It’s truly fantastic that you are investigating renewable energy choices!
Installing a solar array is one of the very best things you can do to lower your utility bills, reduce your carbon footprint and help create a world where renewable energy sources are the norm rather than the exception.
However, there are many factors to consider when looking at solar panel installation cost. Even a small solar deployment is a complicated system requiring many components and the services of different types of contractors. Understanding all of these moving parts will help you in deciding exactly what type of system is right for your situation.
Before we jump in, let’s review the most common types of systems available.
- Grid Tie Systems: The grid tie system feeds electrical current to your home via the solar panels. The system is connected to your existing electrical service and augments the power provided by your utility company. They offer the peace of mind of constant electrical power to your home either from the panels or the grid. Grid tie systems can be installed with or without battery banks.
- Off Grid Systems: The Off Grid system is designed to provide 100% of your home’s electrical needs. Most often, these systems use solar panels in conjunction with battery banks to provide your power needs. The power generated by the panels keeps the batteries topped off via a charge controller. During the evening hours or on cloudy days, the power is drawn from the batteries rather than the panels. These systems are generally more complicated to install and more expensive.
There are many other variations of the above mentioned systems as each situation is unique. The size of your roof, your power requirements and your location can all greatly influence solar panel installation cost.
In addition, your system may or may not have a solar hot water system included as well. Solar hot water systems can mean additional plumbing and storage expenses.
Factors That Affect Solar Panel Installation Cost
There are a number of factors that can affect solar panel installation cost. Some of these include:
- Number of Solar Panels
- Type of Solar Panels (Poly or mono crystalline? Generally speaking the more efficient panels will be mono crystalline.)
- Battery Types (if applicable)
- Type of Mounting System
- Quality of supporting components (charge controllers, monitoring equipment, etc.)
Estimates should be broken out into sections that are clearly marked. At a minimum, these sections should include:
- Name and Address of Primary Contractor
- Company Contact Person or Project Manager
- Name and Address of Homeowner
- Statement of Work
- Materials (clearly detailed by manufacturer, quantity, number of each item required and price per unit)
- Additional Costs (permits, fees, inspections)
- Change Order Process
Don’t be surprised if your quote runs for multiple pages. Additional components required may include:
Combiner Box – Each panel is wired in series to create your array. This wiring is done inside a combiner box and is used on all types of systems.
Mounting System – Solar panels must be secured, either to a structure or to poles embedded in concrete. There are many types of mounting systems available and the type of system that will work best for you should be decided between you and your contractor. Regardless of the type of system you choose, there will be additional material and labor charges for the mounting system.
Battery Banks – Depending on the type of system you’ve chosen, you may or may not have a battery that will need to be installed. Additional items will include battery boxes (or some type of enclosure), wiring and connectors.
Charge Controller (Grid Tie) – If your system includes a battery bank, then a charge controller will be used to regulate the electrical charge to the batteries.
Monitoring Center – Additionally, many homeowners elect to have a monitoring center installed which shows the system utilization, battery charge levels, system load, etc.
Electrical Disconnects – No matter what type of system you have installed, you will need a way to disconnect the system on both the DC side and the AC side.
Additional Items That Affect Solar Panel Installation Cost
Every installation will require additional hardware, wiring, connectors or special fixtures. These items should be detailed on your quote and do not hesitate to question your contractor as to their purpose.
Remember, give yourself the time to study your quote and make sure you are completely clear as to the materials, the labor charges and anything unique to your project. Your contractor will be happy to go over each item with you. Never be afraid to ask questions. This is your home and you have the right to understand every nuance and detail of the project you are undertaking.