The key things you need to know about solar panels for home in 2020
Written by Andrew Sendy
Updated August 12, 2021
10 minutes read
Solar panel cost has fallen approximately 85% over the last ten years.
The average cost of a residential solar panel installation in the United States is now under $3.00 per watt meaning the cost of an average-sized system (6kW) is now under $13,320 after the federal solar tax credit.
Furthermore, some clever financial types have also realized that solar savings are very bankable. They have packaged up super competitive zero down offers that allow you to save money without an outlay to purchase a system. You can compare these offers through the estimator above
Can I get $0 down solar panels for home and still save a lot of money?
The calculator above works out how many solar panels you need from the location of your home and $ value of your power bill.
It then calculates the cost and savings based on local system prices of solar companies near you and also the rates charged by your utility company.
You are given an option to view the system price as either a cash purchase or zero down loan product. If you select the zero down loan product it will show you the monthly payment on the solar loan and also the monthly electric bill savings.
If the savings are more than the payment then it is a true risk-free profit. In 2020 most American homeowners can get this risk free profit but things are changing in 2021.
Can I fit enough solar panels on my house to power my entire home?
The estimator above will also scan your roof and tell you how many solar panels can fit and how many solar panels you need to power your home.
You need about 65 square feet of roof space for 1 kW of solar panels.
Given a home solar system for an average-sized 2000 square foot home in the USA is 7 kW (20 x 350 watt panels) then this is approximately 450 square feet.
The estimator will show you if you can fit enough solar panels on your roof to cover your power use. It will also show you the best place for them to go.
What solar tax credits, rebates or other solar incentives is my home eligible for?
If you buy home solar panels outright in 2020 you are entitled to a 26% federal tax credit. This falls to 22% in 2021 and to nothing in 2022.
You may also be entitled to state and local utility rebates or credits. The estimator above will also tell you what other state or local solar incentives are available for your specific home and how much those, and the 26% federal solar tax credit, will reduce the cost of your system.
If you choose a zero down loan then you can still keep the tax credit. If you use one of the third-party-owned zero down solar leases or PPA agreements then the solar company keeps the tax credits.
Should I buy, loan or lease the solar panels for my house?
You will save more over the longer term by buying the solar system outright but it means you need to find a spare $13,000 or more. Most of us don't have that kind of change lying around.
If you are not in a financial position to do this we would suggest a zero down loan or a HELOC loan rather than a lease or PPA agreement so you keep the tax credits.
Should I wait for the cost of residential solar panels to drop further?
No, we do not think you should wait because at the end of this year the federal solar tax credit drops. At the end of 2021, it is gone altogether.
Although solar panel cost has fallen around 85% over the last ten years it fell only a few percent in both 2018 and 2019. We do not expect any future fall would be enough to offset the decline in the value of the solar tax credit.
What is net metering? Am I eligible?
Net metering is a law where the Public Utility Commission (PUC) in your state requires your utility to pay you at or close to full retail rates for the solar energy that your system exports to the grid when your home is not using very much power. Usually during the middle of the day.
There are net metering laws in around 35 states but these laws usually only apply to investor-owned utilities and not municipal utilities.
Net metering is a very important solar incentive because the nature of home solar systems is that they produce most of their power during the middle of the day when you are at work or school.
The estimator at the top of the page will show you if you are eligible for net metering. If you are a customer of an investor-owned utility you most likely will be eligible.
How do solar panels work on homes?
Solar panels for residential buildings are different from other types of solar power systems because they are usually going to connect to the local utility grid system. Your house runs on solar power when your solar system is producing enough, and off of utility power at night, or at other times when you are not generating enough solar power to meet the electric needs of your home
Do solar panels keep generating power when the utility grid fails?
No...The inverter must shut down your solar energy system if the grid goes down so that a linesman working on the lines is not shocked by the solar electricity from your solar panels. This need to shut down often makes solar customers upset because it is when the electric grid is down that solar customer would like to have their solar working as backup power.
Will my solar panels be connected to the grid?
Is it worth fitting a solar battery when buying residential solar panels in 2019?
The economic case for solar batteries is becoming more favorable.
This is particularly true in California where homeowners are being forced by their utilities to go onto a "time-of-use" electric plans that have expensive peak times and cheap off-peak times. California also has an SGIP solar battery rebate.
These time of use plans create a use for batteries for peak load shifting. Peak load shifting is when your solar battery charges during the cheap off-peak period for electric rates. You then use this power during the expensive peak period.
There are now three really good home energy storage battery options available in the market.
The 13.5 kWh Tesla Powerwall which costs around $10,500 fully installed, the Sonnen Eco which is around $13,500 for a similar size (The Sonnen Eco comes in several sizes). Both of these are AC coupled home energy storage options. These products suit retrofits to existing solar panels on homes.
There is also the StorEdge solution from SolarEdge who is a leading inverter and optimizer company. This is a DC-coupled solution so is better suited to a completely new installation using SolarEdge optimizers on the solar panels.
What is the difference between residential solar panels and other types of solar panels?
Solar panels for homes are typically higher wattage and have higher voltage compared with solar panels for off-grid applications such as RV’s, caravans, solar pumps, and boats. A typical solar panel for a caravan or boat will be between 80-150 watts whereas an average size residential solar panel in the US in 2018 is between 265 and 365 watts. This is because the electronics used in off-grid or mobile applications such as campers usually operate at 24 or 48 volts and so panels suiting these voltages are needed for these applications.
The reason they operate at these voltages is that most of the off-grid battery chargers and battery inverters are built for these system sizes. Residential solar panels have higher voltages and wattage because the grid-connected string inverters that they feed power to have much higher voltage windows ranging from 400 to 600 volts.
How much will solar panels save my house?
The estimator above will calculate exactly how much solar panels will save on your home.
How much does home solar save on the average home in each state?
The table below that we have borrowed from our sister site SolarReviews shows the average amount that residential solar panels save on the average home in each state in 2020.
|City||State||Average cost of Utility power $/kWh||Annual Production of a 6 kW system in kWh||Savings Month 1||25 year profit (savings less cost)|
|New York||New York||0.13||6882||$73.41||$23,670.01|
|Washington||District of Columbia||0.12||7620||$76.20||$24,570.27|
What are the best brands of residential solar panels for your home?
You can find both expert reviews of the best solar panels for homes in 2020 on our site and also information about how to get the best deal on a system.
What are the most efficient solar panels for homes?
SolarReviews has published an article showing the most efficient solar panels on the market in 2020.
What is interesting about this is that the three leaders, SunPower solar panels, LG Solar and Panasonic Solar regarding efficiency are significantly more expensive than the other tier 1 solar panels.
It is important to remember that - all other things being equal - two solar panels of the same wattage (say 300 watts) but different solar panel efficiency should still produce the same amount of power. Both are rated at 300 watts because at standard test conditions this is what they produced. The more efficient solar panels may be slightly smaller, but the output will be the same.
As such, I think some of the other tier 1 solar panels such as Canadian Solar, Trina Solar and others may produce just as much electricity at a cheaper cost.
How do I find the best local residential solar panel installation companies near me?
You can find the best-rated solar companies near you on SolarReviews.
SolarReviews publishes over 30,000 reviews of solar companies as well as a significant amount of consumer education information.
If you choose to go through and register on the estimator at the top of this page then after your online estimate you will have the choice to ask between 1-4 solar companies.
Solar-Estimate has a network of over 300 great local solar companies servicing almost every home solar market in America that will view your roof online and provide an accurate price for your home. Most are family-owned solar companies that we have worked with for many years.