Our state solar guides show everything you need to know about installing solar panels for your home.
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.
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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
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.Read more
$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)
When you buy a solar panel there are three factors that matter:
- The physical quality of the panel
- The likelihood of the manufacturer will be around to honour their massive 25 years warranty obligation; and
- 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.)
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The Solar-Estimate 2017 top 5 solar panel brands
Solar-Estimate Ranking #1
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
Solar-Estimate Ranking #2
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
Solar-Estimate Ranking #3
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
Solar-Estimate Ranking #4
Comment: Solarworld are a German company with manufacturing operations in the USA which is great. They are struggling to get to profitability and have had to lower their pricing during the last half of 2016 to compete with other manufacturers that had surplus capacity. Their product quality and module efficiency is excellent, second only perhaps to Sunpower but their financial strength and viability in America is the reason we have ranked them below manufacturers with a lower marginal cost of manufacture.Compare Solar World solar modules by solar cell type, by wattage and by panel efficiency
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
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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 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
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 recomend 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
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
How much do fully installed solar power systems cost?
What is the breakdown of the costs in a solar power system?
What are the best value solar deals in your city?
How much does it cost to buy just the solar panels individually?
How much variance in price is there between different brands of solar panels?
What is the best way to finance a purchase of solar panels?
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.
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What are the breakdown of the costs in 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.