The solar capacity in the United States is an estimated 97.2 gigawatts. That’s enough to power 18 million average American households. Have you been thinking about making the switch away from traditional power yourself?
By doing so, you could save a significant amount of money on your monthly utility bills. Solar power is cleaner and more cost-effective in the long run, but there are upfront expenses to consider.
What is the average cost of solar panels today? In this post, we’re breaking down all of the different factors that can affect the bottom-line price.
The Type of Solar Panel Installation
Solar panel prices are not equal across the board. The specific type of installation you choose will make a difference in the price you pay. Most homeowners choose to mount the panels on their roofs.
However, you can also install them in other locations, such as a shed or carport. Or, you can install them on the ground. If you go this route, you will pay a little more because there are additional posts that the installers must place in the ground.
This means you’ll pay more for materials, as well as extra labor hours. Take the time to research solar information to make sure you understand the general installation process before you begin.
Your Roof Style
When a solar installer visits your home for an initial inspection, they’ll pay close attention to the type of roof that’s on your house. They will require different materials depending on the shape and style of your roof.
For instance, if your roof is completely flat, they’ll need to use a ballast mount. This is a special tray that’s secured to your roof by a block of concrete. It helps to angle the panels, so they can absorb as much sunlight as possible.
If you have a shingled roof, they’ll affix the panel racking via a piece of metal flashing.
They won’t need this flashing if you have a metal or standing seam roof. In that case, the racking attaches directly to the metal. There’s a price associated with each of these accessories and components, so that’s why an inspection is necessary.
The Age of Your Roof
You might not be thinking about this particular home project yet, but if your roof is old or damaged in any way, then you may need to replace it before installing a solar panel system.
In theory, this timeline makes sense. Panel installation is a laborious and time-consuming process, and you only want to pay for it one time. If you have only a few years of life left on your roof, go ahead and install a new one before you even think about adding a solar system.
While this will undoubtedly add additional costs to your project, you’ll save money in the long term. This project may be even more expensive if you need to address structural issues with your roof before you can replace it. If you proceed without correcting these problems, then you may need to reinstall or re-wire the panels down the road.
The Power Density of Your Panels
When buying solar panels, it’s also important to check the power density offered by each make and model. This is a critical component of each panel, along with its designated color.
Put simply, this metric describes the amount of solar power that a panel can produce per unit. If a panel is more power-dense, then you’ll enjoy access to stronger energy output. However, you’ll also pay a higher cost for that additional wattage.
Tracking Systems or Smart Tools
Want to monitor the output of your solar panels right from your smartphone or another device? Some manufacturers will allow you to purchase tracking systems that keep you in the loop at all times.
This way, you can make adjustments if you see that an individual panel isn’t performing as it should. Or, you can install additional panels in a section of the grid that needs a performance boost. With some systems, you can even identify issues in real-time, so you can contact your installer for maintenance and repair services before the problem worsens.
Your installer can help you understand all of the tools available, but keep in mind that these will come at an additional cost.
The Color of Your Panels
As mentioned, solar panels can come in a variety of different colors. Standard panels consist of blue cells attached against a solid white back sheet, all outlined by silver framing. While these are the most economical and readily available panels, you can also go darker to attract even more heat from the sun.
There are solar panels that feature a black cell, a black back sheet, and a black frame. In addition to being somewhat more effective, they are also sleeker and blend in better with a darker roof. However, they will also come at a higher price point.
The Type of Inverter
In a solar panel installation, the inverter plays a major role. When solar panels collect sunlight, it’s stored as direct current (DC) energy. To be useful within your home, that energy must be converted to alternating current (AC) energy.
Before it enters your house, it will travel through the inverter. This component transforms the DC energy into AC energy. There are a few main types of inverters, and each one has a different associated cost.
As their name implies, micro inverters are very small. The installer can place one directly adjacent to each solar panel for maximum efficiency. This way, if one particular panel is in the shade or shrouded in some way, the overall system performance won’t suffer.
These are the most expensive types of inverters on the market.
While micro inverters are placed next to specific panels, string inverters can power several panels at a time. Installers will use these inverters if your panels are linked together into groups, rather than placed individually on your roof.
These tend to cost less than micro inverters, and are more common.
A power optimizer connects to each solar module. It’s designed to increase the energy output of each photovoltaic panel by actively tracking its maximum power point (MPPT).d
In many ways, these function similarly to micro inverters. However, they tend to be less expensive and are often easier to install.
Your Home’s Location
Certain properties are better equipped to reap the benefits of home solar panels than others.
For instance, if your yard is super shady, then you will likely require a greater number of solar panels to capture as much energy as possible. However, if your home is located in full sun, then you won’t need as many panels to achieve the same output.
In addition, it’s also important to keep your local climate in mind. If you experience a substantial amount of rain or lots of cloudy days, then you’ll also need a more robust solar system to accommodate for those extended periods of downtime.
Thankfully, most modern solar systems are designed to accommodate those variables. However, you may still need to purchase more panels if your environment or climate requires it.
Tax Incentives to Offset the Cost
While the factors above can drive up solar panel prices, you may be able to get a tax break depending on where you live. Many cities and government authorities will offer these breaks to encourage homeowners to make the switch to solar power.
Usually, they’ll apply these savings at the beginning to help you save on the total cost of the installation. While they may sound ideal, make sure they apply to your case before agreeing to them. In some cases, contractors may be required to charge the homeowner full price because of a certain situation or scenario that deems them ineligible for the rebate.
Depending on your setup, you may also be able to sell your excess solar energy back to the grid through a process known as net metering. This is another way to offset the cost of a new solar panel system, but it isn’t available to every homeowner. Always ask about any special cost savings before agreeing to the price of an install!
The Average Cost of Solar Panels Is Variable
There isn’t a standard number that describes the average cost of solar panels. The price of each system will vary depending on the number of panels you need and the type of inverter you select, as well as other factors such as the color and power density of your panels.
Read over all of the fine print with your solar installer. Then, you can install your new system and start enjoying the cleaner, more eco-friendly power.
Looking for more advice on how to power your home with the best gadgets? Check out the guides in our Technology section!
Vivek is a published author of Meidilight and a cofounder of Zestful Outreach Agency. He is passionate about helping webmaster to rank their keywords through good-quality website backlinks. In his spare time, he loves to swim and cycle. You can find him on Twitter and Linkedin.