Ashburn, VA

How Much Do Solar Panels Cost to Install?

$11,500 – $15,800

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.

This pricing guide covers:

  1. Solar Panel Costs
  2. Solar Panel Tax Credits
  3. Solar Panel Maintenance & Warranties
  4. 6kW vs 10kW Solar Panels
  5. On Grid vs Off Grid
  6. Solar Panel Types
  7. Solar Panel Installation Choices
  8. How Do Solar Panels Work?
  9. Selecting Your Solar Contractor
  10. Solar Panel Installers Near Me

Solar Panel Costs

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
Minimum Cost $9,000
Maximum Cost $26,800
Average Range $11,500 to $15,800

Nationally, the lowest and highest cost of solar panel systems installed are as follows:

Lowest End

  • 6kW system - between $9,000 and $12,000 = between $1.50 & $2 per watt
  • 10kW system - between $20,500 and $25,000 = between $2.05 & $2.50 per watt

Highest End

  • 6kW system - Rhode Island - between $13,100 and $15,800 = between $2.18 & $2.63 per watt
  • 10kW system - New York - between $20,500 and $26,800 = between $2.05 & $2.68 per watt

Solar Panel Costs

Return to Top

Solar Panel Installation Cost

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 Cost 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

Solar Panel Parts Cost

A complete system will usually consist of:

  1. Photovoltaic panels from $250–$500 (higher watt production costs more)
  2. Solar shingles from $10–$26 per square foot (higher priced are from Tesla with 30-year warranty)
  3. Combiner box from $135–$500 (higher priced for more “strings” and prewired)
  4. Inverter from $270–$1,500 (higher prices for higher watt capacity and input voltage)
  5. Storage batteries from $165–$380 each (between 4–8 or more may be required)
  6. Ground fault protection from $150–$400 (higher priced units handle more electricity)

Return to Top

Solar Energy Cost Savings

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:

  • Colorado: 6kW system @ $13,300 - Electric rate $0.12kWh - Saving $710 per year x 20 years = saving of $14,200
  • Massachusetts: 6kW system @ $13,800 - Electric rate $0.19kWh - Saving $1,525 per year x 20 years = saving of $30,500
  • Washington: 6kW cost $11,800 - Electric rate $0.09kWh - Saving $525 per year x 20 years = saving of $10,500

Solar Shingles Cost

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.

Return to Top

Tesla Solar Roof Cost

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.

Tesla Powerwall Cost

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.

Solar Panel Leases

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.

Return to Top

Solar Panel Tax Credits

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.

Return to Top

Solar Panel Maintenance & Warranties

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.

Solar Panel Costs Maintenance Cleaning

Solar Panel Cleaning

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.

Return to Top

6kW vs 10kW Solar Panels

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.

Depending on your location and the efficiency of the panels installed, you could be looking at a positive cash total of between $32,000 and $56,000 over 20 years.

Solar Panel Installation Costs

Return to Top

On Grid vs Off Grid

On 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.

Off-grid systems

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.

Solar Panel Costs Off Grid

DC & AC Systems

  1. The DC system is cheaper because the energy from the sun does not need to be inverted from DC to AC before being stored in a bank of batteries, but home appliances cannot be powered by this type of system. Generally it is used for appliances in RVs, boats, and farm equipment.
  2. The AC system is more expensive because it includes an inverter. The power generated is stored in batteries and inverted to AC on its way to meet the electrical demands of the home. Once inverted to AC from DC, the electricity is then suitable for powering normal household appliances. The batteries not only store the electricity to deliver it when you need it throughout the day, but also at night, when your solar system cannot generate any electricity.

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.

  • For either the AC or DC off-grid system, it is recommended to go with lithium batteries instead of lead or AGM batteries.
  • Lithium batteries are roughly 25% more expensive, but they are about 55% lighter, making them easier to install. They also last a lot longer.
  • AGM batteries, which can only discharge to 50% before needing to be recharged again, have a useable life of 500 recharge cycles.
  • Lithium batteries can go down to between 20% and 30% before needing to be recharged, and their useable life is 2,000 recharge cycles.
  • The cost per cycle for both is $3.68 on the AGM batteries and $1.55 on lithium.

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.

Return to Top

Solar Panel Inverters

Going Solar in Rural Areas

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.

Solar Panel Installation Costs

Return to Top

Solar Panel Types

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.

Traditional and most commonly used solar panels

  • Monocrystalline Solar Panels (Mono-SI) - rated at 20% and have a long life, have a higher efficiency rating in low light compared to other panels, and are less impacted by high temperatures. They are expensive. Despite the cost factor, the monocrystalline are most commonly used for residential purposes in the US
  • Polycrystalline Solar Panels (p-Si) - Produced faster and cheaper than monocrystalline panels. While being one of the cheaper options, these panels are sensitive to higher temperatures and do not last as long. They are rated as having a 15% efficiency.

Solar Panel Costs per watt

Thin-film solar cell panels

  • Amorphous Silicon Solar Panels (A-SI) - These panels are relatively low priced, but also carry shorter warranties because they do not last as long as some of the other options. They are rated at 7–10% for efficiency. Generally unsuitable for residential purposes, they can be manufactured as thin as 1 millionth of a meter, but that also lends to their fairly short lives.

Solar panels in development

  • Biohybrid Solar Cell - The main feature of this type of panel is that it will function in the same way as the natural process of photosynthesis. Researchers are excited about the conversion from chemical to electrical energy, which reflects a process that is up to 1,000 times greater in efficiency than traditional solar panels.
  • Cadmium Telluride Solar Cell (CdTe) - While more like traditional solar panels, the use of cadmium telluride means a lower cost production for the individual solar cells. Because of the savings in cell production, it could be possible for a solar system to pay for itself within one year. The only downside to the cadmium telluride cells is that they are toxic if inhaled or ingested, and that has hindered market adoption.
  • Concentrated PV Cell (CVP and HCVP) - Currently, these are the most efficient type of cells with an efficiency rated at a massive 41%. These cells are placed to directly receive energy from the sun that is reflected by curved mirrors that span an arc of almost 180 degrees as the sun is reflected through lenses. In order for this efficiency rating of 41% to be achieved, the entire setup has to be one that tilts and follows the sun throughout the day.

Solar Panel Power Array

Return to Top

Solar Panel Installation Choices

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:

  1. How much shade-free space is on the roof and can the panels fit there?
  2. Do you need to get trees causing shade on the roof trimmed or cut down?
  3. Does your house have an unobstructed line of sight to the sun all day long?
  4. Which direction does your house face? Houses that are in the northern hemisphere and face south will capture the most sunlight.

Installation Choices

  • Ground – If you live on a typical lot in suburbia, you may not have enough open land to mount the solar panels on. If you are on a larger lot where space and shade are less of an issue, then either mounted on a rail system on the ground or on a pole stuck in the ground is an option.
  • Roof – Depending on the pitch (or angle) of your roof, your solar professional will determine if it is a suitable roof. If the pitch is considered severe, some installers might decline the project because of the increased difficulty. Also, the angle of the roof might leave your panels with drastically reduced efficiency.

Solar Panel Array Installation

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.

Return to Top

Solar Panel Array Costs

Solar panel mounting hardware

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.

  • Fixed – A fixed solar panel mount is cheaper because it costs less to produce and only performs one task, which is to hold the panels at a set angle. With a fixed mount, the panels are secured to a rail or track grid. They are available in configurations to house both 60 cell panels for residential and 72 cell panels for commercial, and they are very low profile, as they mount close to the roof. In addition to the lower cost, one additional benefit of a fixed mount is that in the case of a storm, it will withstand greater wind speed than an adjustable or tracking mount. Another type of fixed solar panel mount is when the panels are mounted on a pole in the ground, or they are installed in a grid on the ground if there is enough flat terrain.
  • Adjustable – The adjustable mount is a little more expensive than the fixed system as it has more parts and takes more engineering and manufacturing to produce. With the ability to tilt the entire array, it allows the solar panels to be set at a particular angle, giving the panels the opportunity to be more effective when compared to a fixed mount array. Adjustable mounts can either be mounted on the roof, on poles in the ground, or on the ground.
  • Tracking – Tracking solar panel mounts produce the very best efficiency resulting in more electricity from your solar panel array from the same sized area as a fixed mount. They garner more energy by adjusting throughout the day to keep the sunlight hitting the panels with a minimal angle of incidence. Depending on the geographic location of the solar panel installation, the increased output from your panels when mounted to a tracking system can be as much as 25% over a static or adjustable mount.

    Tracking mounts come in either single- or dual-axis versions, with the single axis typically following along the east-west arc tracking sunrise to sunset, while the dual axis includes motion along the arc for north and south tracking. The addition of north and south increases the efficiency even more than a single-axis mount, because it will allow for the changes in the height of the sun from seasonal variations.

Return to Top

Solar Companies

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.

Return to Top

How Do Solar Panels Work?

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.

How do solar panels work?

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.

Solar Panel Inverters

Return to Top

Selecting Your Solar Contractor

Where possible, add contractors to the list who have been referred by friends who have used them before, and when looking online.

Look for contractors who:

  • Are members of the Better Business Bureau
  • In business for many years
  • Have 5-star HomeGuide & Google reviews
  • Provide a great warranty. 25 years on panels, 5–10 years on inverters, and 10 years in installation labor are the norm.
  • Licensed, bonded, and insured
  • Drug test and background check employees
  • Will get all building approval and submit permit applications and order inspections (if required) for you
  • Will prepare a net metering agreement with your utility provider for you

Get free estimates on HomeGuide from trusted solar professionals:

Get free estimates

Solar Panel Installation
Looking for a solar panel pro?
Get free custom quotes from qualified solar panels pros in your area.

Looking for a solar panel pro near you?

Answer some questions

Let us know about your needs so we can bring you the right pros.

Get quotes

Receive quotes from multiple pros that meet your exact needs.

Hire the right pro

Compare quotes, message or call pros, and hire only when ready.