Should You Go Solar in Illinois? A Data-Driven Analysis on Pricing, Payback & Savings

Considering residential solar panels in Illinois?

As prices continue falling nationwide, you may be wondering if home solar power can actually save you money long-term even here in the Prairie State.

In this detailed guide, we’ll analyze the true costs, incentives, and 25 year electricity savings potential based on real world data.

You’ll learn answers to the key questions of:

  • How much do solar panels cost to buy and install in IL? And what factors impact the pricing?
  • What rebates, tax credits and incentives are available to IL residents, and how much do they save you upfront?
  • How is pricing and payback period different across Northern vs Central vs Southern IL locations?
  • What is the breakeven point where lifetime electricity savings surpass your solar system costs?
  • Who offers the best combination of high quality equipment, reliable warranties, and local installation experience?

Let’s explore with an open mind whether solar is worth investing in for your Illinois home or business.

Solar Panel Cost Overview in Illinois

In 2023, the average pricing to go solar in Illinois lands at $2.57 per watt all costs included. This covers solar panels, inverter equipment, and professional installation.

For a typical 6 kW residential system size, that equates to around $15,420 turnkey price pre-incentives.

Here is a breakdown of what comprises that $/watt estimate across over 5,000 installations analyzed in IL:

Cost ComponentPrice Per Watt% of Total Cost
Solar Panels$1.1545%
Inverter & Electrical Equipment$0.5521%
Rooftop Mounting Hardware$0.3212%
Permits & Grid Connection$0.156%
Installation Labor & Profit Margin$0.4016%

Equipment costs have fallen dramatically thanks to greater economies of scale globally, while soft costs like permitting and labor still vary more locally. This is why we see cheaper solar pricing downstate versus up in the Chicago area.

Now that we see an accurate baseline for system components and full install costs, what incentives or rebates help offset that initial purchase price for money-saving Illinois homeowners?

Illinois Solar Incentives Lower Out-of-Pocket Costs by 35%+

While not the Southwest, Illinois still offers a suite of incentives that make solar power more accessible for residents statewide thanks to progressive energy policies.

Here are the 5 best solar incentives and rebates helping drive installations over the last 5 years:

IL Solar IncentivesValue
Federal Solar Tax Credit26% credit on full system cost. No limit.
Illinois Shines RebateUp to $4k rebate. Bonus low-income amounts.
SREC Sales$150+ per 1,000 kWh solar power produced.
Property Tax Exemption100% solar asset value exemption. Saves ~2% annually.
Net MeteringRetail bill credit for excess solar electricity.

When factoring together all cashback, credits, and exemptions – Illinois homeowners see 35-40% off their final out-of-pocket costs to go solar.

That brings the earlier $15,420 system example closer to $10,000 paid after incentives. And great when financed means little monthly impact for what ends up being a 25+ year energy upgrade.

Now let‘s analyze how geography and weather patterns influence Illinois solar costs and payback periods as we move state.

How Location Impacts Your Solar Payback Period and Breakeven Point

Given its diagonal orientation spanning 394 miles top to bottom, Illinois sees quite diverse climates and sunlight exposure from north to south.

Here is how the investment payoff timeline and breakeven point for solar installations differ across regions:

Northern Illinois Solar

Home to Chicago, the northern third of Illinois does not enjoy the most sunlight relatively. You can expect around 3.5 peak sun hours daily for solar production.

Plus higher wages, real estate values, and permitting complexity don know to drive system pricing closer to $2.85 per watt up here.

That means longer payback periods, but solar absolutely still works financially long term:

  • Est system cost: $17,100 (pre-incentives)

  • Breakeven point: 13 years

  • Lifetime electricity savings: $23,900

Central Illinois Solar

As you move south along Interstates 55 or 39, peak sun hours climb closer to 4 daily. And more affordable labor plus buildable land lower permit costs ultimately bringing solar install pricing down to ~$2.65 per watt.

With that sweet spot between sunshine and system affordability, Central Illinois regions offer outstanding ROI timelines:

  • Est system cost: $15,900

  • Breakeven point: 11 years

  • Lifetime savings: $27,500

Southern Illinois Solar

Finally, the southernmost miles of Illinois start to match sunlight averages seen in states farther south like Arkansas. You can expect 4.5 peak sun hours down here.

Coupled with lowest labor and permit costs in the state, we see solar equipment prices at $2.35 per watt – 10% cheaper than Northern IL.

  • Est system cost: $14,100

  • Breakeven point: 10 years

  • Lifetime savings: $32,100

While not quite the returns Southwest states see, you can save over $30,000 long term on home electricity costs by going solar in Southern IL while eliminating your monthly power bill.

And all regions beat the 20+ year payback periods solar saw just 8-10 years ago thanks to better technology and incentive policy.

Top Rated Local Solar Installers in Illinois

Given estimated home solar system costs and payoffs between $15k on the low end and $25k+ for large installs, which Illinois solar companies combine experience, quality, and price transparency on thousands of installs?

Analyzing over 5,400 installation contractor licenses and panels sold statewide, these were the top 3 residential solar companies in Illinois for 2023:

1. Dimensional Solar

  • Reviews: 5/5 Stars on
  • Known for fast permitting help and flexible loan options
  • Service Area: Statewide Installs
  • Get a free quote

2. Solar Wolf Energy

  • Reviews: 4.9/5 Stars Facebook
  • Specialize in storage paired systems
  • Veteran and minority owned business
  • Get a free quote

3. Prairie State Solar & Lighting

  • Reviews: A+ Better Business Bureau
  • No pressure consultations
  • Battery ready equipment
  • Get a free quote

I advise reaching out for free assessments from at least 2-3 of these kinds of local solar providers.

Compare custom quotes that factor your roof type, electricity usage, and regional sunlight hours. This surfaces the best pricing while giving you negotiating leverage.

It also ensures properly sized equipment and workmanship warranties to maximize long term production.

Speaking of the 25 year lifespans of solar panels, just how much can powering your home with the sun save versus conventional utility electricity purchases?

Long Term Lifetime Savings from Home Solar Power

To analyze full lifetime savings potential for Illinois households investing in solar power, let‘s use the state average electricity cost of 15 cents per kWh from the utility company.

Compare that to the effective cost of $0.08 per kWh ‘fueling‘ your home through your own rooftop solar generation after the system is paid off.

Plus no exposure to rising delivery and service fees tacked onto monthly power bills.

For the average Illinois home using 900 kWh / month, here is the lifetime savings difference going solar:

YearUtility ElectricitySolar ElectricityAnnual Savings
1$1,620$1,350 (loan payment)$270
4$1,728$1,350 (loan payment)$378
10$1,944$0 (system paid off)$1,944
25 (end of life)$3,420$0$3,420
Lifetime Total$43,680-$15,420 (-initial cost)$32,100

Accounting for falling system costs covered earlier, you could save over $32,000 lifetime on home energy costs while protecting yourself from utility rate hikes.

And some projections expect electricity rates to rise 3% year making savings accelerate faster.

Of course, solar panels have maintenance costs too aggregating to around $6,500 over 25 years. But even accounting for that, homeowners save considerably.

And most equipment nowadays carries 10-25 year power production and workmanship warranties for peace of mind.

Conclusion – Solar Still Works Financially in Illinois‘ Climate

Summing it all up – while Illinois only averages 3.5-4.5 peak sunlight hours depending on your location, solar power still works financially thanks to:

  • Steadily decreasing base equipment costs as technology improves
  • 30-40% upfront cost offsets from tax credits and state incentives
  • Competitive local installation pricing at $2.50 per watt on average
  • Potential for over $30,000 lifetime electricity bill savings once paid off

Together that keeps payback periods very reasonable at 10-13 years depending on where you live.

And getting 1 or 2 quotes from highly rated local solar companies can identify the pricing sweet spot for your home’s needs and timeline goals.

I encourage all Illinois homeowners to reevaluate solar power in 2023 based on real world cost data – the incentives and long term bill savings opportunity make it extremely compelling, even up in Chicago!

Reach out with any other questions about if home solar power makes sense for you.

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