Solar Panel Cost Guide in San Francisco, CA (Feb 2023)

  • San Francisco Solar Installation Cost: $6,001
  • 25-Year Savings: $19,298
  • Payback Period: 5.9 Years

See cost of a solar system near you:

By EcoWatch Local Advisors

Data Analysis: James Savino

Ranking Methodology: Karsten Neumeister

Updated January 20, 2023

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We work with a panel of solar experts to create unbiased reviews that empower you to make the right choice for your home. No other site has covered renewables as long as us, which means we have more data and insider information than other sites. Our rankings are never affected by revenue or partnerships.

Average Cost of Solar Panels in San Francisco

We break down average solar pricing in San Francisco.

While the national average of solar panels is $2.66 per watt, solar panels in San Francisco generally cost about $3. Using this figure, a typical 3.1 would cost about $6,001 before the 30% federal solar tax credit is applied.

These figures are only estimates, and how much solar costs for you will vary based on your energy needs and what company you choose to go with. With average savings of about $31,000 on electricity bills over 20 years, many homeowners in San Francisco find going solar has a decent ROI.

To receive a free quote from a top solar installer in San Francisco, you can click the button below.

Solar savings over time in San Francisco

Year Return on Investment
1 years $-4,989
3 years $-2,965
5 years $-941
7 years $1,083
9 years $3,107
11 years $5,131
13 years $7,155
15 years $9,179
17 years $11,203
19 years $13,227
21 years $15,251
23 years $17,275
25 years $19,298

Top Solar Installers in San Francisco

Installing solar panels yourself can be a difficult project, which is why hiring a solar installer is a good option for many homeowners. The payback period of solar panels will vary based on factors like your location and energy needs, but working with a solar company can shorten it. Your provider will be able to help you identify incentives available in your area.

You can work with a local solar installer to get a free quote on how much your investment in solar could cost for your home. Here are some near you:

Best National Provider

SunPower

★★★★★
5.0

  • Most efficient panels on the market
  • National coverage
  • Cradle to Cradle sustainability certification
  • Great warranty coverage
  • Expensive
  • Customer service varies by local dealer

Best Regional Coverage

Momentum Solar

★★★★★
4.5

  • Great warranty coverage
  • Representatives are experts on local policies
  • Concierge service ensures steady communication
  • Slightly limited service offerings

Best Technology

Tesla Energy

★★★★★
4.5

  • Price-match guarantee
  • Sleek, efficient, and durable solar panels
  • Best solar battery on the market
  • Some reported issues with customer service
  • Customer service varies by local dealer

See all of the solar companies in San Francisco

Factors that Affect Solar Panel Costs in San Francisco

For many San Francisco homeowners, the decision to install solar panels depends on cost. However, the range of solar installation costs can be quite wide in San Francisco, with typical prices between $20,000 to $40,000. There are numerous factors that considerably influence the price you'll pay, which we'll go over below.

Solar Equipment

When it comes to estimating the cost of a solar panel system in San Francisco, one of the most important factors is the size of the system you need. Solar systems are sized by kilowatts (kW) and are largely based on your home's energy consumption, which you can determine by looking at past power bills. Your overall cost can increase by about $2,730 for each additional kilowatt you need. The brand and kind of equipment you get for your solar system can increase or decrease the price quite significantly. If you prefer a brand name like Tesla or SunPower, these often have a higher price tag than other brands. Efficiency also matters. Whether you're opting for high efficiency because you have a small roof or just want maximum energy production, you will be looking at a higher equipment cost, but this can typically lead to more savings over time. Plus, if you want extra equipment like an electric vehicle charger or solar batteries, this will also increase the cost.

Solar Financing Terms

For some homeowners, paying for a solar system out of pocket can be difficult. Solar loans are offered by most installers in San Francisco, which can reduce, or in some cases eliminate, your upfront costs to make solar more accessible. It's wise to factor the interest you'll pay in your final cost estimate. If you can afford to pay a higher down payment, you can reduce your total costs and the amount of time it'll take to pay back the loan.

Solar Panel Installation Company

A final consideration when trying to estimate the cost of solar for your home or business in San Francisco is the company you choose to install your solar system. Similar to choosing a company to install new cabinets, for example, there's no shortage of solar installers that offer a range of services for different budgets. Additionally, some companies in San Francisco are more knowledgeable about local solar incentives and can help you learn about additional rebates or tax exemptions. However, they may charge more for that service. Even if they cost more upfront, they could end up saving you more money in the long run.

Solar Panel Cost Data by System Size

System size Cost per system watt Solar system cost 25-Year savings Payback period
6 kW $2.84 $11,925 $36,455 6.2 years
8 kW $2.78 $15,594 $48,912 6.0 years
10 kW $2.73 $19,110 $61,523 5.9 years
12 kW $2.68 $22,473 $74,286 5.8 years
14 kW $2.62 $25,684 $87,202 5.7 years
16 kW $2.57 $28,741 $100,271 5.6 years
18 kW $2.51 $31,646 $113,492 5.5 years
20 kW $2.46 $34,398 $126,867 5.3 years

How to Save on Solar Panels

Since the model of solar panels and the installer you choose has an impact on your costs and your system's efficiency, production, and durability, it's important to select the right ones for you. Here are some things to keep in mind to help with your decision:

  • Solar Panel Brands: The brand of solar panel you want to get plays a part in which installer you should choose, since different companies have different panels.
  • Warranty: An all-inclusive, long-term warranty can help keep your solar panels running smoothly and save you money on part replacement and repairs.
  • Contract: When reading over your solar installer's contract, ask for clarification about any terms you're not sure of and make sure you understand what happens in scenarios such as a system component breaking or the company going out of business.
  • Reputation: The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is a well-established certification organization for renewable energy professionals. If your solar panel installer is NABCEP-certified, it likely has a good reputation and is qualified to do the job well. Another way you can check your installer's reputation is by reading reviews.

Best National Provider

SunPower

★★★★★
5.0

  • Most efficient panels on the market
  • National coverage
  • Cradle to Cradle sustainability certification
  • Great warranty coverage
  • Expensive
  • Customer service varies by local dealer

Best Regional Coverage

Momentum Solar

★★★★★
4.5

  • Great warranty coverage
  • Representatives are experts on local policies
  • Concierge service ensures steady communication
  • Slightly limited service offerings

Best Technology

Tesla Energy

★★★★★
4.5

  • Price-match guarantee
  • Sleek, efficient, and durable solar panels
  • Best solar battery on the market
  • Some reported issues with customer service
  • Customer service varies by local dealer

EcoWatch's San Francisco, CA Solar Cost FAQs

What is the average cost of installing solar panels in San Francisco?

The average cost of solar panels in San Francisco is about $13,650 for a 5-kW system and $27,300 for a 10-kW system before the ITC, but the real cost will depend on certain factors like the type of solar panels you want, what size system you need and how much energy you consume.

Is it better to lease or buy solar panels in San Francisco?

Leasing solar panels can be an attractive choice, as it commonly comes with low or $0 upfront payments. The downside is that you won't be able to save as much. If you lease, you don't own the system, so you can't claim any tax rebates and credits and your home value won't increase. Buying solar panels is a better way to go if you want to get the most savings.

How much can I save on electricity bills after switching to solar?

It is possible to eliminate your electricity bills with solar panels, but for most homeowners throughout San Francisco, that will require at least a 10-kW system. Not all homes will have roofs that can accommodate that size system, so you'll want to contact a local solar installer to see how many panels can fit on your roof.

How many solar panels do I need to power my home?

To figure out how many solar panels you need, you need to know how much energy your home uses and how much sunlight your home gets. For a general estimate, however, since each panel can typically produce about 250 to 400 watt-hours per hour, the average home will need 20 to 35 panels.

Our goal is to reach as many people as we can with sensible solutions like solar energy. Our team of full-time local researchers collects solar price and installation data for every city in America then compiles it to create these digestible city guides. If you want to read our solar expert's opinion on the top solar companies featured here, follow this link.

Company research was conducted by Melissa Smith and Karsten Neumeister. Local data analysis was conducted by James Savino. See something we missed or could do better? Email the editor.

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