When trying to figure out how much solar panels cost, you actually have two costs to consider: upfront costs and long-term costs.
Once you’ve examined your own electricity usage and have used our solar panel calculator to determine how much solar power and how many solar panels you might need to carry out your particular project, you are ready to dive into the financial aspect of buying/building and installing solar power.
Prices for solar panels are given in $/W (dollar per Watt). According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the average cost for installed solar panels in the United States is approximately $6/W (2013). This number fluctuates and does not include data from all solar installation companies, but it’s a pretty reliable estimate. Conversely, the cost for solar panel kits purchased from home improvement stores and independent retailers hovers around $2/W. Building and installing your own solar panels costs about $1/W.
With such a striking cost differential, it’s easy to see why many people consider building and installing homemade solar panels. While this is a very noble and rewarding undertaking, the long-term costs are also worth looking into.
Long-Term Costs (and Benefits)
In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, you will also reduce your electricity bill and your taxes (in the form of federal and state refunds and rebates) should you decide to install solar power onto your home or business. Some states even allow you to to sell solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), a residential solar energy program that generates income.
You should always do your research into state and federal rebate programs as well as code enforcement regulations and what your insurance company will cover. Homemade solar panels are usually not considered for these special rebate programs. So, you may not see a return on your investment in the form of a tax rebate should you decide to go the DIY solar power route.
It’s easy to see that whatever you decide to do, you could easily spend thousands of dollars upfront on solar power. You may not realize monthly energy savings for several months or years after your initial installation. While this fact often deters people from investing in solar energy, you should not get discouraged.
Websites like Solar Power DIY are available to help you make an informed decision and find ways to integrate alternative energy into your life no matter what solar panels cost.