Sure, a solar array like this can cost a lot.
But you don’t need this many panels to power your home. Before we talk cost, let’s make sure we know what we’re talking about:
How does one go about buying solar panels?
Coming into the solar world from the outside must be difficult: there’s a lot of equipment, a lot of companies trying to sell their time, and non-standard pricing. In fact, how are you even supposed to know what this stuff costs anyway?
First thing you should know: people rarely buy individual solar panels. You can, but this is definitely for more of the DIY sect and not something we’re going to cover here. If you’re just getting into DIY solar you’re going to have plenty of research, reading, and work to do, so get hit up Google and get started.
For anyone who’s left, here’s the deal: most installers sell turnkey systems. That means that you pay them to put the whole thing together, size it, and slap it on your roof. Done. It would be costly (and a little ridiculous) to try to do this piecemeal, so that’s not worth really thinking about.
So what does solar cost then?
The most important thing to understand here is that the cost of solar depends on a lot of variables: the size of your house and necessary electricity requirements (per month), the amount of electricity usage you want to off-set, the type of panels you want (high or low efficiency), and the rebates, incentives, and tax credits available in your area.
I understand this is sort of a non-answer, but ultimately the best way to price a system is to get a free solar estimate and go from there. Any solar installer can give you this, and it’s the best way to see if all the numbers work for you.
Some websites do tally up the ‘average’ cost of a solar system, say 5kW. Problem is, if you don’t know what a kiloWatt is, this doesn’t mean much. What you really need to know is how much money are you going to save each month after you install solar panels?
We think that’s the best cost-related number to think about.
Don’t forget regional differences that affect cost!
Oh yes, your region is extremely important. You think solar panels are cheaper in sunny Arizona vs much drearier locals on the East Coast? Think again.
The biggest single factor in solar cost pricing is your local electricity prices. So for instance, a homeowner in Hawaii is going to get a screaming deal on solar because their electricity rates are an astonishing 36 cents / kWh (for the record, that’s more than 3 times the national average).
Don’t forget solar incentives that affect solar costs!
Another big factor besides standard tax breaks you get with going solar are the local incentives. In some parts of the country your utility will actually pay you for extra energy you produce. They might even have to buy solar renewable energy credits from you, as in the case of states like New Jersey.
These kinds of credits can be extremely lucrative and make a big dent in the cost of putting up solar panels on your roof. Again, the best way to figure out these costs is to get a solar estimate.
Sometimes you can eliminate up-front costs and go solar for $0-down.
There are several ways to get the savings without the up-front cost: solar leases and PPA deals. The leases are like any lease: a portion of your electricity savings will go back to the solar company to pay for the equipment over the next, say, 20 years. The PPA, or power-purchase-agreement side of things is a nifty idea: the solar company installs the panels, for FREE, but retains ownership of the panels. They then act as their own utility and sell you power at a locked-in, guaranteed rate for the next 25 years or so. This can be a great option for immediate savings, but you may miss out some of the real returns that come from owning the system.
The point is, there are a number of ways to get around the initial cost of going solar, so don’t think you have to pony up all your savings to go this route.
How to estimate the cost of going solar.
There are a few ways to get someone else to do this, for free. The first, and best way, is to signup for an online solar calculator. You have to be careful with who you choose to do this, because some installers will try to have someone in your living room by the end of the day. If you’re just looking for a simple quote you can do it online and you can do it in real-time.
If you’re actually ready to pull the trigger on home solar, it’s best to get a number of quotes at once. That way you’re armed with some comparative knowledge and you really know who’s trying to tack on some extra costs. Btw, it doesn’t hurt to do your homework on solar companies before you commit to an installation. Try looking at Better Business Bureau and Yelp reviews if available. The single best source of information will always be a neighbor who’s gone solar with the company in question. Word of mouth is always the strongest promotion, and most homeowners who install solar are really excited about it (you’ve probably seen the yard signs for various solar companies in your neighborhood).
The bottom line about the cost of going solar:
Get a solar quote today, just do it. It’s the only home improvement that will pay for itself. It increases the value of your home and will pay you dividends in the form of lower electricity rates for years to come. It’s a financial no-brainer, and the cost of solar has never been lower than today.
We’ll have a few recommendations about which solar companies provide the best value and service. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading all the way to the bottom.