Solar Panel Cost Calculator California: 3 Ways to Estimate Your Cost
Installing solar panels is not only a major construction project, it’s also an investment in reducing your energy costs and carbon emissions.
As such, it’s a good idea to begin the solar process with an understanding of how much your project could cost – just like looking up the Kelly Blue Book value of a car before stepping foot into the dealership.
As a robust and mature residential solar market, California has plenty of resources to calculate the cost of your solar project. In this article, we’ll identify three ways to calculate your solar panel cost, and explore whether solar panels will get cheaper in 2023.
Our goal, as always, is to empower you with the resources and knowledge to make educated decisions during the solar process.
How do you calculate solar panel costs in California?
There are a few ways to estimate the cost of solar panels for your home without inviting a salesperson into your home.
Online solar calculators
There are a number of online calculators that use Google Earth imaging assumptions about your utility costs to provide a ballpark estimate of how much solar would cost and how much you could save.
It’s important to note that every solar panel cost calculator operates based on assumptions, and the results should be taken with a grain of salt.
Here are a few resources to check out:
Solar.com has its own calculator that generates a side-by-side comparison of your energy costs before and after solar based on your address and average electricity costs. Our calculator also allows you to calculate the cost of adding battery storage to your solar system.
Check your utility provider to see if they have an online solar calculator or solar marketplace. For example, on Southern California Edison’s Solar Marketplace you can easily design a solar system and generate binding quotes from local installers without ever leaving your couch.
Punch your address into the NREL PVWatts Calculator to get a precise idea of how much a solar system would produce on your roof. This calculator doesn’t provide cost estimates, but by working backward you can get an idea of how large of a system you’ll need based on our annual electricity consumption.
Calculate solar panel cost by hand
If online calculators aren’t your thing, there are some simple steps to calculate your solar panel cost by hand.
Like the online calculators, this method relies on some assumptions. However, at least you’ll know exactly what those assumptions are, since you are the one making them.
The steps to calculate your solar panel cost are show in the graphic below:
You notice in the final steps we ask you to assume a price per watt (PPW). This figure typically ranges between $3 to $5, depending on your location and local incentives, and you won’t know exactly what it is until you get binding quotes from installers.
Get binding quotes from local installers
You can use all the calculators in the world, but you won’t know exactly how much solar costs until you get binding quotes from local installers.
We emphasize binding because many online solar marketplaces offer price estimates that are often much lower than what installers can actually offer. However, on solar.com, we offer binding quotes based on live pricing set by the installers themselves.
That means that the price you see in the quote is the price you’ll pay.
Our marketplace is free to use, so if you are genuinely interested in how much solar will cost, you can design a custom system and generate binding quotes with no financial investment.
Is it worth it to get solar panels in California?
Even with NEM 3.0 solar billing, it is worth getting solar panels in California for energy cost savings alone. And it’s important to remember that energy cost savings isn’t the only benefit of home solar – it’s just the benefit that makes solar a no-brainer.
In California, and especially under NEM 3.0, the benefits are compounded when you pair solar with battery storage.
How long can a house run on solar power alone?
California has more power outages than any other state, leading many homeowners to consider solar and battery storage as a backup option. A study by the Berkeley Lab found that a small solar system with 10 kWh of storage can “fully meet backup needs over a 3-day outage in virtually all U.S. counties and any month of the year.”
It’s important to note that “backup needs” does not include heating and cooling, which require massive amounts of electricity.
However, given California’s abundant sunshine, it’s plausible to think that solar and battery backup can last longer and power more systems than in other areas of the country.
Do solar panels add value to a house?
Yes, it’s well documented by Zillow and the Berkeley Lab that solar panels increase home value, although it’s difficult to pin down exactly how much.
Given California’s extremely high (and rising) utility rates, buying a home with solar panels is essentially buying a home with a built-in hedge against energy inflation. It’s also worth noting that:
- California has a solar property tax exemption, so the home value added by solar won’t increase your property taxes
- Millennials are making up a larger portion of homebuyers and tend to value energy efficiency and eco-friendly home features
The bottom line
California is a leader in residential solar adoption for a reason. Between high utility rates and abundant sunshine, solar panels can substantially reduce energy costs – even with NEM 3.0 solar billing.
There are a handful of ways to calculate the cost of solar panels, but the only way to get an accurate answer is to get binding quotes from local installers.