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How Much Does the Average DIY Solar Power System Cost?

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Canadian Solar Roof Top System

Every solar homeowner wants to know what the average DIY solar power system will cost. We looked at the average PV system size throughout the U.S., aggregated costs throughout multiple priced solar panel manufacturers and inverter manufacturers, and realized what the average cost of solar panels are in dollars per watt.

As of July 2019, the average solar panel system cost is $11,059.98. Which works out to being $1.38 per watt. This is for an 8kW grid-tied system with permit plans. After the 30% solar tax credit, the total price of hard costs becomes $7,741.99.

Many solar DIY homeowners are surprised at the number of questions that come up during the designing phase. How do I calculate my average kilowatt hour usage annually? Or, perhaps more importantly, what exactly is a kilowatt hour? Furthermore, with the number of factors that contribute to overall cost on a solar energy system, it can be difficult to get an idea of how much a system may cost you.

With how time-consuming research is for going solar, many people want to get a general cost average to see if the financial investment is feasible for them before jumping in. This is why we have put together cost averages of a variety of systems including: low, middle, and high-cost range modules and inverters.

We will be analyzing costs of:

  • Enphase Energy Microinverter Systems
  • SolarEdge Inverter with Optimizer Systems
  • SMA Inverter Systems

Each system will be put together with IronRidge roof mount racking, and low, middle and high cost per watt modules from Trina, Canadian Solar and LG Solar that have similar wattages. To size out the system properly, we used the average kilowatt hours per month in the United States 900kWh/month average, we put our system in zone 4, which generates 4.5 hours of peak sunlight a day. The total size of the system is based on the following calculation:

(10,800kWh Annual kWh usage) / (365 days/year) / (4.5 Solar Hours/day) / (0.82 derate factor) = ~8kW system

Therefore, our systems will be sized at approximately 8kW.

For the system, we will be using 26 solar panels between 305 to 315w, and have configured the panels in a 2 x 13 portrait design with XR100 IronRidge racking for a flush mount, shingle roof.

Note: The below systems cover all panels, inverters, inverter accessories, racking and permit plans. It does not include miscellaneous items such as labeling and additional PV wire. You can account for additional balance of systems items by adding between $200 to $500 to totals as this is the overall average.

Ground mount systems should expect to pay more in racking components, including schedule 40 pipe that needs to be locally sourced.

Utility and state approval fees vary from state to state, but range between $100 to $300 on average.

Installation costs are not included as the design is meant for a DIY homeowner, installation fees widely vary. We recommend looking up a NABCEP certified installer in or around your zip code if you are interested in having a professional install done.
  • AVG. Solar installer labor cost is $0.59/watt (or 10% of system cost)

DIY homeowners should plan for an electrical inspector at the minimum, and consider hiring an electrician if necessary.

  • AVG. Electrician cost is $65 to $85 per hour.

The system costs highlighted below do not account for possible rebates and incentives or the federal Solar Tax Credit.

Enphase Energy Microinverter System Cost Average

Enphase Microinverters Mounted

Enphase Energy microinverters are highly efficient microinverters that are installed on the back of each solar module. They increase the overall efficiency of your system, are easy to install and come with a 25-year warranty period. Their efficiency is due, in part to, the direct AC to DC power conversion that happens directly at the panel leaving less room for losses in power.

*Due to the number of microinverters needed for a complete install, these installs are generally more expensive than single string inverter systems.

See Here: Enphase Microinverters: The Complete Review

Monitoring is available through Enphase’s site and app, in order to gain monitoring capabilities, an Envoy must be purchased either as a stand-alone or inside their IQ Combiner+. Accessories such as trunk cables, terminator caps are required to properly install the system.

Trina Solar 305w
Canadian Solar 305w
LG Solar 315w
Solar Panels
Solar Panels
$182.40 ea ($4,742.40 26 qty) $199.50 ea ($5,187.00 26 qty) $242.25 ea ($6,298.50 26 qty)
IQ7 Micros
IQ7 Microinverter
$128.70 ea ($3,346.72 26 qty) $128.70 ea ($3,346.72 26 qty) $128.70 ea ($3,346.72 26 qty)
Portrait Trunk Cables
Q-12-10-240

$15.13 ea ($393.38 26 qty) $15.13 ea ($393.38 26 qty) $15.13 ea ($393.38 26 qty)
Enphase Accessories
Enphase Terminator Cap
~$20.00 ~$20.00 ~$20.00
Monitoring
Enphase Envoy
$492.40 or $615.00 $492.40 or $615.00 $492.40 or $615.00
Complete Racking
XR100 Rails
$1,447.55 $1,447.55 $1,447.55
Permit Plans
Permit Plan Set
$395.00 $395.00 $395.00
Shipping ~$550.00 ~$550.00 ~$550.00
Totals $11,567.45 or $11,510.05 $11,832.05 or $11,954.65 $12,943.56 or $13,066.15

*Prices reflective of current pricing (including bulk discounts) as of the posting of this article. Click above for updated pricing.

This setup is recommended for sites with less than ideal conditions, such as partial shading, non-south-facing roofs, as well as systems that will be expanded on in the future, and of course, natural degradation rates that occur over time. Installation is simple, and Enphase's specific wiring makes stringing the inverters a breeze. Homeowners take full advantage of the in-depth monitoring capabilities to improve the efficiency of their system, map overall performance, and quickly troubleshoot any efficiency losses saving you both time and money.

SolarEdge Inverter with Optimizer System Cost Average

SolarEdge Solar System

SolarEdge offers a number of inverter solutions, their standard residential line includes the highly efficient HD Wave, the StorEdge hybrid inverter and their EV charger. The EV charging unit utilizes the same HD Wave technology inverters with an outlet to plug a charger into for car charging. Which inverter you choose depends on what application you are going for, though they generally range around the same cost per watt across the company's various lines. For our cost outline, we have gone with the standard HD Wave inverter.

This means the system will be grid-tied without hybrid capabilities for battery backup. For battery backup, look into the StorEdge hybrid inverters which are compatible with the LG Chem RESU line.

For homeowners interested in battery backup, the LG Chem RESU battery is available for approximately six thousand dollars, so add this into your calculation. Note, that this cost does not reflect certification training, or certified installer costs.

See Here: LG Chem RESU Battery: The Complete Review
Trina Solar 305w
Canadian Solar 305w
LG Solar 315w
Solar Panels
Solar Panels
$182.40 ea ($4,742.40 26 qty) $199.50 ea ($5,187.00 26 qty) $242.25 ea ($6,298.50 26 qty)
HD Wave 7.6kW Inverter
HD Wave 7.6kW Inverter
$1,797.40 $1,797.40 $1,797.40
P320 Optimizers
SolarEdge P370 Optimizer
$69.98 ea ($1,679.52 26 qty) $69.98 ea ($1,679.52 26 qty) $69.98 ea ($1,679.52 26 qty)
Complete Racking
XR100 Rails
$1,447.55 $1,447.55 $1,447.55
Permit Plans
Permit Plan Set
$395.00 $395.00 $395.00
Shipping ~$550.00 ~$550.00 ~$550.00
Totals $10,611.87 $11,086.47 $12,167.97

*Prices reflective of current pricing (including bulk discounts) as of the posting of this article. Click above for updated pricing.

SolarEdge comes at a lesser price point than Enphase, at this time, SolarEdge optimizers must be paired with the inverters in order for the inverter to properly function, and have access to module level monitoring. Both SolarEdge and Enphase Energy offer module level monitoring which gives you a more detailed view of how your system is performing than overall system performance monitoring platforms.

Their inverters come with a twelve-year warranty and the optimizers come with a 25-year warranty period. This means that you will likely need to change out the inverter approximately half-way through the optimizer and solar panel's warranty periods.

See Here: Power Optimizers: Everything You Need to Know

SMA Inverter System Cost Average

SMA Inverters

SMA comes in at the lowest price point, in part, because add-on units are optional. Their new smart modules offer optimizer solutions that can be installed on a part of your system if needed (say if four modules will experience partial shading), rather than having to be installed on every module within the system. They also offer fire safety modules as well as rapid shutdown units.

See Here: SMA TS4-R Smart Modules: Complete Overview

For our system, we will not be adding on any of SMA's amazing smart module futures, we will instead be quoting with their inverter and rapid shutdown unit.

Like the SolarEdge, SMA's warranty requires an inverter upgrade approximately halfway through the solar panel's warranty period of 25 years. SMA inverters currently come with a 10 year warranty, while their smart modules have a 25 year warranty period

Trina Solar 305w
Canadian Solar 305w
LG Solar 315w
Solar Panels
Solar Panels
$182.40 ea ($4,742.40 26 qty) $199.50 ea ($5,187.00 26 qty) $242.25 ea ($6,298.50 26 qty)
SMA 7.7kW SB Inverter
SMA Sunny Boy 7.7kW
$1,557.95 $1,557.95 $1,557.95
Rapid Shutdown
SMA Rapid Shutdown
$360.90 $360.90 $360.90
Complete Racking
XR100 Rails
$1,447.55 $1,447.55 $1,447.55
Permit Plans
Permit Plan Set
$395.00 $395.00 $395.00
Shipping ~$550.00 ~$550.00 ~$550.00
Totals $9,053.80 $9,498.40 $10,609.90

*Prices reflective of current pricing (including bulk discounts) as of the posting of this article. Click above for updated pricing.

The cost average for the SMA inverter is much less due to the lesser number of components needed for a successful and complete installation. Keep in mind throughout your calculations, future costs associated with updating your inverter. All in all, SMA is provides solid, highly efficient units that are perfect for the budget conscious installer with an eye for quality components.

Solaris Recommendations

Cost averages for systems are oftentimes difficult to determine due to the number of factors that need to be considered for your individual site. However, which solar panel and inverter you select for your project has a great deal to do with start up and future costs for the system. By providing an overview for the average system across tiered pricing for solar panels and inverters we hope that we have provided you with a foundation to start assuming costs on.

The best way to know exactly how much your system will cost is to calculate your system size and request a custom quote.

See Here: Sizing Your System


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