Iowa Solar Panel Buyers Guide [Installation & Efficiency 2022]

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide to Iowa solar panels:

  • How much most solar systems cost in IA
  • What volume of energy your system is likely to produce
  • Benefit programs you can take advantage of to lower solar conversion costs
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How to Get Solar Panels in Iowa

To begin the process of going solar in IA, you’ll first need to reach out to a local solar installer and request a free quote. The representative you speak with will need to review a recent electric bill and will typically want to schedule a property inspection. The rep will measure your roof and assess any shading where your panels will be installed.

Next, you’ll need to discuss financing options for your system. These include cash purchases, solar loans, solar leases, and power purchase agreements (PPAs). Once your payment option is squared away, your system will be designed and permits from your local jurisdiction will be pulled for the installation. Finally, your system will be installed.

Going solar in IA is almost always a wise investment. Not only do panels make your home more eco-friendly, but they also almost always save a significant amount of money on electric bills. Iowans typically see their panels paying for themselves and then saving an additional $17,500 after that.

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Purelight Power

Outstanding Regional Installer

Regional Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Offers products from leading manufacturers
  • Great warranty coverage
  • Outstanding customer service

Cons

  • Relatively young company
  • Quality of installation may vary by location
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Energy Consultants Group (ECG)

Outstanding Local Installer

Local Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Competitive pricing
  • Comprehensive service offerings
  • Many years of experience

Cons

  • Limited service area
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ADT Solar

Best Warranty Coverage

Regional Service

EcoWatch rating

Average cost

Pros

  • Industry-leading warranty coverage
  • Expansive service area

Cons

  • Some reported communication issues
  • No leases or PPAs
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What Is the Price of Solar Panel Installation in Iowa?

Homeowners in IA usually spend around $2.77 per watt to install photovoltaic (PV) equipment. After taking into consideration the federal solar investment tax credit, that puts the typical 9 (kilowatt) kW system at around $17,451.

The panel payback period is a useful metric for determining how valuable your panels will be in the long run. The average payback period in IA is 12 years, which is right in line with the national average, so you’re expected to get great value out of your solar conversion.

For more information on the average costs and metrics for determining solar viability, you can check out our guide on pricing out PV equipment in IA.

The Best Solar Panel Brands Available in Iowa

IA ranks 33rd when it comes to solar adoption in the country, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).1 Since the solar industry in IA is quite large, most of the major panel brands are readily available throughout the state, so you should have plenty of options when it comes to the equipment you want to be installed.

Iowans experience about the average number of sunny days each year, so efficiency typically isn’t the top consideration when choosing a panel brand. More often, property owners are concerned about the extreme weather common throughout the state.

Thunderstorms and tornadoes can contribute to solar panel system damage, making warranty coverage important. To that end, below is a quick list of some of the most popular panel brands in IA, all of which come with excellent coverage.

Tornadoes can put solar equipment at risk of costly damage in IA
Tornadoes can put solar equipment at risk of costly damage in IA. Credit: Nikolas Noonan / Unsplash
  • Maxeon (previously produced under the name SunPower)
  • Panasonic
  • LG
  • Tesla
  • REC
  • Silfab
  • Qcells
  • Canadian Solar
  • Mission Solar
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Is Iowa a Good State for Solar Panels?

While not the most popular place for solar conversion, IA is considered an excellent place to install solar equipment. There are a few factors that contribute to the value of solar energy systems in the area. These include: 

  • Plenty of sunshine: First off, IA residents experience around 200 sunny days per year, just below the national average of 205.2 This is typically plenty of suns to allow photovoltaic panels to produce enough electricity to offset energy demands.
  • Great tax incentives and benefit programs: IA is considered a relatively solar-friendly state. It offers quite a few benefit programs and perks to residents who are willing to install solar equipment. We’ll discuss the specific incentives that are available in a later section, as well as how they serve to reduce up-front system prices and maximize solar savings.
  • Average energy consumption: IA residents consume an average of 865 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per month, which is right around the national average.3 They also pay average electricity rates. Homeowners with average energy needs typically see outstanding value from their solar arrays, as their energy bills are high enough to allow for plenty of savings.

How Much Energy Can I Get From Solar Panels in Iowa?

The amount of electricity a solar system on your property generates can vary quite a lot from the amount generated by other systems in your area. Several important factors, some of which are property-specific, influence solar production. These factors include:

  • The orientation of your home: PV panels produce greater amounts of energy when they receive more direct sunlight. Since south-facing roofs in North America are angled toward the path of the sun in the sky, they’re the best options for converting to solar energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, south-facing roofs will lead to the highest level of energy generation for this reason.4
  • The amount of sunlight that hits your roof: Photovoltaic panels require access to sunlight in order to generate electricity. That means that if you have shading on your roof at any time throughout the day, you can expect less electricity to be produced. This is the primary reason why your installer will inspect your home and assess shading from trees, other structures, utility poles, and even electrical lines. 
  • The weather: Solar energy generation will be greatest on bright sunny days and plummet in cloudy weather. Your rate of production can drop by up to 90% with heavy cloud coverage. Average local weather conditions will always be a consideration when sizing your system.
  • The size of your home solar system: The number and capacity of the panels you have installed will also play a major role in how much energy your system can provide. Adding more panels will always lead to an increase in solar electricity generation. However, there is a point where larger and larger systems become less cost-effective. 
  • The efficiency of your panels: Finally, the brand of panels you install will make a difference in how much electricity your system as a whole produces. Each panel brand comes with an efficiency rating. This tells you how effective your panels are at converting available sunlight to energy for your home. Higher energy efficiency will always lead to a greater level of production.

All these factors should be taken into consideration to get an accurate estimate of how much energy your panels will generate. However, you can use the table below to get a rough idea of what your home solar system will be capable of in IA.

Solar Power System Size Expected Daily Energy Produced Expected Monthly Energy Produced Expected Annual Energy Produced
6 kW 20 kWh 600 kWh 7,200 kWh
7 kW 23.3 kWh 700 kWh 8,400 kWh
8 kW 26.6 kWh 800 kWh 9,600 kWh
9 kW 30 kWh 900 kWh 10,800 kWh
10 kW 33.3 kWh 1,000 kWh 12,000 kWh
11 kW 36.6 kWh 1,100 kWh 13,200 kWh
12 kW 40 kWh 1,200 kWh 14,400 kWh

You can also feel free to use our solar calculator tool. This uses your address and shading on your property — determined using satellite imaging — to estimate how much energy a solar power system on your specific roof will provide

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Solar Panel Policy History in Iowa

Hawkeye State is considered to be relatively solar-friendly, and it has a long history of implementing positive policies and laws to push the solar industry forward.

These policies began back in 1978 with the passing of the property tax exemption for renewable energy systems. This policy prevented your property taxes from increasing after you convert to solar energy. Effectively, it reduced the barrier to entry into the world of solar. 

A few years later, in 1983, IA implemented the first Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal in the nation. This helped set the stage for other states to adopt similar pro-solar initiatives and mandates.

This particular RPS goal mandated that the two largest investor-owned utilities in IA — MidAmerican Energy and Alliant Energy — own at least 105 megawatts of solar equipment. This was pushed by the Alternative Energy Production law passed that same year.

In 1984, the state implemented its net metering policy. This is a pivotal incentive for solar customers that helps reduce the panel payback period and increase long-term savings.

Nearly a decade later, in 1993, IA began offering the renewable energy equipment tax exemption. This was a sales-tax exemption that helped bring down the up-front cost of solar panels for your home.

Then in 1996, the state began the Alternative Energy Revolving Loan Program. This program offered solar financing that paid for half the cost of solar energy systems at 0% interest. The remainder of the loan was coordinated with a third-party company at the market interest rate.

More than ten years later, the Kalona Farmers Electric Cooperative began offering net metering to its customers. This marked the first non-mandatory net metering policy in the state, which set the precedent for other utility companies. 

Finally, and perhaps most notably, IA began offering the solar energy systems tax credit in 2012. This policy offered a 15% credit to your income tax liability, or up to $5,000, whichever was lower. State tax credits have proven to be effective in pushing the solar industry further in the U.S. Unfortunately, this credit ended in 2021.

What Are the Solar Panel Incentives in Iowa?

Thanks to the policies and programs mentioned above, residents of Hawkeye State currently have access to quite a few appealing solar incentives. We’ll discuss each of these below and how it helps make solar more valuable in the state.

  • Federal solar tax credit: This is a credit to your income tax burden provided by the federal government. It’s equal to 30% of your entire system cost, without a limit. In IA, the credit averages out to nearly $7,500.
  • Net metering: Net metering lets you take advantage of the excess electricity your panels generate. Your utility company credits you for the excess energy you don’t use, and you can use those credits to lower future utility bills. The value of the credits you earn depends on your electricity provider. Note that this policy is not available for leases and PPAs.
  • Sales tax exemption: IA waives all sales tax on panels, inverters, solar batteries, electric vehicle chargers, and other PV equipment. This policy helps lower the up-front cost of converting to clean energy. 
EV chargers are included in the IA sales tax exemption
EV chargers are included in the IA sales tax exemption along with solar panels. Credit: Michael Fousert / Unsplash
  • Property tax exemption: As mentioned above, the property tax exemption prevents your property taxes from increasing after you install solar equipment. Over the life of your system, this is likely to save you thousands of dollars on your tax bills.
  • Solar easements and rights laws: This perk makes it unlawful for Iowa homeowners associations (HOAs) and other private or public agencies to prevent you from installing rooftop solar systems. 

For more information on these benefits or how they might affect you, you can read through our complete guide on taking advantage of Iowa solar incentives.

Find a Local Installer in Iowa

Considering that there are dozens of solar companies to choose from in the State of Iowa, picking the right one for you is no small feat. Your decision is an important one because it affects your warranty coverage, the customer service you’ll receive, and the overall quality of your solar equipment.

To help get you started and narrow down your options, we’ll include some links below to reviews for the best solar companies in major cities throughout Iowa.

Main Street in Ames, IA
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Ames

Street view of downtown Cedar Rapids
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Cedar Rapids

Location of Mason City, IA
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Mason City

Triangle Park in Waukee, IA
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Waukee

Downtown view of Cedar Falls, IA
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Cedar Falls

Street view of downtown Des Moines
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Des Moines

Downtown area of Iowa City
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Iowa City

Partial skyline of Sioux City in IA
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Sioux City

View of Dubuque from a nearby hilltop
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Dubuque

Street view of Council Bluffs, IA
Credit: WikiMedia / WikiMedia

Best Solar Providers in Council Bluffs

Alternatively, you can read through our guide to choosing a solar installation company in IA, which will also provide company recommendations for other major cities throughout the state.

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Dan Simms
Article author
Dan Simms is an experienced writer with a passion for renewable energy. As a solar and EV advocate, much of his work has focused on the potential of solar power and deregulated energy, but he also writes on related topics, like real estate and economics. In his free time — when he's not checking his own home's solar production — he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and rock climbing.

What Are The Best Solar Companies?