With the horizon for solar energy looking brighter and brighter, how do you know if switching to solar is right for your home?

The cost of manufacturing photovoltaic, or PV, panels continues to decrease. In addition, many states offer generous tax incentives, grants, and subsidies for homeowners combined with a 30% federal tax credit. Solar energy is increasingly accessible for American households, especially with the expansion of solar leasing now into 15 states and net metering policies in 43 states.

What do these changes and incentives mean for the average homeowner thinking about solar? We sought to combine the most recent and accurate data available to give homeowners a comprehensive look at key factors to consider when pondering the switch. We then compiled and quantified this key information as a guide for gauging solar advantages in your state.

How did we rank the states?
To compile our ranking of states, we analyzed four important factors that every homeowner should weigh when considering solar:

  • Are your electricity bills expensive? Solar is most advantageous for consumers who already face increasingly expensive electricity bills, whereas if your electricity costs are already pretty low, solar may not save you money (especially leasing). To gauge this factor, we analyzed the average monthly electric bill for households in every state.
  • Does your state offer economic incentives that make the switch worth it? Many states -- notably Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey and New York -- have made commitments to helping residents transition to solar and offer excellent incentives, tax rebates, grants, and subsidies for solar installation. The team at Solar Power Rocks has measured the quality of each state's incentives to provide a comprehensive score for all 50 states. We included these scores to measure state economic support for residential solar.
  • Is your state sunny enough to obtain energy through solar? The more sun your area gets, the more power your panels can generate. Thus, we accounted for average insolation, which is a calculation of the number of hours the sun is shining and how powerful its rays are when beaming down on each states' particular latitude.
  • Is there existing state capacity for solar? We also took into account how many megawatts of solar energy the states' electric grids are currently producing to gauge current commitment to transitioning to renewable energy sources.

The Top 5 States in Focus

1. California. California's electricity costs are among the most expensive in the country. The state has set the loftiest goal of deriving 33% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. This high goal encourages generous rebates from utilities to help cover the cost of installation in addition to cash-back incentives once the system is in use, given support from the California Solar Initiative. After installation, residents also are exempt from paying state property taxes on their system. Cities and municipalities provide even more incentives: In San Francisco, cash-back incentives range from $2,000 to up to $10,000, depending on household income. As for weather, the state gets great sun, which means you'll be able to rely on your system to generate power all year-round (and get paid for selling surplus energy back to the grid). Californians also pioneered solar leasing.

2. Hawaii. Hawaii almost has it all. As one would expect, the sun shines brightly over the islands. It also has the most expensive electricity costs (36 cents per kilowatt hour). The combination of these factors suggests Hawaiians could save a great deal by switching to solar. Currently, Hawaiians installing PV solar panels can receive a 35% state tax credit (35% of the installation costs or a $5,000 credit) in addition to the national 30% personal tax credit, but no rebates or grants are in place to offset immediate installation costs. Solar leasing is available in Hawaii.

3. Arizona. Right behind Hawaii, Arizona has the second best insolation rating in the country, and combined with relatively high consumption, Arizonians can easily save by switching to solar. The state offers generous rebates based on residents' local utility, with many providing up to 50% of installation costs. These rebates are combined with a 25% tax credit (capped at $1,000) that is applied to residents' income taxes. On top of these incentives are state property and sales tax exemptions. Solar leasing is available in Arizona.

4. Maryland. Maryland aims for 20% of all the energy generated by 2022 to come from renewable sources. Because of this standard, utilities and the state government are offering great incentives. For almost all smaller residential installations, homeowners qualify for a $1,000 grant. They also receive cash back from the local utility for every kilowatt they produce with their panels, on top of state property and sales tax exemptions. Great state regulation means, despite Maryland's mid-range electricity costs and below-average insolation, homeowners here can typically pay off the cost of installation in eight years, the same time frame projected for Arizona residents. Solar leasing is available in Maryland.

5. Delaware. Similar to its neighbor, Delaware has the goal of generating 25% of energy using renewable sources by 2025-2026. Also like Maryland, the local utility will pay homeowners for the electricity generated from residential PV panels. The state offers installation rebates that are tiered by the size of your system: For the first 5 kilowatts, homeowners can receive $1,250 per kilowatt and $750 for the next 5. On average, the system should pay for itself in five years. Solar leasing is also available.

Check out how your state ranked:

State

Sun's Strength Score (out of 100)

Average Monthly Bill ($)

State Incentives Score (out of 5)

Solar Grid Capacity (Megawatts)

Total Score (out of 100)

1. California

79.1

83.7

3.4

1563.6

56.0

2. Hawaii

100.0

202.7

2.9

85.2

55.3

3. Arizona

85.0

118.6

3.6

397.6

48.7

4. Maryland

48.8

137.2

4.3

37.1

44.4

5. Delaware

45.2

132.8

4.1

26.5

41.2

6. New Jersey

39.8

115.0

3.5

565.9

40.7

7. New York

37.2

111.6

4.3

123.8

39.4

8. Florida

81.9

130.1

2.6

95

39.2

9. Nevada

82.9

104.1

2.8

124.1

37.3

10. Massachusetts

38.5

92.9

4.5

74.6

37.2

11. Colorado

63.6

80.1

3.7

196.7

36.9

12. North Carolina

54.5

118.1

3.3

85.5

36.8

13. New Mexico

74.4

73.6

3.6

165.5

36.7

14. Texas

69.5

139.8

2.3

85.6

36.0

15. Connecticut

38.8

134.1

3.4

31.1

35.4

16. Louisiana

69.0

120.8

2.3

13.4

31.9

17. Oregon

44.7

94.5

3.5

35.8

31.5

18. Pennsylvania

41.3

115.3

2.9

133.1

31.4

19. Ohio

45.0

104.9

3.2

31.6

31.0

20. Illinois

42.1

90.8

3.5

16.2

30.2

21. South Carolina

53.2

135.0

2.2

4.1

30.0

22. Missouri

51.7

108.4

2.6

2

28.4

23. Vermont

34.6

93.2

3.3

11.7

27.7

24. Virginia

46.8

125.9

2.1

4.5

27.1

25. New Hampshire

38.5

102.3

2.7

3.1

26.0

26. Indiana

46.0

103.5

2.4

3.5

25.2

27. Montana

46.3

85.0

2.7

0.7

25.1

28. Utah

63.0

70.6

2.5

4.4

25.0

29. Tennessee

50.4

132.3

1.5

22

24.5

30. Minnesota

41.1

89.1

2.7

4.8

24.2

31. Alabama

58.1

142.4

1.0

0.5

23.9

32. Georgia

58.9

131.2

1.0

6.9

22.5

33. Wisconsin

41.3

92.4

2.3

12.9

22.4

34. Iowa

43.4

93.9

2.2

0.1

22.3

35. Maine

44.7

80.1

2.4

1.1

21.5

36. Kansas

52.2

104.7

1.5

0.2

20.9

37. Kentucky

46.8

108.2

1.5

3.3

20.4

38. West Virginia

42.4

105.9

1.6

0.6

19.4

39. Washington

37.2

88.4

2.0

12.3

19.0

40. Michigan

38.5

90.6

1.9

8.8

18.9

41. Oklahoma

58.7

115.6

0.8

0.2

18.7

42. Rhode Island

40.1

86.4

1.9

1.2

18.5

43. Arkansas

61.2

106.3

0.7

1.1

17.5

44. South Dakota

46.0

96.8

1.4

0.1

17.5

45. Mississippi

38.8

130.9

0.8

0.6

17.0

46. Nebraska

48.8

95.9

1.2

0.3

16.6

47. Alaska

0.0

114.4

1.9

0.1

14.6

48. Wyoming

55.8

82.3

1.0

0.2

14.6

49. Idaho

55.6

82.5

0.9

0.4

14.2

50. North Dakota

41.1

98.5

0.8

0.1

13.1

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