many months as necessary to offset some future month of usage.
If you’re like most homeowners, you tend to use more electricity to run air conditioning during the hot summer months or heaters in the winter, and less in the more temperate autumn and spring. Luckily, solar power tends to be a little ahead of the curve, there. The sun gets higher in the sky starting in the spring, but it doesn’t heat up until a couple months later. That puts you
Here’s a look at the average annual consumption curve for an Average San Antonio home, combined with the annual solar production curve. Note that you end up with 11,500 kWh consumed, while the solar system generates 11,560 kWh.
CPS Energy electricity rates
CPS Energy has been the municipal electricity provider for the city of San Antonio since 1942, and it’s been doing an all right job of it. In fact, citizens of San Antonio pay lower electricity costs than most other folks in Texas. The current electricity rate in San Antonio is about 9.4 cents/kWh, and goes up to 11.4 cents/kWh for all usage over 600 kWh during the summer months of June through September.
Let’s look at how the numbers for usage and generation play out on a monthly basis. The table below has rows for each month that show average electricity usage, utility bill, expected solar production, and bill after solar. The final column shows when there is a credit balance when solar production exceeds usage (positive numbers) and when that balance is being used to offset months where usage exceeds production (negative numbers).
Estimated 1st-year savings for a 7.7-kW system in San Antonio
|Month||Usage (kWh)||Rate < 600 kWh||Rate > 600 kWh||Monthly bill*||Solar kWh||Bill with solar*||Credit or debit**|
*The monthly bill includes a basic service charge of $8.75, and cannot be less than $8.75.
**Any amount of kWh over usage is credited to the customer's account and used to reduce future months' bills.
As you can see from the table, the 7.7-kW solar system can wipe out everything but the monthly $8.75 service charge for nearly all months. In fact, the remainder of the credits, $12.94, is available to be applied to the next January’s bill. So the average homeowner can wipe out their electricity bill and save about $1,145 in the first year using solar panels.
But those panels will stay up on the roof, making electricity for the next 25 years or more, an although their production will be reduced by a tiny amount per year (about 0.5%), they will continue to save money every year. And electricity rates rise, too, so…
Are solar panels worth it in San Antonio?
The real judgment about whether solar panels are worth it has a lot to do with economics and a little to do with environmentalism. Some people install solar panels so they can help the planet. And solar panels do help the planet. The CO2 reductions from a 7.7-kW are equaled by planting 185 trees, every year the system is in operation.
But back to the economics. As we discovered in the last section, the typical solar system in San Antonio can save you $1,145 in the first year. Simple arithmetic says that if you take the cost (which was $14,350 after the rebate and tax credit) and divide it by $1,145, you get the number of years to payback the system’s cost. The answer to that very simple calculation comes out to about 12.5 years.
Given that a solar system comes with multiple warranties that ensure your system will be kicking out kilowatts for 25 years or more, that means putting solar panels on your San Antonio home is a good deal. You’ll pay off the cost in half of the panels’ lifetime, and have 12.5 more years of essentially free electricity for your troubles.
The more complicated formula takes into account annual increases in the cost of electricity from the utility company, the 0.5% reductions in energy produced by the panels every year, the net present value of an up-front investment in solar and more. But in this case, the simple arithmetic might actually be better.
CPS Energy rate increases over time
CPS has maintained a remarkable history of tiny rate increases, spaced far apart. The utility’s rate hasn’t risen since 2013, when the city council approved a 4.25% increase in rates. The previous rate increase in 2008 (which took effect in 2010) was just 3.5%. That means an average rate increase of just 0.76% per year between 2008 and 2018.
Rate increases that small and far between are almost unheard-of in the utility industry, where year-over-year, rates increase about 3.5% on average. If the trend holds, the average homeowner will end up paying about $31,280 for electricity over the next 25 years. And the bill savings from solar will be about the same.
So now you have to decide if paying $14,350 for solar panels makes more sense than paying $31,280 for the energy. Long story short, it does, if you pay with a loan.
How to pay for solar panels in San Antonio
Now comes the big question. Do you pay for your solar system in cash, or take a loan? Paying cash is simper, because it lets you own the system from the beginning, but taking a loan can be smarter, because the savings from solar panels offset the cost of the loan payments. Let’s look at how each works over time:
Paying for solar panels with cash
So we have a 7.7-kW solar system that costs an average of $20,500 after the CPS rebate. That system saves you $1,145 and you get a tax break of 30% of the cost ($6,150), for a final first-year cost of $13,205.
Each year after that, you save a tiny but more money, as CPS Energy’s rate increases by an average of 0.76% and the solar panels’ production decreases by about 0.5%. The energy bill savings stack up until the middle of year 13, where you cross into positive territory.
Over the next 12.5 years, you get what amounts to free electricity from your solar panels, saving a total of $14,155 by the end of the 25-year warranty you get with your solar panels. Here’s how that looks on a graph:
That’s a nice amount of savings over the decades! But that big up-front payment can be a turn-off for some people. The good news is, many companies now offer solar loans, and choosing to finance your solar panels can actually be a really smart idea.
Paying for solar panels with a loan
Choosing a loan can be a smart idea, because you can get the panels installed the same way as if you paid cash, and even though you’ll owe $0 down, you still earn the full 30% tax credit. Then, once you have to start making payments on the loan, your panels are already saving you money on electricity!
We find the best kind of loan for solar panels to be the home equity line of credit (HELOC), which tends to have the best interest rates, flexible repayment schedule, and come from a bank you already trust. Despite those benefits, however, our estimates show that the cost of a 15-year HELOC at 4.5% interest will exceed your savings from solar by just a little bit, costing about $15 more per month than you save.
That HELOC would have a principal of the cost of the solar system minus the tax credit (which end up being $14,350). The payments will be $109.75 per month, will the bill savings will average out to $95.42 per month, meaning a net cost to you of $14.33 per month, or $171.96 per year.
Oh, but after the loan is paid of, at a total net cost of $2,632 over 15 years, you see the same huge savings as the cash payment scenario, We estimate the total net gain of paying for solar with a loan to be $8,745. Here’s how that looks in a graph:
Are “Free solar panels” really free?
You might have noticed we used the term “$0 down” in the loan write-up above. Some solar installers like to market that as “Free solar panels that pay for themselves!”
And yeah, if you want to get technical about it, what we described above is just about as close as you can get to “free solar panels.” Just make sure if you get an offer like that, you carefully assess all the different numbers that we mentioned. Pay special attention to how much energy the panels will generate, how much of your electricity bill they’ll eliminate, how much your monthly payment will be, and how much the solar installer estimates for the rate of increase in energy prices.
Like we said, CPS has a long history of raising rates a tiny bit at a time after many years of stability. It’s great for the citizens of San Antonio, and it can still provide a good return on your solar investment.
And as always: keep in mind, your home and your energy needs are unique. The numbers above are just estimates, and you could find yourself saving (and paying) more or less based on the uniqueness of your situation. So if you’re ready to find out how much you can save with solar, the right thing to do is connect with our trusted solar experts in San Antonio to get a custom picture of your solar savings.
And have a sunny day!
Last modified: August 6, 2018