Hot sun, cold hard maths

by Andy Bryenton

Solar energy is a big topic of discussion when it comes to home improvements. With cutting edge tech being offered on terms, the essential question is whether or not it makes fiscal sense to invest in photovoltaic panels to reduce your power bill, considering the projected lifetime of such systems.

With Photovoltaic (PV) panels now lasting three decades or more, and prices dropping, the return on your investment will come around sooner than it used to. Of course, a full system consists of more than just panels, it’s also about storage and control. However, looking at the whole package, it’s still possible that an average home will recoup the initial investment in infrastructure within the first five to seven years through savings alone, leaving in excess of two decades of pure returns. However, the cuts to your power bill are not the only advantage.

Looking at another market without subsidies: the clear picture is that having a solar system installed also increases the value of your home at sale. A detailed survey by the United States’ National Renewable Energy Laboratory revealed that, despite varying conditions across the continental US, every $1 of power bill savings added $20 to the saleable price of a home.

These figures are in US dollars, but the scale remains similar here. Direct from their findings:

“The exact numbers vary from property to property and installation to installation, but recent research shows an average increase in resale value being $5,911 (nearly NZ$9,000) for each one kilowatt (kW) of solar installed.

In a state like California, for example, a small 3.1-kilowatt (kW) system can add an average of $18,324 (NZ$27,675) to the value of a medium-sized home. It’s important to note that these statistics only apply to today’s housing prices and utility rates. As electricity prices go up (as they most certainly will), the advantages of solar energy rise proportionally as well.”

Many American markets are more fully saturated with solar tech than New Zealand, where the uptake of such systems is only now entering the ‘hockey stick’ part of the graph’s curve. As SPV becomes the norm, expect the resale benefits to match those in the US, or even exceed them.