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A State-by-State Guide to Solar Installation Costs

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Jane Marsh's picture
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Jane Marsh is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co. She covers topics related to climate policy, sustainability, renewable energy and more.

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Solar panels are great for the environment. They use renewable energy and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. We use fuel to cook, heat our homes, and power our electronics. However, fossil fuels emit greenhouse gasses that increase the impacts of climate change.

So, solar power is becoming a more popular option. The one thing to consider is the cost, which can be higher upfront. Here is a guide to solar installation prices in your area.

The Factors That Affect the Cost

The average cost of solar panels is around $15,000 to $20,000. However, it varies by state. Several factors impact the pricing. Here are a few you want to keep in mind.

1. The Panels’ Size

The bigger the panel, the costlier it is to install, since there are more materials involved. The price of labor is another important factor. Units for residential homes may cost less than larger commercial buildings as well.

Although the upfront cost is higher, the long-term expenses are lower. The device saves energy and money by working more efficiently over time. This can help lower a homeowner's utility bills.

2. The Type of System

The type of solar system you choose will impact the cost. The main ones include grid-tied and off-the-grid systems. A grid-tied system is best to save money on your utility bill. Having access to the grid can also lower the initial price of panels.

When choosing a device with energy storage, you can save further. Holding electricity in batteries is free once you purchase the units, and you might be able to sell that power later. Off-grid is best for rural areas, although the system can be higher in cost since you have to purchase batteries.

3. The Weather in Your Area

The climate of the location can determine the size of the solar panels. In warmer states like Florida, larger solar panels are installed. This helps capture the greatest amount of sunlight all year long. While there is a higher initial cost, there are significant long-term savings.

In colder states, like Maine, smaller systems are installed. This is because there is less sunlight to absorb throughout the year. So, there are affordable upfront costs but reduced long-term savings.

4. The Brand of the Solar Panel

The quality of the solar company will impact pricing. Businesses such as SunPower produce high-efficiency products that will cost more.

Along with the manufacturing brand, there are other factors to note. These include the installer experience, the quality of the equipment, and the warranty. High-end materials and experienced professionals can raise the price.

5. The Roof’s Structure

The style of the home also impacts expenses. It is easier to install if you have a south-facing roof that slopes. The contractor will have good access to the structure. Plus, the panels receive more sunlight exposure. This means you’ll need to install fewer panels, which cuts costs.

Roofs with multiple levels or skylights make it harder to install devices. With more obstacles, the process may require extra equipment raising the price. Some states and regions tend to feature single-story homes, which may make installation more straightforward and the labor costs slightly lower.

6. The Permit and Connection Fees

Before installing the solar system, you may need to obtain a permit. You'll also need to get an interconnection agreement to connect to the power grid. These may include an attached fee. In addition, you need a building and electrical permit.

The average cost will vary by state. Colorado caps their permits at $500 for residential homes and $1,000 for commercial spaces. After installing the unit, the permitting office will do a final inspection.

How to Lower the Price

While these costs can seem intimidating at first, there are ways to reduce expenses. Tax credits and incentives can help. Many states offer tax credits for those installing energy-efficient upgrades. In Tennessee, the green energy property tax assessment can lower your costs. In fact, it can have a maximum return of 12.5% of the initial installed cost.

Also, claim the federal residential solar energy credit on your federal income taxes. Some utility companies even offer solar loans to help with initial payments. Plus, lower-income families can look for governmental programs, like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance. The organization helps people manage their energy expenses.

The Cost of Solar Panels

Solar energy can minimize the impacts of climate change for the next generation. It is also an effective way to reduce utility expenses. However, the upfront cost depends on several factors, like your state of residence. So, use this guide to help determine the average cost in your area.

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Joseph McLeer's picture
Joseph McLeer on May 3, 2022

Very good, high-level information on considerations for solar installation.  Not clear on the article title "State-by-State Guide...." since specific information for only a few select states (e.g., Tennessee, Maine, Florida, Colorado) is provided.

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