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Average Cost of Solar Panels: Are They Worth It?

The average cost of solar panels in the United States is roughly $1 per watt. This price will vary depending on the company you choose to purchase your panels from and the grade of the solar cells. When factoring in the cost of purchasing and installing solar panels, it’s important to also consider the savings they can provide over time. We’ve constructed this guide to answer these and other solar panel cost-related questions.

Table of Contents

  • Cost of Solar Panels
    • Per Watt
    • By State
    • Solar Panel Costs Over Time
    • Per Square Foot

Estimating the Cost of Solar Panels

When you calculate the cost of solar panels for your home, you must first begin by estimating your load. That is, how much power you need your solar panels to generate. Take inventory of the devices you would switch over to solar, and what their energy consumption is. With a basic set up, you probably don’t want to have your refrigerator or other devices that run 24/7 running off solar.

Once you know exactly how much power you need, the next step is to simply multiply the watts needed by $1 for a rough estimate. Below, we outline the cost of several popular solar panel brands and models to give you a rough idea of how much prices can vary.

Solar PanelAverage of Price Per Watt
Ameresco$6.09
Astronergy$0.54
Canadian$0.78
LG$1.31
Mission$0.71
Panasonic$1.18
Solarland$2.70
SolarWorld$0.66
SunPower$2.63

 

It’s generally advised to not purchase solar panels charging less than $0.70 per watt. Those often use B-grade cells that have low energy efficiency.

Average Cost of Solar Panel System by State

One can estimate the cost of solar panel systems throughout the United States by studying the average energy consumption of households in these areas. We surveyed data from ChooseEnergy.com to arrive at these figures. Baked into our assumption was that energy was used for an estimated 12 hours per day, and that the household would replace 50% of their electronics with solar power sources.

StateAverage kW Used MonthlyTotal Estimated Cost (Full System Installation)
Alabama101$50,583
Alaska49$24,583
Arizona86$42,917
Arkansas90$45,125
California46$22,792
Colorado58$28,917
Connecticut59$29,625
D.C.67$33,500
Delaware79$39,458
Florida94$46,792
Georgia95$47,417
Hawaii42$21,042
Idaho79$39,708
Illinois61$30,542
Indiana81$40,625
Iowa72$36,000
Kansas75$37,458
Kentucky93$46,708
Louisiana103$51,667
Maine46$22,750
Maryland83$41,458
Massachusetts50$24,958
Michigan56$27,833
Minnesota64$31,833
Mississippi100$50,125
Missouri87$43,375
Montana68$33,875
Nebraska81$40,542
Nevada77$38,542
New Hampshire50$25,167
New Jersey58$28,792
New Mexico53$26,292
New York50$24,792
North Carolina92$45,875
North Dakota87$43,583
Ohio74$37,125
Oklahoma91$45,542
Oregon76$37,792
Pennsylvania70$35,042
Rhode Island49$24,417
South Carolina96$48,125
South Dakota82$40,875
Tennessee103$51,583
Texas96$48,167
Utah63$31,250
Vermont46$22,875
Virginia93$46,667
Washington80$39,792
West Virginia92$45,917
Wisconsin57$28,458
Wyoming71$35,417

Cost of Solar Panels Over Time

When evaluating the cost of solar panels, it’s important to incorporate a time element into the calculation. After all, once you switch over to solar, the energy savings will, over time, pay for the system and its installation. The average energy bill in the United States is about $111 per month, or $1,336 annually. Given that the average system costs roughly $37,000, it would pay for itself after about 25 years.

Solar energy is a lifetime investment, and something that would pay dividends after many years.

Cost of Solar Panels Per Square Foot

Another way to look at the cost of solar panels is to tie it back to how big of a home you have. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average, annual electricity use is 14 kWh per square foot. That works out to roughly 0.6 kW of energy per square foot. Given Solar Panels cost $1 per Watt, on average, that works out to roughly $600 per square foot.

Keep in mind that the above assumption says 100% of energy would be replaced with a solar source. To reduce that square footage cost, simply multiply the $1,200 by whatever percent of your total energy consumption you expect to replace with the solar panels.

Example Calculation:

Tom lives in a 1,000 sq. foot home. He expects to replace 10% of all his energy consumption with a solar panel system. Given he’s able to find a system charging $1 per W, and he uses the U.S. average of 1.2 kW per square foot, his entire solar cost would come out to:

2,687 x 10% x $600 =  $60,000.

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