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So How Much Does Solar Panel Installation Cost?

When looking for information about solar panel installation cost, you may have already discovered that there is can be a huge difference in “approximate costs”, from one person or place to the next.  While one on-line source indicates that the total cost of solar panel installation is between $30,000 and $40,000 another estimates that is less than $5,000. This difference in opinion can be both frustrating and confusing for the average homeowner. 

This article will address the main reasons for the variations in estimates as well as the main factors which influence installation costs. Additionally, you will find information that you can use to help determine the price of the specific job you want to complete, in clear language that you can understand.

Project Size

The most important factor in determining the overall cost of a solar panel installation project is size. The size of the project, however, is not determined by the number of square feet, as with most other home improvement projects. Solar panel installations are generally priced by the amount of wattage you need the panels to produce. Prices range between $2.90 and $9.80 per watt. In general, however, the more wattage you require for your project, the lower the per watt price.

5,000 Watt

Projects which require over 5,000 watts of solar powered electricity often receive a lower price per watt rate than those under 5,000 watts. According to a study funded in part by the United States Department of Energy, the average cost of an installed solar panel system over 5,000 watts was between $3.80 and $4.40 per watt. While prices did fluctuate between $2.90 and $6.20, these differences could be accounted for by special circumstances within the projects studied.

Less that 10 kw

The average price per watt of for installing solar panels which provided less than 10kw was between $6.30 and $8.40 in 2010. These prices are more realistic and typical of what an average home owner might expect to pay, once all of the variables are taken into consideration.

Other Factors

According to the report “Tracking the Sun IV: An Historical Summary of the Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998 to 2010," by Galen Barbose, Naïm Darghouth, and Ryan Wiser, size is not the only factor which creates such a large difference in cost. Regional differences in price can be another major factor which comes into play. Areas where solar energy is employed frequently, such as in the western and southern portions of the US, have a wider variety of choices in installation providers, which leads to lower prices, based on the principles of supply and demand.

The study also determined that there is a significant difference in price between solar panel installation in new construction (whether residential or commercial) as compared to existing dwelling installation costs. The cost per watt is considerably higher for existing dwellings.

Incentives and Rebate Programs

Many estimates calculate in the amount of federal, local and utility company rebates a home-owner may be entitled to. In 2010, however, the number and amount of rebates for solar panel installation declined, as has been the trend since these were first introduced in 2002. While there are still many rebate and incentive programs available to home-owners, the amount offered can differ greatly from state to state, as well as between utility companies, even within the same state or region.

Type of Panel

Solar panels can be made out of several different materials. Mono-crystalline silicon and poly-crystalline silicon are the two most commonly used substances. Prices for solar panels made out of either of these materials are relatively equal. Cadmium Telluride solar panels, however, cost significantly less to manufacture, making these panels less expensive for the consumer.

Determining Cost

The final cost of a solar panel installation will vary most, according the amount of wattage you need for your project. Once you have determined this, the next step is to determine the type of solar panel you want to use in your business or residence. Finally, as with any major purchase, it's best to shop around, getting as many estimates as possible, before making a final decision.



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