Solar Panel Installation in California Cost Guide
Updated: 19 Aug 2022
Solar Panel Installation in California
Updated: Jul 29, 2021
Reviewed by Adam Graham remodeling expert. Written by Fixr.com.
If you live in sunny California, you may have been considering solar panels for your home. Installing solar panels in California makes sense for many residents. California electricity costs are nearly 10¢ more per kilowatt hour than the national average, meaning installing solar panels can help you save on energy costs. California is also well known for its green initiatives, which encourages homeowners to make greener choices. Solar panels can be a good way for homeowners to create a more sustainable home and lower their bills.
The state average cost to install solar panels before tax credits is $14,460 to $19,260, with most homeowners paying around $16,860 to install a 6 kW system using monocrystalline panels on the roofs of their homes. This project’s low cost is $4,880 to install a 2 kW system using polycrystalline panels installed on a roof. The high cost is $50,000 for a 8 kW system with a full battery backup using monocrystalline panels installed in an array.
Cost to Install Solar Panels in California
|Cost of Solar Panels in California|
|National average cost||$16,860|
Cost of Solar Panels in California by Type
Solar panels are installed on more homes in California than any other state because of the high availability of sunny weather and the state’s initiative programs. For those considering installing solar panels, most use a grid-tied system, meaning that the house is still connected to the state’s power supply. In the evenings or inclement weather, you can still purchase electricity.
In some cases, you may want to take your home off-grid, meaning you completely disconnect from the power supply. Because California is so sunny, some proponents believe that going off-grid can and should be done to help lessen the strain on the electrical grid. However, the state has very strict laws about disconnecting from the grid. Most off-grid systems, which use 7 kW at a minimum, are legal, but you need more permits and may have restrictions if you have a large homestead and want to go off-grid with a significant amount of solar power. The average household, which uses 7 to 10 kW to go off-grid plus battery backup, can usually meet the state’s criteria to disconnect from the grid. Check with your local municipality before you begin this project to ensure you do not need additional permits. Below are the average costs of installing both systems in California, based on the needs of the average home.
|Type||Average Cost (Installed)|
|Grid-Tied||$14,460 - $19,260|
|Off-Grid||$45,500 - $75,000|
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Solar Panel Cost per Watt in California
The cost of solar panels per watt in California is $2.44 to $3.21. Most solar panels have between 250 and 400 watts per panel. Costs vary depending on the solar panel type, number of panels, and installation type. Things like location and if the panels are installed on the roof also impact total costs.
The average home uses around 6 kW to meet its electrical needs. However, you can install a smaller system to offset some of your energy costs or power specific appliances or areas of your home. You can also install much larger systems if you have higher energy needs or want to disconnect from the grid.
The following is the average cost for different systems and the average number of panels you need for a system of that size.
|System Size||Panels Needed||Average Cost (Installed)|
|2 kW||5 - 8||$4,880 - $6,420|
|3 kW||8 - 12||$7,320 - $9,630|
|4 kW||10 - 16||$9,760 - $12,840|
|5 kW||13 - 20||$12,200 - $16,050|
|6 kW||15 - 24||$14,640 - $19,260|
|7 kW||18 - 28||$17,080 - $22,470|
|8 kW||20 - 32||$19,520 - $25,680|
|10 kW||25 - 40||$24,400 - $32,100|
|12 kW||30 - 48||$29,280 - $38,520|
|15 kW||38 - 60||$36,600 - $48,150|
|18 kW||45 - 72||$43,920 - $57,780|
Average Cost of Solar Panels in California per Square Foot
Your home size also impacts the system size and costs. While every home’s energy needs are different, the larger the home, the higher your energy usage usually is. Therefore, larger homes typically need more panels and have more costly installations.
That said, homes of all sizes can use a range of solar panel system sizes. You may have a large home but only want to off-set costs from one or two systems rather than the entire home. Or, you could have a smaller home with higher-than-average energy needs, necessitating a bigger system.
Because many parts of California experience high temperatures, the energy usage in the state from things like air conditioners can be higher than average. For this reason, most homes typically use around 6 kW for their solar panel installations. However, there can be a wide range of costs for each home size. Below are the typical ranges you can expect to pay based on your home size, depending on your typical energy needs.
|House Size||Average Cost (Installed)|
|1,000 sq.ft.||$4,880 - $25,680|
|1,500 sq.ft.||$6,420 - $29,280|
|2,000 sq.ft.||$9,760 - $32,100|
|2,500 sq.ft.||$14,640 - $38,520|
Cost of Solar Panels in California by Cell Type
Solar panels are available in three basic types - polycrystalline, monocrystalline, and thin film. Of the three, polycrystalline tends to be the least expensive. It is made of multiple small pieces of silicone crystals that are pieced together. The lower cost of this panel type can make them attractive to some homeowners. However, polycrystalline panels are not as efficient as monocrystalline panels. They also have a bright blue color and a larger profile, making them very noticeable on your roof.
Thin film is another less-expensive style. This panel type has a much lower profile than polycrystalline or monocrystalline. However, they tend to be less efficient, particularly in sunny areas like California. They may work better in some northern parts of the state, but they are not recommended for the southern areas.
Monocrystalline panels are the most popular in California, despite being the most expensive. They are made of large single silicone crystals. The larger crystals do a better job of producing energy than polycrystalline panels. The panels are also lower in profile and a sleek black color, so they tend to be less obvious on a roof. Below are the average costs to install a 6 kW system using each panel.
|Cell Type||Average Cost (Installed)|
|Polycrystalline||$13,000 - $16,000|
|Thin-Film||$13,000 - $16,000|
|Monocrystalline||$14,000 - $19,000|
Labor Cost to Install Solar Panels in California
The price to install solar panels in California has an average cost range per watt of $0.60 to $1.20 a watt. This fluctuates across the state, depending on your location, if you install the panels on your roof or an array, how many and what panel types you install, and the conditions they are installed in. Some areas and locations have higher labor rates than others, while some projects can be more difficult to access, resulting in a higher-than-average labor cost. In addition, larger panels can have higher labor costs than thinner or smaller panels.
The average labor for a 6 kW system is between $3,600 and $7,200. These costs include balancing and racking of the system. Below are the average labor costs for each system installed in California.
|System Size||Average Labor Costs|
|2 kW||$1,200 - $2,400|
|3 kW||$1,800 - $3,600|
|4 kW||$2,400 - $4,800|
|5 kW||$3,000 - $6,000|
|6 kW||$3,600 - $7,200|
|7 kW||$4,200 - $8,400|
|8 kW||$4,800 - $9,600|
|10 kW||$6,000 - $12,000|
Which Direction Should Solar Panels Face in California?
It is recommended that solar panels in California be installed facing south to southwest. This gives you the most amount of sun in the day and maximizes the output from your panels. While most solar experts say that having your panels facing the south is the most effective, this may not always be possible for every home. In these cases, positioning them toward the southwest can often be just as efficient and may give you more options and flexibility for how you install your panels. Things like shade, roof slope, and overall location impact the final positioning of your panels.
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Cost to Install Solar Panels in California by Location
Most people associate the installation of solar panels with their roofs, but this is not the only place you can install them. You can also install your panels on the ground if your roof is not large enough to hold the number of panels you need or it is facing the wrong direction for the panels to receive the most light.
This is known as a ground-mounted installation, meaning that a large rack or pole mount must be built and installed on the ground to hold the panels. Ground-mounted arrays are often used in off-grid installations because the number of necessary panels is too large for the roof to hold. Ground installations tend to be more costly than roof installations because you need to factor in the extra costs for the larger array.
|System Location||Average Costs (Installed)|
|Roof||$14,640 - $19,260|
|Ground||$17,800 - $22,260|
California Solar Tax Credit 2022
While California does not have specific tax credits for residents who install solar panels, the federal government offers a tax credit in 2022 to homeowners who install solar panels this year. This credit value is equal to about 30% of the cost to install your system and is claimed when you file your annual taxes. The credit you should receive on your taxes for a 6 kW system amounts to $4,338 to $5,778, depending on the system cost.
Solar Inverter Cost by Type
Solar panels are only one component of your new system. In addition to the panels, you also need inverters to convert the energy from the panels into usable energy. Several types of inverters are on the market, and the number that you need will vary by inverter type. Solar systems using string inverters will require at least one inverter for the entire system, while microinverter systems require one inverter per panel. Therefore, with microinverters, you need around 20 inverters if your system uses 20 panels.
String inverters work with several panels connected together into a string, and several strings feeding to a single inverter. Most residential systems only need one string inverter. The downside of this system is that a string can go out if one panel goes out.
Power optimizers are not inverters, but they work with string inverters to make the system more efficient. You need one per panel, and they are installed on each panel. They work to keep power optimized on each panel if one panel within a string drops output due to shade or other problems.
Microinverters are installed on each panel and do not interconnect like the string inverters. While they cost less per inverter than string inverters, you need more of them, which increases system costs.
If you have batteries in your system, you need specific battery inverters. These help convert the energy into a type that can be stored by the batteries for later use.
The inverters make up roughly $0.25 to $0.40 per watt of your total wattage cost to install solar panels, depending on the type. Total costs vary depending on the type and how many you need. Below are the average costs you can expect for the various inverter types.
|Inverter Type||Average Costs (Materials Only)|
|Power Optimizer||$125 - $150|
|Micro Inverter||$150 - $215|
|String Inverter||$1,000 - $2,000|
|Battery-Based||$2,000 - $2,300|
Cost to Run and Maintain Solar Panels in California
Maintain your solar panels properly to ensure they produce the optimal amount of energy and last the longest amount of time. Maintenance in California is fairly simple and includes cleaning the panels twice yearly. During this cleaning, the technician can inspect the panels so that you can be notified in a timely way if repairs need to be done before your energy output is hurt.
The average inspection and cleaning costs in California average $175 to $400 a visit, depending on the number of panels you have and their positioning. This makes for an average yearly cost of $350 to $800 in maintenance fees.
Tesla Solar Roof Cost in California
If you do not like solar panels on your roof or you need a new roof and solar energy, you may want to consider a Tesla solar roof. Tesla solar roofs use a combination of solar and standard shingles of the same shape and size. They install over the entire roof for a more uniform look. This is a good option for those whose current roofs are not in good enough condition to have panels put on and who need a new roof first. By opting for a Tesla solar roof, you get a new roof, a streamlined appearance, and solar energy simultaneously.
The average cost of a Tesla solar roof for a 2,000 sq.ft. home in California is $52,200 to $64,100. This includes a 6.14 kW system along with one of Tesla’s Powerwall batteries, which can help you operate the system longer and save more on energy costs.
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Enhancement and Improvement Costs
Solar Water Heater
In addition to solar panels for energy, you can also install a solar water heater. This system uses energy from the sun to heat the water for your home. The average solar water heater system costs between $8,000 and $10,000.
Additional Considerations and Costs
- Permits. Permits are required for all solar panel installations in California, and different systems have various permit requirements. Speak to your local municipality before beginning a solar project in California to find out what the permit process is.
- Licenses. Make sure that any contractors you hire for the work on your solar panels are fully licensed with the state. You can follow up with your local municipality if you are unsure.
- Warranties. Many solar panel brands have warranties on their products. Ask your installer what warranties may be available, for what parts, and how long they last.
- HOAs. If you live in an HOA, obtain approval for solar panel installation before you begin. Most HOAs in California are solar power friendly, but always check first to be sure.
- Environmental zoning. California places a premium on its environmental sensitivity. To that end, some areas may be zoned as environmentally sensitive, and making modifications to your home in those areas may require special permits. Check with your local municipality if you feel this may be the case for your home.
- How much does it cost to install solar panels on a house in California?
The cost to install solar panels on a home in California varies by home size, panel type, and system size. The average cost range is $14,460 to $19,260 before federal tax credits for a 6 kW system.
- Is it worth going solar in California?
Yes, California has higher-than-average energy rates and problems with their grid resulting in brownouts. The state also gets a lot of sun, making solar energy attractive and eliminating these other issues.
- Do I need a permit to install solar panels in California?
Yes, you need permits to install solar panels in California. The type and number of permits varies by location and project type.
- Do solar panels increase property taxes in California?
Solar panels increase your property’s value in California. This can also raise your property taxes.
- Are there tax breaks for solar panels in California?
There are no state-based tax breaks, but there is a federal tax credit worth 30% of the total cost of the installation for 2022.
- How do I qualify for free solar in California?
The Public Utilities Commission in the state of California has a program that helps low-income families get free or low-cost solar panels for their homes. To apply, contact the CPUC or your local municipality to see if you qualify.
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