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How Much Does It Cost to Install Solar Panels?

Typically, people spend around $15420.77 to $17459.46 to have a 5kW solar panel system installed on their roof. A 5kW system is the most common-sized system for an American household.
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Estimated Solar Panel Installation Prices (typical 4-bedroom home)
Boston, MA$19543.75 - $22127.51
Des Moines, IA$13407.75 - $15180.31
Houston, TX$13599.50 - $15397.41
Indianapolis, IN$12862.00 - $14562.41
Kansas City, MO$14425.50 - $16332.61
Miami, FL$15635.00 - $17702.01
Minneapolis, MN$16372.50 - $18537.01
Pittsburgh, PA$13496.25 - $15280.51
San Francisco, CA$24190.00 - $27388.02
Tucson, AZ$14233.75 - $16115.51
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Factors that may impact the cost of solar panel installation:

1. Incentives, credits, and subsidies

Federal and state governments may subsidize or offer a credit to individuals that install solar panels on their home. These can allow for significant discounts, such as the federal investment tax credit (ITC) which may help you get back up to 30% of your installation cost.

Also, utility companies, local governments, or other supporters of solar power occasionally offer limited-time rebates for making the switch to solar.

Finally, something to know is that it’s common to overproduce solar power during certain times of year and under-produce during others. Utility companies often offer ‘net metering,’ meaning you can sell them your extra solar electricity that you are unable to use. Those credits carry over and are applied to your balance the next time you owe money to the utility. Be sure to confirm that your utility company does this, otherwise you may face additional costs to buy power during less sunny times of year.

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2. Current condition of your roof

How old is your roof? Solar panels often last 20+ years>. It does not make sense to put new solar panels on a roof that may need to be repaired or replaced soon. Removing the solar panels to make roof repairs is expensive! Some people decide to get a new roof at the same time they get solar panels installed in order to avoid that issue.

Even if you don’t think you need a new roof right now, this is a good time to have your roof inspected. You want to get any weak spots fixed before the solar panels are installed.

3. Roof materials and design

If you roof is very steep or has complex design elements (i.e. skylights or multiple levels), expect to pay more for solar panel installation.

Composite shingle roofing is an ideal base for solar panel installation. If your roof is made of something else, installation costs may be higher. Be sure to find a solar panel installer with experience working with your roof material.

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4. How much power you need

The capacity of a solar panel system is usually measured in watts or kilowatts (1 kilowatt = 1,000 watts). A 5 kilowatt (kW) system works well for most American households. However, you may need a higher capacity system if:

- Your house has big appliances like a hot tub, plasma TVs, or an extra refrigerator.
- You have a large family.
- You have an electric vehicle.
- You live in a more extreme climate with more demanding heating and/or cooling needs.

You can look at your billing statements from your utility company to see how many kWh your house uses throughout the year. Note that most people don’t aim for 100% solar power production – they might shoot for around 80% for example. This helps account for the ebbs and flows so that you’re not overproducing too much (especially if your utility company doesn’t offer net-metering).

5. Panel materials and brands

There are three common materials used for solar panels in the US, and each has its pros and cons. The cost varies a little bit between the three materials: monocrystalline is the most expensive, followed by polycrystalline, and thin-film is the cheapest. Also, some nationally recognized companies may charge more for their brand-name panels.

6. Your location

The cost to install solar panels varies depending on the going rate for installation labor in your area.

Also, the ultimate cost you end up paying to install solar and whether you achieve any cost savings on your utility bills as a result, depends largely on which state you live in and which utility company serves your household.

Because solar is a newer and less mainstream alternative energy source, the incentives and credits available in your state and local area are likely to change over time.

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Related Questions

Are solar panels efficient in the northern United States?Top answer: Yes (and are as efficient as panels placed in the south)

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