What would you like to know about solar panels?

Our state solar guides show everything you need to know about installing solar panels for your home

Expert solar panel brand reviews

Canadian solar brand review
LG solar brand review
Panasonic solar brand review
SolarWorld solar brand review
Sunpower solar brand review

How many solar panels do I need?

This depends on how much electricity you use, where you live, your roof characteristics and the percentage of your power bill that you would like to eliminate.

See detailed guide: How many solar panels you need?

 

The solar estimator is able to estimate the size of solar system you need

 

How many solar panels do I need?
How much power do solar panels produce?

How much power do solar panels produce?

The amount of power that solar panels will produce will depend on your location and the characteristics of your roof.

In the sunniest parts of the country you can get 1500 or more kilowatt hours (kWh) per 1 kW of DC peak capacity, but in other places such as the northeast you can get as little as 1100 kWh per per 1 kW DC peak capacity.

If you enter your address into the solar calculator it will show you how much electricity solar panels produce where you live.

If you have a roof that does not face south or has an unusual tilt then you may wish to use the PVWatts calculator. This doesn't help you see financial information or calculate savings but it will show you how much the output at your house could be diminished by the characteristics of your roof.

Once you get this you can go back and use our calculator to get a financial estimate of costs and savings.

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$3.10 per watt

Average cost of a Cash settled fully installed residential solar power system

$3.50 per watt

Average cost of a Financed fully installed residential solar power system

$1.67 per watt

Average cost of a solar panel kit (not installed)

$0.16 per kWh

Average cost of a Zero down PPA (Power Purchase Agreement)

 

More data on the current cost of solar installations across the US

 

When you buy a solar panel there are three factors that matter:

  1. The physical quality of the panel
  2. The likelihood of the manufacturer will be around to honor their massive 25 years warranty obligation; and
  3. The cost of systems using the panels relative to those using other brands.

The efficiency of the solar panels is less important because these differences are taken into account when rating the panels at a particular wattage. (A solar array with more efficient panels could be slightly smaller in terms of square feet of roof-space needed, but in practise these variances are small.)

 

Estimate my solar panel savings

Buying solar panels

The Solar-Estimate 2017 top 5 solar panel brands

Panasonic

Solar-Estimate Ranking #1

Comment: Panasonic have been doing research into solar for over 40 years and they pioneered the hetro junction solar cell. They are one of the strongest consumer electronics company in the world and the company in which we have most faith will be there to support their brand over the long haul.

Compare Panasonic solar modules by solar cell type, by wattage and by panel efficiency
LG Solar

Solar-Estimate Ranking #2

Comment: While their Neon technology is perhaps not as amazing as they claim it is, LG scores our top overall rating because they are part of a global conglomerate that values the LG brand, and I would trust them to be there for the long haul and to deal with any product defects that arise in the future.

Compare LG solar modules by solar cell type, by wattage and by panel efficiency
Canadian Solar

Solar-Estimate Ranking #3

Comment: Despite the name, Canadian Solar is a tier 1 Chinese owned solar manufacturer. It makes good quality panels at an affordable price point. The company is profitable and this combined with the fact that it scores highly on value are the reasons we rank it number 2 even though it has no particular revolutionary technology.

Compare Canadian solar modules by solar cell type, by wattage and by panel efficiency
Trina Solar

Solar-Estimate Ranking #4

Comment: A tier 1 Chinese manufacturer, they have shown commitment to quality and brand marketing. Their technology is okay but not amazing, but as with Canadian Solar they offer proven quality at a price point that makes solar attractive. They also have a reasonable balance sheet giving us confidence they will survive in this turbulent industry where others may not.

Compare Trina solar modules by solar cell type, by wattage and by panel efficiency
Sunpower

Solar-Estimate Ranking #5

Comment: Sunpower are an American based solar manufacturer that have captured many solar panel efficiency records. Despite sometimes overplaying the additional energy that their high efficiency X-Series panels produce, they do make excellent panels. The two reasons we don't rank Sunpower #1 are: although their panels are excellent they charge a 25% price premium for a panel that only produces around 5% more power than a panel of average efficiency with the same watt rating. They are moving manufacturing overseas to reduce cost and hopefully this helps. The second reason is they lost money in 2016 which concerns me but they still have a lot of assets on their balance sheet and so solvency is not an immediate concern.

Compare Sun Power solar modules by solar cell type, by wattage and by panel efficiency

 

Estimate my solar panel savings
Are Solar Panels worth it

Are Solar Panels worth it?

While the 30% solar tax credit exists and net metering is in place solar is typically an excellent investment for homeowners.

However, for a specific individual the answer to this questions depends on how much you spend on power, where you live, the characteristics of your roof and your views as to what is an acceptable return on investment.

 

Enter your details to calculate ROI and payback

What are the best solar companies near me?

The best solar company is the company that offers the best combination of value and quality. Different people will place more or less weight on either price or quality but for all of us these factors drive our decisions.

Step 1: To find the best prices on installed solar power systems in your area use the solar estimate and quote comparison tool;

Step 2: To find the solar companies with the best reputation check out consumer reviews of solar companies. Also, check out the best solar panel brands;

Step 3: Armed with knowledge of who offers what deals and who has the best reputation. Make a decision on what is the overall best deal for you.

 

Get a quote from the best solar companies
What are the best solar companies near me?
Can I install solar panels myself?

Can I install solar panels myself?

A DIY solar installation project is possible but they are far more difficult than many home improvement projects and result in you carrying all of the technical and procedural risk. DIY solar systems are really only viable now for licensed electricians because the savings are becoming relatively less as retail full service solar company's solar system costs fall.

To illustrate this point, the average cost of a reasonable solar panel kit is around $1.67 per watt and an electrician and roofer will charge you a once-off cost of around $1 per watt as to installs for you, making your total DIY solar project cost around $2.67 per watt. Given that you will be entirely on your own if there are any technical issues, or you need to prove a warranty claim, the savings of around 40-50 cents per watt, or about $2,400 on 6kw system, will seem hardly worth it.

At Solar-Estimate we recommend that you seek the best deal on fully installed system before considering DIY.

 

Find deals on installed systems as close as possible to DIY costs

 

Should I lease or buy solar panels?

Very few American's actually purchase their solar systems with a big wad of cash. As is the case in the auto industry, in America most residential solar consumers who have purchased solar solar for their home have either entered into a solar agreement where payments are spread over the life of the system or, if they have got a cash price from an installer, they have used some other finance method to pay this upfront price.

Read more about buying or leasing solar.

 

Find out if you should lease or buy solar panels
Should I lease or buy solar panels?

How much do fully installed solar power systems for your home cost from a reputable solar company?

Solar is a relatively new industry and there are still vastly different prices being offered by different solar companies for solar panels.

This is why the Solar-Estimate marketplace and other websites like it are so important. They give you the consumer the ability to find out enough information so that you can pick the wheat from the chaff when it comes to solar companies and solar deals.

Here is a rough breakdown of average pricing in the residential solar market in America as at February 2017. These prices are before federal and local solar tax credits and other incentives.

To see live pricing for solar deals in your city after all local incentives are taken into account register on our marketplace here.

 

How much do fully installed solar power systems cost

Does a premium price guarantee me premium quality solar panels?

In general a premium priced solar panel will have better reliability and/or efficiency than a cheaper module. However, don't be fooled into thinking a premium price will necessarily mean premium brands of equipment or premium service and workmanship. You still need to check reviews. The worst rip off merchants I have seen in the industry are those that pose as premium vendors but actually sell low quality equipment and offer poor service. These are typically the door to door sales companies that rely on getting around the kitchen table with people who have little access to comparative information.

 

Search premium quality solar panels
Does a premium price guarantee me premium quality solar panels?

What are the breakdown of the costs in a solar power system?

Our sister site SolarReviews has a great breakdown of the actual costs that go into making up the overall cost of a solar power system.

Most people find it strange that the solar panels themselves can make up less than 35% of the overall cost of a residential solar power system. Here is a breakdown of the cost of each component in the overall provision of a solar power system.


Cost breakdown for each component in an installed solar power system

What are the best value deals available now on solar panels in my city?

On the Solar-Estimate marketplace we have over 200 solar companies that have agreed to share pricing and gives quotes to users of the site. Most of these companies are the good guys in the industry because they are happy to talk with educated consumers and happy to share their pricing with interested consumers in their service areas.

Search solar companies

 

Find the best deals on installed systems for your city

 

What are the best value deals available now on solar panels in my city?
How much does it cost to buy just the solar panels individually?

How much does it cost to just buy the solar panels individually?

Buying solar panels individually can cost anywhere from $0.60 per watt to $1.00 per watt depending on the brand of the solar panels that you want and the volume you wish to purchase.

A bigger issue is that most of the best quality brands of solar panels do not sell directly to the public. Most of the brands that do are not brands you would probably want to put on your house.

The reason the better solar panel manufacturers do not sell directly to the public is that they fear the damage to their reputation that will be done by unskilled and unlicensed people installing their solar panels incorrectly. This has the potential to cause fires, cause equipment to be damaged (voiding warranties) and to have unhappy consumers running around telling horror stories about solar because they have cut corners and have ran into problems (leaking roofs, incorrect permitting, non-compliance with net metering agreements etc).

However, there is a legitimate circumstance in which consumers may wish to purchase solar panels individually and this is where they wish to purchase the equipment and then contract a licensed and skilled installer to do the installation. They may know an installer, they may work for the authority of jurisdiction and understand the permitting process or they may believe that they can outsource each part (installation and permitting) and still save money over what a full service solar company would charge. However, in this instance what the person would need to buy is a solar kit.

Solar panels on their own is only one component of what you need to produce solar power on your roof. You also need racking (to securely attach the solar panels to your roof), and inverter to convert the electricity produced by the solar panels from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) and other sundry electrical equipment such as isolators, cable and conduit.

For our discussion on solar panel kits and to see pricing on solar panel kits from around the internet - click here.

Disadvantages of Cheap Solar Panels

Websites offering cheap solar panels can inadvertently mislead a consumer as to the overall costs they will face to install the solar panels on their home. The cost of inverters, racking, sundry electrical equipment, permitting and installation are not shown on these offers and so it is up to you the consumer to research these costs for yourself.

You can use this solar power system cost breakdown information to add back these other component costs to the cost of these cheap solar panels to work out whether in fact you are any better off buying these cheap solar panels or not.

If you are considering going down this path, then it is definitely a "buyer beware: situation and you should first:

Disadvantages of Cheap Solar Panels
How much variance in price is there between different brands of solar panels?

How much variance in price is there between different brands of solar panels?

At the wholesale level the cheapest solar panels, purchased in a shipping container quantity, can sell as low as 0.55 cents per watt. Top brands of solar panels in the same large volumes will usually sell in the $0.70-$0.90 per watt range.

 

Get system prices for systems with different brands of panels

 

What is the best way to finance a purchase of solar panels?

The way you choose to pay for your solar panels can have a big impact on your solar savings. You have four main options of how to finance your solar panels:

A cash purchase - this will typically result in the greatest savings as solar companies usually offer better deals for cash and there is no interest;

A loan secured against your home - either refinancing your entire home loan or getting a HELOC loan is generally the next cheapest option for solar finance as it allows you to present to the solar company as a cash buyer.

A solar loan arranged by the solar company - This is a convenient option but will probably result in a slightly higher cost of ownership for your solar panels as their is usually a hidden origination fee in these loans. However, they are becoming more and more competitive with the growth of platforms like Dividend Solar

Solar Lease or PPA - this is usually the easiest option but also the option that typically results in the least savings

Read more about solar financing
What is the best way to finance a purchase of solar panels?

Is it possible to get help with the electrical side of solar system designing without speaking to solar companies?

The design of a residential solar system is something that will vary depending on styles of homes, modules used, location, the type of powered devices the customer has in their home, whether they want specific devices solar powered or a grid connect system, the customers preference as to the amount of their electrical energy usage they want to cover with solar and specific requirements imposed by the grid provider (utility company).

There is no single online tool that can do this job as well as an experienced solar designer who does a thorough review of your needs but there are a couple of ways you can get a pretty reasonable estimate before calling your local solar company:

  • If you enter your details into the solar calculator it will estimate a system size, system cost, energy savings and likely solar payback based on your location, monthly bill (from this it calculates your energy usage) and utility provider. This estimate is usually pretty accurate and puts you in a position of knowledge when you speak to solar companies. Solar companies are usually more competitive when they know you are well informed of your needs and choices;
  • The seconds option you have is to call Solar-Estimate.org. We have a small number of experienced solar consultants that are (sometimes) available to answer your questions without you having to be called by a solar company. You can call them on : (844) 442-5029

 

Online system design for your home