I often get asked how much it would cost to install solar panels on a house or business building to generate one’s own electrical energy.
In the California, a rule of thumb is that the average house consumes electricity at the rate of 1 kW per hour (kWh). There are about 730 hours in each month, and the average price of a kWh of electricity is $0.15. So an average monthly bill would be around $110 for 730 kWh of electricity.
Of course, this can vary considerably if you have non-standard items such as a hot-tub, or some electrical appliances running continuously. Extended computer use, plasma screen TVs and video games consoles can also make an impact. Your usage will increase significantly in months when you run an air conditioning unit, as well. Finally, the cost of electricity varies widely across California, from as low as $0.07/kWh in some areas to as much as $0.44/kWh in others. You’ll have to adjust my guidelines accordingly, because they apply to an average home with average consumption and average electricity costs.
A conservative value to use as a solar panel’s generating capacity is 10 watts/sq. ft. This represents a panel conversion efficiency of about 12%, which is typical. This means that for every kW you generate, you need about 100 sq. ft. of solar panels. If the sun shone 24 hours a day, you could put up 100 sq. ft. of panels and have enough energy to power the average home.
But, as we all know, the sun is available only during daylight hours, and the amount available per day is highly dependent on the extent of cloud cover. Also, the length of each day is dependent on the season. Fortunately, there are resources on the web to help you figure out how many hours per day (on average) you can count on the sun to shine, based on where you live.
The averages across the California is 5.4 hours per day in most parts of the state. What that means is that the size of the panel array required can vary, anywhere from 500 sq. ft. to 800 sq. ft. (i.e., 5 kW to 8 kW), depending on where you live. You’ll need more panels if you live in a location that gets less sunshine per day, and fewer if you live in a location that gets more.
If your utility company allows you to have net metering — that is, they supply you with a special meter that will spin backwards when you generate more electricity than you use — your annual bill can average out at zero. Because of shorter days in the winter, you’ll likely be a net purchaser of electricity in that season and a net producer in the summer months. A grid-tied system like this is different than off-grid systems used in remote locations with no electrical service; those require batteries, which can significantly increase overall system costs.
The average installed cost of solar panels in California was between $5.5-$7 per watt: A 5 kW system would cost around $27,500-$35,000.
At Go Solar Direct the average installed cost of solar panels is between $3.5-$4.5 per watt making going solar a No-Brainer!
Many utility companies also offer incentives, and some subsidize as much as 15% of system costs.
And than there is the federal tax credit which is 30% of the system cost!
Note: Installation costs for PV systems include both labor and the electronics needed to tie the solar array into your existing electrical system.
Standard Solar System Components
This brings up an important point: it takes more than a solar panel to get a PV system up and running, though. In fact, there are generally four components in every PV system:
Solar panels – captures sun’s energy and converts it to electricity
Controller – protects batteries by regulating the flow of electricity
Batteries – store electricity for later use
Inverter /Optimizer – converts energy stored in a battery to voltage needed to run standard electrical equipment/ optimize the the panels electricity production
At Go Solar Direct we will help you determine the cost and benefits of using solar power for your home or small business. Our full and free evaluation will tell you the daily generation (in kWh) and the daily savings you can expect to see with solar panel installation. You’ll want to have your most recent power bill on hand to help you complete the solar evaluation accurately.
*To get a full and free solar report and installation proposal you can submit your info here.