The national average cost for solar panels and installation is $13,300 for a 6kW system, and $22,050 for a 10kW system. This gives us an average price of $2.21 per watt for solar power. Get free estimates from Solar Companies near you.
Solar power is the most renewable, efficient, and abundant power source we have available to us, and If you are thinking about switching to solar power to provide your home with electricity, know that it will cost a significant investment up front but can give great cost savings long term.
Power generation from solar energy not only saves money, it also has a zero impact on the environment. Additionally, with advances in technology, panels are becoming smaller yet producing more power per panel, making them more and more efficient and reasonably priced.
The national average cost for solar panels and installation is $13,300 for a 6kW system and $22,050 for a 10kW system. That gives us an average price of $2.21 per watt. These costs include factoring in the 30% tax credit.
|National Average Cost||$13,300|
|Average Range||$11,500 to $15,800|
Nationally, the lowest and highest cost of solar panel systems installed are as follows:
Depending on where you live, there will be a slight change from these numbers, but the US average in labor costs for the installation of a residential solar panel system is around $0.50 per watt. The most common systems installed will be for a 6kW system for around $3,000, followed by a 10kW system for larger homes that will cost around $5,000.
|Solar Panel Energy Level||Installation Costs|
|6kW Home Solar System||$3,000 ($0.50 per watt)|
|10kW Home Solar System||$5,000 ($0.50 per watt)|
|Solar Panel Watts||Average Costs|
|6kW Home Solar System||$1.50 – $2.63 per watt|
|10kW Home Solar System||$2.05 – $2.68 per watt|
A complete system will usually consist of:
The great news is that professionally installed solar panel systems will definitely save you money on your electric bill. But how much depends on your current expenses on electricity, the cost of installing your solar power system, if it’s fixed or tracking, how much direct sunlight the panels get per day, how big the system is that you installed, what angle your roof is at, if the panels are in shade at any point in the day, etc. Typically over a 20 year period, your savings will be between $525 and $1,525 per year.
For example, when spread out over a twenty-year period working on the premise that the same solar system will meet approximately 93% of the energy consumption requirements for that install:
These have a lower conversion-to-power efficiency ranging from 13.7% to 14.3% depending on brand, compared to the 16% to 21% of traditional solar panels. This will affect the overall ROI on your investment; however, for some, the tradeoff is that the panels look like shingles. Additionally, as your finances allow, you can also cover a much larger percentage of your roof, producing more power.
The premium product in this space is the Tesla shingles. In addition to their 30-year warranty and hardened glass construction, which is able to withstand significant impact from hail, etc., Tesla also produces non-solar shingles, which disguises the system 100%. Due to their cost, the payback time is roughly twice that of other systems; however, you don’t have a visible solar system on your roof either.
For off-grid or on-grid systems, the new Tesla Powerwall which has lithium batteries, an inverter, and a charge controller built in, starts at $6,600 (including mounting hardware), and another $1,000 to $3,000 for installation before you add the solar panels.
Once connected to the panels, this system can provide enough power (24 kWh/day) to a home of 1,100 square foot (without AC). If you’re still connected to the grid and the power goes down, you can power your home for seven days straight without having to use less electricity than normal. If your home has AC, you would need two banks of batteries for the Powerwall.
Consider also funding your solar power system by leasing it. As with leasing a car vs. buying it, the leasing company will own and maintain the panels, accessories, and inverter. To see the savings and if it’s worth looking into, work out your current electrical usage cost per kWh to see if the leasing company’s monthly charge makes more sense than the monthly finance cost of buying the system.
This could work out better for homeowners planning to move every seven years, although home buyers might be willing to pay more for a home with a working system in place. With the current 30% tax credit in place, this is doubtful, but when the credits expire, it could be a viable option.
Many states around the US offer tax credits for solar panel system installation projects. You pay the upfront cost at the time of installation and get to claim a portion of the price as a deduction on your annual taxes. There are federal tax credits of 30% available for people electing to install solar systems at their homes to generate electricity. For the typical 6-kilowatt system, national averages are around $19,000 before federal income tax credits, and will range between $11,500 to $15,000 after taking those deductions into account.
The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) will drop in 2020 to 26%, 22% in 2021, and a fixed rate of 10% in 2022 for commercial installations. Solar power will always be a great idea, but the return on your investment is at the highest dollar value to you before 2022.
Tax credits will be completely gone for residential installations at the beginning of 2022. However, more effective panels will be on the market in future years and the price of solar panels will continue to drop, but no one knows by how much.
Most solar panels come with a 20- to 25-year warranty against defects and failure. A solar inverter converts the generated DC electricity to AC for your home. Typically, manufacturers put either a 10- or 15-year warranty on it. There won’t be any degradation on it over time; instead, it will stop working one day. Newer advances with inverters have produced micro-inverters that can be installed on each solar panel, and these are slated to last for 25 years or longer.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that solar installations around the country dropped performance levels by approx. 0.50% per year. This translates to an average drop from 100% to 88% by the end of a 25-year warranty.
For the vast majority of homeowners with static, roof-mounted systems, the only real maintenance is cleaning the solar panels of dirt, leaves, and debris. To determine if you need to have them cleaned, you can either monitor your electric bill or monitor the wattage created through a computer or app to see if there is a sustained drop in production.
Depending on whether you are shopping close to budget or are in a position to make an investment that will pay off, you will select accordingly. With an average house, a 6kW solar power system will be enough for your standard energy consumption needs, and any leftover can be sold back to the electric grid. In that same average house, if you can afford a 10kW system and have enough space and a strong enough roof, you will have a lot more “leftover” electricity being sold back to the grid.
If you live within an area that already provides electricity to your home and you want to replace as much as possible coming from the grid, then a solar system will be a great choice. The location of the home will play a huge part in the productivity of your install, though, because some states have less sunshine per day than others.
For a home that is completely off the grid, there are two types of solar power setups possible: an AC system and a DC system.
An additional option for homeowners in locations with insufficient sunlight to generate enough power, especially in winter months, is to add a generator. The power from the generator will also go through the inverter to convert to AC before it can be used in the home.
A big consideration for any off-grid system is to make sure you have enough power to run an air conditioning unit or other high-wattage appliances. To accommodate that, one would either need an uncommonly efficient AC unit, a large solar panel array, or more batteries. Additionally, another option to beef up your off-grid system is to add a wind turbine to harness even more renewable green energy.
It could actually be cheaper to install solar power units than get on the grid. If you live in a rural area with no nearby electrical utilities provided, expect to pay the local electric company up to $15,000 for every quarter mile to run power along the road from the nearest pole to your property. They will also have to run the line to your house.
Typically, running power back to your property from the street is measured in the number of poles it takes, which has an average cost of $400 per pole, and the farther away from the street the line runs, the increased likelihood that you will need a transformer added to the line at an average cost of $1,000.
Install costs for solar power systems dropped by more than 70% between 2010 and 2016. On top of that, the introduction of the Solar Investment Tax Credit in 2016 contributes to making it a more accessible option for many across the country.
Depending on the system you have selected to be installed and the mounting hardware to be used, you are looking at about:
450 square feet for a 6kW solar array
650 square feet for a 10Kw system
A solar power professional is the most qualified person to make the final call on where the system should be installed, but his/her main questions will be:
Solar panels are typically 65” by 39” wide, or 5 ½” long and just over 3’ wide. To create an array of panels secured in a frame, they are wired together either in series or parallel. In the US, the typical solar system produces 6 kilowatts (kW), and generally will feature 2 rows of 10 standard-sized panels each, for a total width of approximately 33’ wide and 13’ tall.
Depending on the manufacturer, panels will weigh anywhere from 33 lbs. to 50 lbs. That gives you an initial total of between 660 lbs. to 1,000 lbs. When the additional equipment, mounting hardware, and wiring are all in place, this will represent between 3 lbs. to 4 lbs. per square foot when distributed across your roof, for the footprint of your system.
To mount the solar array to your roof, you can go with a fixed, adjustable, or tracking system to allow you to angle the panels to the degree of tilt best suited to your location.
The factors that will determine which type is required for maximum efficiency and output include: location (side of a mountain, near trees etc.), degree of latitude, size of install, weather, and capabilities to power the tracker. Because a tracking mount is so efficient, you have more power to sell back to the grid at peak times of use throughout the day. Because they have moving parts and motors, etc., there is maintenance involved.
Being a more involved setup than a static mount, there is more work to be done in preparing the install site than for a static version. Also, because they have moving parts that require unrestricted space in the arc of movement, they are not suitable for locations where snow is common. The downsides to tracking mounts are the higher initial cost and the maintenance they require, along with the fact that they are normally too heavy for a rooftop install and are usually mounted on the ground instead.
Solar panels, which are normally installed on your roof, work by converting the energy in sunlight into electricity as it hits the photovoltaic, or PV, panels. That can then be used in homes and businesses or returned to the grid. There is no difference in any characteristic between the power from your electrical utility provider and the power generated from an adequate solar panel installation.
AC (alternating current) is the power coming into your home from a power company. Solar panels produce DC (direct current), and an inverter is needed to convert that to alternating current before it can wire into the home’s electrical service panel. From there it is distributed throughout the home. Most homes will have a tracker installed which tells you how much electricity is coming from the panels (and from the local power company, if you are still connected), with the information available on either your computer or a phone app, or both.
Most solar systems are set up to feed any excess power not needed during the course of the day back into the grid, which your local power company will buy—a nice way to pay down the initial investment for your solar system. Then, in the evening time, when your solar system is not generating any power, it will pull energy from the grid.
In addition to the number of panels in place, and the efficiency of the solar cells each panel contains, the main requirement for a solar panel install project to be successful is sunshine. Around the US, different states will show different totals for the average number of sunshine when measured in hours per day. Arizona comes in with the highest average of 7 hours, while states like California and Colorado average at 5.5, and on the low end of the spectrum, cities like Chicago, Seattle, and Pittsburgh only get an average of 3 hours per day. In states where the daily average is low, this might reflect more of a reduction in your electric bill as opposed to being able to disconnect from your local electric provider completely.
NREL, the US Department of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, has maps showing the potential amount of power that can be generated on a daily basis measured in Kilowatts per day. Check it out here.
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