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How Much Does it Cost to Install Solar?
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 for a 6kW system.
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 before incentives such as tax credits.
Off-the-Grid vs. Hooked into the Grid
Systems tied into the electrical grid or local power system are the most common and 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 expensive solar systems, however, work off-the-grid and are not hooked into the local electric power system at all. This setup requires a battery backup, and most systems also need a secondary source of power, such as a generator.
Backup batteries for a solar panel system cost between $5,000 and $10,000, 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 120 volts.
In most cases, an off-grid setup will cost around $40,000 altogether.
It’s important to note that many states have regulations around these systems. In some areas, they are not legal, while in others, there are stipulations on their use.
You’ll also need to plan and research your power requirements to determine how many panels and batteries you’ll need for this setup. You can use our electrical usage calculator to determine how much capacity you’ll need
Solar Panels Types
There are three basic types of solar panels for use in residential systems monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin film. Of the three, monocrystalline is the most common, and thin film is the least common in residential settings.
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; therefore, it is the most expensive. This method uses high-quality, near-pure silicon to convert the sun’s rays into electricity.
These panels use whole crystals rather than fragments and are a solid black color, so they blend in well with most homes.
These high-quality panels are long-lasting and are often 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 slightly more space. They use multiple fragments of silicon crystals and are bright blue in color.
Polycrystalline panels cost $0.90 to $1.00 per watt, and the warranty is generally around 20 years.
Thin film panels are the least common method of creating solar panels for residential use. Like all solar panels, these solar cells generate direct current (DC) electricity from the sunlight. This energy must be used with an inverter to power home appliances or charge batteries.
These cost $0.90 to $1.00 per watt (the same as polycrystalline), while 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, the cost of electricity, and local and state incentives. There are also Federal incentives to make the switch to solar in the form of tax credits equal to 30% of the cost of the installation.
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.
All systems will require inverters and tie-ins to work. Most systems are mounted on the roof, which is the least expensive installation type. However, you can have a ground-mounted array as well, which can increase costs considerably.
If you choose to have batteries installed, keep in mind that you will need battery inverters for every battery used as well. The number of inverters needed will vary; some types will require one inverter per panel, while others will only require one inverter per system.
The average 6 kW system will have 19 panels, and if microinverters are used, you will need 19 inverters as well, while the use of string inverters may only require one or two. Expect inverter costs to be roughly $1,000 to $4,000, depending on type.
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.