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The average cost of solar panels in MA based on system size
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You’re wise for researching the cost of installing solar panels. Purchasing a solar energy system for your home is a long-term investment and is not a simple decision. Read on to learn more about solar panel costs in Massachusetts.
Price of Installation Breakdown
A common misconception is that panels are the most costly part of a solar system, but they only make up about one-third of your total cost. The significant investment is actually in labor and overhead costs.
Researching these purchases ahead of time can save you thousands of dollars on installation costs. While the large national-level solar providers may seem like the easiest option, they tend to have higher customer acquisition costs than local providers, which could mean higher prices for the customer.
Factors That Determine Solar Panel Installation Costs
The size of the system
Start by determining how many solar panels you will need or how many panels your roof can accommodate. For reference, a typical rooftop solar system in the U.S. is 5 kW or 20 250-watt panels. Data on overall system costs are usually in terms of the number of DC Watts (the panels’ total wattage).
- Average home energy usage – How much electricity your home uses is the primary factor that determines the size of the system. Every solar installer will ask for your electric bill to help calculate your energy usage.
- Amount of sunlight – How much of your energy needs your system can produce will depend on how much sunlight (irradiation) you receive in your area. Accurate data for direct normal irradiation (DNI) for all regions of the U.S. can be found at https://nsrdb.nrel.gov
The components in your system
A typical solar energy system consists of the following components:
- Solar panels – Monocrystalline and polycrystalline are the two main panels on the market. They work similarly, but monocrystalline panels have a more streamlined appearance, higher efficiency rating, and a higher cost.
- Racking – Solar panels aren’t installed directly on your roof- instead, they go onto a racking system mounted on your roof. The racking system serves two functions: (1) it allows for your solar panels to be set at the optimal tilt – even if your roof slope is different – and (2) it avoids damage to your roof.
- Inverters – Inverters convert the D.C. power generated by solar panels into A.C. power which your home or business will use.
- Performance monitoring system – Performance monitoring systems provide the interface for monitoring how your system is doing. These systems usually come in the form of a web-based application where you can log-in and see real-time and historical production data
- Batteries (optional) – Solar power storage systems let homeowners use solar energy that their homes generate when sunlight isn’t available, such as at night or on cloudy days.
The solar installation company
The success of your solar investment is greatly affected by the company you choose to install your system. Choosing the wrong solar company can lead to performance issues and affect your return on investment.
Take the time to research installers in your area. Ask multiple installers for quotes, and compare their reviews and equipment used. You can also speak with neighbors about how happy they were with their installer. Also, be sure to check out who we think are the best solar companies in MA.
Solar incentives, rebates, and tax credits
- Federal ITC
The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is one of the most generous incentives nationwide. With this tax credit, the amount you pay in taxes is reduced by 26 percent of your solar system’s total cost. For example, a $10,000 system will give you a $2,600 credit towards your federal taxes. This incentive won’t last- the credit amount drops down to 22% after 2022 and will be phased out after 2023.
- Massachusetts solar incentives
Many states and municipalities offer solar incentives that can further reduce your total cost. The solar company should clearly explain the programs you qualify for and how much money you will save.
How you pay for the system
Paying for your solar panels upfront means that you are the owner of your system. Owning gives you some substantial benefits, including an increased home value. If buying your system outright isn’t an option, look into solar loans and solar leases. Each offers $0 down, and your monthly payments will most likely be less than your current electric bill.
It is important to note that you are not the owner when leasing a solar system; the company you lease from is. Only the owner can claim the tax credits and rebates.
The length of time it takes your energy savings to offset the initial investment is called the payback period. The average payback period on a residential solar system in Massachusetts is 5 years. After passing this mark, the amount you’ve saved on electricity would have paid for the cost of your system. A 20-30 year warranty often covers solar panels, so you’ll enjoy clean and mostly free electricity well after you hit this mark.
Electricity rates in Massachusetts
MA residents pay an average of 19 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). This is 73% higher than the national average of 11 cents per kWh. By covering your home’s entire electrical needs with solar energy, you will eliminate future electric bills. Keeping the 20+ year lifespan of solar panels in mind, this amounts to considerable savings over time.
Your roof’s size and configuration will likely impact your solar installation cost. Some aspects that factor in are how steep your roof is, if it has one or multiple levels, and if your roof has skylights or other similar items.
Since solar panels tend to last for 20-30 years, the age of your roof may impact the overall lifetime costs of your system. In most cases, should you need to replace your roof a few years down the road, panels can be removed and reinstalled. However, significantly older roofs may need replacement before the system can be installed. You should consider these potential expenses.
Costs by city
The cost of solar panel installation varies based on which city or county in which you live. For example, solar panel costs in Boston might be slightly different than the same solar panel system in Quincy.
State-level figures are estimates, so check with local installers to determine rates in your area. Remember that solar power systems are designed to meet your finances and energy needs.
Additionally, choosing a solar company closer to your home can sometimes save you money. The transportation costs for a solar company 10 miles away are lower than a solar company 90 miles away. The extra costs often get passed through to the customer.
Top MA Cities By Population: Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Cambridge, Lowell, Brockton, New Bedford, Quincy, Lynn, Fall River
Once your solar power system is up and running, it is typically self-sufficient. Minimal maintenance is needed throughout the year, mainly cleaning and inspection. Regular cleaning of your system keeps it running smoothly, and an inspector will alert you if a problem arises.
Professional cleaning services average $3 – $10 per panel, or a flat rate of at least $100. Cleaning your own panels is an option but be sure to speak with your installer before trying it yourself.
An annual inspection costs about $150 per year. During this inspection, the contractor searches for cracks or issues with the system—the price to repair solar panels averages around $650.
Installers frequently offer warranties to cover the system’s performance. If the damage results from inclement weather, your homeowner’s insurance may cover some of that expense. Be sure to ask your solar installer for more information, as warranties and insurance coverage vary.
Home value increase
In a recent study, the average U.S. home with solar power has a 4.1% increase in value when compared with similar homes without solar panels. More studies are needed for a comprehensive look at rates nationwide, but the data looks promising. According to a recent Zillow study, no city saw a drop in property value when the owner purchased solar panels outright.
How to Determine Your Solar System Cost
Google solar panel cost calculator
Project Sunroof is a great resource to help estimate the cost of your property’s solar project. This cost calculator uses Google Earth images to look at your roof’s shape and determine local weather, two factors that significantly impact the cost. It will also ask for your electric bill information to estimate how many solar panels you’d need to fit your energy requirements and what the cost would be. You can then compare funding options for your project.
Determining the cost of solar panels for your home is not as simple as shopping for a car. Going solar is an investment and requires some research and planning. The most accurate way of determining the solar panel installation costs for your home in Massachusetts is by getting estimates from local solar installers. We recommend that you get around 3 free estimates from reputable, local solar companies. If the numbers make sense, going solar will be a good decision.