How much does solar cost?
Note from the owners: There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to solar panel cost. Consumers must understand that all solar power systems we install are custom designed. However, we understand the need for generic pricing to plan projects and balance budgets.
The below information is not our exact pricing but an overall average for Central Texas. For a more exact estimate fill out our quote form and we will get back to you with more accurate preliminary pricing ASAP!
Solar Cost Terminology
Cost per Watt: It is common in the industry for companies and consumers to calculate the cost of solar installation by dividing the turnkey cost of installation by the size of the solar photovoltaic (PV) system. For example, a 4 kilowatt system that costs $13,200 would be $3.30/watt.
Consumers should be cautious when evaluating generic prices that utilize the price/watt method. Some companies may have different sales approaches and use the price/watt method as a bottom line cost and add line-item prices for different site conditions. Consumers can play it safe by requesting a complete turn-key price from solar companies. Some solar companies will provide a sales proposal without visiting the actual jobsite. In this scenario, communication is essential and any possible change orders or line items should be discussed before the consumer signs a contract.
Different contractors use different types of material and the consumer will have to do some research to truly compare the true value of each contractor’s proposal.
Solar Panel Cost
The solar panels can vary in color, material, size, and origin. Black-framed modules are slightly more expensive than silver-framed modules. Polycrystalline and monocrystalline technology are available and differ in looks, production, and cost. The main factor in solar module price is dependent on who makes the module. The following questions should be asked when comparing products:
- Where is the module made?
- How long has the company been in business?
- Is the module UL listed?
- How efficient are the solar modules?
- What does the manufacturer warranty cover?
The origin of the module should be recognized by the consumer before they approve a contract. American made modules cost about 15% more than Chinese modules. In most cases, American modules are of higher quality, manufactured under more ethical business practices, and more efficient.
Special attention should be paid to the brand of the module and who will be supplying the warranty. Solar companies have gone out of business in the USA and overseas, so choosing a well-known brand is a safe bet when relying on the 25 year production warranty.
Solar modules should be listed as UL1703 and solar inverters should be listed as UL1741.
Solar Inverters Cost
Different types of inverters are available and the individual inverters can vary in price. Like solar modules, special attention should be paid to the manufacturer’s reputation and point of origin.
String inverters are the economical option for non-shaded solar arrays. String inverters usually have a 10 year warranty that is extendable to 25 years. The cost to replace the inverter should be considered when calculating the return-on-investment of the solar photovoltaic system.
Micro inverters are utilized for shade prone areas and to group smaller arrays of solar modules. Micro inverters are more expensive than string inverters and the cost difference varies on the size of the solar photovoltaic system. A micro inverter system can cost nearly the same as a string inverter system on a 2 KW system and up to 50% more on systems larger than 50KW. Most micro inverters carry a 25 year limited warranty. The warranty should be considered when comparing the cost to a string inverter system. It should also be noted that micro inverter replacement is much more labor intensive when compared to string inverter replacement.
DC Optimizers are coupled with string inverters to maximize production and eliminate shade issues. DC Optimizers coupled with string inverters usually cost as much as micro inverters or slightly less. DC Optimizers may prove to last longer than microinverters because they contain less electronic equipment in harsh weather conditions.
Installation types – How they impact overall solar cost
The placement of the solar array can be the leading difference in how much the solar installation costs.
Roof Mount Cost
Solar Roof Mount is the most common application in the USA and usually the lowest prices are achieved by placing solar on the roof of a building. However, the cost is dependent on roof conditions:
- Slope – Low slopes are easy to work on and reduce the cost in labor. Slopes more than 35 degrees typically cost more as the increase in steepness.
- Material – Asphalt shingles and standing seam metal roofs are easiest to work on usually represent the generic price when looking at average solar rates. Tile, wood shake, and other materials can increase the price of installation because extra considerations must be taken and less common material may be requested. Note: In some areas, installers may be used to installing on a certain type of material and this can decrease the price of installation.
Ground Mount Cost
Ground mount solar is a great method of attachment when roof attachment isn’t an option. There are many options for ground mount framing systems and the price can vary depending on a few factors:
- Soil-conditions – The price can vary depending on the work-ability of the soil in your location. Concrete foundations are used in most cases. Ground rings are also used if the soil conditions allow for this application.
- Distance from interconnection point – Trenching and increased price of wire can increase the price of the solar installation.
Solar Structure Cost
Solar Carport and custom designed solar structures usually cost more than the average cost of installation. The additional cost can sometimes be factored into the savings from using solar as a building function (ex. carport, pergola, canopy).
The solar installation can sometimes be as simple as connecting the inverter to your electric panel. It should be assumed that long conduit paths, transformers, additional disconnects, batteries, and other equipment will increase the price of solar installation.
Solar incentives have helped drive the industry and continue to make solar more affordable for consumers. Incentives vary depending on the structure classification for tax credits and local incentives. For example, a residential property in Austin, Texas is eligible for an Austin Energy Rebate as well as a Federal Tax Credit.
Solar Design and Installation Costs
This cost is not transparent for consumers as sales agents often embellish the credentials of their design and installation teams. Because this cost is hidden from most consumers, some companies have cut cost by using unsupervised installation teams. So is your money paying for a high quality design and installation OR sales commission and overhead? To find out, we recommend the following:
- System Design: We strongly recommend systems be designed or reviewed by a Certified NABCEP PV Installer. Don’t just take the sales agents word for it, ask to speak with them and guarantee it.
- System Installation: We strongly recommend the installation team should be supervised by a Journeyman Electrician (or Master) at ALL TIMES. It is illegal for apprentice electricians to work on site with out a Journeyman or Master’s supervision. Ask to speak with the supervising Journeyman and/or Master before you sign a contract. This is the most violated law in the electrical industry.