How much do solar panels cost in California?
How much do solar panels cost in California?
$2.50 – $3.45 average cost per watt
$12,500 – $17,300 total cost before tax credits (5kW system)
$8,800 – $12,100 total cost after tax credits (5kW system)
Average cost of solar panels in California
The average cost of solar panels in California is $2.50 to $3.45 per watt or $12,500 to $17,300 installed for a 5-kilowatt system, depending on the type, brand, quality, and installer. After a 30% federal tax credit, California solar panel cost for the same 5kW system decreases to $8,000 to $12,100 total.
|System size||Average total cost||Average cost (after 30% tax credit)*|
|3kW||$7,500 – $10,400||$5,300 – $7,300|
|4kW||$10,000 – $13,800||$7,000 – $9,700|
|5kW||$12,500 – $17,300||$8,800 – $12,100|
|6kW||$15,000 – $20,700||$10,500 – $14,500|
|7kW||$17,500 – $24,200||$12,300 – $16,900|
|8kW||$20,000 – $27,600||$14,000 – $19,300|
|9kW||$22,500 – $31,100||$15,800 – $21,800|
|10kW||$25,000 – $34,500||$17,500 – $24,200|
*Local government and utility company incentives may also be available to lower the cost further.
Most California residents use less energy than an average US household and can save by installing a smaller-than-average solar panel system.
California averages 250+ sunny days per year and has an ideal climate for solar energy systems.
California ranks #1 for solar power in the country for total installed capacity.
California solar panels cost breakdown
Many factors affect the cost of solar panels in California, including:
Installing solar panels on larger homes or houses with higher electricity demands costs more overall but may cost less per watt than smaller solar installations.
For very large properties, a solar farm costs $0.90 to $1.30 per watt to build a community solar system that powers local residents and businesses who choose to subscribe.
Brand & quality – High-quality panels cost more but typically last longer. Buy from a reputable brand that's been around for a while, as they will likely be in business for the life of your solar system service warranty.
Solar provider – California has over 2,000 solar companies, each with varying services, prices, labor rates, warranties, and reputations.
Roof age – Consider replacing an older roof before installing a new solar system to maximize the panels' lifespan. Some older roofs are not durable enough to support a solar panel system.
Roof type – Your roof type and design affect how difficult the installation will be and may also limit which types of solar panels you can install.
Permits & interconnection – Permit fees and requirements vary by municipality. Some utility companies also charge interconnection fees to connect your new solar system to the grid.
Purchase method – Paying in full for the solar panel system when it's installed will typically save you the most money over time.
Ongoing maintenance – Solar panel cleaning costs $150 to $500 on average, depending on the location, system size, and cleaning method used. Check with your solar contractor to see if the installation comes with an annual inspection and cleaning.
Solar system components
Solar panel systems cannot function without several components. Besides the panels themselves, the system needs structures to mount the panels on and an inverter to convert the energy for electricity use. Optional backup power storage increases your upfront cost but provides significant savings over time.
Panel type – Microcrystalline panels are the most popular due to their high efficiency, but they're also the most expensive. Polycrystalline panels cost less but also don't perform as well. Thin film solar panels cost the least but are also the least efficient.
Solar inverters – Solar inverters cost $1,500 to $3,000 installed. Inverters are typically included in your solar panel system installation because they are required for the solar system to function.
Solar battery storage – A solar battery storage system costs $5,600 to $11,200, including installation (after tax credits). Batter storage isn't a requirement when you're installing solar panels, but it will help you save the most money and provide a welcomed power source during future outages.
California solar incentives
The table below details several ways homeowners can save when installing a new solar system in California. Many other incentives and rebates exist at the local level. Be sure to check your local government and utility company for solar incentives specific to your town.
| Residential Clean Energy Credit
(formerly Solar Investment Tax Credit or ITC)
|A 30% federal tax credit is available for California homeowners with solar systems installed between 2022 and 2032.|
|Active Solar Energy Exclusion||California homeowners' property tax will not increase because of solar panel installation, even if the installation increases the home's value.|
|Solar and CHP Sales Tax Exemption||All solar energy systems for storage and distribution are exempt from California sales and use tax.|
|Disadvantaged Communities – Single-family Solar Homes (DAC-SASH)||This program provides rooftop solar installations to low-income households.|
|Self-Generation Incentive Program||Homeowners with solar battery storage qualify for a rebate of $850 to $1,000 per kilowatt-hour of installed storage capacity, making some battery storage installations completely free after reimbursement.|
|Local government & utility company incentives||Solar rebates and incentives vary by location.|
|Net metering / Net Billing||California customers of investor-owned utility companies receive a small credit for the excess energy their solar panels generate and send back to the grid, based on the time of day.|
|Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)||The solar or utility company owns, installs, and maintains the equipment, while the homeowner pays a guaranteed fixed rate for the electricity used during the contract term (typically 10 to 20 years).|
|Solar lease||Similar to PPAs, the solar company owns, installs, and maintains the equipment; the homeowner pays a monthly fee to power their home with the energy generated.|
FAQs about solar panels in California
Are solar panels worth it in California?
In most cases, solar panels are worth it in California. Electricity prices continue to rise, while solar panel prices in California have decreased in recent years, making solar more affordable. While the state's new net metering policies are not as attractive, the potential savings over time are still significant.
The payback period for solar panels in California ranges from 5 to 11 years, after which you'll enjoy free electricity from the system for about 20 years, sometimes more.
Installing solar panels in California typically increases your home's value, but the law prevents that value increase from increasing your property tax.
Can I install my own solar panels in California?
You can install your own solar panels in California in some cases. Many solar panel warranties, insurance policies, and local building codes require installation by a certified professional. Most permitting offices require you to submit a full set of plans for review and approval before you can begin the installation.
Can an HOA deny solar panels in California?
No, an HOA cannot deny solar panels in California. The California Solar Rights Act prevents homeowners associations from limiting or restricting a homeowner's ability to install solar panels.
Homeowners still need to follow any HOA guidelines regarding the installation of solar energy systems.
An HOA can restrict where you place the solar panels only if the restriction does not impair the solar system's efficiency.
How long do solar panels last in California?
Solar panels in California last 25 to 30 years if installed and maintained correctly. Location, climate, and equipment quality also affect the solar system's lifespan. The solar inverter—the part that converts the sun's energy into a usable form—typically needs replacement before the solar panels.
To get the longest lifespan out of your solar panels, choose the highest quality panels your budget will allow and keep a regular inspection and maintenance schedule.
Can you get free solar panels in California?
You cannot get free solar panels in California. However, many solar companies in California have options that allow you to install a solar panel system with little to no upfront costs.
A solar loan allows you to pay for the system over time.
With a solar power purchase agreement (PPA), the solar company installs solar panels at little to no cost. You don't own the panels, but you pay a fixed, lower-than-retail electricity rate.
With a solar lease, the solar company owns and installs the solar panels, and you pay a fixed monthly fee to use the electricity.
Getting estimates from solar contractors in California
With 2,000+ solar companies in California, be sure to do your due diligence to ensure you're hiring a qualified solar contractor near you:
Compare 3 to 5 estimates with similar details from solar companies that have been in business for 5+ years.
Look at both big and small solar providers when comparing services, pricing, and warranties. A smaller, locally owned company will often have better deals. Still, avoid brand new companies as it's more difficult to know if they'll be in business through your 20+ year solar panel warranty.
Look for California-licensed solar contractors who are active members of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) or certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
Hire a solar provider that is licensed, bonded, insured, and has positive reviews on HomeGuide and Google.
Beware of companies marketing 100% free solar panels, as they may be a scam. If a deal looks too good to be true, it usually is.
Don't pay in full until they finish the installation and pass all inspections.
Questions to ask a California-licensed solar installer
Asking the right questions can help you narrow down your choices to choose the best, most qualified California solar panel installer near you:
What experience do you have installing solar energy systems in California?
Should I replace my roof before installing solar panels?
What solar panels do you recommend for my roof type, and why?
What is the approximate payback period for this solar panel system?
How much can I expect to save each year with these solar panels?
Can you provide an estimate with a breakdown of everything included?
What issues or extra costs might come up when you're installing the solar panels?
What solar inverter do you recommend for my system, and why?
Do you include an annual inspection and cleaning with the installation?
Do you offer any payment plans or financing?
What rebates and incentives am I eligible for, and will you help me obtain them?
How long is the warranty, and what are the coverage terms?
How do you calculate what size solar system I need?
Will there be room to add more panels later if my energy needs increase?