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How Much Do Solar Panels Cost?

Solar Panel Installation Prices

When you consider rising energy prices, mounting concern about global warming, and advances in alternative energy technology, there's never been a better time to invest in solar panels. There are numerous benefits to doing so. This buying guide explains what they are, the basics of solar energy, and the cost of solar panels.

About Residential Solar Panels

Residential solar panel kits convert the sun's rays into electricity through the use of photovoltaic (PV) silicon cells. There are three major types of solar panels:

  • Monocrystalline: These solar panels, constructed from one continuous silicon sheet, are the most expensive, but also the most efficient.
  • Polycrystalline: Also known as multi-crystalline, this type of solar panel consists of many individual PV cells held together by metal conductors. Polycrystalline panels are less expensive and less efficient than monocrystalline cells.
  • Amorphous: Amorphous solar panels combine a thin layer of silicon atop a metal or glass base. They are the least expensive and least efficient solar panels.

There are also three major mount options for residential solar power systems:

  • Fixed mount: Fixed solar panel mounts are the simplest and least expensive. They are completely stationary, however, and can't be adjusted seasonally to capture more sunlight.
  • Adjustable mount: These solar panels can be tilted in accordance with seasonal angles of the sun in order to increase efficiency.
  • Tracking mount: A tracking solar panel mount follows the arch of the sun and provides maximum efficiency. The amount of solar energy you will be able to generate depends on not only on panel construction and mounting, but your location. For an idea of the amount of sunshine available in your area, use these tools from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The Benefits of Using Residential Solar Power

There are many advantages to installing solar panels in your home or business, including:

  • Higher efficiency, lower costs: The price of PV panels has fallen dramatically in the past several years, making residential solar panels cheaper than ever before. When you consider the various government incentives and tax breaks that are available for solar panel installation, the cost can be even lower. In addition to solar being more affordable, home solar panels are now more efficient, allowing smaller cells to generate more power.
  • Cost savings: Although the upfront costs of residential solar energy infrastructure can be quite expensive, you should still be able to recoup your investment in 7 to 25 years. In the meantime, residential solar power will stabilize your energy costs and free you from skyrocketing energy prices. With an average life span of 30 to 40 years, once your investment is paid off, you'll enjoy years of free energy.

How fast your solar panels pay for themselves will heavily depend on where you live. What is the sunlight rate in your area? Do you have snow that covers your roof for part of the year? Obviously, the sunnier it is in your state the better of you will be installing solar panels on your home.

  • Increase the value of your home: Statistics show that homes with residential solar systems sell faster and for more money.
  • Reduce your environmental impact: Coal, which dumps large amounts of pollutants into the environment, still accounts for the bulk of U.S. energy production. Solar panels for your home, on the other hand, are emissions-free.

Residential Solar Panel Average Costs

Solar panel high costs can be misleading. Because, while the initial price for residential solar isn't cheap, it can save you money in the long run.

With that being said, the cost of installing solar panels can range from a few thousand to several thousand dollars. The cost varies depending on how many and what type of panels you're installing. Generally, you can expect to pay around $6 to $10 per watt of solar energy, including the cost of installation. Factor in the price of additional hardware such as an inverter box and wiring and you're looking at spending $30,000 to $40,000 for the typical single-family home.

Solar Panel Tax Credit

It's important to keep in mind that solar panels costs can be significantly reduced through state and federal rebates and tax credits, up to 50% to 80% in some cases (for information on applicable rebates in your state, check out the Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency). Furthermore, you may merely want to add only a few residential solar panels to simply reduce their energy costs. It may not be your best move to entirely replace grid-based electricity.

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