Solar Calculator: Estimate Your Home Solar Costs And Savings
Understand your solar options with EcoWatch
We work with solar experts to empower you to make the right choice for your home’s energy security and sustainability. Your results are powered by our access to unique industry insights and data.
EcoWatch Solar Calculator
Use this solar calculator for a quick estimate of the savings you could see by installing solar panels. Our estimates use your location, shade level and electricity bill to provide an analysis of your solar potential.
We will not sell, trade or share your personal information without your explicit consent. Our results are not based on revenue or partnerships; they are intended purely to inform.
Solar Calculator: How to Estimate Solar Panel Installation Costs And Savings
Several factors will affect the price of a solar power system, but the following are the most important when trying to calculate your solar estimate:
- Solar System Size Needs
- Types of Solar Panels and Solar Equipment Used
- Geographic Location
- Available Solar Incentives
- Additional Factors
1. Solar System Size Needs
Solar panel systems are priced per kilowatt, so the bigger your system, the more it’s going to cost upfront. However, a bigger system is also going to produce more solar kilowatt-hours, which will offset more of your energy costs and could save you more money in the long run.
The only way to definitively know how many solar panels you’ll need is to get a professional assessment. However, you can get a rough solar panel estimate by following these five steps:
- Calculate how much energy your home uses
- Assess your roof space and the amount of sunlight your home receives
- Figure out the “specific yield” of solar panels in your area (the annual kWh of energy produced for each kilowatt of solar capacity installed)
- Check the wattage of the specific solar panels you intend to purchase
- Divide the wattage of your system by the wattage of those panels
The next best thing you can do is use the solar calculator at the top of this page to get a quick and easy read on the system size, costs, savings, and incentives you qualify for.
2. Types of Solar Panels and Solar Equipment Used
Like with anything else, quality matters with solar panel cost and functionality. Panels with higher energy efficiency can deliver more watts per square foot, which means you need to purchase fewer of them to reach your electricity generation target. However, high-efficiency solar panels also tend to be more expensive, so you’ll have to justify getting more bang for your buck.
There are three main types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. In general, monocrystalline panels are the most efficient solar panels, followed closely by polycrystalline panels.
While most people think about solar panels, there are other equipment needs with a solar array, such as inverters and mounts. Equipment needs can also vary depending on whether you’re looking to install rooftop panels or an off-grid system.
While these costs are typically rolled into your solar estimate, there are different solar panel brands you can choose from that can raise or lower the cost.
3. Geographic Location
Not only is the cost of solar different in different states, but costs also vary because the solar potential varies by state. For example, a home in California is likely going to need fewer solar panels than a home in New York — even if they have the same energy usage — because California has stronger solar radiation.
4. Available Solar Incentives
Both state and federal governments have established incentive programs to encourage homeowners to buy solar panels. There is currently a 30% federal solar tax credit, called an investment tax credit (ITC), available for homeowners who install residential solar panels.
Your solar system cost will also depend on the net metering policy of your local utility company. Most utilities vary in their buyback rates and feed-in tariffs, but policies can have a big effect on the overall value from your solar system and your solar payback period. Be sure to ask your solar installation company about how cooperative your utility provider is with solar energy installations.
Some states offer better solar incentives, rebates and solar tax exemptions than others, and most solar panel installers should help you identify and apply for the programs in your area. However, it’s still a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local incentives that might be available to you.
5. Additional Factors
Of course, there are many other factors that can cause the cost of solar panels to fluctuate, including:
- The availability of solar panels in your area
- Your current monthly electricity bill
- The current cost of shipping
- The number of providers competing for your business
- Supply chain issues
- Local electricity rates
Calculate Your Electric Bill Savings From Going Solar
For most homeowners in the U.S., it takes roughly eight years to break even on a solar panel investment using energy savings. For example, if your solar installation cost is $16,000 and the system helps you conserve $2,000 annually on energy bills, then your payback period will be around eight years (16,000/2,000 = 8).
To put it a little differently, the solar payback period represents the time it will take for your utility savings to eclipse your initial investment cost. It is at this point that you might say the solar panel system has “paid for itself.”
Just like with system costs, there are also many factors to consider when calculating your solar savings estimate, including installation costs, interest rates if you’re taking out a solar loan, applicable tax credits and solar rebates, and energy bill savings. The latter is always going to be relative to the costs of electricity in your region, so areas that have higher utility costs tend to have slightly shorter payback periods.
Calculate If Solar is The Right Option For You
We believe that solar is worth it for the average American homeowner in 2022 — under the right conditions. Solar energy is not a one-size-fits-all type of energy solution and you should consider the following questions to determine whether you’re a good solar candidate:
- Does your roof have access to direct sunlight?
- Does your roof face south or west? Does it have enough room for at least 15 solar panels?
- Are your monthly electric bills enough to justify a solar installation?
- Does your state or utility offer solar incentives or a net metering program? If so, what is the buy-back rate?
In the last decade alone, solar has experienced an average annual growth rate of 33%. There are now more than 121 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity installed nationwide, enough to power 23.3 million homes.
The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 60% over the last decade, leading the industry to expand into new markets and deploy thousands of systems nationwide.
Continued growth in state community solar programs and improvements to state and regional interconnection processes are imperative to ensure solar access for all types of homeowners and businesses.