Solar Panel Cost in Pennsylvania (2023 Local Savings Guide)
By Dan Simms /
Most Pennsylvania solar customers see energy savings that pay off their system in just ten years — faster than the national average — and then save an additional $23,634 on average.
The SEIA (Solar Energy Industries Association) ranks Pennsylvania 24th in the country for solar adoption, but the relatively slow adoption rate doesn’t paint the full picture of solar viability.1 Residents in the Keystone State have a lot going for them when it comes to how valuable solar is in the area.
Most homeowners in the area use below-average amounts of electricity each month, which means the typical system size is below average, as is the price. The average cost of solar panels in PA is $21,675 before any federal or local solar incentives or solar rebate programs, as compared to the U.S. average of nearly $24,000. The financial incentive programs are also great and help boost the value of Pennsylvania solar systems.
In this guide, we’ll be walking you through the process of going solar, from the initial research phase through installation and beyond. You can use the links below to jump to a particular section for specific information.
Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels
Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider
Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract
Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day
Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels
Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO)
Although solar equipment has gotten much more affordable in the past decade, the cost to convert to this renewable energy source in Pennsylvania is still quite high. In the following sections, we’ll discuss some important things to consider to determine if solar is a good fit for you.
Solar is a great investment for most Pennsylvanians, but it’s not right for everyone. We encourage you to do your research to make sure it’s a valuable investment for you and your home in particular.
You can start by getting an estimate of how many photovoltaic (PV) panels you need to power your home. You can use our solar calculator for an initial estimate. If your recommended system size is significantly larger than the state average — 8.5 kilowatts (kW) — that could indicate that there is some factor at play that detracts from your solar viability.
You might need to consider tree coverage and local weather conditions, as panels don’t generate as much power in the shade or cloudy conditions. The state as a whole sees just 179 sunny days per year, which is well below the U.S. average.2 If your city sees even less, then your system will provide a bit less energy savings for you.
Another important consideration is whether net metering is available to you — also called net energy metering or NEM. The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) does require that all investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in Pennsylvania offer net energy metering. However, it’s not mandated for municipal electric companies or electric cooperatives.
Plus, the PUC doesn’t set a specific energy credit rate. The best-case scenario would be the full retail value per kilowatt-hour (kWh), but most providers statewide don’t provide this. Instead, they use a less beneficial avoided-cost rate, which provides a credit of lower value per kWh. Your panels will bring you the most value if you have access to full-retail-rate NEM.
Just as an example, Duquesne Light Company is required to offer NEM, but it goes above and beyond by offering the full retail rate for credits.3 FirstEnergy (Penn Power) uses a below-average rate that sits between the retail and wholesale rates. As of this writing, it was 10.44 cents per kWh, compared to the retail rate of over 13 cents per kWh.4
Pennsylvania Electric Company (PECO) uses a “price-to-compare” rate for NEM credits, which is the wholesale rate.5
The closer your net metering credit rate is to the full retail electricity rate, the more value you’ll see out of your panels. As such, it’s crucial to find out what your solar power provider offers before going solar.
The table below includes some solar cost and savings statistics for your state and the U.S. as a whole. These numbers suggest that Pennsylvania residents will see more value and financial benefit from solar conversion than most other states.
|Pennsylvania State Average||United States National Average|
|Solar Power System Size Required||8.5 kW||9 kW|
|Typical Cost Per Watt to Install Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment||$2.55||$2.66|
|Average Total System Cost Before Federal Solar Income Tax Credit||$21,675||$23,940|
|Average Federal Solar Tax Credit Value||$6,503||$7,182|
|Average Total System Cost After Federal Credit||$15,173||$16,758|
|Average Panel Payback Period||10 years||12 years|
|Average Lifetime Savings of Converting to Solar||$23,634||$22,379|
After you’ve done some preliminary research and have decided that solar is a good fit for your home, you can start figuring out which payment option works best for you.
Your first step, if you haven’t done it already, should be to use our solar calculator to figure out what size system you need for your home. You can then multiply the number of watts by $2.55, the average per-watt cost for solar in PA. That should give you a good idea of what your total system price will be.
Once you know the cost, you can assess whether or not a cash payment or another option works best for you.
Two things to consider when thinking about the payment options are how quickly your panels will pay for themselves and your long-term energy savings, the latter of which is one of the biggest benefits of solar. The shorter the payback period, the higher your savings will be over time.
We’ll include some brief information about the four options for paying for solar below to help you decide which is right for you.
Your next step in the process will be to start getting quotes from solar companies. We’ll explain what to look for in an installer and in your solar quote in the following sections.
Choosing a company to install your rooftop solar energy system can be a bit intimidating. Not only are you entrusting the installer with your money and your home, but there are nearly 200 companies to choose from in Pennsylvania.6 We strongly recommend doing some research on any provider you’re considering and choosing one that meets the following criteria:
Below is a list of some of our most recommended solar companies in Pennsylvania. This is, by no means, an exhaustive list, and we do recommend doing your own research as well to find a company that suits you perfectly.
Shortly after you provide your contact information to a solar company, a sales representative should reach out to you to get some more information. They will likely ask for a recent electric bill and then set up a consultation. The consultation can usually be done in person or virtually.
During the meeting, your rep will ask for some information about the appliances and systems in your home that use electricity. If the inspection is done in person, they should take roof measurements. If it’s virtual, they’ll set up another time to come out to take measurements and inspect your roof.
After the initial meetings and inspections are completed, your solar project will be sent to the design team, where your system will be designed. Finally, your sales rep will send you a formal proposal and should set up a call to discuss the information on the quote.
There are a handful of things you should look for in your solar quote that can help you determine your home’s solar viability and the long-term savings. Below are some of the more important things to look for and understand about your proposal:
It takes some time to get to this stage of the process, but we strongly recommend you get at least two or three proposals from different installers. Comparing quality is always a good option to have, but some companies will also price match or offer discounts or add-on products to help secure your business.
While you’re reaching out to installers to get solar quotes, you should be asking each to include any add-on products you want to be installed. Add-ons certainly aren’t necessary, but they can help make your system more valuable and can maximize your savings over time as well.
We’ll include a quick breakdown of some of the more popular solar accessories in Pennsylvania below.
Once you’ve found an installer you like and are comfortable with the terms in your proposal, you can move forward with signing the contract. We’ll include some information in the following sections about what to look for in your contract to make sure you get favorable terms.
One of the first things we suggest looking for in your contract is the warranty coverage included with your system. Solar warranties come in three varieties, which we’ll explain briefly below.
From the day you sign your contract, you can expect to wait between three and six months for your panels to be installed and activated. Things like permitting timelines, delays caused by how busy your installer is and back-ordered products can all lead to a longer installation timeline.
Inspections can also cause severe delays. We’ll discuss the two types of inspections you need post-installation later on.
Solar permits are required in PA no matter where you live, and the permitting process and requirements are governed by your municipality. Most require an application to be filed and a permit fee to be paid before permits will be issued. Once your permits are approved, the installation can be completed, and final inspections can be done to close out the permits.
You should never have to file for permits yourself, as your solar contractor should handle that process. However, you will need to pay the permit filing fee, which depends on where you live. Your contract should include the permit fee information, but you can also ask your installer what the fee will be and if it’s included in your estimate.
In most cases, your fee will fall between $75 and $600. For example, Philadelphia charges a fee of $25 per $1,000 of installation cost.8 Given the average solar array cost in the area, that’s a permit fee of $550. Based on Pittsburgh’s permit fee calculator, the average cost for an electrical permit for going solar would come out to approximately $144.
The City of Allentown uses a similar permit fee schedule to Philly, charging $20 per $1,000 worth of work.9 That comes out to an average total cost of $440.
In addition to filing for permits, your installer should handle the application for interconnection with your utility company. Interconnection is a solar policy that allows your system to be grid-tied, which gives you access to backup power from the electric grid and net energy metering.
Electric companies can all have slightly different application processes, but they usually involve your installer filing an application and then scheduling an inspection to confirm that the connection was made safely.
For example, Duquesne Light Company has a convenient online application for interconnection. Your installer should fill out the form for you, but you’ll have to pay the application fee. The fee is $100 for systems under 10kW, which will be the case for most residents.10
FirstEnergy also has an online application for convenience, but it doesn’t charge any fee for filing for interconnection.11 PECO uses a printable application and doesn’t charge anything for filing.12
The process of filing for interconnection, waiting for your inspection and then waiting for approval to connect to the grid can cause delays in your installation. However, it’s well worth the wait — and any application fee — as interconnection gives you access to net metering, which is massively beneficial in the Keystone State.
After all of your permits are in order, your solar company will schedule you for the installation. On that day, your installation crew will arrive in the morning and should finish up all of the work that day. Solar installations take between 5 and 10 hours, on average.
One of the most common questions we see about the actual installation day is, “do I need to be home for solar panel installation?” Yes, you should have at least one adult home on the day of installation, as the team will need access to your home sporadically throughout the installation process.
Some installers will expedite the process of getting your home connected to the grid by scheduling the final inspection with your utility provider on the installation day. Solar inspections take about a half hour, so they can extend your installation timeline a bit if they’re scheduled for the same day.
After your solar array is installed and connected to the grid, there’s one final inspection you’ll need done by your building department. This inspection is required in order to close out your permits. Open permits can lead to violations and monetary assessments, and they can cause issues with the resale of your home, so it’s important to get all permits closed out quickly.
Some building inspectors will be willing to do an exterior inspection if you only have panels and inverters installed, as your electric company will have made sure the connection to the grid was made safely. Others will require interior access, and most will need to get inside if you have add-on products like solar batteries installed in your home.
Your building inspection shouldn’t come with any fee. However, if your installer schedules the inspection for you and you miss it, you might be charged for a re-inspection.
Depending on the brand of panels you had installed, you might have access to a solar monitoring app. You can use that to keep track of production and make sure your system is working properly.
Your last step before you can officially activate your system is to get permission to operate (PTO) from your utility provider. PTO confirms that your system was connected to the grid properly, and it means your panels can be turned on safely.
Before this is granted, a representative from the company will need to do an inspection of your system and the connection. In many cases, your installer will schedule this inspection on the installation day, so there will be no delay in getting your system activated. Some installers will wait to schedule this after the installation is done.
In either case, once you get PTO, your solar technician can show you how to turn your system on and off in case of an emergency. If the tech hasn’t discussed a monitoring app with you yet, you can ask them at this point if one is available.
The last thing you need to know is what to do in case of an emergency, like an electrical fire. You should dial 911 and then call your electricity provider’s emergency number to report the issue. We’ll list the emergency numbers for the larger providers in your state below:
Finally, you can take pride in knowing that your solar installation is complete! Your system should start generating power for your home and should be offsetting your utility bills. That means your savings will start to accrue and pay off your system, not to mention your carbon footprint and emissions will be significantly reduced.
You’ll see the greatest return on investment (ROI) by using your panels to offset your energy bills over time, but you should also see a return if you sell your home. Solar panel systems make your home more valuable, so whether you live in your home after installation or not, you should see a financial upside.
Below, we’ll answer some of the questions we see most often from Pennsylvanians looking to convert to clean energy.
Unfortunately, yes, homeowners associations (HOAs) can ban PV panels in PA. Pennsylvania is one of the few states that hasn’t enacted solar rights and easement laws, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to go solar if you live in a strict HOA. We recommend you reach out to your HOA before going solar to see if there are restrictions or regulations.
Yes, absolutely! Pennsylvania sees a below-average number of sunny days per year and has average electricity rates and energy needs. However, that doesn’t mean that solar isn’t worthwhile.
In fact, the average Pennsylvania resident will see energy savings that pay off their system in just ten years — faster than the national average.
Thanks to the Pennsylvania solar incentives, panels then provide over $23,500 in additional savings on energy bills over time. Those are massive savings that could be even higher if energy prices continue to rise, and if you take other incentives, like the Commonwealth Solar Rebate Program from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP). With these incentives and expected savings, solar is worth it for most PA residents.
PV panels have an average lifespan of around 25 years, and most major brands come with warranties that cover the panels for that time. Pennsylvania does see some extreme weather, but nothing that will shorten the average panel lifespan. As such, you should get an average of 25 years of useful life out of your panels in Pennsylvania.
Yes, the state offers solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) to all solar customers, in part to help reach its alternative energy portfolio standards (AEPS) goals. You earn one credit per 1,000 kWh (1 megawatt-hour) you generate, and you can sell the SRECs your home solar system generates for a profit.
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