Californians grapple with ever-rising utility prices. Higher utility prices or not, 47 percent of us still want our streaming services, says a survey from HomeServe. Paying for electricity to run our homes is easier with solar panels. But how can you know if solar panels are worth it? 

How Solar Panels Work

If you know any school-age children, you may be embarrassed to discover they know more about the way solar panels work than you do. No worries! Solar panels have no moving parts and silently, constantly convert sunlight—photons of light—into usable electricity. 

Solar panels incorporate photovoltaic (PV) cells in their rectangular frames. These PV cells are tiny sandwiches of semiconductive material (usually silicon) that are electrically “primed” with boron and phosphorus to create negative and positive electrical charges. 

When a photon of sunlight strikes the sandwich, it bumps an electron off an atom. The negatively charged electron moves toward the positively charged phosphorus-coated silicon. That movement of electrons is electricity.  

The panel includes conductive plates to herd all the electrons onto wires running into your home. With a few additional bits of hardware, the result is free, clean, abundant electricity, even on a rare overcast day in California. 

Benefits of Solar Panels

A partial list of benefits of having solar panels professionally installed includes all these:

  • Reduced energy billsExperts at EnergySage peg a conservative 20-year savings for a California home at $32,599
  • Federal and state tax relief—Solar power is a path toward energy independence for our nation, so state and federal tax breaks are designed to encourage California homeowners; the federal solar investment tax credit is worth 26 percent of your total installation cost all by itself
  • Free fuel—Our sun is, for our lifetimes at least, an infinite source of powerful and free energy that no cartel or corporation can choke off
  • Environmentally friendly—You reduce your entire home’s carbon footprint by having even a modest solar panel array installed; an article in Urban Planning states “the total carbon footprint for the average California household is 44 metric tons of CO2 equivalent gasses per year (tCO2e)” so reducing your output by 1.5 tons annually can make a huge difference
  • Long life and minimal maintenance—Today’s solar panel systems last 20 or more years and are typically static, requiring almost no maintenance


Californians are blessed to live beneath a generous sun. Even if your house is not situated on your property for south-southwest exposure, you can benefit from solar panels. Several logistical factors affect how much you can benefit, financially, from a professional installation:

  • Size of your home’s roof—the more roof area, the more places you have to tuck the panels
  • Typical energy consumption of your home
  • Orientation of the main portions of your roof—south-southwest exposure is ideal but not required
  • Overhanging trees—these can rob your system of efficiency or limit daily exposure times
  • Age of your roof—installing new panels on a very old roof is counterproductive, as the roof will need to be replaced partway through the solar panels’ life, often at great cost

Solar panels eventually do pay for themselves, but determining the return on investment per year can be difficult. If you are hoping to recoup your investment in three to five years, solar panels may not be suitable for you. On the other hand, if you can patiently wait through a decade or more, you will reap all the benefits of solar panel systems. 

Roof First, Then Panels

Your Sacramento-area home needs to have a healthy roof before solar panels can be installed. Ideally, combining an experienced roofer with local experts in solar panel systems will save you money and scheduling headaches. Your roofer will know best how to prepare your roof for the solar panels. 

An aged roof—metal panel, tile, shingle—is not a good support system for the solar panels. As the roof gets older, any roofing work is made more complicated by the panels. 

Using the same company for full roof replacement and solar panel installation will give you the best chances for getting the most out of both your roof and your solar energy system. 

The type of roof your home has (metal panel, tile, shingle) also must be considered as you decide on solar panels. Metal panel roofs are the easiest and least expensive foundation for panels, followed by shingles. Tile roofs (either ceramic or concrete) are especially challenging. If you have a tile roof, expect to pay more for solar panel installation. 

Please contact us today at Straight Line Roofing & Construction. We are happy to help you find solutions for all your roofing questions. Are solar panels on your Sacramento-area home worth it? Should you repair or replace your roof? Are metal panels better than shingles? Get straight answers from Straight Line Roofing & Construction.