Those currently looking to discover the cost of solar panels on the internet will most likely end up with false and outdated information.
Admittedly, part of the story here has to do with a quickly falling price for solar panels over the past few years. From 2010-2015, the cost of residential solar power has dropped by 50%. The installed cost went from $6.00/watt to $3.00/watt (See the chart from the Solar Energy Industries Association on this page). Simply put, search engines are still not showing many recently updated web pages for a typical search about solar power prices. Many are from 2011-2012 when prices were twice as much.
The other part of the story is that, as of this posting in early 2015, we are still nowhere close to seeing industry standards on pricing. This can be seen as both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s a good thing in that homeowners who shop around can ultimately find a fair price for solar power. It’s obviously bad in that there are quite a few companies that are offering the same product and service for a much higher cost.
Due to their massive marketing budgets, the large solar companies can afford to have a major presence online. They are easy to find in both the paid search results as well as in the organic section. People who end their search into finding some solar pricing with the first site or two that they find will most likely get quoted overpriced solar. Many homeowners still end up choosing these companies and paying an extra $10,000 or more for their solar panels.
The good news is that some light is beginning to be shed on the business practices of the larger solar companies. Here is a good, relevant story from an Arizona-based news site – ktar.com. The article mentions how the total cost of a system can be hidden from homeowners when only the lease payment is discussed. It also mentions how a home would be more difficult to sell with a lien attached to it in the form of a 20 year solar lease.
Many homeowners will justifiably consider waiting for solar prices to fall even more before considering to purchase a solar panel system. This is generally not advisable for two reasons. Deciding to go solar now means that a homeowner would start saving money right now. The second reason is that prices are not likely to fall much further than $3.00/watt. This price, by the way, is about $0.08 per kilowatt-hour over the life of a system. The average homeowner currently pays $0.12 per kilowatt-hour or more across America.
The reason why the cost for solar does not figure to fall much further is that the price of the panels (about $0.70/watt) is just one part of the total cost. The fees charged by a low cost installer and other utility related fees are not likely to change much. Please see the cost of solar page for more information.
As with any large purchase, some research and shopping around can typically save you a good deal of money. Residential solar power is no exception to this rule. It will be just a matter of time before word of mouth about smaller, more reasonably priced solar companies starts to spread. We should see a much more even playing field in the solar industry real soon. That will be a win for homeowners and a win for the environment.