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Estimating How Much Home Solar Panels Cost
One of the first questions someone interested in solar asks is, “How much do solar panels cost?” It’s important to know there is not a one-size-fits-all answer because every home is different, and there are many geographic variables and federal and local tax incentives to consider.
The easiest thing to do is to contact a professional solar installer. The installer will give you a free evaluation that entails looking at your electricity bill to find out how many kilowatt hours of energy your household typically uses and evaluating your roof and shading, to determine how many panels you’ll need. That, combined with local solar incentives your community may offer and the 30 percent federal solar tax credit1, will give you a full picture of how much your home solar system will cost.
How Much Do Solar Panel Installations Cost?
Very few people are going to buy just the solar panels themselves, just like few people would buy the components of a car and build their own vehicle. We recommend you use a SunPower-approved installer for your solar system. So that’s where the cost gets to watts installed, to include the full system and the cost of labor.
The cost per watt installed in the United States varies significantly by state, customer type and system size, with median prices ranging from $3.2/W to $4.5/W, according to Berkeley Lab’s Tracking the Sun report. The good news is that prices have dropped significantly, declining 61 percent since 2010, according to NREL.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Solar
Solar panel installation costs depend on multiple factors, including:
- Whether your state or local government provides tax credits, net metering or other incentives;
- How you finance your system (e.g. lease, finance or purchase);
- The size and other characteristics of your roof, how much energy you use and the quality of your solar panel technology; and
- The cost of solar panels in your area, which varies state-by-state.
Yes, it’s possible to buy a single solar panel for as little as $100, but a solar panel does not operate in isolation. You need a system of hardware and software to generate electricity from the sun, including solar panels, mounting hardware, wires and cables, an inverter and monitoring software. And you need to consider the cost of installation and operation.
Once you get an estimate for the cost of your solar power system, you should subtract what you’ll save on your utility bill over time and any incentives offered by your local or state governments. Then you’ll have a better understanding of how going solar will impact your finances.
Why Higher Quality Panels Are Worth It
Remember that the adage, “You get what you pay for,” applies to home solar technology. Not all solar systems are alike. The quality of the technology matters in the long run. The durability, reliability and efficiency2 of solar panels can vary widely by manufacturer. If you settle for a conventional home solar system that might cost less out-of-pocket, you can expect to see average (or below average) results and less savings over time. (Watch these videos about the lifespan of SunPower solar panels and their durability and reliability.)
A higher quality panel like SunPower’s might cost a little more up front, but you will see a higher return on your investment in the long run. Our panels come with a 25-year Complete Confidence warranty and have a useful life of 40 years.3 They’re also the most efficient you can buy, so you’ll need fewer of them on your roof. Our panels will produce up to 60 percent more energy over time than conventional panels, ultimately saving you more money on your electric bill.
Industry measurements such as the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems’ PV Durability Initiative can give you a better idea of a solar panel’s expected lifespan – a factor that can have a tremendous impact on the system’s lifetime value.
The superior efficiency and durability of high quality panels can provide increased savings over time and lower maintenance costs. (You can get a personalized SunPower solar savings estimate using our solar calculator, which lets you factor in variables like buying solar plus storage and/or having an electric vehicle.)
Save on the Price of Solar Panels
There are many different tax incentives, subsidies and financing and billing solutions at the state and local levels that can make going solar more affordable. To see if you might be eligible for renewable energy incentive programs, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency® (DSIRE®).
If you purchase your solar system, you may be eligible for the solar ITC, which allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. The full solar ITC is available to home solar owners through 2019. It drops to a 26 percent deduction in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021. After that, the residential ITC is due to expire unless Congress decides to extend it, so don’t put off buying solar for too long.
Get a Solar Estimate
Ultimately, the easiest way to answer the “How much does solar cost” question is to give our solar advisors a call at 844-578-6793. They’ll help you get a free estimate for your home. Or you can contact a solar installer in your area directly. Here are some tips: Choosing a Home Solar Installation Company or watch this video to see what to expect when you meet with a solar professional to get a quote.
When you’re getting solar estimates, ask about the technologies the installer intends to use, their hardware, their monitoring software, their past installations and their maintenance plans. It’s especially important to ask about their warranty.
Many companies offer multiple separate warranties for a solar system, and there can be hidden fees in, for example, replacing a broken panel. SunPower covers its entire Equinox home solar system with one warranty and will not charge you, for example, to ship us a panel that needs to be replaced.
Ready to get started? Enter your address into our solar savings calculator to find out how much you’d save going solar.
- How Many Solar Panels Do You Need: Panel Size and Output Factors
- How Home Solar Panels are Installed
- Is My House a Good Candidate for Solar
1 Tax credits subject to change. SunPower does not warrant, guarantee or otherwise advise its partners or customers about specific tax outcomes. Consult your tax advisor regarding the solar tax credit and how it applies to your specific circumstances. Please visit the dsireusa.org website for detailed solar policy information.
2 Highest of over 3,200 silicon solar panels, Photon Module Survey, Feb 2014.
3 "Fraunhofer PV Durability Initiative for Solar Modules: Part 2". Photovoltaics International, 2014