“How much does it cost to set up solar in your home?”
As a Southern-California Solar Panel installer, this is always one of the first questions we are asked. And understandably so.
However, the answer can be a little complicated. Even though we would love to have an exact dollar amount to give each person immediately, solar energy is not a one size fits all solution.
Each solar system is custom designed to meet a home’s specific needs, and also takes into consideration their tax and rebate benefits.
This is why several variables will impact the final cost.
A solar panel system is designed to cover as much of your energy usage as makes economic sense for you. It’s our goal to provide you with a system that fits your needs while delivering the shortest payback period and best return on your investment.
7 Pricing Factors for Solar Panel Systems
1) Type of Installation
There are many different types of solar panel installations. Roof mounts are the most common. However, ground mounts and carports installations can require additional posts that must be anchored into the ground. This can sometimes create higher labor and component costs.
2) Type of Equipment
The two basic variables with solar panels are power density and color.
Power density is the amount of power that a solar panel produces per unit of size. As a rule, the more ‘power dense’ the panel, the higher cost per watt. Color is the other variable with solar panels.
A basic panel has a blue cell, a white back sheet, and a silver frame. Modules with a black frame, will have a black back sheet, or black cell and are generally more expensive.
String Inverters: solar Panels are linked together in one or more groups. Each group feeds into a ‘string inverter,’ which feeds several panels into one inverter. String inverters tend to be more cost-effective than other types of inverters, and hence are a popular choice for homeowners.
Micro Inverters: microinverters are mounted next to individual solar panels and prevent performance issues if one or more of your solar panels are shaded. Although this type of inverter does have its benefits, they tend to be the more expensive type of inverter.
Power Optimizers: power optimizers have many of the benefits of micro-inverters. They are generally more expensive than string inverters but are less costly than micro-inverters.
3) Roof Type
Solar panels can be installed on metal, shingle, and flat roofs. Each type of roof requires different components and varying levels of labor to install.
Shingle roofs require a specific flashing piece to attach the panel racking to the roof. For a ribbed or standing seam metal roof, racking is connected directly to the metal. Panels are installed on a flat roof using a ballast mount – a tray held in place by a concrete block.
4) Energy Consumption
Most solar systems are designed to offset as much energy consumption as possible.. However, the more energy production needed, the more panels and equipment the system will require. There can often be a ‘sweet spot’ of cost and energy production that each homeowner needs to consider.
5) Shading & Weather
The environment surrounding your solar panels is critical to consider. Depending on how much shade your yard will impact the number of panels needed and the location. A system that is in full sun will potentially produce the more energy with fewer panels, whereas more shade will mean more panels to provide the same amount of energy.
As well as this, weather patterns in each region are different. In areas like San Diego solar panels are an ideal solution because the sun shines almost every day. In cloudy or snowy regions this is not the case. Today, most solar panel systems are designed with shade and weather variables in mind, and it will impact the system size and the equipment needed.
6) Interconnection Cost
Interconnection is the process of connecting your solar panel system to the community power grid. Each local utility has specific requirements that must be followed, and some of these could impact the type of meter you need, or whether transformer upgrades are required.
The interconnection cost is different for each project, depending on how much solar is already in your area, the age and strength of the equipment on your line, and the size of the solar array itself.
7) Distance to the Interconnection Point
Any unused power that is repurposed for net metering must be transported to the utility meter. The farther the solar panels (sometimes called a solar array) is from the interconnection point with the utility, the higher the cost can be. This is due to the conduit installation and the trenching required, as well as the size of wire needed. The farther the distance, the larger the wiring required.
The seven factors can affect the overall cost of solar panel installation and can require a custom quote for the solar installation. This is why working with a professional solar installer can help.