How much do solar panels cost?
The cost of electricity keeps going up, which makes the solar option make much more sense. This is why in the last few years, installing a solar system has become much more popular. But what factors determine your solar panels cost? A system is designed specifically for the individual needs of the home or business it will be serving. You may decide to only take the sting off of your power bill. This is done by offsetting the kilowatt usage in high price brackets. You you may want to offset your bill completely. Others might have specific devices that the solar panels will power. Since some homes are being sold with a solar system included, it makes sense for prospective purchasers to have an idea of what they system is worth. In this way they can more easily compare it to a home or business without a solar system. (For more on increased home value read this article: How Much Do Solar Panels Boost Home Prices)
Here are the main factors that will determine your solar panels cost:
1) How much does it cost currently to manufacture a solar cell.
2) How large of a solar system are you interested in.
3) The type and numbers of inverters used
4) How the cells will be affixed to the property home or business
5) Labor rates of installers in your area.
6) Incentives and Rebates
Solar Cell Manufacturing Cost
This is by far the most important factor in determining the solar panels cost. Here are the items that influence the costs of solar cells.
Type of Technology Utilized
Some cells will not last long. As time goes on, they will only produce a fraction of the energy that they once did. Manufactures will give life expectancy information on their websites. It is recommended to compare two different solar panels cost by ignoring overall costs and comparing them on price per watt. High quality cells may cost more, but produce more electricity per dollar. Descriptions of the technologies used is beyond the scope of this article (but if your interested read this article: Solar Panels Cost In US). Just know that there are multiple technologies, and your climate, sun exposure, and purpose, will determine their benefits. It is possible to utilize bulk sales of broken solar cells and solder them together in order to make a panel by yourself, but this would only be a viable option for an extreme do-it-yourself enthusiast, with many hours of time available to dedicate to the project. Manufactured cells can cost between $3.40 per watt to $7.40 per watt.
Solar System Size
Your monthly usage during the last year will give you an idea of how big your solar panel system should be, and thus your solar panels cost. Also ask yourself if you intend to take other measures first. Your energy usage and needed size will change if you plan on taking one or more of the following actions:
- Turning lights of when you leave the room
- Replacing incandescent bulbs with energy efficient bulbs
- Replacing electric cook tops with gas
- Turning down the thermostat
- Replacing inefficient windows
If none of these factors will be changing you have a good idea of what your electrical requirements are. You’ll now need to determine if you just want a system to keep you out of the higher cost energy brackets, or offset your entire bill. In some instances its possible to generate more than what you use, and get paid by your electric company for overage.
Number of Inverters
Recently, solar panels cost has been impacted by significant developments in inverter technology. Traditionally one inverter services the entire system. The downside is that if a single panel fails, the entire system won’t work. Recently, inverter technology has reduced the cost of inverters so that each panel may have its own. When an individual panel fails, only that panels output is disrupted.
A portion of your solar panels cost will be determined by your installation location. It is much more costly to install panels on the roof rather than the ground. Ground installation is rare because of the space required, and minimum distances from other objects or utility systems.
Do it yourselfers may keep their solar panels cost low by only using an electrician for final hookup, or a roofer to only mount the brackets. It has been estimated that hiring a pro will average $6 per watt in labor costs alone. However this is highly dependent on the labor market and employment regulations in your area. Some areas with high unemployment, and inexpensive workers compensation can get the job done much cheaper than areas that are experiencing industry booms (like oil exploration). Cost of living also sets wage rates on the coasts as compared to more interior rural areas.
Incentives and Rebates
Local, state, and federal governments each have varying discounts, credits, and rebates. Some local municipalities also give discounts for reducing your energy usage by a certain % each year. State incentives are the most lucrative; however, you might want to speak with your accountant to fully understand the impact. State tax credits may not benefit you if you regularly pay little or no state tax. There are a handful of states that do not have state income tax.