Despite inclement weather impacting parts of fall, winter and spring, high electricity rates and attractive solar policies have made solar panels popular in the Bay State.
Massachusetts is among the top 10 states with the highest electricity rates, at 27.83 cents per kilowatt-hour on average in August 2023, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration. Massachusetts’ average residential electric bill was $196.77 that month.
Going solar could help lower your electricity bills, shield you from your utility’s price swings and reduce your home’s carbon emissions.
Solar panels are more affordable to the average American than a decade ago. Research by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that the cost of residential solar panels has fallen by 69% since 2010. You can take advantage of federal and state incentive programs to reduce the initial cost of a solar system, lower your monthly utility bills and boost your home’s value.
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Best national solar panel companies in Massachusetts
Here are a few of our picks for the best national solar companies that service Massachusetts.
Local solar panel companies in Massachusetts
During your search for solar companies, you should also consider looking into local solar companies in your area. We pulled a few Massachusetts solar companies with some of the highest average Google review scores. However, it’s important to do some local solar company research on your own too or get referrals from people you know. Here are a few local solar companies in Massachusetts that might be worth taking a look at.
How to determine which solar company in Massachusetts is best for me
You’re going to want to find an installer that has experience working with the kind of solar project that you’re interested in. You’ll also want to make sure your installer has experience working on the type of roof that you have, and the type of system you want installed, like grid-tied or off-grid.
Ben Delman, a communications director with Solar United Neighbors, a clean energy nonprofit, recommends that homeowners look for solar installers that are certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. They should also have the proper licensing and bonding for their work. Reading through online reviews can help you get a better understanding of a solar company’s installation and service reputation. A few places to look for solar company reviews are Google, Yelp and Angie’s. Delman recommends looking for solar companies that have at least 20 to 30 reviews. Ask people you know if they have any solar company recommendations, too.
Aside from reviews and certifications, there are a few other things to look for in a solar installer. A good installer, Delman said, will be able to:
- Provide good word-of-mouth references
- Clearly explain all project deadlines
- Easily define technical terms in an easy-to-understand manner
- Show transparency around pricing and how system financing works
- Have knowledge of the local permit requirements and the process for system interconnection with the local power company
- Understand homeowners association restrictions and help you navigate that process
A reputable solar company should be able to answer any questions you may have, no matter how hard those questions might be. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification on any project and pricing details. To get the best price possible, make sure to shop around for at least three quotes before choosing an installer.
Average cost of solar panels in Massachusetts
Here’s a look at the average cash price for a 5-kilowatt system before factoring in tax credits incentives, according to data from FindEnergy.com.
Massachusetts solar panel costs
|System size (kW)||Price per watt||Total cost|
Massachusetts solar panel incentives or rebates
A solar system isn’t cheap for New Englanders. Thankfully, you can lower the price with federal tax credits and state-based incentives.
The federal Residential Clean Energy Credit (formerly named the Investment Tax Credit) lets you subtract 30% of the cost of a solar system from your federal tax returns after you buy a solar system. That means you will pay $8,551.20 less for the average solar system installed in Massachusetts after using the federal credit. Most batteries will also qualify for the federal Clean Energy Credit.
The Inflation Reduction Act is a landmark federal climate bill passed in August 2022. Thanks to the IRA, Americans can invest in residential solar energy and lower its cost with the federal tax credit until 2032. The credit will decrease to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034. It’s set to expire in 2035. To receive the Clean Energy Credit, you can complete form 5695 (PDF) and submit it to the IRS. The IRS instructions can help you complete the form. Following the IRS approval, you will get a 30% credit on your federal tax return for the year.
Massachusetts also offers several residential incentive programs to cut the cost of solar. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency provides a comprehensive list of all incentives in the Bay State. Here are the most significant ones worth noting.
|State tax credit||Massachusetts provides a 15% solar tax credit with a maximum credit of $1,000 for purchased solar systems. You can claim the tax credit on filing your income tax for the year. You can carry it over for three successive years if you have excess credit.|
|Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target||The SMART program pays customers of Eversource, National Grid and Unitil a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour for the electricity produced by residential solar panels. The SMART program allows projects below 25 kW solar capacity to obtain the highest base compensation rates between 0.21 cents and 0.31 cents per kWh for 10 years. The program expires in a decreasing block process. The rates depend on the three participating utilities – Eversource, National Grid and Unitil.|
|State tax exemptions||Massachusetts offers property tax and 6.25% sales exemptions for residential solar systems. You won’t pay taxes on the added home value from your solar panel purchase and installation, and you can claim these exemptions on your income tax return.|
How to pay for solar panels in Massachusetts
As with any major purchase, you will want to think about how to finance the cost of solar panels. Keep in mind, the money from the tax credit won’t be yours until after you’ve filed your taxes for the year the panels are installed. It’s also important to factor in the solar payback period, which is the time it takes to recoup your upfront investment and when savings begins.
Here are some ways to pay for solar panels:
Personal loan: You can also borrow the money through a personal loan. The main difference between a personal loan and a home equity loan is that a personal loan is typically unsecured. That means your house isn’t at risk. The downside is they tend to have shorter terms and higher interest rates than home equity products.
Solar loan: Your solar installer likely has a relationship with a bank or other financial institution to offer a loan designed for solar panels. This can be a great deal, but you’ll want to get multiple offers to ensure the rates and terms are the best.
Cash: This approach only works if you happen to have thousands of dollars sitting around in a bank account. If you don’t have that yet, but you want solar panels in the future, consider saving money in a high-yield savings account. Interest rates are high right now, and this can help you save faster.
Lease or power purchase agreement: Some solar companies allow you to lease your system or enter a power purchase agreement. If you choose to lease, you won’t own the solar system, you’ll just pay for use of the equipment. Entering a power purchase agreement means you’ll buy solar energy generated from the solar company to power your home. The price you’ll pay is usually lower than the retail rate from your local utility company. Note that not all incentives are available with a lease or power purchase agreement.
Home equity: You don’t have to use a loan from your solar company. Financial institutions offer home equity loans and lines of credit (or HELOCs) that are commonly used for home improvement projects. These loans can be used for basically any purpose, and they may be a good fit for your solar project. Shop around and make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Installation factors to consider
Investing in a solar system is a serious financial commitment. It’s worth considering various factors that may or may not make solar panels suitable for your home.
- Condition and tilt of your roof: According to the Department of Energy, solar panels operate most efficiently with an angle between 15 and 40 degrees. Because your roof’s pitch will affect your solar panels’ productivity, it’s crucial to determine if your roof has the right angle and whether panels can be positioned to get the maximum output. Your roof should also be in good shape before attaching solar panels. Typically, replacing an older roof before installing solar panels is recommended to reduce the risk of further damage to the roof and potentially higher costs of its replacement after putting up a solar system.
- Insurance coverage: It’s worth including your solar system in your homeowner’s insurance policy. Check with your insurance company for details of your policy and coverage of your solar system.
- Location: There is a misconception that solar panels stop working in the winter. As a northern state, Massachusetts gets a lot of snow in the winter. Output from solar panels in the winter is lower relative to the summer because of shorter days. But solar panels generate electricity if the sunlight covers solar panels. Solar panels reach high efficiency during wintertime since their ideal internal temperature ranges between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Solar panels seamlessly generate power as soon as snow slides off or is removed.
- Cost vs. time: It’s worth considering how long you plan to live in your home before you sign a solar loan, lease or PPA. Solar is a long-term investment. If you move in a few years, committing to an expensive solar package may not be worth it. The typical payback period for solar ranges from six to nine years.
- HOA and neighborhood rules: Massachusetts’s solar easement and rights laws ban homeowners’ associations from creating unreasonable restrictions on solar access. The state allows for the establishment of voluntary easements and solar access contracts, but it doesn’t consider solar access an automatic right.
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