Solar Panel Cost in South Carolina (2023 Local Savings Guide)
In this EcoWatch guide to the cost of solar panels in South Carolina, you’ll learn:
- The average cost of going solar in South Carolina
- How solar system sizes affect installation costs in South Carolina
- How South Carolinians can save money when going solar
How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in South Carolina?
The average cost of solar panels in South Carolina is $2.72 per watt, which is higher than the U.S. average of $2.66 per watt. An 11 kW (kilowatt) solar panel system is the most common system size to offset the average monthly utility bill of a Palmetto State resident.
Using the $2.72 per-watt rate, an 11 kW solar power system would cost $20,944 after factoring in the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). However, this figure is just an estimate. A number of factors including system size will affect the total cost of a solar project for your South Carolina home.
As you can see from the table below, the size of your SC solar energy system is important as it not only heavily influences overall costs but also determines how likely you are to meet your energy goals. If you’re hoping to eliminate your electric bills entirely, you will need to have an appropriately configured system that meets or exceeds your energy consumption needs.
Blue Raven Solar
If you’re not sure what size system you need, we recommend consulting with a home solar panel installation company to get a free system estimate.
How Does the Current Cost of Solar in South Carolina Compare to the National Average?
With no federal, state or local incentives applied in sc, the average South Carolina household will pay $29,920 for an 11 kW solar system. This cost is higher than the national average of $23,940 for a solar system for several reasons — particularly the higher price per watt ($2.72 vs. $2.66 per watt) and the larger-than-average sized solar system required to cover South Carolinians’ energy needs.
On average, households in the United States consume 893 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month. In contrast, at 1,081 kWh per month South Carolinians consume far more, so it stands to reason that they require considerably larger systems to meet their energy requirements and will pay more for their systems than the U.S. average.
How Are Solar Costs Trending in South Carolina?
South Carolina ranks 14th nationally for solar installations and has installed 2,044.5 MW (megawatts) to date. Yet even with a projected increase of 1,456 MW in installations over the next five years, South Carolina is actually set to drop to 32nd in the U.S. for solar power. Solar installations in South Carolina dropped dramatically from 2020 to 2021, but solar continues to become more affordable and now costs 53% less than in 2012.1
The price of electricity in South Carolina sits at around 14.85 cents per kWh (kilowatt-hour), which is slightly lower than the national average of 15.95 cents per kWh.2 Residents of South Carolina may pay a little less for their energy, but with the cost of electricity having nearly doubled since 2002, this increase still heavily affects South Carolina households.3
Like everywhere else in the United States, the cost of energy in South Carolina continues to rise, which makes it more challenging to cover energy bills. In the 12 months preceding October 2022, the cost of electricity in the U.S. Southeast increased by 16.6% and the cost of natural gas increased by 23.3%.4
How Much Can You Save by Going Solar in South Carolina Today?
As energy costs continue to skyrocket, more and more South Carolina residents have turned to solar energy to save money on their utility bills. The average South Carolinian spends around $138.16 per month on electricity, making South Carolina the fourth most expensive state in terms of monthly energy expenditure. If you can eliminate your electric bills in South Carolina — which usually requires installing a solar battery along with your solar panels — you stand to save an average of $1,658 per year in energy bills by going solar, making going solar worth it in South Carolina.
These energy savings are expected to pay off your total solar panel system installation expenses within about 12 years. The remaining 13-plus years of system life are expected to bring an additional $24,561 in deductions to your energy bills. Your savings could be even more substantial if energy rates continue to go up as they have in the past.
It’s important to note that your total savings will depend on how you pay for your photovoltaic (PV) equipment. Cash purchase, solar loans and solar leases, described below, are the three most common ways by which South Carolina homeowners pay for solar panels. The path you choose depends on your unique energy and financial needs, so explore each option carefully.
- Cash purchase: You’ll pay for your solar panels in full up front and benefit from federal, state and any local incentives you qualify for that will lower your overall cost
- Solar loan: Solar loans vastly reduce or even eliminate the up-front cost of solar panels but the overall cost of your system will be greater due to interest payments. You’ll also still qualify for incentives.
- Solar lease or power purchase agreements (PPA): Solar leases are often $0 down, but you won’t own your solar panels or qualify for financial incentives such as tax breaks for purchasing a solar system
|Solar Financing Option||Upfront Cost||Payback Period||Est. 25-Year Savings|
|Loan||Often $0, but sometimes requires a down payment||13+ years*||$18,420|
|Lease||Often $0 down||N/A||$6,000*|
*These are conservative estimates intended to represent base-level averages. In most cases, customers can see an even higher ROI and shorter payback periods.
Although a cash purchase will cost you the most up front, you stand to save the most money overall with this purchase method. The downside is that solar panel systems often cost $29,920 or more in South Carolina — a significant outlay for most homeowners.
Cash purchases offer the shortest solar payback period of the three financing options, which is why many people go for this option. In South Carolina, it takes an average of 12 years for most homeowners to pay off their panels, but some households will find that their payback period is shorter.
There are several ways to save money on the up-front cost of your panels, and the best is to take advantage of federal, state and local solar incentives and rebates that reduce the overall total of your investment. A number of local utilities, such as Santee Cooper, offer solar rebates that can be applied to your total cost.5 Some installation companies offer discounts if you pay all cash, so ask your contractor about any promotions they offer.
Pros of Cash Purchase
- Shortest payback period
- Can take advantage of all tax incentives
- Minimizes overall system cost
Cons of Cash Purchase
- Requires large cash outlay up front
Many homeowners in South Carolina will use solar loans to cover most if not all of their solar system costs. You can get a loan from your solar installer or a third-party lender and you often don’t need a significant down payment — some loans are $0 down. As with a cash purchase, you’ll own your solar panels after you’ve paid off the loan and can take advantage of federal and state solar tax credits.
When you go the solar loan route, it will take a bit longer for your solar panels to pay themselves off simply because you’ll be paying more for your system due to interest charges. For instance, a solar system in Sumter, South Carolina would cost about $24,168 if you paid all cash but would cost you about $33,882 if you chose a typical loan.
You can lower your monthly payment by putting a significant amount down payment or securing a loan with a lower interest rate. In addition, you may be able to make extra principal payments in addition to your monthly payment, but some loan terms include a penalty for early payments.
Pros of Solar Loan
- Avoid significant up-front cash outlay
- You own the solar panels so can take advantage of incentives and rebates
- Often requires $0 money down
Cons of Solar Loan
- Overall system cost is significantly higher due to interest
- Solar payback period is longer
Solar leases are becoming less popular due to the rise of solar loans, but some solar installers still offer this option. When you take on a solar lease, the company that installs your panels will own them and you’ll create a contract to purchase the solar energy the panels generate.
Typically, a solar lease lasts for 15 to 20 years and covers the installation, maintenance and management of energy production. This can be a great option for anyone who wants to support the use of clean energy but doesn’t want to invest in their own solar systems, but solar leases do have downsides.
Since you don’t own the solar panels, you won’t be able to take advantage of federal and state tax incentives or other incentives to ownership offered by your local jurisdiction or utility.
It’s also important to fully understand the terms of your lease to know what options you have (or don’t have) if you want to end the lease either to buy the panels or just get out of the lease. Some leasing companies may allow you to buy the panels but at an exorbitant price, and some may impose significant penalties for ending the lease early.
Pros of Solar Leases
- Your solar panel and installation costs are fully covered
- You don’t have to make a large up-front cash investment
- The leasing company maintains your solar panels
Cons of Solar Lease
- Your installer owns the system
- You don’t get state and federal investment tax credits
- Least amount of lifetime energy savings
Want to see how much it would cost to get solar panels installed on your home? Use our solar calculator to estimate your expected savings.
How Do You Get the Best Solar Prices in South Carolina?
Solar panels are expensive, and this is especially true for South Carolina residents who not only pay more per watt than the U.S. average, but often need larger systems to offset energy costs. To get the best price on solar panels, it’s important to explore several solar panel installation options and cash in on South Carolina solar incentives and rebates.
Get Multiple Solar Quotes
You never want to sign a contract with the first installation company that gives you an estimate. Instead, do your research and gather several quotes before you make your final decision. You may be surprised by the difference in quoted prices, and each company will usually carry a different selection of solar panels.
When you collect quotes, make sure to ask each installer about the size of the solar panel system you’ll need to offset your energy costs. Because the system size is directly tied to the total cost, you’ll only want to invest in a system that makes sense for your home.
File for the Federal Solar Tax Credit
In our opinion, one of the best ways to effectively save money on your solar panels in South Carolina is to make sure you file for the federal tax credit. It’s a credit offered by the federal government for all solar equipment purchased in South Carolina, including panels, solar batteries, inverters and electric vehicle (EV) chargers.
The credit rate, previously 26% of your total system cost, was bumped up to 30% with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in September 2022. At 30%, the federal credit averages around $8,976 in South Carolina. You can calculate your IRA savings with Ecowatch’s new tool.
It’s important to note that this is not a rebate. The credit offers a reduction to the income taxes you owe for the year after your system is installed in the amount of 30% of your system cost. This means two things.
- First, if you don’t owe income taxes at all, you won’t be able to take any of the credit.
- Second, if you don’t expect to owe at least $1,800 per year in income taxes, you won’t be able to take the full credit amount in South Carolina.
- You can, however, claim a partial credit and roll over the remaining amount each year for five years after you convert to solar.
You should also note that the credit will only be available until 2034. The rate will reduce according to the following schedule:
- The credit rate will be 30% for systems installed between 2022 and 2031
- The credit rate will drop to 26% in 2033
- The credit rate will drop to 22% in 2034
- The credit will no longer be available in 2035
Take Advantage of the South Carolina Solar Energy Tax Credit
To save the most money on solar panels in South Carolina, you’ll want to claim the state’s solar energy tax credit. Similar to the federal solar investment tax credit, South Carolina offers a 25% income tax credit for residential solar systems.
This state tax credit is applied to the amount you owe come tax time, so it is not cash in hand as with a rebate. This solar incentive rolls over for 10 years so if you don’t credit it all toward your taxes in the first year, you’ll have plenty of time to take advantage.
Ready to connect with local solar installers? Click the links below to get a no obligation free quote for your home solar system.
What Factors Affect the Cost of Solar Panel Systems in South Carolina?
The cost of solar panels often comes with sticker shock, so it’s best to completely understand what goes into the makeup and cost of your solar panel system.
Size of Your Solar System
Unlike some U.S. residents who require 6 kW to 7 kW solar panel systems, most South Carolina homeowners need much larger solar systems 11 kW systems to completely cover their energy usage. The need for these larger systems is one reason why many SC residents pay so much more for their solar panels, and is also something you should carefully consider as you figure out what you want out of your panels.
You only want to pay for the solar capacity you need, so you should perform an energy audit and analyze your monthly energy usage to determine how much energy you need to power your home. Your solar contractor will be your greatest resource for determining the appropriate size for your solar system, so always consult with your contractor.
South Carolina does have net metering, so if your system overproduces at times like the middle of the day when production is high and usage is low, you can get credit for the extra energy on future electric bills. However, not all energy companies give you full retail value for your surplus energy, so you will likely still need to pay for electricity during less productive times unless you have a solar battery.
Solar Panel Equipment
The specific solar equipment you install will have a major impact on the total tab for your system. Solar panels tend to range in price from around $1.60 per watt to over $3.00 per watt, depending on their quality, efficiency and included warranty.
South Carolina averages 216 sunny days per year — above the national average of 205. The abundant and intense sun in the area means homeowners don’t generally need to invest in the high-efficiency, more-costly equipment needed in less-sunny states. They’ll be well served by less-costly, lower-efficiency panels.
Unfortunately, though, South Carolina experiences more severe weather events including hurricanes, tropical storms and tornadoes than many other states. This extreme weather makes SC prone to power outages, so many solar customers in the area choose to add solar batteries to their systems. Doing so provides electricity through blackouts, but it also adds thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to your total solar system cost. If you’re wondering how your solar system will hold up in extreme weather, rest assured solar panels can withstand hurricane level winds.
If you decide to invest in solar energy storage such as battery backup you’ll pay more for your system. Backup batteries easily add $5,000 to over $10,000 to your system, but can absolutely be worth it if you want to use your solar energy when your panels aren’t producing or during a power outage.
Solar Panel Installation Company
As is the case with any contractor, the solar installer you choose will affect your pricing. Prices naturally vary between installers due to differences in equipment charges, labor fees, availability and warranties offered.
In most cases, differences will be minor (along the lines of several hundred dollars), but can be in the thousands of dollars.
Significant price differences can be due to the different equipment each offers. Looking at the two best solar installers in SC — Summit Solar and SunPower — you can see pricing vary by thousands based on equipment.
Summit installs panels made by LG, Sonnen and Tesla Solar, all of which are relatively affordable and typically in the $1 to $2 per-watt range. SunPower only installs Maxeon panels, which are usually above $3 per watt but are some of the best panels available. Based on equipment differences alone, you can expect SunPower to be around $11,000 more expensive than Summit — but it’s important to compare companies based on value provided and not just cost.
Additional Solar Considerations in South Carolina
Below are some additional things — some of which relate to cost – that you’ll want to consider and get squared away before committing to a solar installer.
- Permits: All solar system installations in South Carolina require a building permit from your local jurisdiction. You should confirm with your installer that its team will handle the process for you, as is common practice in SC.
- Licenses: The State of South Carolina requires that all solar installation companies have a certificate of authorization for work related to electrical systems. Each company must also have a licensed electrician on board to be on site during installations and to complete system connections to the grid. Check to make sure your installer meets these requirements before you commit.
- Warranties: Solar warranties protect your investment in case of panel problems (such as physical damage and poor functionality), and some also protect you in case your home incurs damage during the installation process. It’s important to consider the warranty when deciding if the value provided by a company is worth the cost.
- HOAs: South Carolina is one of the few states that doesn’t offer residents the inalienable right to install solar panels — so if you live in an area governed by a homeowners’ association, you might need to get permission from the HOA before you move ahead with solar conversion. Though, since homeowners often see home values increase through the addition of solar panels, this often isn’t a problem many people run into.
- Environmental zoning: South Carolina’s zoning regulations rarely create issues for rooftop solar installations, so you shouldn’t have any issues.
Are There Any Maintenance Costs of Going Solar in South Carolina?
Solar panels are generally low maintenance after installation, but there are a few things you’ll have to do to maintain your solar panels and ensure they’re working optimally.
Replace Broken or Cracked Solar Panels
If one of your panels breaks, repair costs often range from $300 to $500. The cost of replacement depends on the extent of the damage, the cost of your panels and the cost of labor in your locale.
Should one or more of your panels break, you should first check your warranties. Solar panels often come with two separate warranties: a workmanship warranty and a manufacturer warranty. The damage may be covered by either of these warranties, so you always want to read the warranty fine print before you pay for solar panel repair.
Remove Trees or Branches that Shade Your Property
Solar panels can’t function at maximum efficiency if they don’t get full sun exposure. If your property experiences a lot of shade or if one of your trees has grown to cover your roof, you’ll want to trim your trees.
The cost of tree trimming often depends on the size of the tree, and can be between $500 and $1,500 for 25- to 50-foot trees. As tree trimming is dangerous, you’ll want to hire a professional.
Clean Debris Off Home Solar Panels
If you want your solar panels to operate at maximum efficiency, they need to be clear of debris. You can clean off your solar panels yourself, but it is not advised because you can easily damage your panels or injure yourself.
The cost to clean your solar panels can range from $150 to well over $1,000. The cost depends on the size of your solar panel system and the complexity of your roof, so South Carolinians can likely expect to pay more simply because they often need larger solar systems.
South Carolina is prone to frequent severe weather events, and you should inspect your solar panels after every storm. Severe weather and windy conditions can dislodge branches from trees and displace debris, and these can easily land on your roof and cover your panels.
Typical Costs of Solar Providers in South Carolina
The best solar panel brand for your home is the one that can meet your energy needs and also fits your budget. The table below includes some top solar brands available in SC and pricing to help you decide which might work for your home energy goals.
|Solar Panel Brand||Average Cost Per Watt ($-$$$$$)|
Want to see what size solar system you need and how much it will cost? Select one of our recommended providers below, and you’ll get a free, customized solar quote from a local installer.
Read More About Going Solar in South Carolina
FAQ: South Carolina Solar Panel Costs
At EcoWatch, we get hundreds of questions every day about solar energy systems. If you have specific questions that aren’t answered here, reach out to our team of solar experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The average cost of installing solar panels in South Carolina varies based on several factors. The size of the system, the particular solar equipment, and the solar installer in South Carolina that you choose can all impact what you pay for your new solar energy system.
For example, let’s consider an 11 kW system. On average, this system costs $29,920 to install in South Carolina (before any incentives or rebates are taken into account). If you end up paying more than $30,000, you’re likely paying an above-market price. On the other hand, if you pay less, you may be getting an outstanding deal.
South Carolina is known for its beautiful beaches and golf courses, so most residents are probably not surprised that the state gets 216 sunny days per year on average.
This means that solar panels can definitely be a great investment for South Carolina homeowners seeking to save money on their electricity. The potential to eliminate your energy bills for your South Carolina home is there. However, several factors can impact how much you’ll actually end up saving.
For example, you need to have an appropriately sized system capable of producing at least the amount of electricity you consume. You also need to have a solar battery as part of your system so you can store energy you generate for later use, and/or access to net metering through your electric utility.
So, yes, you can potentially eliminate your energy bills entirely with solar panels in South Carolina. Many homeowners with a properly configured system and access to net metering save tens of thousands of dollars over the system’s lifetime.
To get the best price for solar panels in South Carolina, you have to do your research. You’ll want to gather several quotes from qualified solar installers in your area. Once you have multiple quotes and know what size system you need, you can commit to the solar installation company that offers you the best price. But remember that the lowest price doesn’t always equate to the best long-term value.
You’ll also want to apply for as many solar rebates and incentives as you qualify for. This means submitting the paperwork for the South Carolina energy tax credit, the federal solar tax credit and local incentives your utility service provider may offer.
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