The amount that you’ll pay for a new solar power installation varies based on the size of the system, which depends on the desired goal. Although the national average spent on solar power is around $18,000 before incentives and rebates, and most pay between $15,000 and $25,000.
Some homeowners start with a smaller system to power their air conditioner, range, or clothes dryer, since these appliances use a great deal of electricity. These systems typically cost around $4,000 or $5,000.
There are multiple configurations depending on your needs and desires. Whatever the arrangement, these systems will likely pay for themselves over time. Solar power can be used solely during daylight or used to recharge batteries to power your home 24 hours a day.
Off-the-Grid vs. Hooked into the Grid
Systems tied into the electrical “grid” or local power system are likely the most expensive initially but the most convenient. In this configuration, you can use electrical power from the grid when weather conditions are not optimal or after dark when you don’t have batteries.
In some areas, you can tie into the local grid and sell unused power to the electric company. This will vary by electric company and the offerings in your area.
The most inexpensive solar systems, however, work off-the-grid and are not hooked into the local electric power system at all. This set-up is not as convenient without a battery backup.
Backup batteries for a solar panel system cost between $5,000 and $7,000, not counting installation and the necessary equipment to hook those into your system, such as inverters to control usage, and converters that supply 240 volts to dryers and ranges, while the rest of the house runs on 110 volts.
However, if you are not hooked into the system and want consistent power even without the sun, you will need a means of storing the energy produced during sunlight. On the other hand, batteries designed to work with the local utility supply are less expensive but require a licensed electrician to install, and there might be limitations by the utility company.
Solar Panels Types
There are three basic types of solar panels for use in residential systems monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and photovoltaic (PV). It is essential for the homeowner to understand the capabilities, lifespan, space, and budget requirements of each to determine which is right for your system or situation.
Knowing the incentives and property tax exemptions for each will save you money as well.
This method is the most efficient and requires the least space; and therefore, it is the most expensive. This method uses high-quality, near-pure silicon to convert the sun’s rays into electricity.
These high-quality panels are long-lasting, require 65-100 square feet of space, and are warrantied for 20-25 years. Expect to pay $1.25 – $2.00 per watt of production for the panels.
These blue crystal panels are less efficient than the monocrystalline. However, these are commonly less expensive and take up less space. These cost $.90 to $1.00 per watt, require 85-100 square feet of space, and the warranty is generally around 20 years.
Photovoltaic (PV) or Thin-Film
PVs are the most common and least expensive method of producing electric power with solar cells that convert the sun’s energy into electrons through a photovoltaic effect. PV gets layered on glass or metal tiles, so it is often called thin-film.
These solar cells generate direct current (DC) electricity from the sunlight. This energy can directly power home appliances or charge batteries.
Although this method is commonly the most affordable, you need more panels and thus, more space to generate enough electricity. These cost $.75 to $1.00 per watt, require 100-200 square feet of space, and the warranty for these panels is usually only around 11-12 years.
Long-Term Cost Savings & Other Incentives
The amount you save long-term depends on the actual sunshine per day, cost of electricity, and local and state incentives. There are also Federal incentives to make the switch to solar.
Some states also offer incentives; in some cases, they are worth nearly $20,000, though this is rare. Before starting your project, find the incentives in your state.
Cost of Installation
The solar panels themselves make up only about one-third of the price of a self-sufficient solar power system. Labor will make up about 15 percent of the cost; while permits, inverters, mounts, batteries, and tie-ins will make up much of the rest.
The price varies dramatically based on the needs and requirements of the system. We suggest getting several estimates from professional installers in your area to understand the cost of your system better. Labor costs vary widely, not just from region to region but between installers as well. Check the statement of work carefully and compare the prices.
The more research you do and apply, the better your selection for a solar power system will be. An excellent place to start is with our electrical calculators and resources, where you can find electrical property conversion calculators, unit conversions, and other calculators to determine how much you can realistically save by going solar.
All pricing information on this page is based on average industry costs, and is subject to variance for project-specific materials, labor rates, and requirements.