How Solar Installed Free

Yes, there are (legitimate) installers that will put free solar panels for your home. But the catch is that they require you to enter into a solar lease or power purchasing agreement (PPA). These offers entice people with a no-cost way to go solar. In general, any company that says they’ll install “free solar panels” on your roof is actually offering a solar lease. Yes, the solar panels will be installed on your home for no money down, but you will have to pay the leasing company every month to lease the panels, and those leases typically last 20 years. Plus if they ever decide to sell their home they will benefit because on average solar panels increase a home’s resale value by almost $6000 per installed Kilowatt. The bottom line is there might be a free solar panel scam lurking out there, but it isn’t coming from any reputable solar company like ours. Buying a solar energy system makes you eligible for the Solar Investment Tax Credit, or ITC. In December 2020, Congress passed an extension of the ITC, which provides a 26% tax credit for systems installed in 2020-2022, and 22% for systems installed in 2023. The tax credit expires starting in 2024 unless Congress renews it. 1.1 CAuTIONS REgARdINg INSTALLATION OF SOLAR POWER SySTEMS Do not stand or step on solar module. 4 Do not install near flammable gases. 5 Do not drop or allow objects to fall onto module. 6 Completely cover solar module with opaque materials when wiring to halt production of electricity. 7 Keep the back side of solar module surfaces free of.

$0.08 – $0.10 Per kWh
$1.77 – $2.20 Per Watt
$10,626 – $26,460 6 to 12 kW System

Solar panels cost $1.77 to $2.20 per watt and a 6 kW solar panel installation for the average home costs from $10,626 to $13,230 after the 30% federal solar tax credit. Solar energy costs $0.08 to $0.10 per kWh to produce on average, depending on your location. Get free estimates from solar installers near you or view our cost guide below.

Solar Panel Cost

The average cost to install solar panels is from $10,626 to $26,460 (after tax credit) for a 6kW to 12kW system to power an entire house. The average solar panel payback period is 7 to 12 years, and solar energy saves $600 to $2,000 per year on electricity costs.

Most solar panels last for 50 years, have a 25-year warranty, and start generating a return on investment after 8-years. Solar panels generate electricity approximately 30% cheaper than utility electricity over their lifetime. Over 20 years, solar panel savings range from a low of $10,000 to over $30,000, depending on your location and the cost of electricity.

Solar Panel Installation Cost
National Average Cost$16,168
Minimum Cost$3,500
Maximum Cost$35,000
Average Range$10,626to$26,460

Use our solar calculators below to assess your total costs based on your location and current energy consumption, or get free estimates from solar installers near you. We’ll also show you exactly how much you'll save by going solar.

Table of Contents

Solar Panel Cost Calculator

The first step to calculating your solar panel costs is to estimate the system size you need. The average residential installation is 3 kW to 10 kW depending on your home's size, location, and energy needs.

Prices below include the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which reduces your overall costs by 30%. Additional solar incentives and rebates are available from individual states, utilities, and local governments, which further reduce your total costs.

Solar Panel Cost Calculator
System SizeBefore Tax CreditAfter 30% Tax Credit
2 kW$5,060 – $6,300$3,542 – $4,410
3 kW$7,590 – $9,540$5,313 – $6,615
4 kW$10,120 – $12,600$7,084 – $8,820
5 kW$12,650 – $15,750$8,855 – $11,025
6 kW$15,180 – $18,900$10,626 – $13,230
7 kW$17,710 – $22,050$12,397 – $15,435
8 kW$20,240 – $25,200$14,168 – $17,640
10 kW$25,300 – $31,500$17,710 – $22,050
12 kW$30,360 – $37,800$21,252 – $26,460
15 kW$37,950 – $47,250$26,565 – $33,075
20 kW$50,600 – $63,000$35,420 – $44,100
25 kW$63,250 – $78,750$44,275 – $55,125
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How Many Solar Panels Do I Need?

The average family uses 11,000 kWh per year and needs 26 to 33 solar panels to power the whole house. One solar thermal panel generates enough energy to power a hot water heater for a family of four. The number of panels needed depends on your location and roof size.

Most states have a solar production ratio of 1.3 to 1.6, which means an 8kW system produces 30% more energy, or 10,600 kWh annually on average. To calculate how many solar panels you need, look at your annual kWh (kilowatt-hours) usage on your utility bills and referenced the table and map below.

Solar Panels Needed To Power A House
System SizePanels NeededAverage kWh Produced Annually
2 kW6 – 82,652
3 kW10 – 123,978
5 kW16 – 216,630
6 kW20 – 257,956
8 kW26 – 3310,608
10 kW33 – 4113,260
12 kW40 – 4915,912
15 kW50 – 6119,890
18 kW59 – 7323,868

Table based on 250 watt panels at average solar production ratios of 1.3 to 1.6.

Where you live is a significant factor when estimating how many solar panels you need to power your house. Regions with less sunlight require larger systems to produce 100% of their energy needs.

Using the map below, take the number written in your shaded region and multiply by the estimated size of your system in kW. Then, multiply this number by 0.78 to account for inefficiencies and energy conversion losses.

For example, let's say you live in Texas with a score of 1700, and you believe you'll need an 8 kW system. This formula calculates a good estimate on how much electricity (kWh) your 8 kW system will produce annually.

1700 × 8 kW × 0.78 = 10,608 kWh

Below are the rough calculations which estimate the system size needed in each region to produce 11,000 kWh for the average home.

Solar System Size Needed To Produce 11,000 kWh Annually
RegionSystem Size (kW)
120011.75 kW
130010.85 kW
140010.07 kW
15009.40 kW
16008.81 kW
17008.30 kW
18007.84 kW
19007.42 kW
20007.05 kW
21006.71 kW

Solar Panel Cost Per Watt

Residential solar panels cost $2.53 to $3.15 per watt, with most homeowners spending $2.70 per watt on average before any tax credits or incentives. Commercial solar costs $1.83 per watt on average. Solar systems have ratings based on the electricity produced annually in average conditions.

Solar Energy Cost Per kWh

Residential solar energy costs $0.08 to $0.10 per kWh on average, and commercial or utility-scale solar power costs $0.06 to $0.08 per kilowatt-hour. Prices include the Federal Solar Tax Credit (ITC) and vary drastically based on the amount of sunlight and type of solar panels installed.

Solar Panel Cost Per Watt & kWh
Per kWh$0.08 – $0.10$0.06 – $0.08
Per Watt$2.53 – $3.15$1.06 – $1.83

These figures represent the Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE), which is the average revenue per unit of electricity generated that would be required to recover the costs of the solar panels over their life expectancy.

Consult with solar installers to calculate savings.View Pros

Cost of Solar Panels Per Square Foot

The cost of solar panels to power your house are $4 to $10 per square foot. However, most installers estimate solar costs by the amount of energy needed, at $2.53 to $3.15 per watt before any tax credits or incentives.

Below are cost estimates based on home size. Overall costs depend on the type of solar panels, the size and design of your roof, and your energy needs.

Cost To Install Solar Panels On House
Home Size (SF)Average Cost
1,000$4,760 – $5,950
1,500$7,140 – $8,925
2,000$9,520 – $11,900
2,500$11,900 – $14,875
3,000$14,280 – $17,850

Residential Cost of Solar Panels By State

The average cost of solar varies significantly per state but overall is affordable. The local cost of electricity influences the cost of solar per watt in your area. Below are the average prices per watt and by system size across the United States, including the 30% federal solar rebate.

Cost of Solar Panels By State
StatePer Watt6 kW System10 kW System
Alabama$2.02 – $2.85$12,120 – $17,100$20,200 – $28,500
Alaska$2.23 – $3.13$13,380 – $18,780$22,300 – $31,300
Arizona$1.88 – $2.35$11,286 – $14,118$18,810 – $23,530
Arkansas$2.42 – $2.74$14,520 – $16,440$24,200 – $27,400
California$1.82 – $2.29$10,926 – $13,758$18,210 – $22,930
Colorado$1.96 – $2.39$11,730 – $14,310$19,550 – $23,850
Connecticut$1.99 – $2.49$11,994 – $14,994$19,990 – $24,990
Washington D.C.$1.75 – $2.57$10,518 – $15,450$17,530 – $25,750
Delaware$1.95 – $2.13$11,742 – $12,810$19,570 – $21,350
Florida$1.48 – $2.09$8,880 – $12,552$14,800 – $20,920
Georgia$1.91 – $2.14$11,448 – $12,852$19,080 – $21,420
Idaho$2.03 – $2.22$12,162 – $13,314$20,270 – $22,190
Illinois$2.01 – $2.52$12,078 – $15,162$20,130 – $25,270
Indiana$2.07 – $2.49$12,444 – $14,940$20,740 – $24,900
Iowa$2.20 – $2.38$13,200 – $14,268$22,000 – $23,780
Kansas$1.49 – $2.06$8,940 – $12,360$14,900 – $20,600
Kentucky$2.35 – $3.04$14,100 – $18,240$23,500 – $30,400
Louisiana$1.77 – $2.33$10,644 – $13,980$17,740 – $23,300
Maine$1.85 – $2.35$11,100 – $14,100$18,500 – $23,500
Maryland$1.67 – $2.16$10,026 – $12,942$16,710 – $21,570
Massachusetts$1.94 – $2.37$11,628 – $14,376$19,380 – $23,960
Michigan$1.99 – $2.50$11,976 – $14,976$19,960 – $24,960
Minnesota$2.01 – $2.37$12,000 – $14,244$20,000 – $23,740
Mississippi$1.98 – $2.75$11,880 – $16,500$19,800 – $27,500
Missouri$1.71 – $2.42$10,260 – $14,520$17,100 – $24,200
Montana$1.86 – $2.34$11,148 – $14,064$18,580 – $23,440
Nebraska$1.74 – $2.88$10,440 – $17,280$17,400 – $28,800
Nevada$1.92 – $2.13$11,526 – $12,762$19,210 – $21,270
New Hampshire$1.97 – $2.55$11,796 – $15,300$19,660 – $25,500
New Jersey$1.76 – $2.35$10,530 – $14,118$17,550 – $23,530
New Mexico$2.02 – $2.73$12,102 – $16,362$20,170 – $27,270
New York$1.80 – $2.64$10,824 – $15,840$18,040 – $26,400
North Carolina$1.73 – $2.27$10,380 – $13,632$17,300 – $22,720
North Dakota$1.39 – $1.97$8,340 – $11,820$13,900 – $19,700
Ohio$1.79 – $2.29$10,740 – $13,740$17,900 – $22,900
Oklahoma$1.88 – $3.34$11,280 – $20,040$18,800 – $33,400
Oregon$1.63 – $2.20$9,804 – $13,224$16,340 – $22,040
Pennsylvania$1.80 – $2.60$10,782 – $15,630$17,970 – $26,050
Rhode Island$2.08 – $2.44$12,492 – $14,652$20,820 – $24,420
South Carolina$1.92 – $2.38$11,544 – $14,292$19,240 – $23,820
South Dakota$1.88 – $2.93$11,280 – $17,580$18,800 – $29,300
Tennessee$1.30 – $1.97$7,800 – $11,820$13,000 – $19,700
Texas$1.75 – $2.15$10,494 – $12,906$17,490 – $21,510
Utah$1.83 – $2.41$10,950 – $14,454$18,250 – $24,090
Vermont$1.79 – $2.58$10,716 – $15,480$17,860 – $25,800
Virginia$1.69 – $2.11$10,134 – $12,630$16,890 – $21,050
Washington$1.71 – $2.19$10,278 – $13,110$17,130 – $21,850
West Virginia$2.17 – $3.38$13,020 – $20,280$21,700 – $33,800
Wisconson$2.11 – $2.42$12,666 – $14,490$21,110 – $24,150
Wyoming$2.39 – $2.78$14,340 – $16,680$23,900 – $27,800

Average Solar Panel Installation Costs By Brand

Below are total installation costs for 6kW and 10kW residential solar systems by brand which includes the 30% tax credit. Most solar manufacturers offer similar pricing, however, the price you pay is typically reflective of panel quality.

Solar Panel Installation Cost By Brand
ManufacturerPer Watt6 kW System10 kW System
Axitec$1.57 – $2.10$9,450 – $12,642$15,750 – $21,070
Astronergy$1.85 – $2.35$11,130 – $14,154$18,550 – $23,590
Canadian Solar Inc.$1.65 – $2.26$9,954 – $13,566$16,590 – $22,610
CertainTeed Solar$2.06 – $2.48$12,390 – $14,910$20,650 – $24,850
Hanwha Q CELLS$1.73 – $2.31$10,416 – $13,860$17,360 – $23,100
Heliene$1.71 – $2.28$10,290 – $13,692$17,150 – $22,820
Hyundai$1.87 – $2.14$11,256 – $12,894$18,760 – $21,490
JA Solar$1.72 – $2.29$10,374 – $13,776$17,290 – $22,960
JinkoSolar$1.98 – $2.58$11,928 – $15,498$19,880 – $25,830
LG Solar$1.89 – $2.47$11,340 – $14,868$18,900 – $24,780
LONGi Solar$1.69 – $2.07$10,164 – $12,474$16,940 – $20,790
Mission Solar Energy$1.52 – $2.06$9,156 – $12,390$15,260 – $20,650
Panasonic$1.89 – $2.45$11,340 – $14,700$18,900 – $24,500
Peimar Group$1.86 – $2.24$11,172 – $13,440$18,620 – $22,400
Phono Solar$2.10 – $2.49$12,642 – $14,952$21,070 – $24,920
REC Group$1.92 – $2.32$11,550 – $13,944$19,250 – $23,240
RGS Energy$2.31 – $3.47$13,860 – $20,874$23,100 – $34,790
Renogy Solar$2.10 – $2.39$12,642 – $14,364$21,070 – $23,940
S-Energy$1.77 – $2.35$10,668 – $14,112$17,780 – $23,520
Seraphim Solar$1.85 – $2.24$11,130 – $13,482$18,550 – $22,470
Silfab Solar$1.70 – $2.45$10,206 – $14,700$17,010 – $24,500
SolarTech Universal$1.72 – $2.21$10,374 – $13,272$17,290 – $22,120
SolarWorld$1.73 – $2.15$10,416 – $12,936$17,360 – $21,560
Solaria$2.06 – $2.35$12,390 – $14,154$20,650 – $23,590
SunPower Corporation$2.01 – $2.77$12,096 – $16,674$20,160 – $27,790
Trina Solar$1.72 – $2.22$10,374 – $13,356$17,290 – $22,260
Tesla$2.33 – $3.10$13,986 – $18,606$23,310 – $31,010
Winaico$1.92 – $2.21$11,550 – $13,314$19,250 – $22,190
Yingli Solar$1.70 – $2.21$10,206 – $13,272$17,010 – $22,120

Prices include 30% tax credit and reflect installation costs from solar contractors. Total costs depend on the location, installers experience, inverter, and other equipment.

How Much Does One Solar Panel Cost?

One 150 to 300-watt solar panel costs $112 to $450 on average, or between $0.75 to $1.50 per watt depending on the type of panel, energy-efficiency rating, and size. Solar companies that purchase in bulk typically spend $0.75 per watt, whereas homeowners spend $1 per watt.

Most distributors only sell solar panels to local contractors at bulk wholesale prices. Hiring a solar installer will drastically reduce your overall equipment costs. These prices are for the panels only, additional fees for installation includes inverters, batteries, mounting hardware, wiring, and more.

Solar Panels For Home Cost Per Panel
System SizeAverage Cost
14 Panel System (4.2 kW)$2,600 – $4,200
16 Panel System (4.8 kW)$3,000 – $4,800
18 Panel System (5.4 kW)$3,350 – $5,400
20 Panel System (6.0 kW)$3,750 – $6,000
24 Panel System (7.2 kW)$4,450 – $7,200
28 Panel System (8.4 kW)$5,236 – $8,400
32 Panel System (9.6 kW)$5,984 – $9,600
36 Panel System (10.8 kW)$6,732 – $10,800

Solar Panel Lease Cost

A solar panel lease costs $100 per month on average, with most spending between $50 and $250 per month depending on their location and energy needs. Leasing solar panels is cost-effective and typically saves $50 to $100 per month on your electricity bills with little to no down payment.

Solar leasing companies are responsible for the installation and maintenance fees for the duration of your contract. If you decide to move, expect to pay additional charges to end your leasing agreement because transferring the lease to another buyer can be difficult.

If you own your solar system outright that generates 100% of your power, the monthly cost is less than $10 per month for minor grid-tied connection fees. An off-grid system has no monthly costs other than general maintenance.

Tesla Solar Roof Cost

A Tesla solar roof costs $22 to $45 per square foot, which includes the solar roof tiles, a Powerwall, roof and site repairs, and complete system installation. A 9.45 kW solar system installed on a 1,800 square foot roof costs between $39,600 and $81,000.

On average, solar shingles cost up to $8,000 more than installing a new roof with traditional PV solar panels. Glass-faced solar shingles mimic the appearance of a tiled roof and cover more surface area than mounted PV panels to catch more sunlight.

Solar tiles have a lower efficiency rating in producing electricity. They may not last as long as PV panels because their design doesn’t allow much room for ventilation, which can lead to overheating.

Commercial Solar Panel Cost

A 10 kW to 2 MW commercial solar panel system costs $1.83 per watt before any tax rebates or incentives. Larger fixed-tilt or one-axis tracking utility-scale systems greater than 2 MW cost $1.06 per watt on average.

Commercial solar installation costs for small and mid-sized businesses range from $43,000 for a 25 kW system up to $175,000 for a 100 kW system. Businesses recover about 45 percent of solar panels costs within the first year through tax credits and rebate programs.

Commercial Solar Panel Cost
System SizeAverage Cost Before Tax Credits
25 kW$43,500 to $56,000
50 kW$87,500 to $113,000
100 kW$175,000 to $225,500
250 kW$437,000 to $563,500

Solar Savings Estimator

The solar payback calculator below covers the average break-even period, which is when your power supply becomes free, and the projected savings over 20 years.

Solar Panel Return On Investment (ROI)

The average solar panel payback period is 7 to 12 years, depending on where you live and the cost of electricity. On average, upfront costs are $11,000, with savings of $1,400 per year on foregone energy bills. You'll break-even after 8-years and start generating a return on your investment.

How Much Do Solar Panels Save?

Over 20 years, solar panel savings range from a low of $10,000 to over $30,000, depending on your location and the cost of electricity. Solar energy saves $600 to $2,000 per year by reducing your electricity bills and from selling solar renewable energy credit (SREC).

Solar Panel Savings Calculator
LocationSavings Over 20 YearsPayback Period (Years)
Albuquerque, NM$17,576 – $25,10915.06
Austin, TX$14,627 – $20,8967.04
Baltimore, MD$16,349 – $23,3566.90
Boston, MA$17,449 – $24,9289.66
Charlotte, NC$15,035 – $21,4798.20
Chicago, IL$14,591 – $20,84411.85
Denver, CO$15,035 – $21,47913.30
Honolulu, HI$34,104 – $48,7206.55
Houston, TX$14,627 – $20,8967.57
Indianapolis, IN$11,637 – $16,62514.60
Jersey City, NJ$18,349 – $26,2149.95
Las Vegas, NV$13,918 – $19,8839.05
Los Angeles, CA$25,414 – $36,30611.99
New York, NY$17,247 – $24,63910.58
Philadelphia, PA$13,689 – $19,5569.35
Phoenix, AZ$18,325 – $26,1797.50
Portland, OR$11,351 – $16,21611.66
San Francisco, CA$14,700 – $21,00011.34
Seattle, WA$6,863 – $12,80511.26
Washington, DC$21,840 – $31,2006.78

*6kW system powering 70% to 100% of your energy needs.

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Here's a more granular look of solar savings on power bills per year by location.

Solar Panel Savings On Electricity Bills
LocationAverage Savings Per Year
Albuquerque, NM$1,349
Austin, TX$782
Boston, MA$2,196
Charlotte, NC$805
Chicago, IL$1,059
Jersey City, NJ$1,762
Los Angeles, CA$2,477
New York, NY$1,404
Philadelphia, PA$1,006
Portland, OR$864
San Francisco, CA$1,822
Seattle, WA$633
Washington, DC$1,127

Are Solar Panels Worth It?

Solar panels generate electricity approximately 30% cheaper than utility electricity in most locations, making them worth it over their lifetime. What makes solar more affordable is the 30% federal solar tax credit and state incentives.

The average residential electricity rate from utility companies is 13.19 cents per kWh, depending on where you live. An average 8 kW solar system costs $15,000 and generates 11,000 kWh annually or $880 to $1,100 worth of energy. Over the lifetime of the solar panels, this equates to 8 to 10 cents per kWh, which makes solar panels worth it after getting through the hefty upfront cost.

Solar Panel Installation Cost Factors

The cost to convert a house to solar power depends on your location, energy needs, type of solar panels, inverter and equipment options, permits, inspection, tax credits, and labor costs.

Use the national averages in the following table to calculate a cost-benefit analysis for solar PV installation.

Cost To Convert House To Solar Power
ItemPercentAverage Cost
Solar Panels, Inverter & Parts30%$3,188 – $3,969
Balance of System20%$2,125 – $2,646
Labor15%$1,594 – $1,985
Permits and Inspection15%$1,594 – $1,985
Operational20%$2,125 – $2,646
Total for 6 kW System
After 30% Tax Credit
100%$10,626 – $13,230

Cost of Solar Panels Over Time

The average cost of solar panels has fallen 65% from $7.34 per watt in 2010, to $2.53 per watt in 2019. A standard 6 kW residential solar system has dropped from $44,000 down to $15,200 over the past decade (not including the federal solar tax credit).

Cost of Solar Panels Over Time
YearCost Per Watt

*Estimates are based on the average rate of decline.

Labor Costs To Install Solar Panels

The average labor cost to install solar panels is $0.27 per watt, or around 15% of the total cost of your system. A standard 6 kW system with 20 to 25 panels costs about $1,600 for solar installation labor before applying the 30% federal solar rebate.

Labor costs increase if your home has multiple stories, skylights, dormers, or a problematic 45° roof pitch. Contractors may need to design a unique system to make sure the panels receive enough sunlight to be efficient.

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Solar Equipment Options

When installing your new solar system, you can choose between options such as on-grid vs. off-grid backup power, three different panel material types, and three different mounting types.

On-grid vs. Off-grid Solar Power Systems

How Solar Installed Free

Storing energy off-grid requires spending 30% to 40% more, or around $15,000 on backup power supplies, charge controller, generator, batteries, and installation costs.

Types of Solar Panels

Solar panels are constructed from three different types of materials; monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin film.

Types of Solar Panels
Monocrystalline15% – 22.5%Monocrystalline panels are made from high-grade silicon and are the most efficient, meaning you'll need fewer panels to support your energy needs. Monocrystalline panels generate up to an industry record of 22.5% of sunlight into energy typically come with a 20 to 25-year limited warranty.
Polycrystalline13% – 16%Polycrystalline panels are more affordable than Monocrystalline because they're made from fragments of silicon, which have lower energy efficiency.
Thin-film11% – 14%Thin-film panels are the least expensive and typically last 15 years. The panels are layered with photovoltaic materials that take up more space and provides a lower efficiency.

Solar Panel Mounts

There are three different ways to mount solar panels, which affect the overall cost.

Solar Panel Mounts
TypeAverage CostDescription
Fix-mount$15Fixed-mounts are the least expensive and less efficient than other mounts because they are stationary and can't be moved to capture more sunlight. These mounts are best in states with consistent sunlight.
Adjustable-mount$50Adjustable-mounts generate greater energy efficiency because they can be tilted towards the sun to maximize energy production. They can also be tilted flat during storms to avoid wind damage. Adjustable mounts are more expensive but are optimal in regions with seasonal climates.
Tracking-mount$500 – $3,000Tracking-mounts automatically follow the position of the sun to produce up to 30% more solar energy in climates with little to no snow. Solar trackers are more expensive, and there is more maintenance and on-site preparation involved. Most professionals recommended buying additional panels instead.

Sometimes it’s cheaper to install solar panels on rails in your backyard, such as when your roof surface is too steep, if your roof is mostly in the shade, or if you do not have a roof facing south to catch the most sunshine.

Solar Inverter Cost

A 5 kW solar inverter for a home system costs $1,000 to $2,000 for a single-phase model, and $1,500 to $3,000 for a premium 3-phase model. Inverter prices depend on the size, quality, and features. An inverter converts the current from the panels into an electric voltage that’s compatible with your home.

Solar Panel Cost Analysis

Below is a solar panel cost analysis for a complete residential installation based on a 6.2 kW system at an average cost of $2.70 per watt. Use this data to compare to quotes provided by solar installers.

Solar Panel Cost Analysis
ItemCost Per Watt
Structural BOS$0.10
Electrical BOS$0.21
Supply Chain Costs$0.30
Sales Tax$0.09
Installation Labor$0.27
Permitting, Inspection, Interconnection$0.06
Sales & Marketing (Customer Acquisition)$0.34
Overhead (General & Admin.)$0.32
Net Profit$0.33

Analysis provided by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

Solar Panel Permits & Inspection Fees

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), solar panel permits and inspection costs $0.06 per watt or $360 for a 6 kW system and $600 for a 10 kW system.

Solar Panel Maintenance & Repairs

Solar panel maintenance and repairs cost $11.50 per kW per year without including the inverter, and $23/kW/yr including inverter repairs. Solar panel cleaning costs $3 to $10 per panel and produces 3.5% more electricity than if left uncleaned. An annual inspection costs $100 to $150.

Solar Panel Maintenance & Repairs
RepairAverage Cost
Panel Cleaning$150 – $250
Broken Glass Panels$20 – $350 + labor
Cracked Panel$100 – $400
Loose Connection$100+
Panel Replacement$2,000+
Micro Inverter Replacement$100 – $250
String Inverter Replacement$1,200 – $2,500
Panel Removal$400 to $600
Annual Inspection$100 to $150
Solar panel insurance coverage is typically included in most policies and are largely considered a permanent attachment to the home.

Marketing and Sales

Larger companies tend to spend extra on advertising to attract more business. However, that cost is baked into their installation services, and you’ll find better prices from smaller, more localized solar contractors.

Federal Solar Tax Credits & Incentives

There are various tax breaks and tax incentives offered by the federal government, local governments, states, and utility companies. Also, low-interest solar loans and $0 down installations are making it easy to buy a solar panel system.

How Does The Federal Solar Tax Credit Work?

The federal solar tax credit allows you to deduct 30% of the total cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes. The investment tax credit (ITC), applies to both residential and commercial solar systems without a limit. Those leasing solar panels are not eligible for federal tax credits.

Solar Tax Credit Calculator

Solar Incentives

How To Get Solar Installed For Free

In addition to the federal tax credit, homeowners are also eligible to receive solar incentives and rebates from local governments, utility companies, and solar-incentive programs.

Solar Incentives
AlabamaLoans from $2,500 to $15,000 with a 1 percent interest rate.
AlaskaBuilding materials loan up to $100,000. Net-metering programs to buy-back surplus power generated.
Arizona25% Credit up to $1,000. Sales Tax Exemption. Incentives of $0.05 per watt, up to 50 kW, capping at $2,500.
ArkansasState utility company buys back surplus energy in a net-metering program.
CaliforniaProperty Tax Exclusion. Home Energy Renovation Opportunity (HERO) Financing Program.
ColoradoCity of Boulder Solar Grant Program. Financial incentive between $200 and $750 per kilowatt. Energy Smart Rebate Program up to $1,000 in Eagle County.
ConnecticutSolar Investment Program of $0.51 per watt. Up to 10 kW. Property Tax Exemption.
DelawareDelmarva Power Green Energy Program Incentives of $0.50 per watt up to 50 kW, with a limit of $3,000. Upfront Purchase Program of $450 per kilowatt (up to 50 kW) in exchange for the first 20 years of solar renewable energy credits created by the solar panel system.
FloridaRebate of $500 per year.
GeorgiaRebate of up to $4,500, plus a rebate of $450 per kW with a limit of 10 kW. An incentive program will purchase 100% of the output at the retail electricity rate.
HawaiiState Income tax credit of 35 percent of the equipment and installation cost. Limit of $5,000. City and County of Honolulu 0% Solar Loan Program.
IdahoIncome tax deduction of 40% of the cost when installed and 20% deduction yearly for three years after. Maximum deduction of $5,000 a year. State Energy Loan Program at 4 percent interest for amounts between $1,000 and $15,000.
IllinoisBuy-back program with advance payments of up to 15 years of solar renewable energy credits.
IndianaValue of the solar panel system is exempt from property taxes. State Sales and Use Tax Exemption.
IowaTax credit equal to 50% of the federal credit, up to $5,000. Five-year property tax exemption for the market value added to a property by a solar panel system. 100% sales tax exemption for solar equipment.
KansasTax Exemption of the value of the solar panel system from property taxes for ten years.
KentuckySell electricity to participating energy companies.
LouisianaA 50 percent refundable tax credit. Tax Exemption from Ad Valorem taxes for solar energy arrays.
MaineLoans at 4.99%.
MarylandA $1,000 incentive per solar panel system ranging from 1 kW to 20 kW systems. A one-time tax credit of 50% of the total cost up to $2,500. Also, a 100% sales and use tax exemption.
MassachusettsRebate of $0.50 per watt, up to $2,500 per solar installation. Rebate of $625 per kilowatt, up to $3,125. Rebate of $1.50 per watt, up to $4,500.
MichiganLoans up to $30,000 at 4.25% interest rates.
MinnesotaRebate of $0.50 per watt, up to $5,000. Rebate of $0.94 per kilowatt-hour up to 20 kW. Cap is either $20,000 or 60% of installation costs. One-time rebate of $0.50 per watt for a 5 to 10 kW system.
MississippiIncentive of general retail electric rate for power generated by a solar array.
MissouriRebate of $0.50 per watt. Solar Property Tax Exemption.
Montana$500 tax credit. Exemption from property taxes for solar arrays, up to $20,000. Loans up to $40,000 with a 3.25% interest rate.
NebraskaGeneration rebate starting at $375 per kW. Loans up to $125,000 with interest 2.50% to 5%.
NevadaUpfront incentives of $0.15 per watt.
New HampshireRebate of $0.50 per watt, up to $2,500 or 30% of the total cost. Property tax exemption of the total cost of the solar panel system.
New Jersey100% exemption from state sales tax. Incentive rebates up to $24,250.
New MexicoPNM Performance-Based Solar Energy Program—A per-kWh payment for systems up to 100 kW for renewable energy credits. Property Tax Exemption for Residential Solar Systems.
New YorkIncentives up to $0.40 per watt for up to 25 kW. Tax credit of 25% of total cost up to $5,000. 100% of local sales tax exemption in select areas.
North CarolinaTVA Green Power Providers—Payment of the general retail rate for every kWh generated by a renewable energy system. (May expire by the end of 2019). Property tax exemption equal to the cost of the total system. 100% exemption of the total solar system cost.
North DakotaProperty Tax Exemption for the first five years.
OhioLoans up to $50,000 at 3% below market rate. Exemption from personal property taxes for arrays up to 250 kW.
OklahomaVarying amounts of state tax credits, plus net-metering program to sell back surplus power.
OregonIncentive of $0.40 per watt, up to $2,500. Rebate of $0.50 per watt, up to $7,500 per solar system. Tax credit of $1,500 or up to 50% of total costs per year for up to 4 years for a maximum of $6,000. Rebate of $600 for the first 3 kW and $300 per kW for any additional capacity, up to 50% of total system costs or $8,400.
PennsylvaniaEarn a solar credit for every 1 MWh, which can be sold for market price.
Rhode Island100% property tax exemption.
South CarolinaTax Credit up to 25% of the total cost. An incentive of $1.60 per watt up to $9,600.
South DakotaProperty Tax Exemption up to $50,000 or 70% of the property value.
TennesseeTVA Green Power Providers program (expires end of 2019) buys the energy generated by your renewable energy system. Bristol Tennessee Essential Services Energy Savings Loan Program—Financing of up to $10,000 for a 10-year term, with varying interest rates.
TexasIncentive of $1.00 per watt, with a cap of $4,000. Buy-back program for surplus energy. Rebate of $0.80 per watt up to $25,000 or 50% of project expenses.
UtahTax credit of 25% of the system costs, up to $2,000.
VermontNet metering program with a premium of more than $0.05 per kilowatt-hour for systems up to 15 kW. 100% sales tax exemption.
VirginiaTVA Green Power Providers program (expires end of 2019) buys the energy generated by your renewable energy system. Partial or Full Tax Exemption for costs of the system.
WashingtonA 100% sales and use tax exemption.
West Virginia$2,000 tax credit for the installation of a solar energy system.
WisconsinRebate of up to 12 percent of solar costs, not exceeding $2,000. A 100% sales and use tax exemption.
WyomingNet metering benefits of monthly roll-over power credits, plus annual rebate for surplus power.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does A Utility-Scale Photovoltaic Array Cost?

A utility-scale photovoltaic array greater than 2 MW costs $1.06 to $1.36 per watt before applying for the federal solar tax credit. This equates to $0.04 to $0.06 per kWh after using the tax credit.

How Much Does DIY Solar Cost?

Installing solar as a DIY project is difficult, and will cost more because solar companies buy wholesale directly from the manufacturers. Also, each solar installation needs to pass an inspection, according to state and federal laws.

How Much Does Solar Energy Cost Per Year?

Purchasing a 6 kW system ($12,600) on a 5-year payment plan costs about $2,500 per year or $210 per month. Once you own the system outright, solar energy costs $100 to $150 per year for maintenance and inspections. Another option to convert to solar is a lease at $600 to $3,000 annually.

How Much Does A Small Solar Panel Cost?

A small solar panel typically costs $2 to $4 per watt for residential use. A small 25-watt panel costs $40, while a 200-watt portable solar panel with a power station and outlets costs $250 to $300. A 45-watt solar battery bank can charge laptops, phones, tablets, and other smart devices.

How Much Does A Solar Heating System Cost?

A solar water heater costs$3,000 to $9,000 with installation, depending on the type and size. Solar heating panels, or solar thermal collectors, are different from photovoltaic (PV) solar panels because they only capture heat. Solar heating systems can heat your water supply, your air, or both.

Tips For Hiring A Solar Panel Installer

When searching for reputable solar companies, always get at least three quotes in writing from both big and small contractors, ask plenty of questions, check their credentials, and don’t sign any agreements until after an on-site consultation.

Get Multiple Solar Quotes

Homeowners who shop around often pay 10% to 20% less with savings up to $5,000 by getting at least three solar quotes from competing companies. Always ask for an on-site evaluation and request a detailed price quote in writing. Be sure to check the online reviews from HomeGuide and Google.

The largest solar installers typically quote inflated prices based on their brand and reputation. Always compare bids from the national brands to local installers to be sure you get the best deal. It's not uncommon to save thousands of dollars from smaller solar companies.

  • Experienced installers will always ask the age of your roof. The roof's condition is critical to address before installation, as most solar panels last for up to 50 years.
  • Not every electrician is licensed to install solar, and they may not fully understand the legal requirements. Always hire companies whose sole focus is solar installations.

Questions To Ask Solar Energy Companies

When you get a solar panel estimate, ask the contractor these questions:

How To Get Solar Installed For Free

  1. What certifications or licensing do you have?
  2. Do you offer any financing options?
  3. Do you have any references I can contact?
  4. What warranties do you provide?
  5. Is there a performance guarantee?
  6. Will you assist me in claiming rebates and incentives?
  7. How do you calculate, size, and design a system for me?
  8. Is there be room to expand my system if my energy needs increase?
  9. How many solar installations have you done before?
  10. How much am I expected to save each year?
  11. What will be my monthly electric bill costs?

Get free estimates on HomeGuide from trusted solar installers:

  • U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark. (2018).
  • Get Your Power from the Sun. (2003).
  • Levelized Cost and Levelized Avoided Cost of New Generation Resources in the Annual Energy Outlook. (2019).
  • SunShot 2030. (2016).
  • How much electricity does an American home use? (2018).
  • Are solar panels covered by home insurance? (n.d.).
  • Electricity Rates by State. (2019).
  • Federal Income Tax Credits and Other Incentives for Energy Efficiency. (n.d.).
  • Photovoltaic Degradation Rates — An Analytical Review. (2012).
  • Advantages and disadvantages of a solar tracker system. (2016).
  • Solar Industry Research Data. (n.d.).
  • Here’s a real Tesla Solar Roof quote. (2019).
  • Solar Roof. (2017).
  • Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). (n.d.).
  • Federal Tax Incentives for Energy Storage Systems. (2018).
  • Electricity explained. (2018).
  • Short-term Energy Outlook. (n.d.).
  • Explaining the plummeting cost of solar power. (2018).
  • Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. (n.d.).
  • Sheikh, Imran and Callaway, Duncan. “Decarbonizing Space and Water Heating in Temperate Climates: The Case for Electrification.” 2019. PDF file.
  • Pros and Cons of Monocrystalline vs Polycrystalline solar panels. (2019).
  • 8 alternatives to the Tesla Solar Roof. (2019).
  • Price Premium Analysis of a Multi-State Dataset of Solar Homes. (n.d.).
  • CertainTeed panels, Pedersen Dean and SunRun. (2018).
  • Hyundai Solar: The Complete Review. (2018).
  • LG Solar Panels. (n.d.).
  • REC Solar Panels: The Complete Review. (2019).
  • How the Program Works. (n.d.).
  • Oklahoma Solar. (n.d.).
Millions of people ask HomeGuide for cost estimates every year. We track the estimates they get from local companies, then we share those prices with you.

20+ Solar Installers near you

Get free estimates on HomeGuide from trusted solar installers:

Get free estimates

If you’ve spent any time researching or shopping around for solar panels, you’ve probably heard the offer of “free solar panels” or “no-cost solar panels and installation.”

Are these offers for free solar panels and installation a scam? A great deal?

Before you decide free solar panels are the right decision for you, read about how these offers could be misleading.

Can I Get Solar Panels Installed For Free

What does “Free Solar Panels” Mean?

When a solar company offers you “free” solar panels, they are often offering to set up a solar lease or power purchasing agreement (PPA).

As we have described in a previous article, solar leases and PPAs are very different from purchasing your solar panels through cash or loans.

Solar leases and PPAs are similar to renting your solar panel system. These solar financing options provide many of the benefits of solar panels, but without the need to own or maintain the entire solar panel system.

One of the benefits of solar leases and PPAs is that there are no upfront costs. Technically, you are not purchasing the solar panels, hence “free” solar panels. Instead, you are agreeing to allow the solar company to install solar panels on your roof.

How Solar Installed Free Download

In exchange for allowing the solar company to install the solar panels on your roof at no cost, the solar company will charge you a reduced rate for your electricity over the term of the agreement.

Are Solar Leases & PPAs Worth It?

While solar companies might sell solar leases and PPAs as “free” or “no-cost” solar, are these financing options a good idea?

A major factor to keep in mind when agreeing to a solar lease or PPA is that you do not own the solar panels. This can be beneficial for the homeowner because they do not have to make a large initial investment. The homeowner is also not responsible for maintenance and repairs on the solar panels.

However, homeowners who agree to a solar lease or PPA are not eligible to take advantage of solar incentives. Those solar incentives are claimed by the solar company.

Additionally, once the terms of the solar lease or PPA are up, the solar panels will either be taken down, or the homeowner will have an option to purchase the solar panel installation (often at an elevated cost). This not only reduces the extent of your lifetime cost savings, it also prevents the solar panels from increasing your home value when you go to sell your house.

How To Get Solar Panels Installed For Free

Are Free Solar Panels A Scam?

In most cases, the offer of “free” or “no-cost” solar panels isn’t a scam. The marketing of these offers relies upon the fact that you are not actually buying the solar panels or paying for the installation.

However, nothing comes free. You will still have to pay for the energy you receive from those panels, though you will often be paying overtime than if you paid for your solar panels through cash or a loan. Plus, you will be missing out potential solar incentives and increased property value that comes from owning your solar panels.

How Solar Installed Free Games

But each individual household’s situation is different. Some homeowners will benefit more from a solar lease or PPA than they would by owning their solar panels. The decision comes down to the individual.

To learn more about your solar options, contact Green Ridge Solar today.

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