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How Much Do Solar Panels Cost? (2023 Guide). Solar fitting system

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost? (2023 Guide). Solar fitting system

    How Much Do Solar Panels Cost? (2023 Guide)

    If you’re looking to invest in solar power, we break down the costs and factors that will contribute to the final price of your solar energy system.

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    Faith Wakefield is a writer based in North Carolina. She holds economics and English degrees from UNC Chapel Hill, and her work has been featured on EcoWatch, The World Economic Forum and Today’s Homeowner. In her free time, she loves to binge-watch personal finance videos on YouTube, collect books and spend time in nature.

    Tori Addison is an editor who has worked in the digital marketing industry for over five years. Her experience includes communications and marketing work in the nonprofit, governmental and academic sectors. A journalist by trade, she started her career covering politics and news in New York’s Hudson Valley. Her work included coverage of local and state budgets, federal financial regulations and health care legislation.

    Karsten Neumeister is an experienced energy professional with subject-matter expertise in energy policy and the solar and retail energy industries. He is currently the Communications Manager for the Retail Energy Advancement League and has prior experience writing and editing content for EcoWatch. Before EcoWatch, Karsten worked for Solar Alternatives, curating content, advocating for local renewable energy policy and assisting the solar engineering and installation teams. Throughout his career, his work has been featured on various outlets including NPR, SEIA, Bankrate, PV Mag and the World Economic Forum.

    Based on our survey of 1,000 homeowners with installed solar systems, solar panels cost between 15,000 and 20,000 per home. However, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a residential solar system can cost upward of 25,000 per installation.

    We at the Guides Home Team have researched and reviewed the top solar companies to help you better understand the cost of solar and determine if it’s a worthwhile investment for your home. Read on to learn how factors like where you live, your household’s energy usage and the type of solar panels you install can impact the final cost of your solar system.

    • Cost Factors
    • Cost Breakdown
    • How To Save Money
    • Are Solar Panels Worth It?
    • The Bottom Line

    Offers a range of financing options 24/7 customer service line Panel insurance protects against theft and damage

    Packages include 24/7 system monitoring 25-year warranty guarantees power production, product performance and workmanship Installation process is handled 100% in-house

    Solar Panel Cost Factors

    Your location, energy needs and equipment selection are the top three factors that contribute to solar panel cost.

    Location

    Two significant location-based factors will determine your total cost and savings of going solar: the cost of energy where you live and how much sunlight you receive. In states where traditional energy is more expensive, like California, Hawaii and New York, you stand to save more on energy bills when you switch to solar. However, how much sunlight you receive also plays an important role in determining how many solar panels you’ll need (and thus how much you’ll pay for your system). If you live in a super sunny state like Arizona or New Mexico, you’ll have more daily peak sunlight hours, requiring fewer panels to meet your energy needs. That’s not to say solar isn’t worth it if you don’t live in a state with high energy costs and abundant sunlight. See how energy costs compare in your state using the map below, and learn more about how you can determine how many solar panels you need.

    Top Solar Companies By State

    Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming

    Energy Needs

    The typical U.S. household uses 10,632 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each year or around 886 kWh monthly. However, several factors can affect your energy needs, including the size of your home, how many people are in your household and if you have an electric vehicle (EV). The higher your household’s energy consumption, the larger the solar panel system necessary to offset your usage. For example, based on our average cost of a solar panel at 3 per watt with installation, a 6 kW system would run you around 18,000, while a 12 kW system would double the cost. Solar providers typically want to install a system that generates just enough electricity to support your typical energy usage — so your panels aren’t producing too much or too little energy. When designing your solar system, you’ll typically speak with a solar expert to determine your current and future needs and decide what size system is right for you.

    Solar Panel Selection

    The cost of your panels and equipment is by far the largest expense you’ll pay during your solar installation. There are many solar panel options available, and the manufacturer, installer and type of panels you choose will affect the final cost of your system. There are three common types of solar panels: thin-film, monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Beyond those options, each solar panel manufacturer offers a selection of products with different wattages, durability and technologies that affect energy production and overall cost. Your solar installer will walk you through choosing the right kind of panel for your home. However, it doesn’t hurt to research the best solar panel brands and manufacturers on your own.

    Purchasing Options

    There are three common financing options for solar panels: a cash purchase, solar loans and solar leasing. In most cases, you’ll see the most return on investment if you buy your solar panel system in cash upfront. However, most homeowners cannot afford to pay tens of thousands of dollars for solar panels out-of-. If you finance your solar panels with a loan, you’ll still see a substantial return on your investment, but the interest that accrues on your monthly payments will set back your solar savings slightly. Another payment option is a solar lease. As the total cost to install solar panels has declined by over 50% in the last 10 years, leasing has fallen out of favor among many homeowners looking to go solar, and many solar companies no longer offer it. Another major downside of leasing your panels instead of owning them is that you won’t be eligible for the 30% solar tax credit. However, you can still see some savings when you lease your solar panels. With this option, you rent your solar panels through your solar provider for a fixed rate each month. You’ll likely still see some savings but won’t own your solar panel system in the long run.

    Solar Installation Company

    Another factor that can greatly affect the ultimate cost of your solar system is the installation company that you choose. Use the chart below to help you find a provider with an installation cost within your budget and request a free quote.

    Provider Avg. Cost of a 10-kW System Compare Quotes
    SunPower 15,000–20,000 Get Quote
    Sunrun 15,000–20,000 Get Quote
    ADT Solar 15,000–20,000 Get Quote
    Blue Raven Solar 15,000–20,000 Get Quote
    Elevation 10,000–15,000 Get Quote
    Freedom Solar 25,000–30,000 Get Quote
    Green Home Systems 20,000–25,000 Get Quote
    Palmetto Solar 15,000–20,000 Get Quote
    Momentum Solar 20,000–25,000 Get Quote
    Solar Energy World 25,000 Get Quote
    Tesla Energy 25,000–30,000 See

    Solar Panel Installation Cost Breakdown

    Although the exact cost of your solar panel installation will vary depending on the company and type of panels you choose, you can expect your equipment (panels, inverters, racking or mounting hardware, etc.) to make up nearly half of your total cost. Labor costs, administration fees, taxes, building permits and electrical permits comprise the rest of your expenses. Jesse Solomon, the co-founder of NCSolarNow, explained the cost breakdown of a typical solar panel installation as follows:

    How To Save Money on Solar Panels

    The demand to expand renewable energy infrastructure in the U.S. shows no signs of slowing. As a result, the federal government and many states are incentivizing residents to install solar panels on their homes. There are plenty of programs that can help you save money on solar panels. Your solar installer can help you apply for the federal solar tax credit and any state and local incentives for which you’re eligible.

    Federal Solar Incentives

    The Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is a tax incentive worth 30% of the total cost of your solar panel system. All U.S. homeowners who install solar panels are eligible for this credit, and it reduces what you owe in federal income taxes. For most solar systems, this credit is worth several thousand dollars, which is significant savings. However, if you choose to lease your panels, you will not be eligible for this tax credit. You can only claim this tax credit if you own your panels. The credit is currently set to decrease to 26% in 2033, then to 22% in 2034 before expiring entirely in 2035.

    State Solar Incentives

    In addition to federal incentives, many states offer other incentives to go solar, including tax breaks, credits and rebates. If you’re interested in the solar incentives available in your state, you can browse the Database of State Incentives for Renewables Efficiency (DSIRE) or visit your local government website to learn more. Additionally, net metering is a program that allows you to sell the excess electricity your solar panels generate to your utility company for billing credits. Forty-one states and Washington D.C. have a state-mandated net metering policy, though some policies are better than others. States without a mandated net metering policy, like Texas and Idaho, may have utility companies that offer the program. Many states also offer solar rebate programs for low- and moderate-income households or community solar programs that aim to make clean energy more accessible.

    Solar Incentives by State

    Alabama | Alaska | Arizona | Arkansas | California | Colorado | Connecticut | Delaware | Florida | Georgia | Hawaii | Idaho | Illinois | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Maine | Maryland | Massachusetts | Michigan | Minnesota | Mississippi | Missouri | Montana | Nebraska | Nevada | New Hampshire | New Jersey | New Mexico | New York | North Carolina | North Dakota | Ohio | Oklahoma | Oregon | Pennsylvania | Rhode Island | South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Vermont | Virginia | Washington | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming

    How Much Roof Space Is Needed For Home Solar Panels?

    When it comes to residential solar panels, your home’s roof is the most obvious place to put them. But it’s easy to get confused about how much roof space is needed for solar panels in order to install a home solar power system. Not all roofs are constructed to the same size or specifications, and some homes have roofs with steeper pitches, while others have roofs with more faces or odd shapes.

    We’d love to tell you a simple formula for the exact amount of square footage that is required for a certain number of panels, but it’s not quite that simple. Each residential solar panel array is custom designed to match the homeowner’s needs and the unique size, shape, and dimensions of their roof, so the square footage that’s needed is going to depend on a number of factors.

    If you’re wondering, “How many solar panels will fit on my roof?” then here are a few things to consider.

    How To Calculate The Solar Potential Of Your Roof

    There are a few rules of thumb you can follow that can offer a general idea of how much roof space is needed for solar panel installation. These guidelines can also help determine how much roof space you have available to put solar panels on.

    Generally, every square foot of roof space has the potential to generate about 15 watts of solar energy. Thus, a solar panel installation on a small home might only need around 200 square feet of roof space, while a larger home can require more than 1,000 square feet of roof space to properly offset electricity usage.

    To offset an average amount of energy usage by the average American home, you’ll typically need around 18 to 24 panels to be effective. That is, of course, if everything about those panels is ideal, where the positioning is optimal, the panels are of a standard rating, and the location gets adequate sunlight year-round. If you change any of those variables, the number of panels you need is going to change as well.

    If you want to get a sense of how many panels a roof can support, you don’t need a fancy solar panel square footage calculator. Here’s an easy calculation you can do: Multiply the square footage of your roof by.75 to account for the required solar setback. ( on that below.) Take that number, and divide it by 17.5, which is the average square footage of the standard solar panel size. The resulting number is the maximum number of solar panels you can fit on your home’s roof.

    If you’re not sure of the square footage of your roof, there’s another relatively easy calculation you can do: First you need to know the dimensions of your roof from ground level. You can measure two sides of your roof from the ground, and then multiply those numbers together to get the square footage. If your roof isn’t flat, you need to account for the angle of your roof as well, so measure the angle from the ground (most smartphones have angle measurement apps that you can use) or just use 35 degrees to get a rough estimate if you don’t have an unusually steep or shallow roof. Then take the square footage that you measured from the ground and divide it by the cosine of your roof’s angle to get the total square footage. If you need a solar panel square footage calculator, you can click this link to get a sample calculation for a roof that measures 400 square feet from the ground, and has a 35 degree angle, and then just change those values to match the measurements that you take.

    How Close Can Solar Panels Be To The Edge Of The Roof?

    Most roof-mounted solar installations will need a “solar panel setback” for safety. This is one of the most common roof requirements for solar panels in local and state building codes. This setback is the open space between the edge of the solar array and the edge of the roof, and it provides an unobstructed pathway around your rooftop for emergency responders like firefighters to get better access to your home in case of an emergency.

    The minimum solar panel setback varies from state to state, but generally, the setback will take up about 25 percent of your roof’s usable space. This accounts for two roughly 36-inch wide pathways that run along the edge of your roof, on a roof with just two basic faces. If your roof is more complicated than that, with multiple faces, or different shapes that come together at odd angles, your setback requirements may be different, which is why it’s important to work with solar professionals when designing your home solar power system. Palmetto’s team of solar designers not only make sure your roof space is optimized for power production but that it also meets the requirements of all jurisdictions as well.

    Factors to Consider When Determining How Many Solar Panels You Need

    When determining how many solar panels you need, it’s important to start by thinking about what your goals are and why you want to go solar in the first place. Do you want to maximize your return on investment? Do you want to save as much money as possible? Do you want to reduce your upfront costs? Do you want to have the biggest environmental impact and reduce your carbon footprint as much as possible? Most people want a balance of these goals, and may have other priorities as well, so it’s helpful to get a clear idea of what your specific end goals are before you start designing a solar power system.

    Once you have your goals in mind, then you can determine how many solar panels you need to get there. This calculation is going to depend on how much energy your family uses, how much roof area you have available for solar panels, the location of your home and the angle of your roof, how much sunlight shines in your part of the country, the efficiency of the solar panels you’re using, and if your local utility offers net metering. Plus, you also need to consider your budget, because a large solar power system might produce more energy, but it’s going to cost more for the initial installation as well.

    Here are a few things you should think about when determining how many solar panels you need for your roof.

    Energy Usage

    How many solar panels you’ll need, and thus how much roof area for solar panels you’ll need, starts with an estimate of how much power you use in a given year. There are plenty of ways to determine your annual energy usage, but the easiest is to simply take a look at your current monthly energy bill. It should tell you how many kilowatt-hours of energy you use in a given month, then just multiply that number by 12 to get an annual estimate. If you don’t know your own estimated energy usage, a good starting number is that the average American home uses about 11,000 kWh of energy every year.

    You should also consider any potential changes to your family’s energy usage in the future that you might want to account for. For example, if you buy a new electric vehicle that you plan to charge at home, or if you start working from home more often, or if you expand your family with a new child, your energy needs might change pretty significantly from the previous year.

    Location (How Much Sunlight You Get)

    Different parts of the country get different amounts of sunlight. For instance, Arizona is famous for intensely sunny days. On average, Arizona gets 300 days of sunshine every year. Conversely, Juneau, Alaska, spends more than two-thirds of the year in darkness.

    This impacts how much roof space is needed for solar panels, because depending on where you live, you’ll need more or fewer solar panels. So if you live somewhere with lots of sun, you might only need enough roof space for a few solar panels. But if you live in Juneau, you’ll need lots of solar panels on your roof to harness the available energy.

    The direction of your roof also determines how many solar panels you need, as southern-facing roofs in the northern hemisphere are ideal, as they receive more direct sunlight and can use that sunlight to create more energy. If your roof does not face south, you may either need a more complicated installation to get your panels facing the right direction, or you may need more panels to make up for the difference in energy-creating potential.

    Size and Rating of Your Solar Panels

    Solar panels can vary in size and rating, leading to different sized systems for the same amount of energy output. Some panels might be smaller but have a higher watt rating, which means they’re more efficient than a larger panel with a lower rating. That’s why you must consider the efficiency of the panels when determining the total solar panel system size for your roof.

    While the efficiency of solar panels might vary, solar panel sizes typically don’t, as most companies have a standard solar panel square footage to make installation easier. The standard solar panel size dimensions are about 65 inches by 39 inches, which is roughly 17.5 square feet.

    Your Solar Budget

    Generally, larger systems are a great way to quickly offset your current electrical and fossil fuel energy usage. However, larger systems are naturally more expensive. While you may have the roof real estate for a large array, you might not have the financial budget for it, and vice versa.

    Another thing to consider when figuring out your budget is whether your local utility offers net metering, and what rate they offer for that net metering. If you’re not familiar, net metering is when your utility company offers you credits for the extra energy that your system produces and feeds back into the grid. These credits can then be used to offset the cost of power that you might need to draw back from the grid, such as at night or during storms if you don’t have a battery storage system. If your local utility offers a generous net metering policy, it may allow you to expand your initial budget and then make up that difference over time.

    Is It Possible To Install Too Many Solar Panels?

    Believe it or not, it’s not always beneficial to install as many solar panels as you can possibly fit on your roof. Adding extra panels that aren’t needed just increases the cost of your initial investment, and if you don’t have a way of capturing or getting credit for the extra energy that you’re generating but not using, then you’re not getting a good return on that investment.

    A good solar installation should offset as close to the exact amount of energy that you use as possible. That’s why we typically ask for samples of previous power bills when designing a system. These power bills help us estimate your power requirements, and design a system that matches your specific needs. Some months you might use more energy than your system produces, and some months you might use less energy than you produce, but at the end of the year, the goal is to generate about the same amount of energy as you use.

    That said, there are some instances where it makes sense to install more solar panels to generate more energy than you plan on using. The first is if you plan on installing an energy storage system to capture that excess energy. Solar battery storage lets you use the energy you generated during the day to power your home at night, and also gives you a backup source of power in case you have a blackout or other issue.

    Another time that you might want to generate more power than you plan to use is if your utility offers a strong net metering benefit. Net metering is when the utility gives you credit for the extra electricity that your solar power system produces and then feeds back into the grid, and this can help offset the cost of any electricity that you pull from the utility when your system isn’t generating electricity, like nighttime or during large storms.

    In general it’s not possible to install too many solar panels (as long as your roof has space for them) but there just might not be a significant advantage to doing so.

    How To Put Solar Panels On Your Roof

    Your home’s roof space is just one of the factors that determines the optimum solar power system for your family’s needs. The arrangement of panels and the difficulty of the installation is determined by your roof, but you also need to consider your family’s energy needs, any future changes that your family might expect, your local incentives and net-metering programs, and a variety of other factors. Fortunately, Palmetto can help figure out the precise number and type of panels that will work best for your roof, and make it easy to get a system that’s perfectly matched to your family’s needs.

    To find out how many panels you can put on your roof, get started with a free solar estimate, and a Palmetto solar expert will help design a system that’s just the right size to meet your energy goals.

    Solar installations are getting easier all the time and there’s plenty of do-it-yourself information out there. But are you ready to go the DIY route?

    If you’re interested in solar power, surely you already know that solar electricity is good for the environment, national security, and the air we breathe, not to mention your electricity bill. And that it’s one of the best ways to reduce your household’s contribution to global warming. You’ve also probably heard that going solar can actually be cheaper than paying for utility power, and you might wonder whether this claim is true. Well, in most cases, it is true. It just takes time for the incremental savings to overtake the initial investment (after that, the solar power is free). If you install the solar system yourself, you can hit this tipping point a lot sooner — in some cases, in half the time.

    That brings us to the next big question: Can you really install your own solar panels? Again, the answer is yes. If you can drive lag bolts and assemble prefabricated parts, and if you’re willing to spend a day or two on your roof (or not, if you’re mounting your panels on the ground), you can install your own solar system. You don’t have to know how to hook up the solar panels to your household electricity or the utility grid. You’ll hire an electrician for the house hookup, and the utility company will take care of the rest, usually for free. For a completely off-grid system, the utility company isn’t involved at all.

    Perhaps disappointingly, this job isn’t even a good excuse to buy new power tools, since the only one you need is a good drill.

    So, if this is such a doable project, why do most people use professional installers? For starters, a lot of people have good reasons to hire out virtually everything, from oil changes to grocery shopping. (That’s probably not you, but even if it is, our book can help you plan for a solar installation and find a good local installer.) Solar professionals handle more than the installation. They design the system, they apply for rebates and credits, they order all the necessary parts, and they obtain the permits and pass all the inspections. But the fact is, you can do all of these things yourself, provided you have a helpful adviser and you are willing to follow the rules of the local building authority (that’s where you’ll get those permits).

    Solar installations are getting easier all the time, and you might be surprised at how much do-it-yourself (DIY) help is available. Two good examples are PVWatts and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables Efficiency (DSIRE). PVWatts is an online calculator that helps you size a solar-electric system based on the location and position of your house and the angle of your roof. Solar pros use the same simple tool, but it’s free for everyone. DSIRE offers an up-to-date, comprehensive listing of renewable energy rebates, tax breaks, and other financial incentives available in any area of the United States. And it’s also free and easy to use.

    Those two resources alone help answer the two most common questions homeowners have about solar electricity: How big of a system do I need? and How much will it cost? Other resources include solar equipment suppliers that cater to DIYers and offer purchasing and technical support, as well as online communities like Build It Solar. And there’s no law that says DIYers can’t hire a solar professional for help with specific aspects of their project, such as creating design specifications, choosing equipment, or preparing permit documents.

    We should also say up front that installing your own solar panels is not a process well-served by cutting corners. We don’t want you to install your system without a permit or without hiring an electrician to make the final hookups. (Even professional solar installers use electricians for this stuff.) The permit process can be a pain, yes, but it’s there to ensure that your system is safe, not just for you but also for emergency responders who might need to work around your mini power plant. When you work with the local building department you also learn about critical design factors, such as wind and snow loads, that are specific to your area.

    Can I Install My Own PV (Photovoltaic) System? A DIYer’s Checklist

    It’s time for the litmus test that tells you whether to proceed boldly as an amateur solar installer or to hand over the reins to a professional. For most of you, the decision will come down to the rules of the local building authority (most likely your city, county, township, or state) or your utility provider, either of which may require that solar installations be done by a licensed professional. This is also the best time to confirm that your project won’t be nixed by your zoning department, historical district standards, or your homeowner’s association.

    • Amateur installation is permitted by the local building authority and your utility provider.
    • Requirements for amateur installation are reasonable and acceptable. Some authorities require nonprofessionals to pass tests demonstrating basic knowledge of electrical and other household systems, but such tests may not be extensive.
    • You’re okay with several hours of physical rooftop work (those with ground-mount systems get a pass here) AND you’re wise enough to wear legitimate fall-arresting equipment (not a rope tied around your waist). You may feel as confident as Mary Poppins dancing on rooftops, but she can fly; you should be tethered.
    • You don’t live in a historical district or, if you do, the zoning authority permits PV systems (with acceptable restrictions).
    • Your homeowner’s association, if you have one, permits PV systems (with acceptable restrictions). Sometimes the homeowner’s association may need a little nudging to give permission.
    • You have a standard type of roofing (asphalt shingles, standing-seam metal, wood shingles, standard flat roof). If you have slate, concrete tile, clay tile, or other fragile/specialty roofing, consult a roofing professional and/or hire out the PV installation. This is not necessarily a deal-breaker.

    TEXT EXCERPTED FROM INSTALL YOUR OWN SOLAR PANELS © JOSEPH BURDICK AND PHILIP SCHMIDT.

    Install Your Own Solar Panels

    Labor and related costs account for more than half of the price of the average home solar installation. But homeowners can save thousands of dollars with this user-friendly manual, which follows the same process professional contractors use. Through detailed directions and step-by-step photos, veteran solar installer Joseph Burdick and seasoned builder Philip Schmidt teach you how to determine the size, placement, and type of installation you’ll need. This comprehensive DIY guide covers everything from assembling rooftop racking or building a ground-mount structure to setting up the electrical connections and making a battery bank for off-grid systems.

    Solar Panels for Apartments: 5 Best Ways

    Just so you know, this page contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on one, at no extra cost to you I may earn a small commission.

    There are actually a few ways you can solar power your apartment or condo — even if you don’t have a suitable roof (or a willing landlord).

    I live in a rental house and, over the last couple months, have explored every possible way to go solar as a renter. I’ve been encouraged by what I found.

    Let’s run through your options.

    Join a Community Solar Project

    Community solar projects are large-scale solar farms that are built locally and power multiple homes in a community. They’re a great option for people who, for whatever reason, can’t put solar panels on their roof.

    When you join a project, you usually continue to pay your electricity bill like normal — either through your existing utility or the company that runs the project. And the cost savings can be instant.

    The main downside is that there aren’t that many community solar projects out there at the moment. Don’t be surprised if there aren’t any in your area.

    Pros

    • Doesn’t require you to install solar panels on your roof
    • Can instantly save you money on your monthly power bill
    • Helps support new clean energy projects in your community
    • Reduces your carbon footprint

    How to Do It

    Go to EnergySage. It’s a good place to start your search for community solar projects.

    Scroll down to the community solar section and click “See Local Projects.” This will take you to their community solar marketplace.

    Enter your zip code and monthly power bill and click “Search Projects” to see if there are any projects you can sign up for. For instance, I entered the zip code for Providence, Rhode Island, where I knew there were a few projects.

    Note: If EnergySage doesn’t show any projects in your area, do a Google search for “community solar near me” and see what pops up.

    Choose a project you want to join. Browse the list of nearby projects. Read project reviews and details for things like estimated savings, billing info, and estimated environmental impact.

    Click “Get Started” and submit an application. The project provider will review your application and reach out to you to finalize your subscription.

    much, solar, panels, cost, 2023

    Once enrolled in the project, your monthly power bill will be going toward buying solar energy rather than carbon-intensive fossil fuel energy. You’ll also likely be paying less for power. It’s a win-win.

    Ask Your Landlord to Install Solar Panels on Your Roof

    This option works best if you rent a house with a suitable roof. You’ll be trying to convince your landlord to do a major home upgrade, so you’ll have to come prepared.

    You can get quotes from local solar installers to show your landlord. That way, you can better talk about potential cost savings, increase in home value, and environmental impact.

    Pros

    • Replaces most of your home energy use with solar power
    • Lowers your monthly power bill
    • In some places, can get a credit for sending excess power back to the grid
    • Reduces your carbon footprint

    How to Do It

    Go to EnergySage. It’s also a good place to start when adding solar panels to a house.

    Scroll down to the rooftop solar section and click “Compare Solar Quotes.”

    Fill out your property’s details and click “Get Quotes.” Then complete the registration process to start getting quotes from local solar installers.

    Wait for your quotes to arrive. It may take a week or so for the first ones to trickle in. Solar installers may also reach out to you to get more information about your property before putting together their quote.

    Pitch your landlord on installing solar panels. Once you’ve got a good quote, it’s time to pitch. Your landlord isn’t paying the utilities, so the typical pitch of reducing your monthly power bill isn’t going to work here. Instead, you can talk about how homes with solar panels sell for 4% more on average, and the environmental benefits of going solar.

    Buy Plug In Solar Panels

    Plug in solar panels — also called plug and play solar panels — are pretty much what they sound like. You can plug them into any standard wall outlet, and the energy they produce flows into your apartment, instantly solar powering some of your energy use.

    I haven’t seen many people talk about plug in panels, but I’m hoping that changes soon. Stephan Scherer, founder of Craftstrom, a maker of plug and play solar kits, told me the kits are more common in Europe. “And the US is always a little behind Europe in solar,” he said. He added that, because much of the US is at a lower latitude, they can pay for themselves even quicker here.

    In my opinion, plug and play solar kits are a great option for renters. You can mount them anywhere on your apartment that gets a lot of sun — a roof, railing, balcony. And they can be pretty affordable.

    Just be prepared to do a bit of research to figure out the right size kit for you, and if your city has any regulations on these types of kits.

    Pros

    • Can be installed quickly and easily without professional help
    • Can be mounted anywhere on your apartment that gets good sun
    • Oftentimes doesn’t require any permits
    • Portable — can be taken with you when you move
    • Reduces your carbon footprint

    Cons

    • Must inform your utility and get permission from your landlord or HOA
    • May have to sign an interconnection agreement with your utility if you produce more power than you consume

    How to Do It

    Contact your landlord or HOA and get permission to add plug-in panels to your apartment or condo.

    Go to Craftstrom and research the right size kit for your apartment or condo. Knowing what kit you plan to buy beforehand will help when you contact your utility. (I like Craftstrom’s kits because they’re designed to never produce more power than you consume, meaning you won’t have to sign an interconnection agreement with your utility. Many other kits don’t have this feature.)

    Contact your electric utility and ask them about their policy on plug and play solar systems. If they allow them, inform them of your intentions to install one. This is where knowing the size and specs of your preferred system is helpful. Some plug in solar brands mention they will provide electrical diagrams should your utility ask.

    Buy and install the plug in solar panels according to the brand’s instructions. Many brands claim you can do it in less than an hour.

    Yes, it’s a bit of a hassle to reach out to your landlord and utility and do research on what size kit to get. But contrast that with how much research and paperwork you’d have to do if you were a homeowner installing solar panels on your roof.

    Make Your Own Portable Solar Panel System

    I write a lot about DIY solar power on this site, so you might think I’d trumpet this option as the best one. In reality, I think it’s a poor option for most renters.

    Because you’re essentially building a small off-grid power system, you need to buy all the equipment and connect it all yourself. It’s requires knowledge of solar electrical systems, and it’s the costliest route in terms of price per watt.

    How to Do It

    Note: This will be a very high-level overview of how to set up a small 100W DIY solar panel system that can power a few small devices like your phone, laptop, and some LED lights. For full instructions, check out this tutorial.

    Instructions

    Connect the inverter and charge controller to the battery.

    Connect the solar panel to the charge controller.

    Mount or place your solar panel outside in direct sunlight.

    Power your devices by plugging them into the inverter. For instance, I plugged my ebike charger into the inverter.

    The panel will generate solar energy during the day and store it in the battery. You can then use the battery to charge and power your devices by plugging them into the inverter.

    Buy Green Energy via Renewable Energy Certificates

    Renewable energy certificates (RECs) track renewable energy as it moves through the US power grid. When a renewable energy provider — like a solar or wind farm — produces energy, they receive RECs to represent that energy. The provider can then sell the RECs as a sort of proof of ownership of that energy.

    If you buy RECs equivalent to your energy consumption, you’ve technically powered your home entirely with green energy. But RECs are far from a perfect option. A lot of times, they don’t lead to any additional clean energy on the grid. They just end up being a way for clean energy projects to make a tiny bit of side income.

    much, solar, panels, cost, 2023

    Here’s where I personally stand on RECs: I don’t expect my buying them to decide the fate of any clean energy project. But, in the aggregate, I think they make a small, positive impact across the clean energy industry as a whole.

    In most places around the country, RECs are pretty cheap. If buying them is the only way to ‘solar power’ your apartment, then I think they’re a tad bit better than doing nothing.

    How to Do It

    Go to Arcadia. (There are many places to buy RECs. I’ll show you how to do it with Arcadia because I think they make it easiest.)

    much, solar, panels, cost, 2023

    Enter your zip code, select your electric utility, then click “Continue.” I live in Atlanta, so I entered my zip code, 30312, and selected Georgia Power.

    Note: Arcadia first looks to see if there are any community solar projects in your area. If there are, I’d recommend joining one rather than buying RECs.

    Sign up then click “Continue.”

    Sync your utility account to Arcadia. To do so, you just need to log in to your utility account.

    Add a payment method. The first month is free. After that Arcadia charges just 5 per month to purchase and retire RECs equivalent to your energy usage.

    Arcadia will now buy RECs on your behalf based on your monthly energy usage. You can go to your account to see things like how much green energy you’re using, and where it comes from.

    The Bottom Line

    There are ways to solar power your apartment — even if your apartment doesn’t get any sun, and your landlord doesn’t want to install solar panels.

    As a renter myself, I spent hours looking into the options. After all that, here are my 3 favorites:

    • Community solar doesn’t require a roof, can instantly reduce your power bill, and helps support solar energy projects in your community
    • Rooftop solar panels are an option, too, but you’ll have to crunch the numbers and sell your landlord on the idea
    • Plug in solar panels can be installed in a day and will instantly start solar powering some of your energy use

    If those options don’t work for you, you can build a DIY solar power system or buy green energy via RECs. Neither of these last two options is ideal in my eyes, but in some cases they may be better than nothing.

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