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Are you a Pennsylvania resident who is looking to go solar? This is a great time to make the switch to clean, solar energy, and there are currently some great incentives to save, both unique to PA residents and nationwide.
In Pennsylvania, the cost of installing an average-sized (5kW) solar energy system averages between $13,360 and $17,940. This estimation does not include money-saving incentives such as the federal ITC credit, which we will discuss in detail later on. When you plan out your system, there are many factors to consider that can affect the total cost of your project. Read on to get a comprehensive understanding of the costs and materials involved!
Primary factors that determine cost:
Size of the system
Determining your home’s energy needs is an important place to start. Think about if you’d like your solar power to cover your full energy needs, which is the most commonly chosen path. Between 28 and 34 250-watt panels (a popular size) would cover the electrical requirements for the average U.S. home, which consumes approximately 10,400 kWh (kilowatt-hours) a year.
How much annual sunlight you receive also makes a difference. Pennsylvania’s yearly sunlight varies significantly by what region you live in. Harrisburg, for example, gets about 58% sunshine annually, while Pittsburgh averages around 45%. Not every state has as high an amount of sunny days as, say, the Southwest, but even in a fairly cloudy city such as Pittsburgh, you could save an estimated $1000 on electricity annually, with an appropriately sized system!
The equipment needed for a solar system is:
Solar panels – There two technologies that currently dominate the market are monocrystalline and polycrystalline. Both work similarly, but monocrystalline does have a higher efficiency rating, a more desirable appearance, and a higher cost.
Racking – Solar panels aren’t placed right onto your home’s roof. Instead, they’re mounted upon a racking system, which itself is installed onto your roof. This system places your solar panels in a way that they receive optimum energy from the sun. The racking system also acts to avoid damage to your roof. If you are instead in the market for a solar carport or ground mount solar, you can also find a mounting system to fit your needs.
Inverters – Solar power is received as DC current, and the inverter switches it to AC power, which most homes are wired to use.
Performance monitoring system – These let you monitor how effectively your system is running. Performance monitoring systems report the hourly electricity your solar system produces, and help identify if and when an issue comes up with your system.
Solar batteries – Solar power storage systems let homeowners use the solar energy that their homes generate when sunlight isn’t available, such as at night or on cloudy days.
The Solar Installation Company
There’s a wide range of installers nowadays, and they will all offer a wide range of quotes. Sometimes, quotes are higher because the company invests in top-notch equipment, but other times they spend more on advertising and promotional items, then transmitting that cost onto the customer.
Make sure you take the time to research installers in your area. Try asking neighbors who installed their solar panels and how happy they were with the job. It’s a great idea to ask multiple installers for quotes and compare their reviews and equipment used!
Price of Installation Breakdown
Panels have a reputation for being pricey. However, they only tend to make up about 34% of your total cost. The major investment is actually in labor and overhead costs.
As you compare prices, be sure to do plenty of research, collecting quotes from a variety of service providers in your area. You will likely receive quite a wide range of quotes, due to the difference in overhead fees an installer might charge you.
It will take some time to conduct your research, but it could save you lots on your installation costs- as in thousands of dollars! Big-named companies have a reputation because they’re already established, so they can charge more and not worry about competition from small-scale businesses. They also frequently charge more to cover their marketing and additional overhead expenses.
Pennsylvania Solar Incentives, Tax Credits, and Rebates
Pennsylvania residents can take advantage of some great money-saving incentives to help with the cost of going solar in 2020.
The big incentive to know about is the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). The ITC allows you to take a 26 percent tax credit on the cost of your solar system. A tax credit translates to a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your total income tax liability. In other words, if your solar system costs $15,000, you could claim a credit on your taxes worth $3,900! This is an excellent opportunity to take advantage of, but the ITC is already being phased out, so 2020 is the year to do it. The amount of the tax credit will rapidly decline until it is completely phased out for homeowners, after 2021.
Additionally, you can actually earn money on your system by taking part in the solar renewable energy credit (SREC) plan. For each megawatt-hour of energy your solar system produces, you earn an SREC. You can then choose to sell SRECS to your local electric company.
Buying your solar panels outright has its benefits – being the owner, you will likely benefit from an increased home value and savings. There are also some benefits to solar loans and solar leases/PPAs- both offer $0 money down, as well as monthly payments that will most likely be less than your current utility bill. One advantage of a solar loan is that it can be paid off within 7 to 15 years. Solar leases, on the other hand, often come with a 20-25 year term.
Other Factors That Affect Cost
Making the switch to solar energy can be a significant investment, so be sure to look at the big picture. Think of it as a long-term investment, considering the cost and savings you will encounter over the next twenty years or so. Good things to keep in mind are:
- The cost of the materials needed for installation
- Labor and overhead fees from your installer
- Maintenance fees
- Savings you’ll receive through federal, state and local tax credits
- The price and average power usage on your current electric bills
- What you can expect to save on future bills (or lack of!)
The payback period refers to how long it will take you to recover from your solar power investment financially, be it by profit or savings. In PA, the payback period ranges from 9.6-13 years.
So after that time, your savings on electricity bills will have paid for the cost of your system. And moving forward, electricity generated from the solar panels is essentially free, aside from the utility company connection fees. Remember too that solar panels have a 20-30 year warranty, so that is lots of savings over time. A typical PA solar panel system will save you more than $75,000 over a 20-year span.
Residential electricity rates in PA
Electricity rates in Pennsylvania average 10.29¢/kWh, ranking 18th highest in the nation. Replacing standard electricity with clean energy harnessed from the sun will be beneficial for both the environment and your budget.
Some roofs seem to be perfectly configured for solar system installation, while others, well, aren’t. This depends on how steep your roof is, if it has one or multiple levels, and if skylights or other items are installed onto your roof already.
Your roof’s condition also matters. An old roof may need replacement since the panels will likely stay on them for decades. Still, keep in mind that the roof repair can be bundled into the solar project and qualify for the financial incentives and rebates.
Costs by City
The cost of a solar power system varies, based on the size of your home, how many watts you install, and which county you live in. For instance, Beaver County residents pay an average of $18,358 for a 5kWH system, but that cost drops down considerably to $12,851 when you apply the tax credit. Clinton County residents would pay significantly less, with an average of $12,486 on the same sized system, or just $8,740 after tax credits.
These numbers are just estimates, and it’s important to remember that solar systems are highly customizable to your finances and power needs.
Solar power systems require minimal maintenance throughout the year. The major annual expenses are cleaning and inspection. Regular cleaning of your system will keep it running smoothly, and an inspector can alert you if a problem does arise.
Professional cleaning companies tend to charge between $3 and $10 per panel, or a flat rate of at least $100. Some people do clean their own systems, but it is advised to speak to your installer before you choose to try doing it yourself!
An annual inspection averages $150 per year. During these inspections, the contractor searches for cracks or issues with the system. If a solar panel repair is needed, the average cost is $650.
Installation companies frequently offer warranties that cover your system, including performance, workmanship, and equipment. In the event of damage due to inclement weather, your homeowner’s insurance should include some of that expense as well. Again, check with a professional in that area for more information.
Home value increase
Nationwide, the property value of solar-powered homes, with panels that are purchased (not leased), does tend to increase. In a recent study, houses in Southeastern Pennsylvania were sold with an average premium of $16,377, or 3.73% of the sale price. More studies will surely be done to gain a comprehensive understanding, but what’s been found so far is promising!
How to Calculate Your Solar Installation Costs
Solar panel cost calculator
If you’re looking for a tool to help you determine estimated costs accurately, be sure to check out Project Sunroof.
Powered by Google Earth, Project Sunroof works to estimate your personalized solar quote. The technology uses Google Earth’s images to determine your roof’s shape and local weather, two essential factors in determining solar costs. Project Sunroof then asks for your electric bill information, which helps estimate how many solar panels you’d need and what the cost would be. You can then compare options to fund your project.
Pennsylvania residents can currently take advantage of cost-saving incentives toward solar installation, so 2020 is an ideal time to make the switch to solar power. There aren’t just ways to save on your installation costs- with SRECs, your solar power can actually make you money! This is also the time to cash in on the ITC before the incentive disappears for good. Talk to your local installers and see how you can benefit from your own clean energy system.
People also ask
In 2019, the cost for solar panels averages between $2.58 and 3.38 per watt. Prices have gone down in recent years, and it seems they will continue to do so, but the ITC and other money-saving incentives will not last long!
In short, yes. You’ll immediately start saving on your electric bills, if not ending them completely! Plans are so customizable that you’re sure to find one to fit your needs.
It depends. Things to consider are the wattage of the solar panels, your home’s size, and how much energy your household consumes. This number also varies by how fully you want to cover your electrical needs. If you on average use 10,400 kWh of electricity per year, 100% of your electrical needs would be covered using 28-34 250-watt solar panels.
Solar panels are estimated to last for 20-25 years. After that, they may still produce electricity, but how much they provide is likely to slow down. They are quite durable and require little maintenance- only an annual cleaning and inspection, which could alert you of any potential issues in your system.
Be sure to research your panels’ warranties, ensuring they’re well-covered for defects and environmental damage.
Yes- but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. Sure, you can save even more by purchasing a home solar kit, which costs much less than a professional installation. However, there’s no guarantee of quality, workmanship, or proper installation, so be sure to research how reputable the manufacturing company is.
Installers are often highly experienced, licensed, certified, and more familiar with the process. Some warranties only cover work done by licensed professionals, so check it out before committing to the DIY method. A professional’s experience comes with a price tag, but it might be worth it in the long run.