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Solar power is now the world’s cheapest form of energy, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Since the numbers can get tricky and vary considerably from nation to nation and location to location, suffice it to say that the average kWh (kilowatt-hour) is cheaper to generate with a solar panel than the “regular” electricity you buy from a utility company.

Does that mean you should start switching your home to solar sooner than later and start saving money on energy bills?

Well, that’s a complicated question. While it’s true that solar power is rapidly and remarkably getting cheaper year by year, switching your home to solar power involves several factors that will cost you money in the short run — but certainly, save you money in the long run.

Think of solar power for a home as an investment that pays off over time.

The reason you need more money today is that you must buy a lot of equipment. In addition to the solar panels themselves, you need an array of support equipment, not the least of which are powerful batteries to store power when the sun is not shining.

You need other kinds of devices as well, such as an inverter. That turns direct current (DC) produced by a solar panel into alternating current (AC). All your household “stuff” runs on AC power. You’ll also need:

Metering equipment

Housing components

Cables and wiring gear

Operating/maintenance costs

Professional help to install

That last item will be needed for most people. Granted, those who are mechanically inclined and good with electricity, wiring, and gadgets can install their own solar systems and avoid the professional labor cost.

Some good news is that, in most U.S. states, your government will pay for a significant portion of your solar system costs. The federal government will kick in as well in the form of a tax break or tax rebate. Uncle Sam provides up to 30% in tax credits for the price of solar equipment and installation costs.

The immediate benefit is that your electricity bill will shrink as soon as you start gathering free electricity from the sun. How much depends on the size of your solar installation, including how many panels, their collection capacity, and more.