Solar Panel Cost
The cost of solar panels has declined dramatically over the last several decades and, with a sharp rise in utility electricity rates in 2022, home solar now offers more cost savings potential than ever before.
In fact, the 2023 Heatmap Climate Poll found that 46% of US adults want to power their homes with solar panels in the future while 13% already do.
So, what’s standing in the way of American homeowners and solar panels? The biggest hurdle is often the cost of solar panels. And like a monster in a horror movie, the cost of solar panels is far less intimidating once you shine some light on it and understand how it works.
In this article, we’ll explore:
As always, our goal is to give you the resources and knowledge to make educated decisions during the solar process.
Is the price of solar panels falling?
The price of solar panels has declined substantially over the last decade as the industry has matured and reached production at the largest global scale.
Since 2010, solar panel have fallen by roughly 90% while global solar deployment has grown by over 400%, and this incredible growth rate along the entire global solar supply chain has dramatically reduced prices.
Just like computers, big-screen TVs, and cell phones, the economies of scale that solar panels now enjoy have produced a dramatic cost curve that has fundamentally changed the energy industry.
Utility-scale solar installations are now cheaper than all other forms of power generation in many parts of the world and will continue to replace older, dirtier power plants run on coal and natural gas.
Additionally, homeowners are now able to own their power production more cost-effectively than ever before.
Price per Watt vs cost per kWh
There are two main ways to calculate the cost of a solar system:
- Price per watt (/W) is useful for comparing multiple solar offers
- Cost per kilowatt-hour (cents/kWh) is useful for comparing the cost of solar versus grid energy
Let’s dive a little further into each measurement.
What is solar price per watt?
A fully installed solar system typically costs 3 to 5 per watt before incentives like the 30% tax credit are applied. Using this measurement, 5,000 Watt solar system (5 kW) would have a gross cost between 15,00 and 25,000.
Price per watt for larger and relatively straightforward projects are often within the 3-4 range. Claiming incentives like tax credits and rebates can bring the PPW even lower.
However, the following factors may push your solar price per watt into the 4 to 5 range.
- Smaller system size
- Unusual roof material or layout
- Premium panel and inverter models
- Multiple arrays versus a single array
- Additonal work like panel box upgrades, trenching, or roof repair
How to calculate solar price per watt
Calculating the price per watt for a solar system is very straightforward — it’s simply the system cost divided by the number of watts in the system.
Price per watt (/W) allows for an apples-to-apples comparison of different solar quotes that may vary in total wattage, solar panel brands, etc.
Pro tip: It can helpful to know your solar price per watt before and after claiming the 30% tax credit.
Ultimately there are many factors that figure into the price per watt of a solar system, but the average cost is typically as low as 2.75 per watt. This price will vary if a project requires special adders like ground-mounting, a main panel upgrade, EV charger, etc.
|Solar Price Per Watt||Solar Price Per Kilowatt-Hour|
|GROSS system cost / Total system wattage||NET system cost / Total lifetime system production|
|Useful for comparing solar quotes against one another||Useful for comparing solar versus utility bill|
|Pertains to the POWER of a system||Pertains to the PRODUCTION of a system|
|Typically 3.00-4.00/watt||Typically 0.06-0.08/kWh|
Cost Per Kilowatt-Hour (kWh)
Another measure of the relative cost of solar energy is its price per kilowatt-hour (kWh). Whereas the price per watt considers the solar system’s size, the price per kWh shows the price of the solar system per unit of energy it produces over a given period of time.
Net cost of the system / lifetime output = cost per kilowatt hour
You may also see this referred to as levelized cost of energy (LCOE).
What is a kWh?
A kilowatt-hour is a unit of energy and is equivalent to consuming 1,000 watts – or 1 kilowatt – of power over one hour. For reference, an energy efficient clothes dryer uses around 2 kWh of electricity per load, while central air conditioning uses around 3 kWh per hour.
While price per watt is most helpful comparing the relative costs of solar bids, solar energy cost per kWh is best used to illustrate the value of solar relative compared to buying your power from the electric utility.
For example, the average cost of a solar system purchased through solar.com is 6-8 cents per kWh, depending on the size of the system, type of equipment and local incentives.
Let’s compare that to grid electricity in major metro areas for April 2023 to the average cost per kWh of home solar energy:
|Grid electricity (cents/kWh)||Solar.com electricity (cents/kWh)|
|New York City||21.6||6-8|
Based on this prices, it costs around 43 cents to dry a load of laundry using grid electricity in New York and only 14 cents to dry a load using solar power.
How do I calculate the cost of solar panels?
There are a few ways to get a rough estimate for how much solar panels will cost without sitting through a sales pitch. These include:
- Online calculators
- Hand calculations based on your electricity usage
- The average cost of solar panels for comparable homes
Let’s start with the quickest method: online calculators.
Using a solar panel cost calculator
First, you can use an online solar cost calculator, like this one powered by solar.com. Simply punch in your address and your average monthly electricity bill, and the calculator will give you a side-by-side comparison of the cost of solar versus paying for utility electricity.
But before you use any solar panel cost calculator, it’s important to understand that there are dozens of variables that affect the cost of solar panels, and solar calculators work by making assumptions about those variables.
For example, your solar savings depends largely on how much utility rates increase over 25 years. Most calculators assume 3-5% annual inflation based on historical averages – but nobody can know for sure where will go over the next 25 years.
Solar savings is also geographically sensitive, since every state has different incentives, electricity rates, sun exposure, and net metering policies.
For example, a solar panel cost calculator for California would have drastically different assumptions than a cost calculator for New York.
How to calculate the cost of solar panels by hand
If you’d rather make your calculations offline, there are a few simple steps to estimate the cost of your solar system based on your electricity usage.
- Dig up some recent electricity bills (the more the better!)
- Average them together to get a baseline for your monthly electricity consumption
- Divide your monthly consumption by 30 to get your daily electricity consumption.
Once you have your average daily electricity use, follow the steps in the graphic below. Here are a few tips:
- You’ll have to assume the price per Watt (PPW) you can get from a local solar installer. This typically ranges between 3.50 and 5 before incentives
- Pro tip: Run the high and low PPW scenarios to get a range of solar costs
If hand calculations aren’t your thing, you can get a quick-and-dirty estimate based on the cost of solar for comparable homes.
How much do solar panels cost per square foot?
The third – and least accurate – way to get an idea of how much solar panels will cost for your home is to see how much solar panels cost for homes similar to yours.
Now, we absolutely encourage you to talk to friends, family, and neighbors that have installed solar systems to get a sense of the pros, cons, and cost. However, we’ve done a lot of that legwork for you.
We analyzed thousands of systems sold on solar.com in 2022 to find the average cost of solar panels for homes based on their square footage of living space and number of bedrooms.
On average, solar panels cost 8.77 per square foot of living space, after factoring in the 30% tax credit. However, the cost per square foot varies based on the size of the home.
For example, the post-tax credit cost of solar panels for a 2,500 square foot home is around 20,000 for a rate of 7.96 per square foot.
But how much do solar panels cost for a 1,500 square foot home? The average system cost only drops by 1,000 and the cost per square foot increases to 12.83.
|Square footage of living space||Solar cost per square foot (after tax credit)|
Based on systems purchased on solar.com in 2022. Square footage per Zillow.
If you don’t know your home’s square footage, you can either look it up on Zillow or get a rough estimate using the number of bedrooms.
What’s the cost of solar panels for a 3-bedroom house?
The average pre-incentive cost of home solar is 29,161 for a three-bedroom house, or 20,412 after applying the 30% tax credit.
However, as shown in the chart below, the number of bedrooms isn’t a great indicator of the size and cost of a solar system – and neither is living space, for that matter.
Solar systems are typically sized based on electricity consumption – not square footage or number of bedrooms. That’s because a two-bedroom house with two EVs and an electric heat pump would likely use more electricity than a four-bedroom house with no EVs and gas heating.
So, you can use this method to get in the right ballpark, but keep in mind that the previous two methods are more accurate.
Once you have a rough cost estimate for your solar system, it’s time to compare it to the cost of buying electricity from a utility provider to get a sense of how much you can save by going solar.
Do you really save money with solar panels?
Yes, homeowners across the US can save money on energy costs by powering their home with solar panels instead of purchasing electricity from a utility. This is especially true following the Rapid rise in grid electricity rates in 2022.
Home solar is essentially a way to buy electricity in bulk – similar to buying a giant can of coffee grounds from Costco instead of 50 individual cups at Starbucks. The 25 can of grounds costs more upfront but pays for itself after just 9 Grande Lattes at 3 each and nets 125 in savings over its lifespan.
It’s the same concept with home solar, just on a much larger scale.
How much money do you save a month with solar panels?
Exactly how much money you save a month with solar panels depends on a few main ingredients:
- Utility electricity rates
- Electricity consumption
- How you finance your system
- Your energy goals
These factors vary from household to household, so let’s take a look at the average monthly electric bill with solar panels and without solar panels.
- By paying cash for a solar system, you can enjoy maximum lifetime savings – often north of 50,000 – but it can take several years to reach a payback period
- By taking out a solar loan, you can front-load your cost savings by making solar loan payments that are less than your average electricity bill, but interest payments eat into your lifetime savings
Adjusting the size of your solar system and how you finance it gives you control over your essential electricity costs – something you’ll never have by purchasing electricity solely through a utility company.
How long does it take for solar panels to pay for themselves?
The payback period for solar panels is typically 6-11 years, depending on factors like your utility rate, electricity consumption, and how you financed the system.
With a solar loan, many homeowners are able to achieve “Day 1” savings by having a loan payment that’s lower than their average electricity bill. However, interest payments on the loan eat into the long-term energy cost savings.
By paying cash for solar, homeowners maximize their lifetime savings potential, but typically need to wait 6-11 years to recoup the upfront investment.
Is solar worth it financially?
As a hedge against energy inflation, home solar is considered a safe and steady investment with a rate of return similar to real estate and 401k. Remember, home solar allows you to replace your electricity costs with lower, more predictable monthly payments on your solar system.
Why is it financially beneficial to pay for solar rather than utility electricity?
The chart below shows the steady rise of utility electricity from 5 cents per kWh to 16.5 cents per kWh over the last 44 years.
For non-solar owners, this trend is a nightmare because it shows that utility rate hikes are about as certain as death and taxes. But if you have a home solar system, utility rate hikes are the fuel for your energy costs savings over the 25-year warrantied life of your solar system.
Home solar also acts as a time machine, of sorts. Instead of paying the current utility rate for electricity, the cost per kilowatt-hour of home solar is typically around 6-8 cents – roughly what utilities were charging 40 years ago.
So, are solar panels worth your money?
Solar panels are worth your money if you want to want to:
- Take control over your essential electricity costs
- Hedge against energy inflation
- Reduce your carbon emissions
- Increase your home value
- Provide backup power for grid outages (when paired with battery)
However, if you have a hunch that grid electricity are suddenly going to plummet below 8 cents per kWh and stay there for 25 years, then don’t buy solar panels.
How much does solar panel installation cost?
Installation labor accounts for around 5.5% of the total cost of a residential solar project, according to a 2022 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
That amounts to 1,375 for a 25,000 solar project.
This figure often seems surprisingly low to homeowners that are used to labor being a bigger chunk of the cost for car repairs, landscaping work, and other home upgrades.
It’s worth noting that installation costs vary from project to project based on the local minimum wage and scope of the project. For example, labor for specialized electrical work typically costs more than general labor for panel installation. This variability is why it’s tough to find a solar installation cost estimator online.
Overall, labor costs have fallen in the last decade as technology has improved and the labor force has matured. The chart below shows the solar panel installation cost breakdown since 2010.
- The overall cost of residential solar fell by 64% in the 2010’s
- Solar module, inverter, and labor costs have come down substantially in the last decade
- Non-labor soft costs and electrical hardware have been more stubborn
At the end of the day, the installation labor makes up a very small chunk of the total cost of a solar system – and it’s well worth having professionals install a system that you want to last for 25 years or more.
Can I install solar panels myself?
Some homeowners with advanced knowledge and experience in construction, circuitry, and local permitting guidelines (not to mention a good amount of time on their hands) are able to successful install solar panels up to inspection and interconnection standards.
However, it’s important to consider that DIY solar installation may void the manufacturer warranties on the equipment and does come with workmanship warranties.
So, if there are problems with the equipment or the installation, like a panel broken during installation or a leaky hole in the roof, you are on your own to solve and pay for them.
It’s also worth noting that full-service installers typically handle permitting, interconnection, and applying for incentives — which can be complicated and time consuming.
How much does one solar panel cost?
The average cost for one 400W solar panel is between 250 and 360 when it’s installed as part of a rooftop solar array. This boils down to 0.625 to 0.72 per Watt for panels purchased through a full-service solar company.
At a retail vendor, such as Home Depot, you can buy a single 100W solar panel for 100 or a pack of 10 320W solar panels for 2,659, which boils down to 0.83 to 1 per Watt.
Given the relationships with panel manufacturers, full-service solar companies are able to offer a much lower cost per solar panel than retail establishments.
How long do solar panels last?
Today’s solar panels typically have 25-30 year performance warranties that guarantee a certain level of production (usually 85-92% of its Day 1 capacity) during that time. However, the panels themselves can last and generate a meaningful amount of electricity for much longer.
For example, the first modern solar cells were created in 1954 and are still producing power from their display case in a museum. Similarly, a solar panel installed in 1980 on a rooftop in Vermont is still producing at 92% of its original capacity.
Based on manufacturer warranties, it’s safe to assume today’s solar panels will produce at a high level for at least 25-30 years. The real question is how far will they overshoot that warrantied lifespan.
How can I lower the cost of solar panels?
Although home solar is already more affordable than paying for utility electricity, there are a few ways to reduce the cost of your system and maximize your energy cost savings.
First, there are solar incentives offered by federal, state, and local governments, in addition to utility providers.
The most notable is the federal solar tax credit worth 30% of what you pay for solar panels. So, if your all-in cost is 25,000, you can claim a tax credit worth 7,500 on your federal income tax return for the year your system was deemed operational.
Next, many states have additional incentives like tax credits, tax exemptions, and rebates for residential solar systems. For example, New York has all three with its NYSERDA rebate, 25% state tax credit, and sales and property tax exemptions for solar installations.
At the local level, many city governments, municipal utilities, and investor-owned utilities have incentives for solar panels, battery storage, and other energy efficiency home upgrades.
- The Austin Energy solar rebate worth 2,500
- California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program with battery rebates up to 1,000 per kWh of capacity
- Massachusetts’ handful of municipal utility rebates
It’s well worth spending 5-10 minutes searching for solar incentives through your state, county, city, and utility provider.
Compare multiple quotes
The next way to reduce the cost of solar panels is to shop for the lowest price like you would for cars or a new pair of hiking boots.
In most areas of the US, there are at least a handful of solar installers willing to compete for your business. Getting quotes from at least three reputable installers gives you a sense of a fair price, weeds out scammers, and gives you leverage to negotiate for a lower price.
Admittedly, it takes time and effort to research installers, set appointments, and sit through sales pitches in order to gather quotes. Solar.com simplifies this process by instantly generating dozens of quotes from our network of trusted installers so you can easily compare quotes in a pressure-free environment.
However you choose to do it, comparing multiple quotes is crucial to lowering your solar cost and setting yourself up for a long-lasting and productive solar installation.
Can I get free solar panels?
Despite what the ads on and YouTube say, it is not possible to get free solar panels from Tesla, Home Depot, or the US government. This is a common scam used to gather personal data and/or trick people into signing long-term solar lease agreements that are far less favorable than owning solar panels.
For example, in February 2023, a page called “Solar Panel Rate” ran multiple ads claiming Elon Musk was paying homeowners 2,500 to test out new solar technology. Further inspection revealed that the account was run by three individuals in Indonesia and the ads were designed to collect personal information.
There are also dozens of YouTube ads claiming that the “US government is giving away free solar panels.” While it’s true that the federal government strengthened the solar tax credit and created new home electrification incentives by passing the Inflation Reduction Act, it is not “giving away” solar panels.
The falling cost of solar panels coupled with the recent spike in grid electricity have made home solar a reliable means of reducing your essential energy costs.
While the five-figure price tag for home solar often gives people sticker shock, it’s important to remember that going solar is like buying 25-years worth of electricity in bulk. It may cost more upfront, but it is much more affordable than buying electricity at the retail rate from a utility.
Plus, there are zero-down solar loans that can spread out the cost of solar panels and, in many cases, provide instant energy cost savings.
Installation accounts for roughly 5.5% of the total cost of solar projects. However, non-labor soft costs like permitting, inspection, interconnection, and general overhead makeup around half of the cost of home solar.
There are a few ways to reduce the cost of going solar. First, research federal, state, and local solar incentives to make sure you’re not leaving money on the table. Second, shop around for the best price by getting multiple quotes from vetted local installers. (Solar.com makes this quick, easy, and pressure-free).
Finally, neither Elon Musk nor the US government are giving away free solar panels. And if they were, they wouldn’t be advertising it on and YouTube.
Steer clear of free solar ads to avoid giving away personal information or ending up in a long-term solar lease.
Frequently asked questions
Is one solar panel enough to power a house?
One solar panel is not enough to power a house. Home solar systems typically feature 10-20 panels in order to produce enough power to offset 100% of the average household electricity consumption.
It’s also worth mentioning that installing one solar panel at a time isn’t very efficient, as there are soft costs associated with designing, permitting, inspecting, and interconnecting solar systems. Homeowners typically get the most bang-for-their-buck by installing at once as many solar panels as they’ll need to offset current and near-future electricity needs.
How long can a house run on solar power alone?
According to the NREL, a small solar system with 10 kWh of battery storage can power the essential electrical systems of a home for three days in parts of the US and in most months of the year.
Essential electrical systems do not include electric heating or air conditioning, which require massive amounts of electricity.
However, it’s worth noting that solar systems need to be paired with battery storage in order to provide backup power during outages. Solar-only systems are automatically shut off during outages as a safety precaution to protect the technicians repairing the grid.
What is the main downside of solar energy?
The main downside of solar energy is that it’s intermittent. In other words, solar panels need sunlight to produce electricity, and when the sun goes down production stops.
This intermittence poses challenges to grid operators because it creates an influx of energy during the middle of the day, when consumption is down, and a lack of energy in the evening, when consumption is peaking.
The most obvious solution to this challenge is various forms of energy storage including batteries, pumped hydro, compressed air, and thermal technologies.
In fact, residential solar and battery systems in California provided around 340 MW of power during a heatwave in September 2022 to help prevent power outages.
Is it worth it to get solar panels in California?
Given its abundant sunshine and high utility electricity rates, California is one of the best states to save money with home solar.
In fact, even after reducing the value of solar exports through NEM 3.0 solar billing, Californian’s can still save more money with solar than homeowners in most other states. Under NEM 3.0, it’s much more beneficial to pair solar systems with battery storage in order to use as much of your own solar production as possible instead of exporting it onto the grid.
Many installers are offering less expensive “arbitrage” battery systems that allow solar owners to store and use their own electricity, but don’t provide backup power during outages (hence the price decrease).
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What’s a good value for kWh/kWp? An overview of specific yield
Specific yield (kWh/kWp) is one of the most commonly used performance metrics for solar systems of all sizes. It’s used to compare different locations, to analyze different designs or to assess the health of an array. As the team behind HelioScope, we are frequently asked, “What’s a good value for kWh/kWp?” The answer is, as with many solar design questions, it depends.
In this article, we discuss the factors that drive specific yield up or down and present typical kWh/kWp values for a variety of locations, weather datsources and representative designs.
Factors that impact specific yield
Specific yield (or simply “yield”) refers to how much energy (kWh) is produced for every kWp of module capacity over the course of a typical or actual year. While typical values can range from 1,000 kWh/kWp to over 2,000 kWh/kWp, the actual value is driven by many factors, including:
- Location. A project’s location determines the amount of sunlight, or irradiance, it will receive. Irradiance is usually the biggest driver of specific yield because irradiance can vary so much. For example, El Paso, Texas, gets twice the annual global horizontal irradiance (GHI) as mountainous areas of Washington or Montana. Irradiance depends directly on the location of an array, as well as on other factors related to location, such as the array’s exposure to shade, soiling and snow cover.
- Weather file. There are a number of different ways of constructing a weather file, including ground-based measurements, satellite-based models and hybrid approaches. These different methodologies can result in weather files that differ by 10% or more for the same location and the same period of time.
- Module orientation. The module tilt and azimuth impact how much of the available sunlight (GHI) will actually hit the surface of the array (also known as plane-of-array or POA irradiance). The POA gain from tilting modules from horizontal to a tilt of 18° can, for example, range from 8% in Miami, Florida, to over 20% in Anchorage, Alaska.
- Module selection. Modules are often described by a single number—module wattage. But in terms of energy per watt, not all modules are created equal. All modules lose efficiency in hot and low-light conditions, but they lose efficiency at different rates. Temperature performance in particular can make a real difference; a module with a better temperature coefficient can improve the yield of a project by as much as 2-4%.
- Balance of system efficiency. BOS efficiency includes inverter efficiency, inverter clipping, MPP tracking losses, DC and AC wire losses, mismatch losses and more. Many energy production model tools simply assume a fixed value for system losses, but HelioScope rigorously models each system loss for every hour of the year. See Figure 1 below for a sample graph of system losses from HelioScope.
Figure 1: Typical system losses for a residential project in Columbia, South Carolina.
Typical kWh/kWp values
Now that we’ve defined the drivers of yield, let’s drill down to yield values for a couple of real examples to see how location, weather file and design individually impact yield, starting with location. Figure 2 shows GHI for four representative locations, as reported by NREL Solar Prospector.
Figure 2: GHI values for four representative locations (Image courtesy of NREL).
For any given location, you may have access to a number of weather files. In Figure 3, you can see that different sources of weather data report different irradiance values for the same location, and that the ranking of values reported by different weather file sources is not consistent from location to location.
Figure 3: GHI values from three source of weather data.
Finally, design is usually the biggest driver of yield at your control. While there are infinite design options, we’ll stick to five representative designs, as shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Four typical system designs
Table 2 shows yield values for these designs in four representative locations:
Table 2: Yield values for four representative designs in four representative locations
In each location, there’s a difference of 20% or more between the lowest yield design and the highest yield design (that is, between the high-shade residential design and the utility design). All of these designs have different impacts of shading, temperature and even plane-of-array orientation adjustments.
Many solar developers have a sense for the kWh/kWp yield they expect to see based on their own history. But not many appreciate how those will vary based on the location, the system type or even the weather file used. As with everything in solar, the devil is in the details!
About The Author
Teresa Zhang is VP of operations at Folsom Labs. She is an engineer, environmentalist, and expert witness with a decade of experience in solar, spanning module manufacturing, project development, technical due diligence, and software. She holds BS and PhD degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT and U.C. Berkeley.
Комментарии и мнения владельцев
Hi, I am trying to figure it all out myself I am based in Ireland and was sent a data sheet with some kwh/kwp? Production Forecast; Pv Generator output 100.10 kWp Spec. Annual Yield 836.09 kWh/kWp Could someone this to explain to me? Thanks
i know the answer is too late, but anyways… The nominal power (kWp) is the power of the PV system under standardized conditions (solar irradiation of 1,000 watts per square meter at a temperature of 25 °C). This is measured in kWp (kilowatt peak). So here a 200Wp panel would produce 200Wh. The rated power is given so that solar panels can be compared. In most cases, the nominal power is higher than the actual yield; after all, in practice, weather-related influences or the orientation of the PV system play a role Your PV system will produce less energy than a similar system under standardized conditions. Among other things, you live too far north. However, I think the average yield in Ireland is 800kWh/kWp, so your system would already perform decently.
I think when you mention specific yield it’s also important to state duration because it is the energy yielded per unit installed capacity over time. So saying 2000kWh/kWp or even 120% is a bit ambiguous.
for my solar design which data should be taken out of global irradiance, direct normal irradiance or specific yield? Is specific yield ,which is found on data site. associates for a particular type of pv panel ?
Awesome writeup and detail on yield. Thank you! This is the type of transparency we need in solar and clean energy.
Although not stated, I assume the formula is: specific yield = energy produced in one year [kWh] / rated power of system [kW] Therefore, the unit of specific yield is hour [h]. Furthermore, it seems easier to me to think of it as the number of hours per year at which the system effectively operates at its rated power.
Very good idea. Hours of rated system output seems a simple and effective measure. It could be refined by using cloudless sky days for the four seasons as bench marks. A cloudless day would be defined by the ideal shape of the PV generation curve
Ya, I agree with Daniel. KWH/m2 is also called Peak Sun Hour of a PV location Specific yield = PSH various de-rating factors of PV system
Yes. Think of the kwh/kwp (or just kw) as the power produced per nameplate. So 1050 is like getting 105% of the nameplate rating of the panel. If you get 950, you’re at 95%. In my area, NJ, 105-115 is a welcome sight, now and then get close to 120% (1200), and ground mounts in a field I can hit 125-130%. So if you’re getting 2000 I’d like to hear about it! Unless you have dual-axis trackers, I was involved with a few of them and we were getting 200% (your 2000).
I needed to ask how can we calculate the mean value ratio for a specific inverter? And how to set the mean value threshold for each inverter?
How much do solar panels cost in 2023?
In 2023, solar panels in the U.S. cost about 20,650 on average down from more than 50,000 10 years ago. In this article, we’ll break down the cost of solar by system size, state, and panel brand, all of which can significantly impact the final number you pay.
Average cost of solar panels in 2023
The average cost of a solar panel installation in 2023 ranges from 17,430 to 23,870 after taking into account the federal solar tax credit, with an average solar installation costing about 20,650. On a cost per watt (/W) basis, solar panel in 2023 average 2.95/W (before incentives). This data comes from our own marketplace data from thousands of users across 37 states and Washington D.C.
Solar installations are a unique product – just based on your state and the manufacturer of your chosen solar panels, average solar panel costs can vary widely. You can calculate your own cost and potential solar savings using the EnergySage Solar Calculator.
Throughout this article (and all around our website), we usually talk about solar panel pricing in terms of gross cost, aka the cost before any solar rebates and incentives that can reduce the upfront cost of solar, or even get you some money back over time. For example, our cost per Watt (/W) figures throughout the rest of this article are always the gross cost. This is because solar rebates and incentives aren’t always available to everyone. Even federal incentives like 30 percent solar tax credit aren’t always available for everyone to take full advantage of – you need to have enough tax liability to claim the credit and reduce your overall cost of solar.
How long does it take to break even on solar panels?
On average, it takes 8.7 years to earn back the money you spend upfront on installing solar panels. In fact, it is most helpful to think about solar panels as an investment instead of a single product that you simply buy. Also known as the solar payback period, the point at which you break even on your solar investment can be calculated by dividing your combined costs (the gross cost of your solar panel system minus any incentives and rebates) by your annual financial benefits (the amount you save on electricity combined with eligible incentives and rebates).
Your payback period depends on a few factors, including your electricity rates and your energy usage. As energy costs continue to increase, you’ll be able to protect yourself by going solar: the faster the cost of electricity increases, the shorter your payback period will be.
What impacts the cost of solar panels?
There’s a lot that goes into the sticker price a solar installer charges you. Solar installations are a unique product: the price you pay is heavily dependent on your unique situation and factors related to your electricity use and property. Here are some of the top factors to keep in mind that can and do influence the cost of solar panels for your property:
- System size: the bigger your solar panel system, the pricier it will be. Importantly, the average per-unit price for solar decreases with increasing system size.
- Location: pricing varies by state as well, which is a result of both local quoting trends and system size differences – states that have a larger average system size will naturally have a lower average cost of solar.
- Panel brand and quality: like any product or appliance, solar panels come in varying quality which can be highly dependent on brand.
- Panel type: the type of panel you install (typically monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or thin-film) directly impacts the overall quality of your installation. Higher quality = higher prices.
- Roof characteristics: the cost of a solar panel installation doesn’t just come from equipment. Your solar installer will also charge for the difficulty of the installation, and having a complex roof might make your system cost more.
- Labor: solar providers all charge different labor rates for their work. You may opt to pay more for a more reputable company with better reviews and a shorter timetable to installation.
- Permitting and interconnection: while it’s not a large factor, paying for permits and your interconnection fee to the grid will add a little to the top of your total solar installation price.
Perhaps the most obvious and influential factor in the price you pay for a solar panel installation is the size of the system you get. It’s pretty simple: a bigger system with more panels will cost more money than a system with fewer panels (and lower energy output). However, there’s also that Costco-esque relationship between system size and price, where a higher wattage system has a lower average /W. It’s like buying food in bulk – the overall price is higher, but the per unit price is lower.
Remember, while bigger solar power systems may cost more, they’ll also very likely save you more in the long run. If you install a 10 kW solar energy system that covers all of your electricity use, you might have to pay more out of. but you’ll be cutting a significant monthly expense – your utility bill – and saving more money as a result. Zero-down, low-interest solar loans are becoming increasingly common, making it even easier to buy a solar panel system that can fully offset your electricity bill and maximize your solar savings.
Solar installation costs also vary by your location, mostly by state. The spread of isn’t that wide and much of the differences by location are actually due to differences in system sizes and incentives, but it’s still something to keep an eye on.
We’ve analyzed quote data from our solar marketplace to understand solar panel system by state. Arizona has the lowest average cost per watt overall at 2.44/W, while Michigan has the highest at 3.78/W. But as we said above, system sizes tend to be larger in states with lower pricing, so it’s not always fair to compare a 10 kW system in Florida to a 10 kW system in Massachusetts. Their energy needs are just too different.
Every person has their own unique needs and conditions to keep in mind when they choose to go solar. While some states may be better for some people, others may not be as advantageous. Ultimately, as solar deployment continues to grow and expand across the country, we’ll likely see even bigger declines in the cost of solar everywhere. However, there are some states that are currently the best for solar due to strong incentives, including:
Cost of residential solar panels by state
NOTE: These ranges come from EnergySage marketplace data and are system BEFORE the 30 percent federal tax credit for solar. Additionally, EnergySage does not currently provide quotes in all 50 states, which limits our ability to provide solar panel cost estimates in each.
In general, states where homeowners need to use air conditioning more often have more average electricity used per household. As such, some of the largest solar panel systems are installed in sunny, warm states like Arizona and Florida. Why does this matter? As we’ve previously explained, for solar installers, the larger your system, the less they will usually charge per kilowatt-hour (kWh). It’s like buying in bulk at Costco – you might pay a higher sticker price, but your per-unit costs are lower when you buy more at one time.
In the end, this very roughly translates to lower /W pricing in warm states and higher /W pricing in cold states. But ultimately, total pricing is usually close to a wash – warm states have a lower price per watt, but larger system sizes, and cold states have a higher price per watt, but smaller system sizes.
Panel brand and equipment quality
Another way to break down solar panel price data is by the panel brand.
The price you pay for a solar panel brand is reflective of panel quality to a degree. For example, systems using SunPower panels see the highest average (22,740 for a 6 kW system and 37,900 for a 10 kW system), and SunPower is known for producing well-made, high-efficiency products.
Interestingly, there aren’t that many outliers when it comes to brand pricing, and most manufacturers generally see similar cost ranges. It’s important to keep in mind that when comparing system based on panel brands, there are so many factors aside from just panel manufacturer that impact the final system price – like installer experience, location, racking equipment, inverter brand, warranty and more.
In general, monocrystalline solar panels are the highest-performing type of panel, and are often more expensive than polycrystalline solar panels. However, you may need to buy more polycrystalline panels due to their lower efficiencies, so your overall installation costs may not vary as much as you’d expect.
Thin-film solar panels are also an option, but aren’t often used for residential installations. For solar panel setups on RVs and campers, you may want to consider a small thin-film system.
The characteristics of your home and roof also play a part in your total solar costs. If you have a south-facing roof that slopes at a 30-degree angle, installing solar on your home will be relatively easier for your installer, as they can probably install all of your panels on a single roof plane that has optimal sun exposure (better, more direct sun exposure = fewer panels needed to produce the same amount of energy, which will lower your costs). Conversely, if your roof has multiple levels, dormers, or skylights, the additional effort to finish the installation may include additional equipment and installation costs.
Another piece of the solar installation puzzle is the company actually performing the job. Solar installers charge varying amounts for their services, and the final price they offer for an installation depends on measures like your installer’s track record, warranty offerings, and internal operations. You can imagine how a well-regarded solar installer with premium warranty offerings can charge more for an installation job, and it will be worth your money.
EnergySage brings the best solar installers right to you on our Marketplace – check out our article on choosing an installer to learn how we vet installers, and how you can and should compare them against one another.
Permitting and interconnection
While equipment and labor costs make up a significant portion of your solar energy system quote, the cost of solar permits and your interconnection fees can also be a factor. Typically, you will have to obtain a few solar permit documents and pay a fee to get your solar energy system connected to the grid (known as “interconnection”). There is some exciting work happening in this area to keep the costs and time lag to getting an approved interconnection – the Department of Energy’s SolarApp is trying to make the interconnection process cheaper and quicker for everyone.
How do you pay for a solar panel installation?
Once you know the cost of solar for your unique project, it’s time to decide how you’ll pay for solar. There are three primary financing options for residential solar systems: a cash purchase, a solar loan, or a solar lease/power purchase agreement.
Generally, a cash purchase is right for you if you’re looking to maximize your savings from solar, you have enough tax liability to take advantage of the solar tax credit, or you have the funds available to pay for a solar panel system upfront.
A solar loan is right for you if you don’t want to shell out the amount of cash required to pay for a solar panel system upfront, you still want the most savings on your energy bills as possible, and you would like to be eligible for all incentives and rebates.
A solar lease or PPA is right for you if you would prefer someone else to monitor and maintain the system, if you aren’t eligible for tax incentives, or if you’d just like to reduce and/or lock-in your monthly electricity bill.
Reduce your solar panel installation costs with rebates and incentives
We’ve been talking about factors that add on cost to a solar installation, but it’s also equally essential to consider the ways you can save with solar rebates and incentives. Tax credits, cash rebates, performance-based incentives (PBIs), and energy credits are all ways you can get money back on a solar installation. The availability of these types of incentives almost always depend on where you live – utilities, cities, and states all usually offer their own solar incentives to people living in their service areas.
The federal solar tax credit: solar’s best incentive
The best incentive for going solar in the country is the federal solar tax credit, or the investment tax credit (ITC). This incentive allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing solar panels from your federal taxes, and there’s no cap on its value. For example, a 10 kW system priced at the national average (2.95/W) comes out to a total cost of 29,500. However, with the ITC, you’d be able to deduct 30 percent of that cost, or 8,850, from your taxes. This essentially reduces the cost of your system to the 20,650 price tag we highlighted at the beginning of this article.
Depending on where you live, you may also be eligible for additional state incentives or local incentives – be sure to ask your installer (or Energy Advisor if you go solar through EnergySage) so you can get the best return on investment.
It’s not talked about as much, but one thing to keep in mind about the cost of a solar panel installation is the long-term maintenance associated with it. In general, solar panels require little to no maintenance over their lifetime, and you shouldn’t expect to shell out much money at all once your panels are installed and operational. There’s always the off-chance something happens that’s not covered by your warranties, however. You may need to trim trees as they grow, or hire a cleaner if you live in an area of the country with abnormal air pollution. Learn more about what you could run into post-installation in our article about the costs of solar panels after they’re installed.
How has the price of solar changed over time?
Over the past 10 years, the residential solar panel system cost has dropped by about 70%; over the past 4 years, they’ve dropped about 3.3% on EnergySage. That said, solar have increased slightly in the last 2 years, primarily due to lingering pandemic-related supply chain constraints and an increased emphasis on domestic manufacturing.
As solar deployment continues to grow, the supply chain stabilizes, and domestic manufacturing ramps up, we expect the price of solar to drop further. There’s no question that solar energy has evolved from a clean tech commodity to a sensible home upgrade for millions of Americans.
How does a solar panel installation work?
Installing solar panels doesn’t happen overnight – there’s a process for what needs to happen to get your panels ready to begin powering your home. From the day you sign your contract with your installer, it will typically take between one and three months before your solar panels are grid-connected and producing energy for your home. We’ve outlined the five-step solar panel installation process below:
Choosing and order your equipment
The very first step in a solar installation is to choose your solar panels and inverters, and confirm with your installer so they can order it all for you. The two primary components you’ll need to evaluate for your system are solar panels and inverters. Durability, efficiency and aesthetics are the primary factors most homeowners will use to compare the various brands and types of solar panels and inverters (other than price). Learn more in our guide to choosing solar equipment or check out our list of best solar panels.
Engineering site visit
After you sign your solar contract, an engineer (likely an employee or sub-contractor of the installer you’re working with) will come by your property to inspect your home and make sure everything is compatible with your new solar photovoltaic system.
During the visit, the engineer will evaluate the condition of your roof to ensure that it’s structurally sound. They will also look at your electrical panel – the grey box in your basement – to see if you’ll need to upgrade it.
Permits and documentation
As with any big financial decision, installing solar panels involves a lot of paperwork. Luckily, most of this paperwork is dealt with by the installer. They’ll help you apply for solar incentives and fill out any permits and documents you need to legally go solar.
Solar installation: the big day
The actual installation is an exciting day for every solar homeowner who wants to rely on renewable energy as opposed to a local utility company. There are several individual steps to the actual installation day, including preparing your roof with racking, setting up wiring, placing panels and inverters, and attaching everything together. The timeline for the installation will range from one to three days, completely dependent on the size of the system you are installing.
Approval and interconnection
The final step of going solar is “flipping the switch,” so to speak, and officially commencing to generate power from your rooftop. Before you can connect your solar panels to the electric grid, a representative from your town government will need to inspect the system and give approval.
During this inspection, the representative will essentially be double-checking your installer’s work. He or she will verify that the electrical wiring was done correctly, the mounting was safely and sturdily attached, and the overall install meets standard electrical and roof setback codes. After this step, you’ll be able to generate free, clean energy right at home!
The bottom line: solar panels will save you money in the long run
At the end of the day, the cost of solar is only as important as the return you’ll get from installing solar panels. For most homeowners, solar is a worthwhile investment, and you can “break even” in as few as eight years, depending on your energy consumption and how much electricity costs in your area. During those eight years, you’ll be generating your own, free electricity instead of paying for electricity from the grid, and you might be able to get credit for any extra energy production thanks to net metering policies (depending on where you live). And of course, this is without even considering the environmental benefits of solar or the home value solar can add.
You can read more about payback periods and the benefits of solar in our article, “Are solar panels worth it?”. Or, head to our solar calculator for an instant estimate of your savings potential!
Frequently asked questions
Here are some of the top questions we hear about the cost of solar:
Why are solar panels so expensive?
Going solar can sometimes come with sticker shock. What actually causes them to be so expensive? When you go solar, you buy much more than just the physical solar panels on your roof. According to a 2021 study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, solar panels themselves make up only 12% of the total cost of a solar panel installation; the other 88% comes from other equipment like inverters and wiring, as well as elemenets like labor, installer profit, and supply chain costs.
What are hard costs associated with a solar panel installation?
Solar hard costs include any and all physical materials that make up your solar panel system. According to NREL, hard costs make up about 44% of total system costs once you account for added costs due to the supply chain and include:
- Solar panels: 12%
- Inverters: 10%
- Racking and mounting equipment: 3%
- Wiring: 9%
- Supply chain: 9%
These are averages for the whole U.S.––the percentages for each category will always vary from installation to installation. For example, choosing a more expensive panel brand will increase the weight of the solar panels portion, and a simple installation on a single-plane roof might decrease the weight of the racking and mounting equipment portion.
What are soft costs associated with a solar panel installation?
Solar soft costs are the costs not associated with a physical piece of equipment that becomes part of your solar installation. According to NREL, soft costs actually make up the majority of solar panel system costs, at about 56% and include:
- Labor: 7%
- Permitting and interconnection: 8%
- Sales and marketing: 18%
- Overhead: 11%
- Profit: 11%
Just as with hard costs, these percentages are national averages and will always vary from installation to installation. A high-quality installer with excellent workmanship warranties will cost more than an average company, and a company with higher sales volumes might add a lower profit margin on top. It depends on many factors, from your individual installation company to local regulations and the economic climate.
How can I lower the cost of my installation?
Solar panels may have a high upfront price tag, but they’re worth it for most homeowners. If you want to lower your upfront cost, you can:
- Finance your solar panel system: As we described above, you can choose to finance your system with a solar loan or lease to lower your upfront cost.
- Install a smaller system: Knocking a few kWs off your system size is one way to lower your overall price. But, if you can’t offset all your electricity usage, you’ll miss out on long term savings.
- Choose less expensive equipment: While some of the best solar panels, like SunPower, are the priciest, you can still get high quality equipment without paying a premium.
Start your solar journey on EnergySage
The best way to get the most competitive for solar is to compare multiple quotes. EnergySage is the nation’s online Solar Marketplace: when you sign up for a free account, we connect you with solar companies in your area, who compete for your business with custom solar quotes tailored to fit your needs. Over 10 million people come to EnergySage each year to learn about, shop for, and invest in solar. Sign up today to see how much solar can save you.
We developed our one-of-a-kind marketplace with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to make clean home energy solutions affordable and accessible to all.
Size of Solar Panels
You’re here because you’ve heard the benefits of residential solar panels. Namely, lowered energy bills and decreased carbon footprints. You know the basics of how solar energy systems work – they convert sunlight into electricity for your home. Are you wondering how many solar panels will be enough to power your home? And if you have enough space to make it worth it? Read on and we’ll discuss everything you need to know about the size of solar panels, how many you’ll need, and what type of power production you can expect.
What Size Solar Energy System Do I Need?
First off, you’ll need to evaluate how much energy you typically consume in a given month. Knowing this will help you calculate how big of a residential solar energy system you’ll need to install. Keep in mind that your energy consumption will fluctuate given the time of year and where you live. You’re going to use up a lot more energy during hot summer months and during the dead of winter when your air conditioning unit and your heater are likely running non-stop, compared to in the fall and spring when the outside temperatures are more mild and don’t warrant as much electricity to run your heating and cooling units.
The average household in the United States consumes about 11,000kWh of electricity per year. And the average size of solar energy systems installed in most homes is 5kW. To break it down a little further, one kilowatt hour (kWh) is equal to 1000 watts of power used in one hour. You’ll need to gather data from your utility bills over the last year, and most utility companies will calculate your average automatically if you ask, to determine what your average monthly/yearly rate of energy consumption is. This will inform how many solar panels you’ll need to install in your home to equip your energy needs.
How Many Solar Panels Will I Need?
In general, if we’re going on the national average of 11,000 kWh of electricity used annually, and use 250 watt solar panels, we can estimate that the average home will need about 28 to 34 panels to generate enough solar energy to power the home.
How big are these solar panels? Physically speaking, the panels are about 65 inches by 39 inches for residential installations and they weigh about 40 pounds per panel. Solar panels used for commercial sites are a little bigger, but that’s because commercial buildings are usually larger and can contain the size of the panels. Residential panels are smaller in size and weight because they are mainly designed for a home roof, which would need to be able to bear the weight and size of the panels themselves.
Each panel will typically contain about 60 solar cells. These solar cells are what convert the sunlight into direct current electricity. The photons from the sun react with electrons released in the solar cells to generate electricity. Something called an inverter, which is part of your solar system, will then take this direct current electricity and convert it into alternating current electricity, the type of electricity needed to power your home appliances.
Most standard solar panels are between 230 and 275 watts. As stated above, based on the average amount of energy consumption per year and the standard solar panel wattage, this equates to about 28 to 34 physical solar panels that will need to be installed at your house. Just because this is how many panels you’d need to cover 100% of your energy consumption, this does not mean how many panels you’ll be able to physically install. To calculate this, you’ll need to know the size of your roof. If the most standard size solar panels are 17.5 square feet, and you have about 385 square feet of roof to install solar panels that will maximize the sunlight consumption, you can fit about 22 panels on your roof.
But, wait. This won’t cover 100% of the energy your home consumes. That’s okay. Nearly all residential home solar energy system owners are still connected to the grid. And it’s for this purpose. When you do not have enough energy converted from your solar panels to power your home, you can draw from the grid to power your home. In this way, you’ll only pay the utility company for the small amount of power you used from the grid, instead of needing 100% of it from the grid. The other great thing about solar systems is that if you produce more solar energy than you can consume in a given day, that excess is given back to the grid and the utility company will give you credit (read: money off your utility bill) for feeding your solar energy into the grid. Essentially, you can still come up with a 0 energy bill if what you return to the grid is more than the amount you take from it.
How Much Energy Will My Solar Panels Produce?
The key to answering this question is based on a number of factors, namely where you live and the time of the year. If you live in a state with high rates of sunshine (think California, Arizona) then you’ll be able to generate a lot more energy from your solar panels compared to someone living in Seattle.
In addition to this, the time of year will have a big impact on how much energy is produced. This is because when days are shorter in the winter, the amount of sunlight you have access to will be less than in the summer when the days are longer. Other factors that can affect the amount of energy your solar panels will produce are related to the positioning of your home. If you live in a really shaded lot, then your panels will not be able to produce as much power as someone who lives in the middle of a wide open field with no trees in sight. The key is figuring out what is the best positioning for your solar panels given your landscape, the slope of your roof, and the position of your house.
For an example, if you install 22 265-watt solar panels on your roof, you’ll generate about 5.83kW of electricity, leading to production of 6,366 kWh per year. What’s that mean dollar-wise? Based on average utility rates, expect your cost savings to be over 700 that year! Multiply that over the life of the system and you’ll understand why so many people are going solar! In an average of five short years, you’ll enjoy a 100% return on investment and at least 20 more years of pure savings.
What is the difference between kW kWp in relation to Solar PV systems?
KWp is the nameplate rating of Solar PV modules and kW is the actual power delivered to the load. For instance, a 0.3kWp (300Wp nameplate) module under ideal conditions (25 degrees C and 1000 watts per sq. metre radiation, etc.) will give an output of 0.3kW. However, in real life weather conditions, the output will be lower than the nameplate rating which is denoted in kW.
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UPI ID: [email protected] OR Company Name: Eastern Light and Power Pvt Ltd Bank Name: HDFC Bank Ltd Account No: 50200015605182 IFSC Code : HDFC0000088 Bank Branch address: Ansals Fortune Arcade, K- Block, Sector 18, Noida-201301,Uttar Pradesh
MYSUN is India’s largest online rooftop solar company with operations in multiple states in North, Central and Western India. The company provides most advanced technology and highest quality solar services in Delhi, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, and Noida among others across residential, industrial and commercial categories. Positioned as a Solar company in India, MYSUN has strong Solar rooftop services in Delhi NCR. All the MYSUN solar rooftop systems come with a 25-years solar service promise package. MYSUN’s in-house team of veteran solar experts ensures its consumers to get the most out of their solar rooftop systems.
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Company Name: Eastern Light And Power Private Limited [“MYSUN”]
Registered Address: Office No 303, D-246 Street No 10, Balaji Chambers, Laxmi Nagar, New Delhi,110092
Corporate Address: Unit No. 817 818,8th Floor, Tower-1. plot No 22 Assotech Business Cresterra, sector-135, Noida UP201301
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Safe Secure Payment Gateway
Company Name: Eastern Light And Power Private Limited [“MYSUN”]
Registered Address: Office No 303, D-246 Street No 10, Balaji Chambers, Laxmi Nagar, New Delhi,110092
Corporate Address: Unit No. 817 818,8th Floor, Tower-1. plot No 22 Assotech Business Cresterra, sector-135, Noida UP201301
Book your Solar System for just 6,999 and build your personalized payment plan with Flexi-pay TM.