Plus, home energy technology is evolving so quickly that we're watching the design and costs of installing solar panels change right before our eyes. After the recent extension of the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), homeowners can take a 30% tax credit for solar panel installation until 2032. Add the savings from your electric bill, and you can help your solar panels pay for themselves.
We’ll take you through every cost consideration you’ll need to make before adding solar panels to your home.
Solar Panel Installation Cost by State
The cost to buy and install solar panels will vary significantly depending on where you live. If your area is teeming with solar panels, you’ll probably pay less than an area where you’ll be the solar panel trendsetter in your neighborhood. Other factors like the cost of living and the price of materials near you can also play a role.
The table below covers average costs for major cities across the U.S., but as always, a pro near you will be able to give you the most accurate price.
|State||Average Solar Panel Cost|
|Kansas City, MO||$35,100|
|Las Vegas, NV||$27,000|
|Little Rock, AR||$18,100|
|Los Angeles, CA||$26,300|
|New Orleans, LA||$18,900|
|New York City, NY||$25,600|
|Oklahoma City, OK||$29,000|
|Salt Lake City, UT||$21,900|
|Virginia Beach, VA||$35,500|
*City data unavailable for these states.
Solar Panel Installation Cost Factors
There’s a lot more that goes into your solar panel project than the panels themselves. The total cost to install solar panels roughly breaks down into:
25% labor and permits
25% maintenance and overhead
And once you really start digging in on your project, you’ll find just how unique your individual costs can be. Where you live, the type of solar panels you choose, the wattage you need, and the number of panels you install to power your home will all play a factor in your final price tag.
Type of Panel
There are three main factors to consider when choosing the type of solar panel that works best for your home: efficiency, life expectancy, and design. The first two aspects affect your bottom line and can determine how quickly you’ll need to re-up your panels. The design will dictate how much space the panels will take up on your home and whether they are flexible enough to attach to different types of structures. All in all, taking time to consider each of these factors will help you balance upfront vs. long-term costs.
Let's take a look at the three major players in the world of solar panels. Keep in mind that the following solar panel prices only include material costs.
Featuring high-purity silicon cut into wafer-like panels, you can expect top performance from monocrystalline panels—aka "mono" panels—without needing a ton of space. The solar panels cost $1 to $1.50 per watt. The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) notes that mono panels have an average lifespan of up to 40 years.
As the top competitor of mono panels, polycrystalline cells—which are made of melted and molded silicon—are a bit less energy efficient but take up about the same amount of space. These solar panels will cost $0.70 to $1 per watt with a lifespan of 25 to 30 years, according to ASES.
Thin film solar panels are the most flexible option today, mounting to glass and metal of varying shapes and angles. They can also tolerate higher heat, making them an excellent option for warmer climates. Expect to pay $1 and $1.50 per watt, but a bit more in the long run. ASES notes that thin film panels last just 10 to 20 years and come with a shorter warranty.
Number of Panels Needed
Whether you want to power your entire house using the sun’s rays or harness solar energy to supplement your electricity and reduce your home’s carbon footprint, the number of panels you need to achieve your goals will impact the total price of your solar panel installation.
On average, most homes need anywhere from 20 to 25 panels to fully power a home, but this can range from as little as 15 to as many as 34. How many panels you need depends on the number of watts per panel, your energy consumption, and the efficiency of your panels. Your average solar panel will have an output of anywhere from 250 to 400 watts. The dimension of your solar panels will also vary depending on the power output.
250-watt solar panels dimensions: The average 250-watt is approximately 65-by-39 inches or 17.5 square feet.
400-watt solar panel dimensions: The standard size of a 400-watt solar panel is 79-by-39 inches or 21.5 square feet.
Here’s a breakdown of the number of panels you might need depending on low-wattage and high-wattage solar panels. These figures assume the panels receive an average amount of sunlight—between five and six hours of full sun daily—and you consume the national average of 10,715 kWh of electricity annually.
|Panel Capacity (W)||Number of Panels||Price Range|
|Low-wattage panel (250 W)||28 – 34 solar panels||$17,500 – $29,750|
|High-wattage panel (400 W)||15 – 30 solar panels||$15,000 – $42,000|
Unless you live in a location that receives consistent sunlight (and lucky you, if you do!), most solar panels don’t perform at peak efficiency. The amount of sunlight your roof receives could lower the efficiency of your panels by up to 25%, depending on the day. For this reason, it’s a good idea to factor in your climate and increase the number of panels if rain, snowfall, or tree coverage could jeopardize how much solar energy your panels produce.
If you live in a cloudy New England town, there's no question why you may pay a bit more than a sun-soaked area of Arizona. The cost of labor and local incentives—even at the county level—will contribute to how much you'll pay out of pocket for solar installation.
Not to mention, the cost of living varies from state to state and even from rural to metropolitan areas. Solar companies in some states have more competitive prices than companies in other states, too. Much like shopping in bulk versus shopping small, you’ll notice higher prices in states that have a lower demand for solar panels. In states with larger system sizes and a higher demand, the prices will be lower per watt, but the size itself may make it appear like prices are higher.
Hiring an experienced pro to install your solar panels is key to making the most of this exciting new home addition. Budget $0.50 per watt for labor when you hire a professional solar panel installer near you. This number does not include permits or the cost of additional technology such as special mounts, tiles, or shingles. Labor will also vary widely depending on the cost of living in your area, availability of materials, and local incentives—but we'll dive into these more below.
Between the cost of materials and labor, you will pay between $2.50 and $3.50 per watt for solar panel installation.
The number of watts necessary for your solar panel system varies widely. While the average home will require around 6kW—or 6,000 watts—the number needed for your home will depend on:
The amount of direct sun on your home.
Your local climate.
The structure of your home.
The return on investment will also depend on local tax incentives and local utility prices—as you will almost always need to stay connected to the grid to offset energy usage.
Your roof's pitch—or the steepness of its slope—and access to your installation area can also affect solar panel prices. If pros need to work on a super steep roof or navigate through a tree-filled lawn, these factors may be reflected in the overall cost.
While roofs with lower pitches that are easy to access may cost less, flat roofs could actually cost more because solar panels will need an angled platform for maximum sun exposure. Your roof’s direction also plays a role, with roofs that face the south, west, or southwest receiving the most sunlight.
“Before installing solar, check the age and condition of roof shingles,” says Bob Tschudi, Angi Expert Review Board Member and North Carolina-based home builder and remodeler. “If your roof is 20 years or older, you might want to consider replacing the roofing before installing the solar panels.”
Much like picking a prime spot during a beach day, you’ll want to set your solar panels up to catch the maximum amount of sun. Panels come with mounting equipment that either stays in place or can rotate to catch the most rays. The more advanced the technology, the higher the upfront cost.
Fixed mounts: These mounts stay put, so are ideal for areas with constant sun from all angles. You'll pay $10 to $15 a piece for fixed mounts.
Adjustable mounts: Shift your solar panels in the winter or on cloudy days to grab the most sunlight for maximum efficiency. Adjustable models will cost about $50 per mount.
Tracking: The most high-tech mounts will cost between $500 and upwards of $3,000 per mount. These mounts can self-track the sunlight, leading to up to 45% more energy production.
You cannot have a functional solar panel system without an inverter. You can thank this nifty device for helping to turn solar power into electricity that you can use to rev up your beloved stand mixer. According to Energy.gov, the inverter converts direct current electricity (which is what a solar panel produces) to alternative electricity we can use in our homes. An inverter comprises about 10% of the total cost, often around $1,500.
Additional materials, such as wiring and a standard storage battery, are often grouped with the package price unless you opt for add-on services that we'll touch on below.
It’s important to shop around before embarking on a solar panel project. Different solar companies may charge different rates for panels, even if they’re selling products from the same manufacturers. Again, this comes down to your location, with some solar companies only offering services in certain states.
The cost of solar panels also depends on the quality of the products. Low-range quotes that seem too good to be true may be exactly that. An unreputable company can lead to a poor installation, which in turn leads to costly repairs down the road. It’s always a good idea to check reviews, research the company in question, and thoroughly vet them before you decide to hire a solar company. It’s also wise to compare solar quotes from at least three companies.
Solar Panel Manufacturers
While solar companies can change up the prices of solar panels depending on competition, solar panel manufacturers offer quotes separately. For the most part, you’ll hire a solar company to take care of the purchasing and installation process, but below is a breakdown of some of the prices per watt for various solar panel manufacturers:
|Solar Panel Manufacturer||Cost per Watt (Material Only)|
Permits and Inspections
Depending on your area, you may need to get a building permit and an inspection before you can unveil your new solar panels. Permits and inspections will add an average of $450 to the solar panel costs.
You’ll have to pay separate fees if you acquire the permit yourself. If you hire a professional solar company to tackle the job, this expense typically goes into your estimate. Check with your solar company before you get started to ensure they’ll cover and apply for the permit on your behalf. No two companies are the same, and you may be required to handle this on your own.
Many states have a net-metering program that you’ll need to sign an agreement to enroll in before you can receive a permit. This auto-enrollment program gives the utility company access to excess electricity that your solar system produces to help reduce your energy costs.
Additional Solar Panel Costs to Consider
You'll pay about $700 for the cost of repairing your solar panels, but this vastly ranges depending on the size of the repair. Basic maintenance, such as cleaning your solar panels, will cost between $10 and $20 per panel. On the other hand, a cracked panel can cost up to $500. This overhead cost will vary depending on your local climate and the severity of seasonal storms.
Below are common maintenance and repair costs to keep in mind when going solar:
Yearly inspection cost: $150–$300
Solar panel cleaning costs: $150–$750
Tree trimming costs: $50–$200
Loose wiring cost: $100–$200
Solar panel repair cost: $95–$3,500
Hail damage repair cost: $120–$500 per panel
Cracked panel cost: $150–$500 per panel
Solar panel inverter replacement cost: $1,000–$2,000
Roof repair cost: $800
Solar Panel Maintenance
You may rightfully breathe a sigh of relief when your solar panels are finally up, but it’s important to remember your work is not quite done thanks to ongoing maintenance. For instance, you may find after a few years that a nearby tree has grown large enough to block the sunlight to your home. You’ll need to remove the tree for your solar panels or trim the branches to eliminate the shade.
You should also have your solar panels inspected and cleaned at least once per year. Pro tip: You can book both services at the same time to make things a bit easier. If a severe storm strikes, or you’ve had several weeks of heavy snow, rain, or wind, it’s also wise to call a pro to check out your panels to ensure they didn’t suffer any damage.
“We recently installed a solar panel system on a coastal property prior to a hurricane,” says Tschudi. “This involved installing special anti-wind mounts to secure the panels in high winds. The extra cost was well worth it, as the panels weathered the storm perfectly and continued to supply energy.”
Solar Panel Repairs
As with any new addition to your home, you should also factor in the likely possibility of repairs into your long-term solar panel price. Most homeowners spend between $200 and $1,250 on solar panel repairs, or an average of $720. But what you'll pay for solar repairs depends on the type of panel, its size, and the extent of its damage. Small fixes could cost as little as $100, while extensive repairs or replacements could add up to $3,600 or more.
In general, most homeowners find that they'll have to replace broken solar panel glass, cracked panels, and loose wire connections. Most solar pro hourly rates cost about $100 for repair work. You'll have to budget for that, plus the cost of any additional materials you may need. You may also need to pay for any changes or repairs to your roof while the pro is fixing your solar panels.
Ways to Save Money When Installing Solar Panels
Sometimes you have to spend money to save money, and solar panels are no different. Saving money on any energy source comes down to balancing upfront and long-term costs. In many cases, the more advanced the system, the more energy and money you'll save on bills in the future.
For instance, you may save money on energy efficiency by installing more advanced mounting systems or choosing higher-quality panels—but these will come at a cost when you first go to install them.
Government Credits and Tax Incentives
The best way to save money on the upfront costs of installing solar panels is to take advantage of the Solar Investment Tax Credit. This credit was passed in 2022 as part of the Inflation Reduction Act and allows homeowners to claim federal income taxes on the price of solar panel systems, making solar energy more affordable for everyday homeowners looking for clean energy alternatives to the electrical grid.
As noted above, you can write 30% off installation costs for that tax year from your federal filing until 2032. Since the average cost of a solar panel system is $26,000, this means you’ll save around $7,800 on an average-sized solar panel system.
These tax savings don’t last forever, however, so you’ll want to take advantage of the credits before they decrease incrementally. In 2033, this tax credit for solar panel systems will decrease to 26%. It will then decrease to 22% come 2034 before it expires in 2035.
Many states and counties offer additional credits and incentives than the ones you’ll find at the federal level. According to EcoWatch, states with the best solar panel system tax rebates and incentives include the following:
Additionally, the extra power you choose not to store in a battery can be sent back to the grid. Your local utility company will compensate you for that power, but the amount will vary. You can check the Utility Rate Database to estimate how much you can expect to receive for generating excess energy.
Financing Solar Panels
There are three main ways that you can finance solar panels, including paying in full, a solar loan, or a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA).
Once you’ve paid for the panels, you’ll begin to reap the benefits of virtually no electrical bills if you install a robust enough system. To help estimate just how much you might save, consult the chart below to see how much the typical household spends per month on electrical bills. Keep in mind that you’ll need to subtract the cost of your solar panels from these costs to accurately estimate how much you could save.
|Electrical Bills (per Month)||10-Year Cost||25-Year Cost|
Paid in Full
If you have the capital, paying cash is the best financial option, as you can avoid paying interest on financing. By paying in full for your solar panels, you can start immediately reaping the benefits of lower energy bills and federal tax credits. You'll also have an immediate boost to your home's value without the worry of paying off your system.
With the federal tax credit, this option is becoming more affordable than ever before. Still, paying the entire solar panel price upfront may be financially out of reach for many homeowners.
If you don’t have the cash to buy a solar panel system on the spot, you can take out a solar loan. This option is best for those who want the benefits and savings of solar panels without the high upfront costs. In some cases, you don’t even need to put money down to have solar panels. Due to interest, you’ll pay more over time with a solar panel loan than you would with paying in full, but you’ll still save on your electricity bill.
Solar Lease or Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
A third, lesser-known option is to utilize a solar lease or PPA. Both options require a third-party company that owns, installs, and maintains the solar panel system for you and sells the electricity to you at a fixed, predetermined rate.
This type of lease saves you on the cost of electricity and also saves you the trouble of having to maintain solar panels, but you won’t receive tax incentives or rebates, you won’t own the panels, and you’ll pay more than you would if you paid in full or took out a loan. With a lease, you'll have to sign an agreement with the owner that locks in a rate for a certain amount of time—25 years is common.
When to Install Solar Panels to Save Money
Although a sunny day may seem like a distant memory during many parts of winter, you can save money by installing solar panels while it’s still chilly outside. Winter is considered the best time to book the project because it's typically the off-season for solar pros.
Winter solar installation may cost less than in spring or summer because there is less demand for the service. Another perk to having a pro install a solar system during the winter is that they may complete the work faster than average since they have fewer jobs on the books. And don’t fret; it's likely that you will still generate at least some energy, even if the weather is cold and cloudy.
How Much Money Do Solar Panels Save?
On average, you can expect to save between $650 and $1,500 per year on your electric bills by switching to solar energy. Since the typical solar panel system costs around $26,000, once you’ve paid off your system, your electrical bills could be close to nothing.
With the new tax credit, your total cost will also decrease to around $18,200 on average. However, every state and area has different electricity rates, so keep this in mind as you budget.
To give you a little preview of all the money you could be getting back, below is a breakdown of how much money homeowners in different states could save each year based on average energy consumption (10,715 kWh per year).
|State||Average Annual Electric Bill Savings|
The average number of sunny days in your area affects more than just your happiness levels: It also will influence how much money you save on your utility bills. As you might have guessed, more sunlight equals more solar energy production and greater savings on your utility bill. Certain parts of the country, like Florida and California, tend to get more sunny daylight hours than other, cloudier areas, like Washington or Vermont.
Other factors like your home's orientation toward the sun, nearby shady buildings or trees, and the shape of your roof will also impact how much sunlight your panels collect. Online calculators, like SolarReviews, help you determine the efficiency of your home's solar panels based on typical local sunlight.
Cost to Install Solar Panels Yourself
We all love a good DIY project, but installing solar panels is probably not the best one. While you can technically purchase and install solar panels yourself, we don’t recommend it. Installing solar panels requires experience with the technology, knowledge of how to mount the system on your rooftop, electrical wiring, and climbing on rooftops with heavy equipment. Improper installation can void your warranty, as well, leaving you to pay for damaged panels. In some states, this type of installation also requires a specialized solar contractor license.
There’s also the risk of falling off of the roof or suffering from electrical shock. By now, you probably understand why you’ll want to leave this one to the pros. A local solar panel installation company will know all the ins and outs of safely and correctly installing your solar panels to increase your system’s efficiency.
You can find DIY solar panel installation kits for between $1 to $2 per watt, just a bit under what it costs in total to hire a solar pro, so DIY installation won’t really save you much money, either. Keep in mind that you will also still likely need to pay for a building permit and inspection costs, depending on your local laws. Hiring the best solar panel team can help you spend your Saturday lounging on the porch rather than taking on a perilous DIY.
Cost of Common Solar Panel Add-Ons
Solar panels are an exciting and emerging technology, so there are plenty of ways to get a bit fancy with your project. Though any upgrades will increase your bragging rights, they’ll also likely increase the cost of solar panels for your home. Here are two common options you may want to consider.
Shingles and Tiles
Solar panel shingles and tiles attach right to your roof without the additional panel and wiring. They act as both a protective layer on your roof and a means of converting the sun into electricity.
Solar tile and shingle prices are significant, though. Tesla tiles will range between $40,000 and $80,000 for materials and installation, while more basic solar tiles will cost from $23,000 to $52,000.
Additional battery storage comes in handy when you want to prevent power loss in a storm or after a long stretch without sunny skies. The average cost of a solar panel backup battery is $10,000 but ranges from $300 to $20,000.
How Are Solar Panels Installed?
Solar panel installation is a complex process; it involves a lot more than simply placing some shiny panels on your roof and calling it a day. While your installer will be familiar with every step needed to take your solar panels from the ordering screen to your roof, it never hurts to brush up on what to expect.
Ensure Solar Energy Compatibility
Before installation begins, double-check that your home is compatible with the solar system you're installing. Check your roofing measurements and ensure that the space is large enough for the panels you've chosen. Your electrical panel should also be up to date and in good enough shape that it doesn't need to be replaced any time soon.
Confirm How Many Solar Panels Are Needed
Again, a pro will probably be the best one to help you here, but you can use the following information to confirm the right number of solar panels for your home:
How much energy your household uses.
How many hours of strong sun your home gets.
The wattage of the panels you've chosen.
Multiply your energy usage by hours of sunlight, then divide your result by panel wattage. The final number you calculate will be the number of panels you need. Depending on the efficiency of your panels and your local climate, you may want to create an energy buffer by installing 25% more panels than you think you need.
Prepare for Installation
As you’ve probably picked up by now, solar panel requirements are unique for every project, and often vary by location. Take the following steps in advance so you can be prepared when you're ready to install your system, no matter where you call home.
Apply for Permits
Obtain all the proper permits from your local authorities. Waiting for approval and scheduling inspections are often the most time-consuming parts of a solar panel installation project.
Apply for Incentives
State, local, and federal incentive programs can help you make the most of your solar investment. Before starting any physical work, look into any tax credits, rebates, or grants you may qualify for to help offset your costs.
Complete the Solar Panel Installation
With everything else in place, it’s finally installation day. Most solar systems include the following:
Before you connect your new solar system to your home's energy panel, double-check (or, ideally, have a pro double-check) that all wiring is correct.
Depending on your local laws, you may need to pay for an inspection once your solar system is fully installed and taking in the rays on your roof. But the work doesn’t stop there: You should also have your panels cleaned and inspected annually.
Nick Cellucci contributed to this piece.