Solar panel manufacturers are producing larger quantities of panels in response to rising demand. Increased production means a lower cost to apply solar panels on your home. States like California offer solar rebates and local municipal programs to encourage the use of solar energy for homes and businesses. Federal tax credits (offer expires December 31, 2016) are available for as much as 30 percent of the cost to go solar, or $500 per 0.5kW of power capacity.
Different amounts of power may be generated from two solar panels of the same size. Due to variations in the quality and functioning age of the solar cells inside the panels, as well as the particular technology used to produce them, performance of solar panels will vary. Less-expensive solar cells are not necessarily the best deal, as quality, age and technology are all price-determining factors.
The easiest way to compare two types of solar cells is to calculate the dollars per watt ratio. As of late 2010, a competitive price for solar cells is roughly $4.30 per watt, or around $215 for a 50-watt solar panel. Newer, more expensive technology may not be the better deal. If you can find solar panels with older technology for a less expensive dollar-per-watt cost, it is probably the best deal.
One alternative for saving on the cost to apply solar panels to your home is the use of scrap solar cells. Solar cells that have been broken during manufacturing are often sold at deeply discounted prices. If you or someone else can solder the pieces together, you should be able to generate electricity at prices below $3 per watt. Scrap solar cells are available from manufacturers and online retailers like Silicon Solar.
A solar-panel-powered swimming pool heater will range from $2,500 to $7,000 as of late 2010, and you can recoup the cost in 1 1/2 to seven years. A solar-powered water heater typically costs between $1,000 and $3,500. A whole-house solar heating system, installed, can cost $25,000 to $100,000 or more. A cost-effective solar heating system should provide 40 to 80 percent of your home’s heating needs. To provide electrical power, a solar energy system ranges anywhere from $10,000 to $45,000, and the price for a system that provides total solar energy to your home is $100,000 to $200,000.
Return on Investment
There are a number of factors to consider when weighing the cost-effectiveness of installing solar panels on your home. The climate in your area and how many hours of sun you will receive each day, as well as how long you intend to live in your current residence, can both affect how much of the cost can be recouped. Any rebate incentives offered by your power company or local municipality and the current amount of power used by your household should also be taken into account.
Based in California, Debbie Donner is a freelance online writer who primarily writes articles related to personal finance. Donner received a Mensa scholarship in 2006 while attending California State University, Fresno. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts and a multiple-subject teaching credential.