How Much Does it Cost to Install Solar Panels?

The cost to install solar panels typically ranges from $9,251 to 24,461 for the solar panels plus supplies and labor. Cost to install solar panels varies depending on the material and quality of the panels, number of panels required, type of mount, location where the panels are to be mounted, and complexity of the installation.

There are three common types of solar panels:

  1. Amorphous -- The least expensive and least efficient, amorphous solar panels consist of a thin layer of silicon on a base of glass or metal.
  2. Polycrystalline (p-Si) -- Polycrystalline solar panels are mid-range in terms of price and efficiency. They are made up of numerous individual photovoltaic cells, which are held together by metal conductors.
  3. Monocrystalline (mono-Si) -- Top of the line are monocrystalline solar panels, the costliest and most efficient option. Each one is manufactured from a thin wafer of silicon, cut from a silicon ingot.

Solar panel mounts include fixed or static (which are fixed immovably in place), adjustable (which are tiltable to take maximum advantage of the sun available at any time of day or year), and tracking (which is the most effective, as it tracks the sun's arc).

Panels are most usually mounted on the roof of the home. However, this may be difficult due to roof pitch or limited space. Other locations include on the ground, over a patio (where the panels double as a shade system), on the roof of an outbuilding, or atop a parking area. Solar panels are generally most effective when installed in the sunniest possible area of a property.

Typically, multiple solar panels will be installed by a team of technicians in one service call. The exact number depends on how large the home is and how much electricity the panels are needed to furnish. Approximately twenty-five 200-watt panels will fully power a 5-kW house.

Cost Breakdown

Cost to install solar panels will normally include:

  • Materials -- The solar panel(s) will most likely be of the amorphous, polycrystalline, or monocrystalline variety. The appropriate type of mount must be chosen.
  • Labor -- Labor costs comprise preparation of the roof or other mounting surface, physical positioning of the solar panels, and electrical connection. This last step requires the services of a professional electrician.
  • The initial estimate, which may include an onsite inspection, is often free.

Get the Most for Your Money

Usually the most efficient solar panel systems are also the most costly to purchase. However, they will last the longest, take up the least amount of space, and most important, generate electricity most effectively. In fact, they may supply all the home power, eliminating electricity bills, and even allow their owner to sell some of their electric output back to the local utility company.

Tax credits and rebates at the federal and state levels, or through regional utilities, help to offset the cost of converting to "green" solar-powered electricity. Some local governments offer a property tax exemption as an additional incentive.