What do you mean by cheap solar panels — and where can you buy cheap solar panels?

There are two things that come to mind when talking about ‘cheap solar’— do-it-yourself (DIY) solar kits and used solar panels.

DIY solar kits are available at Home Depot and many other online stores, such as Amazon. Kits include a power inverter, racking and, of course, panels.

Used solar panels can be found on used panel marketplaces like Oasis Montana.

Are cheap solar panels really worth it?

Used solar panels come with a lot of risks and downsides. Often the warranty has or is close to expiring, or the equipment has defects. Before buying any used solar equipment, try to find out why it’s for sale. Common reasons for people selling their panels are:

  • The panels have a reduced efficiency due to damage. The panel might still work, but not produce as much power as a brand new panel straight from the manufacturer.

  • The old owner decided to take down their system. The problem is that with each year efficiency of panels reduces slightly. So the panels will not have the same output as new panels. And if the panels aren’t removed properly from the old owner’s roof, they may be damaged in the process.

As for DIY kits, the truth is that the added risks outweigh the cost benefits. After labor, parts and permit fees, a fully installed DIY system would still cost about $2.70/watt. That is only about 15% less than a conventional system installed by a professional solar company. Although with solar panel kits, you are at least getting solar modules that are first hand.

Learn more here: Do-it-yourself solar is becoming easier, but consider these things before choosing DIY

All said, going cheap with solar isn’t worth the extra headache. You get what you pay for; the cheapest solar panels per watt are that way for a reason. With the price of tier 1 panels declining and excellent financing options now available, it’s always best to buy first-hand panels and have them installed professionally.

Where can I find the best solar panel prices?

We think that the best priced solar panels are ones that will provide the highest payback over the long term. Despite the large initial investment involved with a quality solar system, most homeowners can save upwards of $100,000 in avoided power costs.

Finding to best price on a solar system is surprisingly easy. Just contact local installers and ask for a quote. You can do this commitment-free by entering your zip code below.

See how much solar panels cost in your area

Who has the best priced solar panels?

Solar panel manufacturers either have to buy solar cells or produce them with molten silicon, this process is expensive. To find the best priced panels it’s best to shop around and get multiple quotes.

Why should I install a solar system?

Solar power is one of the most profitable home investments in the United States and is currently helping hundreds of thousands of homeowners save money. Provided you install the right system size, you can wipe out all or most of your electric bill. Solar panel installation companies are more than happy to help you with the system designing for your solar energy system.

How much energy will my solar panels produce?

There are three main aspects that affect the output of a solar panel; these are:

  • The climate where you live

  • Seasonal changes in sunshine

  • The panels you choose to buy

Check out the solar irradiation map below. It shows, for each state how much energy in kilowatt hours (kWh) each kW of installed solar power will produce per day. Note that most panels are 250W-330W which means 1kW is about 3-4 panels.

The average daily residential electric usage is 28 kWh. If we take Southern California, for example, you’d need a 6.22 kW system or about 20-25 panels. The figures on the map above are yearly averages;  expect higher output in summer and lower output during the winter.

How do I work out my energy usage?

You can find it on your electric bill, or if you login to your utility’s website. You can also visit cutmybill.com, where you can enter the total dollar amount of your bill and get an accurate estimate on your electric usage based on your utility’s rates. It’ll also tell you which rate plan is cheapest for your usage and show you your estimated savings from a solar system.

What solar incentives are available to me?

Provided you pay taxes you are eligible for the federal solar tax credit, which is set at 26% for 2020. This incentive works by reducing your federal income taxes by 26% of your system’s value – essentially a 26% discount!. Many states also offer their own tax credits; in some states upwards of 50% of your solar system cost is covered in tax credits!

Some utilities also offer rebates on the purchase of a solar system, to view your local solar incentives enter your zip code below for a free estimate.

How does solar energy save me money?

Solar energy saves you money by offsetting the cost of energy that you’d otherwise have to purchase from your utility. In most states, this is done through a program called net metering.

Your solar system should be designed to produce more energy than your home needs during the day. This excess power is sent to the grid, and net metering requires your utility to compensate you for it. The rate your utility pays you typically matches the rate you purchase power at. Since solar depends on the sun, your home will still have to draw energy from the grid at night or on cloudier days. The credits you earn from net metering is what compensates for the cost for when you must consume grid energy.

Solar savings example calculations
Item Calculation
Basic service charge $10
Electricity Rate $0.12/kWh (US average)
Electricity drawn from grid 600kWh
Electricity charge 600kWh x $0.12 = $72
Solar exported to grid 600kWh
Value of exported energy 600kWh x $0.12 = $72
Total electric bill $10 + $72 – $72 = $10

The table above shows net metering in action. You can see how the electricity used is offset by electricity sold back to the grid. All that’s left to pay to the utility is the basic service charge.

Depending on your utility, your rates may be different. However, if you have net metering, the same concept applies.

What happens if I export more solar energy than I consume?

This depends on your power company or the exact legislation of your states net metering laws, however, in most cases any unused net metering credits simply roll over to the next month.

How much do solar panels save?

It isn’t uncommon for many homeowners to save over $100,000 after the 25-year life of their system. This could easily pay for your kids’ college education or cover the deposit on a nice home. Enter your zip code below to discover if getting solar panels for your home is right for you.

Calculate what the solar payback period is for your home