With the 30% federal tax credit reducing at the end of 2019 millions of American homeowners are asking themselves whether they should install solar panels for their homes in 2019. The answer to this question depends on where you live, how much roof space you have, whether it is shaded, how you use power and what your local utility charges you for electricity.

Everything you need to know about installing solar panels for your home in 9  brief questions

Here are all the things you need to know to make an informed decision about installing a solar power system for your house;

1. How much will solar panels cost for your specific home?

The Solar-Estimate solar calculator is the best way to estimate the cost of solar for a specific home because it has the electricity rates charged by each utility company in its database as well as accurate solar panel production data for each location around the United States.

In its solar power system cost calculations, it uses average solar prices for your city. You can choose to unlock access to each specific solar companies prices if you choose to enter your details and request quotes. The estimate you get at the end of this process is very detailed and includes your cost, savings, payback period, investment return, loan and monthly payment options, the environmental benefits, cash flow graphs, etc. 

Calculate How Much Solar Panels Will Cost For Your Home Given Its Location and Monthly Power Bill

Preparing solar calculator...

How much does it cost to install solar panels for an average house in 2019? The DOE-funded, Lawrence Berkeley institute publishes costs of 90% of residential solar power systems installed in the US. This data shows the average solar power system cost is currently $3.89/watt.

Data from Solar-Estimate.org, the biggest consumer solar estimator in the US, shows the average cost of a residential solar system in 2019 is 3.08 per watt.  For a typical 6kw home solar system, this is $18,480 before the solar tax credit and $12,936 after claiming the credit back on your taxes. The cheaper prices from the Solar-Estimate.org data may reflect the price competition that website leverages for consumers. Solar companies know the homeowners using this site will see multiple solar prices and system options and so they compete for customers.

2. Can you buy and install your own solar panels for home to save money?

It is possible to buy solar panel kits and then organize the installation, permitting and inspections yourself. Doing this can save you 2,000-3,000 thousand dollars, possibly more.

However, there are some potential pitfalls. The installation itself is dangerous, there is the real possibility of damaging the equipment, and it is very difficult to claim on a solar warranty without a solar company to support you. DIY solar projects typically suit those who are contractors or who know a solar qualified electrician to help them out.

If you are considering DIY solar panels we suggest that you get at least one quote from a full-service solar company (one that will supply the equipment and do the permitting and installation) because sometimes solar installers charge DIY customers so much for installation that the customer doesn't actually save any money v's getting a solar company to take care of the whole process.

3. Is your roof suitable for installing solar panels?

Solar energy can power your entire home because net metering gives you credits to cover your nighttime power use. It is possible for a solar home to have little or no utility bill. However, the typical home needs between 6-8 kW of solar panels to eliminate their electricity bill. This means you need between 360-520 square feet of roof space. Here is a link to a solar roof space calculator. The roof needs to be mostly unshaded from 10 am -3 pm. Sometimes trees can be trimmed to achieve this.

Does my roof have to face due South for solar panels to produce electricity? While solar panels facing due south do produce the most overall electricity it can be perfectly fine to have panels facing southwest or southeast without too much loss of electricity generation.

As solar prices fall more and more panels are being put on west facing roof spaces even though they produce about 15% less electricity. This is now common for folks with time-of-use electricity billing who want to move their solar generation to later in the afternoon when peak rates are charged by the electric utility for power.

4. Which solar panel is best for home?

SolarReviews had a group of retired industry veterans who are not affiliated with any solar panel manufacturer sit down and write expert reviews on the most commonly installed brands of residential solar panels.  They came up with an overall ranking, a separate ranking of the most efficient solar panels and a ranking of best value solar panels. These are the brands they ranked as their overall five best solar panels:

1. Panasonic
2. LG
3. CanadianSolar
4. SunPower
5. REC Solar

You can read our expert summary and the justifications for the ranking of top solar panels manufacturers in 2018 on our best solar panels brands-expert reviews page.

5. How long does it take for your solar savings to pay back the cost of residential solar panels  (solar payback period)?

In states such as California the payback period on home solar systems. given current solar prices, averages 6.5 years but the solar payback period can be as little as 4 years in states like Massachusetts. In other states like Florida, Texas, New Jersey and South Carolina it is a little longer but still better than most traditional investments...and better for our planet.

Are solar panels for home worth it

6. How many solar panels are needed to power a house?

The number of solar panels you will need to power your house will depend on two factors:

  • The amount of electricity you use;
  • Your location as location determines how much electricity solar panels produce.
There are online solar calculators that can take your monthly power spend and location and work out how many solar panels you need and the cost based on prices of solar companies near you. The solar calculator on solar-estimate.org is probably considered the best.

7. How long do solar panels last?

Solar panels have warranties lasting 25 years and sometimes 30 years with premium brands. SolarReviews has been sent video of some old 80-watt Seimens solar panels from the 1970s still producing 60 watts, almost 20 years after the end of their warranty. So the 25 year warranty period may not be the full life of your solar panels.

8. Do I need to buy a solar battery if I install solar energy panels on my house?

In short, NO it is not necessary to install a solar battery as net metering allows you to store the economic value of solar electricity that is generated by your solar during the day that is in excess of the power needs of your home at the time it is generated.

Even though the Tesla Powerwall is now only $7,800 plus installation they still take almost 10 years to pay for themselves. Net metering allows you to economically store the value of the power that your renewable energy system generates without needing to pay for a solar battery.

9. Who are the best solar panel installation companies near me?

As the biggest reviews site for the residential solar industry in the United States, we have reviews of most of the solar panel installation companies. We have rankings for solar energy companies by state and by the city so that you can refine your search for the best local solar company to only those companies that service your local area. Alternatively, using the solar calculator above will get you prices from three of the best rated solar companies near you.

Here are some answers to some further questions that people have asked about solar panels for home in 2019:

Is solar power for your home less expensive now?

YES, solar panels are cheaper now, in fact, they have fallen around 80% over the last 10 years and a further 4% in 2018.

Are solar panels worth the investment given 2019 solar prices and tax credits?

The investment return on solar panels is now more than the investment return you can get from many traditional investments like shares or property, particularly in states with high electricity rates. An internal rate of return on the cost of installation of solar panels on your home averages 12.7% across America but is as high as 22% in Massachusetts and parts of Southern California.

Do solar panels increase the value of your home?

DEO funded study conducted in 2015 by a group of economists in California showed that on average solar panels added a premium to the selling price of a property of $20,914 in mid-range houses valued around $500,000. They did this by studying comparative sales of similar houses with and without solar panels.

This return is in addition to electricity bill savings above. Solar prices have fallen a bit since then and so this premium may also have fallen but it is still clear that most of the cost of a home solar power system would still be reflected in higher home valuations. This makes solar a good investment even if you plan on moving in a few years. There is further anecdotal evidence that on average homes with solar panels sell quicker.

Do you really save money with solar panels?

YES, you save money with solar panels through paying less to your local utility company for power.