How Much Is Just A Solar Panel?

A solar panel is a device that converts sunlight into electricity. Solar panels are made up of photovoltaic cells that absorb sunlight and convert it into direct current electricity. The electricity generated can be used to power homes, businesses, and more.

The use of solar panels has been rising in popularity and adoption over the past decade. As solar technology improves and costs decline, more homes and businesses are installing solar panels to reduce their reliance on the grid and take control over their electricity production. The United States saw a near tripling of solar capacity between 2014 and 2019. With solar energy on the rise, many homeowners are interested in understanding the costs associated with installing solar panels.

This article will break down the key factors that influence the cost of solar panels. We’ll look at average solar panel system costs for homes and businesses, as well as additional expenses to keep in mind. We’ll also discuss how costs have been changing over time and what may impact prices in the future. With a better understanding of the costs, you’ll be better equipped to evaluate if solar panels make financial sense for your home or business.

Solar Panel Cost Factors

The cost of installing solar panels on your home can vary widely depending on several key factors:

Size of the solar panel system – The number and size of solar panels affects the total system cost. Larger systems require more panels and higher capacity inverters, increasing costs. Typical residential systems range from 3-8kW.

Type of solar panels – More efficient panel models like monocrystalline silicon and bifacial panels are more expensive than standard options like polycrystalline. Panel efficiency, warranties, and product quality impact price.

Location and sunlight availability – Areas with abundant sunlight can utilize smaller systems, reducing costs. Installations in cloudier locations may need additional panels to capture adequate sunlight.

Installation costs – Complex rooftop installations or custom mounting equipment can increase labor and permitting costs. Simple, south-facing roof installations are most affordable.

Additional equipment needed – Beyond the panels, you’ll need inverters, wiring, mounts, and possibly batteries for energy storage. High-end equipment options add cost.

Average Solar Panel Cost

The average cost for a solar panel in the United States ranges from $150-$300 per panel, with an average price of around $200 per panel as of 2022. This can vary based on the wattage and type of solar panel purchased.

When looking at cost per watt, which factors in panel efficiency, the average is around $3-$4 per watt. So a 300 watt solar panel would on average cost $900-$1,200. The cost per watt tends to decline slightly for larger, more efficient panels.

There are a wide range of solar panel costs on the market. On the lower end, basic panels can be purchased for as little as $100 per panel. On the higher end, premium efficiency panels with advanced technologies can cost over $400 per panel. The key factors driving cost per panel are efficiency, warranties, size, and features.

Small Solar Panel System Cost

A small solar panel system is usually considered to be a residential system in the 2-6 kilowatt (kW) range. For example, a typical system size for a small household may be around 3-5 kW. At the current average cost of around $3 per watt for solar panel installation, a 3 kW system would cost about $9,000 and a 5 kW system around $15,000 before any tax credits or incentives.

The total cost can vary quite a bit based on your specific electricity needs and roof size, as well as factors like your location and angle of sunlight. But most small systems designed to offset a portion of a household’s electricity usage tend to fall in the $10,000 – $20,000 range for the solar panels and installation.

Large Solar Panel System Cost

For larger homes or commercial properties, a solar panel system size might be 10kW or larger. A typical home system this size may have around 30-40 solar panels with 250-300W capacity each. For a 10kW solar array, total installed costs often range from $15,000 to $25,000.

Here’s a breakdown of costs for a large 10kW solar system:

  • Solar panels – $10,000 to $15,000 for 30-40 panels.
  • Inverter – $2,000 to $3,000 for a large commercial inverter.
  • Balance of system costs – $3,000 to $5,000 for racking, wiring, and other system components.
  • Permits and labor – $2,000 to $4,000 for installation, permits, etc.

So for a 10kW solar array, the total installed cost can be around $20,000 on average. Costs can be higher or lower depending on system size, panel efficiency, location, installer, and other factors. But in general, larger solar installations will be $15,000 to $25,000+ for a commercial or large residential system.

Additional Cost Considerations

When budgeting for a solar panel system, there are some additional costs to keep in mind beyond just the panels themselves:

Permits and Incentives

Most areas require permits and inspections for solar installations, which typically cost a few hundred dollars. However, many states, cities, and utilities also offer rebates, tax credits, and other incentives that can offset the permit costs and reduce the overall expense of going solar.

Professional vs. DIY Installation

Installing solar panels yourself will be cheaper than hiring a professional, but you need to have electrical expertise. DIY installation can save 20% or more on labor costs, but mistakes can be dangerous and costly. Using a qualified solar company ensures proper permitting, inspection, activation, and safety.


While solar panels are very low maintenance, you still need to budget for occasional system inspections, cleaning, repairs, and inverter replacement down the road. Most solar companies provide maintenance plans to handle this for you. Expect to budget $100-$300 per year for maintenance of a typical home solar system.

Cost Savings Over Time

Although solar panels require significant upfront investment, over time they provide great return through electricity bill savings. Exact savings depend on your energy usage and the size of the solar system, but most solar panels have a return on investment period of 6-8 years.

After the initial investment is recouped, solar panels provide free electricity for the remainder of their 25+ year lifespan. For the average home, this means saving $10,000-$30,000 over the lifetime of the system.

Additionally, solar energy protects against rising electricity rates. As utility prices increase over the years, solar owners are shielded from fluctuating costs. This provides long-term stability and savings.

Recent Solar Panel Cost Trends

Over the past decade, solar panel costs have declined significantly. From 2010 to 2020, the average price of solar panels fell by over 80%. This dramatic drop is due to improvements in manufacturing and economies of scale as the solar industry has expanded globally. Many experts predict solar panel prices will continue to decrease, though at a slower pace, over the next 5 to 10 years.

Most industry analysts project solar panel price declines of around 20-30% by 2025 and possibly 40-50% by 2030. These cost reductions will be driven by advances in solar cell technology, manufacturing automation, and supply chain improvements. As solar continues to scale up, producers are expected to achieve even greater efficiencies and cost savings. However, projections this far out carry some uncertainty. Market dynamics like trade policy and raw material costs could impact future pricing. But the overall trend points to progressively cheaper solar panels.

Factors Influencing Future Costs

The cost of solar panels in the future will depend on several key factors:

Technology improvements – As solar panel technology continues to advance, manufacturing processes are optimized, and new materials are utilized, costs are expected to decrease. Improvements in solar cell efficiency will enable more energy output from the same sized panels.

Supply and demand – Solar panel production worldwide has expanded rapidly, leading to economies of scale. However, increased demand from solar incentives and greater adoption could offset declines. The balance between supply growth and market demand will impact prices.

Government policy – Tax credits, rebates, renewable electricity standards, and other solar policies incentivize installations. Policy shifts could substantially alter solar panel cost trajectories. Loss of incentives may raise prices, while expansion of supportive policies can lower costs.


When considering the cost of solar panels, it’s clear there are several factors at play. The cost varies based on system size, with small residential systems ranging from $10,000-$25,000 for a 5kW system while utility-scale systems can cost millions of dollars for a large solar farm. However, costs have been rapidly declining in recent years, with solar panel prices dropping over 70% in the last decade. This downward trend is expected to continue as technology improves and solar energy scales up globally.

While solar does require an upfront investment, the long-term savings and environmental benefits make it an increasingly affordable option for many homeowners and businesses. As solar technology gets cheaper and more efficient, and as utility rates rise, the payback period for a solar system will continue to shorten. With various incentives, tax credits, and financing options available, solar energy systems have already reached grid parity in some areas. The future is bright for solar to keep increasing its cost-competitiveness and make the transition to clean energy more financially achievable for all.

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