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How Many Solar Panels Do I Need. 25 solar panels cost

How Many Solar Panels Do I Need. 25 solar panels cost

    This Is How Many Solar Panels You Need to Power Your House

    This formula will tell you how many solar panels are needed to meet 100% of your home’s energy demand.

    Jackie Lam is a contributor for CNET Money. A personal finance writer for over 8 years, she covers money management, insurance, investing, banking and personal stories. An AFC® accredited financial coach, she is passionate about helping freelance creatives design money systems on irregular income, gain greater awareness of their money narratives and overcome mental and emotional blocks. She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International’s Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media. She lives in Los Angeles where she spends her free time swimming, drumming and daydreaming about stickers.

    • She is the 2022 recipient of Money Management International’s Financial Literacy and Education in Communities (FLEC) Award and a two-time Plutus Awards nominee for Best Freelancer in Personal Finance Media.

    Taylor Freitas is a freelance writer and has contributed to publications including LA Weekly, Safety.com, and Hospitality Technology. She holds a B.A. in Print and Digital Journalism from the University of Southern California.

    Chi Odogwu is a digital consultant, professor, and writer with over a decade of experience in finance and management consulting. He has a strong background in the private equity sector, having worked as a consultant at PwC and a research analyst at Renaissance Capital. Additionally, he has bylines in well-known publications, including Entrepreneur, Forbes, NextAdvisor, and CNET. He has also leveraged his writing talent to create educational email courses for his clients and ghostwritten op-eds published in top-tier publications such as Forbes, CoinDesk, CoinTelegraph, Insider, Decrypt, and Blockworks. In addition to his writing, education, and business pursuits, Chi hosts the top-rated Bulletproof Entrepreneur Podcast. Through this podcast, he engages in insightful conversations with talented individuals from various fields, allowing him to share a wealth of knowledge and inspiration with his listeners.

    High inflation and the soaring costs of power bills can make powering your home with solar energy quite appealing. And if the allure of going green and saving money has you wanting to go solar, you’ll need to figure a few things before the installer swings by. For one, the number of solar panels to adequately meet your home energy needs.

    A common misconception is to gauge how much bang for your buck you’re getting purely based on wattage, says Courtney Corda, co-founder of the California-based solar company Corda Solar. Knowing how many panels you need isn’t just about wattage, but the costs involved in installing, panel performance, location and your usage needs, Corda explains.

    Here’s how to figure out how many panels can support your energy needs and what other factors can interfere in your production goals.

    Can solar panels save you money?

    Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

    How to calculate how many solar panels you will need

    To get a realistic estimate of how many solar panels a home might need, we turned to Jake Edie, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois Chicago. Edie provided us with a straightforward calculation method.

    If you’re curious about how many solar panels your home might require, here’s how you can figure it out, Edie says. Let’s say your household uses 1,500 kWh of electricity each month. Here are the steps to calculate the solar panels you’ll need.

    Can solar panels save you money?

    Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

    Step 1. Review your monthly electric bill: It’s important to determine how many kilowatt-hours of electricity you consume monthly. In this example, this particular home uses 1,500 kWh every month.

    Step 2. Convert monthly energy use to daily use: Given 1,500 kWh is consumed per month, to ascertain the daily usage, we need to divide this figure by the average number of days in a month, which is roughly 30.42 days (365 days divided by 12 months).

    Hence, the average daily use = 1,500 kWh / 30.42, approximating 49.3 kWh daily.

    Step 3. Determine peak sunlight hours: This factor varies based on location and climate. For this example, let’s assume that this home receives an average of about five peak sunlight hours per day.

    To calculate the total daily energy production required, divide the daily energy consumption by the number of peak sunlight hours. This gives the amount of energy your solar panels need to produce per day.

    Energy production required = 49.3 kWh per day / 5 hours, which equals 9.86 kW.

    Step 4. Calculate the number of panels: Lastly, you’ll need to determine the wattage of the solar panels you plan to install. The average solar panel in the US is rated between 250 and 400 watts. For this example, we’ll assume the selected solar panel has a rating of 350 watts.

    By dividing 350 by 1,000, we can convert this to kilowatts or kW. Therefore, 350 watts equals 0.35 kW.

    To determine the required number of solar panels, we must divide the daily energy production needed by the solar panel’s power output.

    Number of solar panels required = 9.86 kW / 0.35 kW per panel, which equals 28.17 panels.

    This homeowner will need approximately 29 solar panels to generate enough electricity to match their current usage from the municipal electric company. While this calculation may seem straightforward, there are many factors that can affect the effectiveness of solar panels, such as shading, roof orientation, and seasonal variations in peak sunlight.

    It is highly recommended that you seek the guidance of a professional solar installer who can assess your circumstances and provide a tailored solution to meet your needs.They should be certified from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, which is the solar industry standard. CNET also has a well-researched list of best solar companies.

    Other factors that affect how many solar panels you need

    There are a variety of factors to take into consideration that will help you and an installer determine how many solar panels you need to power your home. Here is a breakdown:

    Solar panel wattage

    One big part of a solar panel’s performance is its wattage and will affect how many panels you need. The higher the wattage, the more power a panel can generate.

    Most residential solar panels have ratings of 250 to 400 watts. The most efficient solar panels on the market are 370 to 445-watt models. The higher the wattage rating, the higher the output. In turn, the fewer panels you might need.

    For example, you might buy a solar panel with a listed output of 440 watts. You’ll need to multiply the panel’s wattage by how many hours of sun you get every day to understand how much energy it will produce.

    If you don’t have much space, you might want to invest in solar panels with higher efficiency and wattage ratings since they’re equipped to generate more energy per panel. But they’re also more expensive, so bear that in mind if the solar budget for your home is tight.

    Output efficiency

    If your roof has limited space for panels, you’re going to want to get the most performance per square inch of panel that you can, explains Corda.

    Scientists and technical developers of solar panels have been working hard for decades to try to make each solar cell on the panel able to convert more of the sun’s light to electricity than before, or to make them more efficient, says Corda.

    As she explains, currently, the most efficient panels on the market have anywhere from 18% to 22.8% efficiency, with most panels hovering around 20% efficiency. So the higher the efficiency, the fewer solar panels you might need.

    In reality, a more efficient solar panel will require fewer panels overall for your home, assuming all other factors are equal.

    Production ratios

    A production ratio for solar panels helps you determine how much energy you can get from a panel. The production ratio, or performance ratio, is an important measure of the effectiveness and efficiency of a solar system. It compares the actual output of the system to the output it would produce under ideal conditions. This ratio takes into account factors that reduce output, such as temperature, dust, snow, shade, aging of the panels and inefficiencies in the inverter.

    The performance ratio is expressed as a percentage, with a higher ratio indicating that the PV system is producing a greater percentage of its theoretical output. For example, a performance ratio of 80% means that the system is producing 80% of its rated output in real-world conditions. The higher the production ratios, the fewer panels you might need.

    Panel size

    There are three main sizes for solar panels: 60-cell, 72-cell and 96-cell. The 60- and 72-cell panels are more common for residential installations are generally about 3 by 5 feet, or 15 square feet.

    Where you live and hours of sunlight

    The more hours of sunlight your roof is exposed to, the fewer panels you’ll probably need to install. This is based on the direction, pitch and orientation of your roof, the weather and how much shade covers the roof. It also depends on the time of year and where you live.

    In the winter [the solar panel] produces less than in the summer. So your energy production from solar will change throughout the year and then the usage within your home will change depending on what appliances are using electricity, says Justin Draplin, CEO of Eclipse Cottages, a sustainable home technology and development company.

    many, solar, panels, need

    So if you live in a really hot climate, then during the summer months, your electrical bill is going to be a lot higher to cool your home versus if you’re in a cold environment, your electrical bills are going to be a lot higher in the winter.

    How much shade your roof gets always plays a factor in how many solar panels you’ll need for your home, Corda says. If your roof is covered by large oak trees or a chimney and gets a lot of shade, this will bump down solar panel output. In turn, you might need more panels to power your home. But if your roof doesn’t get much shade, your solar output will be higher for the same space.

    Roof type and condition

    The orientation, angle, shape and type of roof will affect the number of panels you can reasonably fit into a given area, explains Corda.

    A home without a complicated roof structure, pitched at a 10 degree angle and south-facing is best for solar panels.

    That would be an ideal roof for solar because you’ve got it tilted, it’s facing south, and the pitch of the roof is neither flat nor very steep, which is ideal for putting panels on there to capture as much energy from the sun as possible, says Corda. A house with a more complicated roof structure won’t be able to fit as many panels, she adds. For instance, Spanish tile-roofs are considered solar unfriendly and require special attachments.

    Cost and budget

    While powering your home on solar energy can save you money, it does require a serious investment upfront. The costs to power your home on solar and your budget will determine how many solar panels you can afford.

    Currently, the average cost for a home solar panel system is around 3 per watt, according to data from the research firm Wood Mackenzie. Based on this figure, an 8-kilowatt sized system would be 24,000 before any tax breaks or incentives kick in.

    Whether you are paying cash or financing, knowing what you can afford will play a factor in how many panels you add to your home.

    Annual electricity usage

    To know how many panels will meet your energy demand, you’ll need to know your annual energy usage. You can log onto your account online, review statements, you’ll see how many kilowatt hours of electricity you use. You’re going to want to look at your patterns over the course of a year.- if not the last couple of years, says Corda.

    Once you have that number, you’ll know how much solar power you need to generate to cover your needs.

    Besides recent use, factor in the future energy needs, Corda points out. For instance, do you anticipate purchasing an electric vehicle? Or do you plan on growing your family? Or are you and your spouse going to be working from home more? If so, then your energy needs will go up in the future years. On the flip side, if your teens will soon leave the nest to go to college, then you can expect your energy usage to taper off.

    Your personal solar goals

    Determining your personal solar goal is figuring out what you want to achieve with your solar panel addition. Living completely energy independent and off the grid would mean more solar panels. If you want to power your whole house, you have to really oversize it to make sure you have enough power in the winter, even though you’re going to be over producing in the summer, says Draplin.

    Adding battery storage will also play a factor in how many panels you need. With solar battery storage, you can essentially bank energy and store it for later use when you’re producing excess energy.

    If your goal is to lower your energy bill or reduce your carbon footprint, then maybe you won’t need as many panels, says Draplin.

    Figuring out the number of solar panels you need is only part of the equation. Learn more about the benefits and costs of home solar from CNET:

    Solar panel FAQs

    Can I run my house on solar power only?

    The simple answer is: Yes, you can power a house entirely on solar power. To meet your energy ends, you’ll want to factor in a handful of variables: the size, pitch and orientation of your roof, the size of panels you’d like to install, the amount of shade, output efficiency and wattage. Plus, you want to figure out current and future usage needs, and whether you want your entire home to be powered on solar energy or just part of it.

    How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

    Lexie came from HomeAdvisor and Angi (formerly Angie’s list) and is responsible for writing and editing articles over a wide variety of home-related topics. She has almost four years’ experience in the home improvement space.

    We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Home. Commissions do not affect our editors’ opinions or evaluations.

    Solar panels have enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in recent decades. That’s thanks in part to an increase in environmentally responsible behavior and the desire to reduce energy bills by exchanging traditional sources of heating, cooling and electricity with cleaner, more natural sources. If you’re thinking of making this switch, you’re probably wondering how many solar panels it takes to power a house.

    While the answer can be a bit complicated, if you hire a professional or solar panel installation company to consult with, they’ll likely handle this part of the process as well (and may give you tips on how to maintain and clean solar panels ).

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    But if you’re wondering how many solar panels you may need, and you’d like to take a stab at calculating it yourself, you’ll need a few pieces of information: how much energy your household uses; how much space you have on your roof that can be used for solar panel placement, how many hours of sun your home gets and the wattage and relative efficiency of the photovoltaic (PV) solar panels you’ll be installing.

    How to Determine Solar Panel Needs

    In order to learn how many solar panels are needed to power a house, you’ll use a formula with three key factors, according to EnergySage: annual energy usage, panel wattage and production ratios. But what does that mean exactly?

    Annual Electricity Usage

    The first step is to determine your annual electricity usage; that’s the amount of electricity consumed by your entire household in a year. Measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh), this number includes all sources of electricity in your home, including small and large appliances, air conditioning units, lights, air purifiers and water heaters. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicates the average household consumes about 11,000 kWh of electricity per year.

    Solar Panel Wattage

    When choosing the best solar panels you may think they look mostly the same, but they aren’t exactly created equally, so you’ll need to know the wattage of the panels you’re hoping to install. The panel wattage is the amount of electricity emitted from the panel. Most solar panels range between 250 to 400 watts of power, so it’s safe to assume 300 is the average panel wattage you might find.

    Production Ratios

    According to EnergySage, a solar panel system’s production ratio is the ratio of the estimated energy output of a system over time (in kWh) to the actual system size (in W). You might think that this would be a 1:1 ratio – that you get out what goes in. But variations in the amount of sunlight that beams down on your home cause that not to be the case.

    A 10 kW system that produces 16 kWh of electricity in a year will have a production ratio of 1.6 (16/10 = 1.6). In a place like Hawaii, which enjoys long days and consistent sunshine, it’s totally possible to have this type of ratio, whereas cloudy, rainy New England might see an average production ratio of only 1.2

    Calculate How Many Solar Panels You Need

    Here’s the actual formula, used by EnergySage, that you can use you’re hoping to determine how many solar panels you’ll need:

    • Number of panels = system size / production ratio / panel wattage
    • Using the numbers we’ve determined so far, we get:
    • Number of panels = 11,000 kW / 1.6 / 300 W

    That equates to about 20 to 25 solar panels to do the job. You can use this same formula to determine how many solar panels you’ll need to power your home. Or, you can use the easier route, which is to look at your energy bill to determine what you’ll need.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    An Alternative Way to Figure Out Solar Energy Usage

    If you’re not interested in doing the math on your own, simply look at your utility bills to figure out how much energy you’re using. Doing this allows you to multiply your energy usage by the number of hours of strong sunlight your home gets, then dividing that result by the wattage of the panels you’re thinking of installing.

    Factors that Affect How Many Solar Panels You Will Need

    Is there anything else to think about outside of the above calculations? Turns out, there are a few other things factors need to consider when determining how many solar panels to power a house.

    Solar Panel Output Efficiency

    Your solar panels won’t draw the sun’s energy at top capacity all the time. Think of those three-day bouts of rain that come in the fall, or large snowfalls in the winter that take several days to melt. Those are times you’ll need a buffer in your energy usage, so it’s recommended to have about 25% more solar panels than you need.

    Hours of Sunlight

    The amount of energy you’ll get from your solar panels is directly related to how much sun your home gets. panels will be required if you live in an area without long hours of strong sunshine.

    Wattage of Your Panels

    Most solar panels range in wattage from 150 to 350 watts per panel. If you choose lower wattage panels, you’ll need more in order to generate enough energy for your home. Of course, that’s assuming you’d like to replace 100% of your energy usage with solar energy. If you’re only hoping for a partial conversion, the difference in solar panel wattage may not matter as much.

    Cost of Solar Panels

    How much do you want to or plan to spend on your solar panels ? Before you buy, make sure you know how many make sense for your budget.

    Solar Panel Size

    To understand how many solar panels you’ll need, you must know the standard sizes of solar panels to know how many you can place on your roof. The area of a residential 60-cell solar panel is 17.62 square feet, and the area of a commercial 72-cell solar panel is 21.13 square feet. Solar panel installation companies will measure the area of your roof to determine how many panels can be installed safely.

    THIS IS AN ADVERTISEMENT AND NOT EDITORIAL CONTENT. Please note that we do receive compensation for any products you buy or sign up to via this advertisement, and that compensation impacts the ranking and placement of any offers listed herein. We do not present information about every offer available. The information and savings numbers depicted above are for demonstration purposes only, and your results may vary.

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    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.

    Range Cost
    Low-end cost 17,430
    Average cost 20,650
    High-end cost 23,870

    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.

    System size

    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.

    Location

    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

    State Gross solar panel cost: 6 kw system average Gross solar panel cost: 10 kw system average 2023 federal tax credit value (for 10 kw system) Average cost per watt (/W)
    Arkansas 18,360 30,600 9,180 3.06
    Arizona 14,640 24,400 7,320 2.44
    California 17,160 28,600 8,580 2.86
    Colorado 20,640 34,400 10,320 3.44
    Connecticuit 19,320 32,200 9,660 3.22
    Washington D.C. 21,000 35,000 10,500 3.50
    Delaware 16,500 27,500 8,250 2.75
    Florida 15,480 25,800 7,740 2.58
    Georgia 19,200 32,000 9,600 3.20
    Iowa 20,700 34,500 10,350 3.45
    Idaho 17,580 29,300 8,790 2.93
    Illinois 18,960 31,600 9,480 3.16
    Indiana 21,780 36,300 10,890 3.63
    Louisiana 19,020 31,700 9,510 3.17
    Massachusetts 21,240 35,400 10,620 3.54
    Maryland 18,780 31,300 9,390 3.13
    Maine 20,700 34,500 10,350 3.45
    Michigan 22,680 37,800 11,340 3.78
    Minnesota 20,700 34,500 10,350 3.45
    Missouri 17,100 28,500 8,550 2.85
    North Carolina 18,240 30,400 9,120 3.04
    New Hampshire 21,660 36,100 10,830 3.61
    New Jersey 17,700 29,500 8,850 2.95
    New Mexico 20,340 33,900 10,170 3.39
    Nevada 15,600 26,000 7,800 2.60
    New York 20,880 34,800 10,440 3.48
    Ohio 17,880 29,800 8,940 2.98
    Oklahoma 15,720 26,200 7,860 2.62
    Oregon 18,780 31,300 9,390 3.02
    Pennsylvania 18,360 30,600 9,180 3.06
    Rhode Island 21,660 36,100 10,830 3.61
    South Carolina 17,340 28,900 8,670 2.89
    Tennessee 17,820 29,700 8,910 2.97
    Texas 16,620 27,700 8,310 2.77
    Utah 16,140 26,900 8,070 2.69
    Virginia 18,240 30,400 9,120 3.04
    Vermont 18,840 31,400 9,420 3.14
    Washington 19,500 32,500 9,750 3.25
    Wisconsin 20,460 34,100 10,230 3.41
    West Virginia 17,520 29,200 8,760 2.92

    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.

    many, solar, panels, need

    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.

    Panel type

    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.

    Roof characteristics

    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.

    Labor

    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.

    Cash purchase

    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.

    Solar loan

    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.

    Solar lease

    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.

    many, solar, panels, need

    How to Make Your Solar Panels Last Longer

    The typical lifespan of a solar panel is 25 years or more. The key to extending its life expectancy is a reputable installer and some basic maintenance.

    Andrew King is an award-winning journalist and copywriter from Columbus, Ohio. He has covered sports, local news, entertainment and more for The Athletic, The Columbus Dispatch, Major League Soccer, Columbus Monthly and other outlets, and writes about home energy for CNET. He’s a graduate of Capital University, and recently published a non-fiction book called Friday Night Lies: The Bishop Sycamore Story investigating the fraudulent high school football team that became the talk of the nation.

    Solar panels are already super durable. But to get the most bang for your buck, you’ll want to make them last as long as possible.

    Powering our homes with solar energy once seemed like science fiction. Even in the last decade, it was a strange sight to see a home covered in solar panels. But thanks to Rapid advancements in technology and plummeting prices, that has changed.

    Residential solar panel systems can now cost 20,000 or less after a newly expanded federal tax credit. That means the option to switch to clean energy has never been more attainable.

    Can solar panels save you money?

    Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

    Since I got started back in 2008, the cost has dropped by something like 90%, Chris Deline, a research engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, told CNET.

    But solar panels are still an expensive investment, and you want to be sure that investment will still be paying off years from now.

    Can solar panels save you money?

    Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.

    So how long can adopters expect their solar panels to last, and how can they ensure the maximum lifespan of their investment? The list of factors to consider isn’t too long.

    How long do solar panels typically last?

    With a 20,000 or more cost of installation, you’ll want your solar panels to last longer than a few years. The good news is that they should.

    Deline says most solar panels are designed to last decades, and reputable installers should offer warranties of 25 years or longer.

    In the entire system, probably some of the most durable and long-lived components are the solar panels themselves, he said. They often come with 25-year warranties. Further, the materials they’re composed of.- aluminum and glass, primarily.- can be durable enough to last much longer, sometimes 30, 40 or 50 years.

    Often, if a failure occurs, it happens in the system’s electrical components. Deline said that in many cases, issues like a problem with the system’s power-inverter, which converts DC power to AC power, can simply be replaced without even climbing up to the panels themselves. In other instances, individual components of a panel’s electronics can be fixed or replaced, which allow for a panel to last years into the future.

    What affects a solar panel’s lifespan?

    Solar panels aren’t typically very fragile, so there isn’t much that can affect their lifespan.

    Deline said the elements of a solar panel degrade very slowly, which means they’ll remain highly functioning well into their life cycles. Between the normal wear and tear of electrical components and micro-cracks that develop on the surface of the panels, he said experts typically estimate a degradation of half a percent per year. That means that if a panel sits on a roof for 20 years in normal conditions, it can still be expected to function at 90% of its original capacity.

    Of course, natural disasters can lead to an earlier end to a solar system’s lifespan. Events like a lightning strike, a hail storm or a wind storm can cause damage that the most durable panel can’t withstand. But even in those instances, most panels are resilient. They require a lengthy testing process before being sold, which includes being blasted by hail up to 1.5 inches in diameter, alternating between high and low temperatures and baking in heat and humidity for 2,000 hours.

    Which solar panels last the longest?

    In the current solar panel industry, there isn’t much room for differentiation between different types of solar panels, which simplifies your choices.

    I would hesitate to say that any one panel is going to be more likely to survive longer than any other, Deline said. Panels are pretty much going to be the same. The differences are the quality control of the manufacturer and whether they have a good handle on the chemistry and manufacturing technology.

    That makes it critical to ensure that you’re getting your system installed by a reputable source. An increase in federal solar incentives, along with solar lease programs, solar loan offers and solar rebates, has flooded the market with less-than-savory outfits. Deline recommends interested buyers do their research, get a few quotes and avoid deals that sound too good to be true.

    Should I replace my roof before getting solar panels?

    You might wonder whether you need to have a specialized roof before installing solar panels. The good news is that in 2023, solar panel installation requires very little of a typical roof.

    Deline said that unless you have a roof designed for aesthetics rather than load-bearing, or if the design of your home means it can’t withstand any more weight, a typical residential house should be just fine for solar panel installation. Your installer will also check the condition of your roof to make sure it will last.

    Generally, your installer should be able to figure that out just by looking at it, he said. But if your roof is totally falling apart, it may not be worth it.

    How to make your solar panels last longer

    So how can solar system adopters ensure their panels last all the way through their 25-year warranties and beyond? Here are a few ways to maximize the lifespan of your solar system, according to Deline.

    Use an installer you trust

    Because these panels will stay on top of your home for more than two decades, be sure to be thorough when doing your research on who is installing your system. Deline said finding a reputable installer is far and away the most important step in the process, and mistakes upfront can create huge headaches down the line.

    Keep an eye on your usage

    It may seem obvious, but Deline warns that those with a solar system should be sure to monitor how much they’re generating. That’s because systems often have some kind of shut-off switch, which can be tripped surprisingly easily, even by an expert. And if you turn your system off without realizing, you can waste days or weeks of generation.

    I have kids, and we have a big red shut-off handle, he said. I came home one day and it was off, and I found out that a month before, my kid had been messing around outside and had hit the switch. If you don’t keep tabs on it, it could just be off for extended periods of time.

    Keep your panels clean

    A little bit of dirt and grime won’t render your panels useless, but it’s still a good idea to keep them clean. Deline said different areas of the country lead to different types of buildup, from dirt and soil to snow. With too much buildup, they won’t work as effectively. But the good news is that it’s as simple as cleaning panels off with a push broom. Just be sure not to smash them.

    You can’t walk on them, but otherwise they’re pretty resilient, he said. You can even hose them off.

    What Solar Costs in the Granite State

    From Portsmouth to Keene to the White Mountains – New Hampshire’s vibrant land, cities, and bodies of water are prime spots for installing solar panels. The Granite States’ solar industry has grown to an eye opening degree over the past decade. And while it doesn’t have the incentive programs some other states have, existing benefits such as net metering and the federal tax credit have helped to make solar more affordable than many people realize. In short, the many that have contributed to solar’s growth in the granite state have learned first hand that solar is a great investment. Read on to learn more about New Hampshire solar.

    With a quick google search you’ll see pricing for solar are all over the place – from low to high. But they are all generally stated as dollars per watt. While that’s okay, I find the unit “watt” hard to understand given the product you’re actually buying.

    In our previous blog post “The Cost of Solar in Rhode Island” we discussed how doing that is like measuring the cost of a car in dollars per horsepower. It doesn’t mean all that much in regard to its utility. Instead, I’d suggest you want to FOCUS on kW hours. After all, that’s what your system produces, what you consume, and what the utility charges you for. So why wouldn’t you measure the cost of your system that way too?

    Let’s use a real life example:

    We priced a potential New Hampshire solar customer within the last month or so that was using around 8,000 kW hours every year. At New Hampshire’s electricity rate of 20.24 cents per kilowatt hour that means they’re paying around 1,718 per year to the utility. But, with the electricity inflation rate increasing 2.7% every year, that number owed to the utility is sure to increase.

    We proposed building a 8,140 watt system that would generate a projected 9,245 kW hours in the first year.

    Let’s factor in incentives (federal and state in this case) and the full 25 years of solar power production. Our proposal estimates that the starting cost for this system would be 32,494. By factoring in the 26% federal tax credit we’re reducing that by 8,448. So the actual cost of your system would now be sitting at 24,046. In return, the buyer will get 231,125 kW hours of electricity over those 25 years (factoring in a standard panels’ degradation rate over that time period).

    So let’s pull out a calculator. For New Hampshire solar it’s Twenty-four thousand and forty-six divided by that number of kW hours gets you a cost per kW hour of about 9 cents each. Meaning, instead of today’s 20.24 cents per kilowatt hour the customer is paying to the utility currently, they can now pay only 9 cents per kW hour. That’s nearly 60% less. And better still, that 9 cents will not increase. It is fixed. Imagine for a moment if you could pre-buy all of your energy needs at a 60% discount.

    The Upfront Cost is High At First, We Get It

    Yes, we understand. Looking at that 24,046 for the solar installation can seem a little bit daunting, even if you will save 60% per kW hour on day one (to say nothing about what inflation is going to do to the rate from your utility). But we want to remind you how quickly your system will pay you back. If you look at the table above, this proposed system we’ve been discussing models out to break even early in the ninth year. After that your system’s kW hour production is pure savings.

    But you might move you say? Well, national reports from companies like Zillow report that a home with solar increases in value by an average of 4.1%. Zillow says the average home in NH costs 385,000. The plain fact is if a buyer could buy your home with solar and its tiny electric bill or an identical one with a big old bill like what this homeowner had before of course they would opt for the smaller bill. Wouldn’t you?

    And if an upfront purchase isn’t for you; there are solar loans available to help finance your system.

    The Most Important Part: Quality over Quantity

    Although we could talk about numbers and all day, one of the most essential issues is assessing the quality of what you are buying. Your solar system will be on your roof, exposed to the worst that New England can dish out. The quality of the equipment is important, but perhaps more importantly is the quality of the installation job.

    For example, while a lot of our competitors will buy a large pile of panels and sell them until they’re all gone (for perhaps a cheaper price) we don’t stock inventory. Instead, the products we sell are the most current. From Generac to LG, we make sure our customers’ needs are taken care of before we put the order in.

    And we work to make every installation we do first rate. Our Master Electrician who runs our installation crews and subcontractors is a stickler for detail. And he is our second longest tenured employee as well. Quality is his job one because that is perhaps the most critical aspect of a system that will last for years and years.

    That’s why we ask all our customers to truly seek out the company that can do the best possible job for them.

    A Final Recommendation for Our Solar Customers in New Hampshire

    A system like the one we have outlined above will last up to 25 years or more and should save you an estimated 63,838 in electricity savings over that lifetime. Heck, it could easily be longer. That’s a lot of real money, real savings.

    Download our 7 FAQs

    You asked, we answered—from solar costs and ROI to roofs and the installation process. Receive answers and guidance to your biggest solar questions in our free PDF. Get your copy today.

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