Factors Impacting Cost of Solar Panel Installation and Setup

Like with any other sort of upgrade you're considering to your home or building, cost is a major factor when thinking about solar panels. But because the needs and setups for different home or building owners can vary significantly, there are a few important variables to keep in mind when considering what such an installation will cost you.

At Intermountain Wind & Solar, we're happy to discuss costs and pricing in detail with all our clients, both in the commercial and residential solar sphere. We'll help you understand all the important variables at play here, including not just your initial installation cost, but also the forms of savings you receive on your power bills and how this entire picture comes together financially. Here's a rundown on some of the most important factors that will impact pricing for your solar panel system, both in the short-term and long-term.

Solar Installation Type

While many are familiar with typical solar panels that are mounted on the roof of a home or building, this is not the only format for solar panels. There are also solar panels that can be mounted on the ground, and this is known as a ground-mounted system. If you're looking at a commercial location for such a system, there may be multiple factors to consider with respect to costs of both types of systems, including drainage issues and the limitations of roof size or orientation.

Another type that may be considered by some homeowners is the carport solar installation, which is essentially a solar-powered carport. You can then park any vehicle that you want underneath these panels, and the electricity produced by the system will power that and any other connected systems, such as lighting or electric cars.

Equipment Type

Within the realm of solar panels, two important variables will differentiate the kinds of equipment used:

  • Power density: This is the amount of power a given solar panel is able to produce per unit of size. The denser the panel, the higher the cost per watt of energy produced.
  • Color: Basic solar panels have a blue cell, a white back sheet, and a silver frame. However, there are also upgraded modules that come with a black frame and/or a black back sheet and cell, and because these are able to produce more electricity, they are more expensive per watt.

From here, there will be a few other types of equipment utilized for solar panels. String inverters, for instance, are used in traditional solar panels that are mounted on roofs; they're inexpensive and easy to use. Micro-inverters, on the other hand, are more efficient and allow you to monitor each panel's production capacity--and this is important for arrays that have a large number of panels. Some systems may also use power optimizers, which are similar to micro-inverters but at a lower cost.

Roof Type

Another vital consideration when it comes to the cost of your solar panel installation will be the type of roof (for roof installations). Solar panels can be mounted in metal, shingles, flat roofs and other styles -- but each of these will require different installation components and may require special considerations.

Shingle roofs, for instance, will require a specific flashing piece in order to install a solar panel. This is a piece that runs around the perimeter of the roof, designed to direct rain away from other elements on the roof so as not to damage them. While this flashing can be purchased at relatively low cost, you'll need someone with expertise to ensure it's done right -- and installation costs will go up if you have to hire someone with this specialized knowledge.

Flat roofs, on the other hand, utilize a ballast mount that will allow for the panels to be set up with less weight. Your roof structure will determine how heavy of a ballast you can utilize, leading to different installation costs depending on the flat roof's capacity -- though this may also change what type of shingles or other materials need to be used.

Energy Consumption and Requirements

The goal of most solar power systems is to offset energy consumption from other sources. If you have a particularly large energy consumption, this will influence the type of solar panel installation you need to consider.

Before investing in solar panels, one should consider the size of the system required for their energy consumption needs. The average home uses approximately 10,000 kilowatt-hours per year. This number may vary depending on factors such as climate, household size and the number of people who will be home.

Shade and Weather Elements

While modern improvements in solar technology have limited how much weather can impact the system's performance and production, you should still consider how much shade your home or building will need to endure. A system that's in full sun will produce more energy with fewer panels than a system that's in full shade, which means that if your home or building is often shaded you may be looking at a larger installation.

In addition, weather patterns vary depending on where you live. If you're in an area where it often snows and accumulates on your roof, for instance, snow can reduce the energy output of a solar system by some degree.

Interconnection Cost and Distance

Interconnection refers to the process of connecting your solar panel system to the local power grid, and requirements here will vary between local utilities. There are several factors at play here, including the distance from your home to the interconnection point and the amount of power that your solar system will generate.

Long-Term Savings

In some cases, the above costs for installation and setup of solar panels may seem significant, especially if you're installing a large system. It's important to remember, though, that this is an investment that you'll be able to recoup over time with help from incentives and rebates. What's more, if the cost of energy in your area is high enough, solar power can even save you money in the long run, allowing for an even better return on your investment.

For more on the variables that play into your solar panel installation and setup costs, or to learn about any of our solar panel services in Utah or other states, contact the team at Intermountain Wind & Solar today.

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