It’s no secret that solar energy has risen in use over the past decade. In 2019, the U.S. reached a milestone of two million solar PV (photovoltaic) installations. To put into context, the first million took 40 years to install and that feat wasn’t achieved until 2016. With this increased use comes a decreased average cost of solar panels by nearly 50%. As these numbers continue to improve and more states provide compensation initiatives to use solar power as their prime clean energy source, the cost of solar roof installation will become more accessible for all.
So, how much does solar roofing cost? The answer is dependent on several factors. These include average cost per kilowatt-hours, roof space, region of the country, and tax credit, if any. For example, the current average cost of solar panels per watt in California is $4.05. If the typical system is 6,000 watts, the solar panel cost is $24,296 before the federal solar tax credit and $17,007 after the credit is claimed. However, if the cost of solar panels per watt continues to decline as it has over the past several years, this price changes.
In addition to the cost per watt, it’s also important to consider the solar roof cost per square foot based on the types of materials your roof is made of, such as metal, shingles, or terra cotta and the current roofing design. Shade from trees and solar panel tilt will determine how many panels are required and play a part in how much solar roofing will save in electricity bills over the years. Lastly, labor costs, equipment use, and permitting costs (if applicable) all factor into the total cost of solar roof installation.
While there are ways to obtain a general estimate, much of the actual roof cost is dependent on a customized quote based on the requirements of your home and roof.
How Solar Energy Works and Affects Cost
The customization of cost is based on how solar roof panels work. As a renewable energy source, solar power is harvested from the sun through installed panels to produce electricity through a micro-inverter system, the performance of which is displayed by a built-in monitoring system. If more energy is converted than what is required, the excess will be placed back on the grid as a consumer credit to use at another time.
Therefore, sunny climates are more favorable to this type of technology and power. Direct sunlight on a regular basis is when this type of roofing is most effective. Homeowners can uncover solar panel savings opportunities based on their city’s average weather forecast, roof square footage, and roof design to determine how many solar panels are needed to be most effective.
Google’s Project Sunroof details a recommended solar installation size and the typical energy rates of your area plus the environmental impact of investing in solar panels for your home. Since San Diego boasts a “75 degrees and sunny” weather pattern nearly year-round, it’s one of the prime spots for solar usage in the country. However, solar panels still produce energy when it’s cloudy just not at as high of an output.
Comparing Costs with Incentives and Savings
There are no longer solar rebates through the CSI Program
In an effort to promote solar power as a renewable energy resource, California has a solar rebate program for state consumers that use PG&E, SCE, or SDG&E. There are multiple parts of the California Solar Initiative that offer different levels of incentives based on the performance of a home’s solar panels. To earn incentives, the process requires five simple steps:
- Complete an energy-efficient audit
- Hire a qualified solar installation contractor
- Apply for solar rebates
- Install the solar system and connect to the region’s utility power grid
- Submit Incentive Claim Form once the solar project is complete
For 2020 when a homeowner goes solar they get a 26% Federal Tax Credit on the total cost of the installed system. An average $15,000 solar installation will receive a $3,900 Federal Tax Credit to offset Federal Income Tax. This is a win-win. You will not only have lower electric bills but also receive money back from the Federal Government.
In addition to potential incentives, many choose the solar roofing route as a renewable energy resource to lower energy bills long-term and increase the value of their home. Whether you’re considering installing solar roofing for your home or business, the benefits are similar, although the specific savings will differ.
It’s valuable to compare the initial, one-time cost of installation with the ongoing savings from tax benefits, incentive programs, and lower electricity usage for monthly bills. For homeowners, it may increase the appreciation of homes for future sale and requires little to no maintenance once the solar panels have been installed. A 2019 Zillow study showed the installation of solar panels increased a home’s value on average by 4.1% across the U.S., which depending on the location, means a dollar amount that equals anywhere from $9,000-$226,000.
Reducing Costs for All Electricity Ratepayers by Using Solar
When the solar installments across the U.S. reached its one-million mark in 2016, there was a study conducted by a professor at Boston University that showed how the installation of one household’s solar panels actually reduced the cost of electricity of tens of thousands of other households within the state, even those who did not install solar roofing.
One of the central points to the study was that solar power systems save money for all since they generate most of their energy during the summer months when the temperatures are higher. Since solar PV systems become interconnected with the utility grid when installed, utility companies have access to the energy from these systems, which are at their peak during summer. They can use this energy rather than relying on more expensive fossil fuel power plants that lack efficiency. This, in turn, reduces the price of electricity per kilowatt-hour for consumers.
In addition, solar roofing reduces the cost to the environment. By using sunlight as a natural resource that’s converted into energy, solar energy systems do not produce carbon dioxide emissions. It’s also been predicted that solar PV costs will continue to decline by 60% by 2050 as a renewable energy source. This is in part due to emerging innovative technologies and the consumer switch to solar resources based on a more positive environmental impact and higher cost savings.
Considering Other Factors When Investing in Solar Roofing
In order to maximize the roof cost of solar installation, there are other details specific to your home to consider. One of the top factors is the age of your roof. If your roof has significant areas of damage or aging, it may require roof replacement prior to installing solar panels. If this is the case, you must also consider the type of materials used to optimize life expectancy. Solar roofing lasts approximately 25-40 years but there must be a solid foundation to begin with.
Your home’s home location and roof tilt also make a difference. Is the design of your roof at an optimal angle for solar energy? Does your home sit in the shade for the majority of the day? These considerations make a difference in how many solar panels are necessary, if a redesign would be most effective, or if your home is presently a viable candidate for solar roofing. This can all be determined with a roofing audit and recommendations from an experienced professional.
Understanding proper care for a solar roofing investment also needs to be evaluated as part of the total cost. Solar panels require minimal maintenance, but like any type of preventative care, there likely are regular lower costs to preserve the longevity of the system. Working with a roofing company that understands the different climate and environmental effects of the region is essential. Although San Diego is known for its ideal temperatures and sunshine, wind storms, wildfires, and sea salt deposits can damage a roof if not cared for properly or if not installed with the kinds of materials and products designed to withstand these types of elements.
Choosing the Right Solar Roofing Installation Service
There’s no single answer to the question of how much does solar roofing cost since it’s based on individual needs. Each project has unique requirements and the solar roof cost per square foot will differ depending on the services and materials required for installation.
The first step in our process is to conceptualize what’s needed from our customers. This involves a consultation that outlines your requested improvements and the current state of your roof structure to ensure that it can maintain solar panel installation.
After we’ve learned the basics of the request, we can tailor a customized roofing plan that will detail the possible services that will maximize the use of solar roofing panels for your home or business. Again, this is determined by building location, tilt and shade, and type of materials used. As best practice for our company, we use the highest grade micro-inverters during installation and stick to the agreed upon timeline to maximize cost-effectiveness.
More people are investing in the solar industry to take advantage of the tax benefits and state incentives while increasing their home valuation and reducing their energy bills and carbon footprint. Since there are numerous factors to consider when determining a true estimated cost, it’s important to work with a company that knows the ins and outs of solar roofing and can work with you on a customized plan that makes sense for your home. You’ll see how much solar roofing costs, but also how much it can save.