The cost of installing solar panels is declining, and the savings benefit they provide remains high. Because of this, 3 kilowatt hours (kW) solar PV systems are becoming a more popular option for homeowners. 

While a 3kW system might not be large enough to power an entire house, it can help offset some electricity usage within the home.

In this blog, we’ll review what you need to know before you go solar and commit to a 3kW solar system. 

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While 3kW solar systems take up less space on your roof, they might not cover all of your electricity needs. Image source: The Verge

How much does an average 3kW solar system cost?

Because 3kW systems are relatively small, they can be much more affordable than larger systems. 

With the average cost of solar at $2.60 per watt, a 3kW solar power system in the US will cost about $7,800. When you factor in the 26% federal solar tax credit, the solar system price drops down to about $5,772. 

It is important to keep in mind that the above cost is the average, many states offer different state or utility-based solar rebates, like feed-in tariffs or net metering. Because of this, the cost of solar varies state by state, and we’ve listed out a few states to compare. 

State Average cost of 3kW solar system before tax credit Average cost of 3kW solar system after tax credit
California $8,040 $5,950
Florida $7,230 $5,351
Texas $7,800 $5,772
North Carolina $7,470 $5,528
Arizona $8,010 $5,928
New Jersey $8,310 $6,150
Massachusetts $8,610 $6,372
Georgia $6,990 $5,173
New York $8,580 $6,350

Can you finance a 3kW system?

You can finance solar systems if you do not have the cash to pay in full, which allows you to own your system while paying it off and get long term electric bill savings. 

The following are the most common ways homeowners finance their solar systems:

  • Solar loan: A loan you take out for the purchase and installation of solar panels so you can invest in a solar system without paying lots of money upfront.
  • Solar lease: You pay a fixed monthly or annual payment to your solar installer and you do not own the solar panels.
  • Solar power purchase agreement (PPA): You pay on a cents-per-kilowatt hour (kWh) basis for the energy your solar panels produce. It’s similar to a solar lease, just with different payment terms.

How many solar panels are in a 3kW solar system?

3kW systems are small and usually have between 8 and 11 solar panels. 

The actual number of solar panels within a 3kW system depends on the wattage of the solar panels. Higher wattage panels are more efficient than their lower-wattage counterparts. Typical panels have wattages of between 275-400 watts.

For example, if you install 300 watt solar panels, you will need 10 panels to generate enough electricity for a 3kW system. 10 panels should be able to fit on most homes and will help offset your electricity costs. 

See how many solar panels you need to eliminate your electricity bill

How much roof space do you need for a 10kW solar system?

A 3kW solar panel system will require about 140-240 square feet of space on your rooftop. 

Southern-facing roofs are ideal, and keep in mind that the actual square footage required will depend on the wattage, or efficiency, and the dimensions of the panels you install. 

High efficiency solar panels will create more energy in a smaller area. So if you do not have 190 square feet of roof space to spare, higher efficiency panels can help you utilize the space you have for a 3kW solar array.

How much power does a 3kW solar system produce?

A 3kW system will produce about 260 – 415 kWhs of electricity a month, meaning the amount of energy produced ranges from 3,120 – 4,980 kWhs a year. 

Being that the average US home’s monthly electricity usage is 914 kWh, a 3kW system might not be enough to eliminate your utility bill entirely. 

Another important thing to note is that energy use varies state by state due to a number of factors, including the amount of sunlight and energy consumption per home. 

For example, average yearly electricity use in California is 6,522kWh, but in Texas it is 14,112 kWh. That being said, a 3kW system will not generate enough power for an entire home in either state. 3kW systems generally just help offset electricity usage and will not cover the entire electricity bill

The amount of sunlight your home state gets also determines the amount of solar panels you will need. If you live in sunny Arizona, a 3kW system will get you much further than if you live in rainy Washington. 

Calculate how many solar panels you need

How much can I save with a 3kW solar system?

The electric bill savings from a 3kW solar system varies widely from state to state. This is because your power bill savings depend on how much energy is produced and how much electricity costs. 

For example, if your 3kW solar system generates 415 kWh a month in Florida, it will save you about $46 per month. A system installed in Massachusetts (where electricity is very expensive) that produces 415 kWh would save a homeowner $79 per month. 

The table below lays out estimates of how much a 3kW system can save in various states:

The payback period for your solar panels, or the time it takes to pay the system off and get completely free electricity, depends on your state incentives.

Your payback period will be shorter if you live in an area with additional solar rebates like solar renewable energy credits (SRECs). Find out what your estimated payback period is for a 3kW system in your state here.

How do I find the right installer for a 3kW solar system?

If you are looking for off-grid options or are interested in installing solar panels yourself, if it is possible to buy a DIY solar kit to install a 3kW system. A DIY kit costs about $5,000, making them slightly cheaper than the installed price you will get with a solar company.

But, many times you will need the help of a solar installer or a licensed electrician for proper solar installation and to pass inspections. All of that extra work can cost more than having a licensed solar installer install your panels.  

To really be sure if a 3kW system is right for you, it makes sense to work with trusted solar installers to determine the amount of solar panels your home needs. Find out what local incentives you can qualify for and if a 3kW system is right for your home.

How much can you save with solar?

Key takeaways

  • 3kW systems help offset electricity usage and will not eliminate your entire electricity bill.
  • A 3kW solar system will produce between 260-415 kWhs of electricity depending on sun exposure.
  • The average cost of installing a 3kW solar system is $7,800 but varies state by state.
  • Yearly savings are different in each state but can be from $300 to $900 a year.