Solar Power Rocks logo

Solar Power Rocks - Clear info on home solar power rebates, tax credits, and other benefits

How Much, Solar Fred?

Dear Solar Fred,

Dude, I want to have solar panels, but I also want to make sure I can feed and clothe my kids. Give me a straight answer: How much for my 1800 sq ft home in Los Angeles?

Just the Facts Jim

Dear JTF Jim,

Dude, when it comes to solar panel cost, the short answer is “between $3.50 to $5.00/watt.” Happy? …. I didn’t think so.

I get this question all the time, and I wish I could give you a straight quote, but the truth is that solar is not a one-size-fits-all item that you can buy at the corner solar store. Not yet, anyway. A true, upstanding, no-B.S., solar installer can’t give you a really accurate or even a ballpark quote without knowing:

  • Where you live (or at least your zip code)
  • Which direction your roof is facing (preferably toward the South)
  • The amount of shade on the roof (preferably next to none)
  • The type of roof you have (standard asphalt shingles are easiest and cheapest)
  • And especially your electric bills for the last 12 months


So, let’s say I got all that info from you. You have an average $100/month bill and I sized your system to a 5000 watt or “5.0 kW DC” worth of solar panels. In terms of cost, that equals:

5000 watts x $4/watt (towards the middle of installed cost.) That’s $20,000. You’re saying, “Holy crap. 20 G’s!? No way, Solar Fred!” But wait.

That’s before the California/LADWP rebate (subtract $5,500) and your 30% Federal Tax Credit applied after rebate (subtract $4,350). So bottom line, after I calculate the California rebate through the LADWP formula and the Federal Tax Rebate, what does this imaginary average system cost?

Around $10,150

Solar Fred Caution: Remember that a Federal tax credit is like a gift card for IRS. If you owe 5 bucks in taxes and have a 5 buck tax credit through solar, you only owe zilch to the IRS. If you owe nothing this year, you can’t get a refund, but you’ve still got a 5 buck tax gift card to use for the the following year(s).


In any case, $10,150 is better than 20 grand, for sure. That also doesn’t include the $922 bucks a year you’ll save in lower electric bills. (Could be more if rates rise faster.) Did I mention that the system pays for itself in about 7 years or how much it will increase the resale value of your home compared to other homes that don’t have solar? Do you like clean air? You’ll save a lot of it in addition to the cash.

See my archives and links about zero-down financing options, but my sincere advice is for you to find a solar installer and get a free quote. What can it hurt? It’s free. Now, go feed those kids.

Last modified: April 2, 2019

2 thoughts on “How Much, Solar Fred?

  1. Avatar for Bruce Jones Bruce Jones says:

    Solar Fred, If a business wants to build a large 1GW solar farm in Colorado and has property in the Xcel territory… a) can I connect into the grid and pump all the solar electricity I produce? or am I limited by Net Metering to the amount of electricity consumed by my small company? b) are there different incentives for businesses vs. homeowners? c) What is the best place in Colorado to build such a farm from a payback and rebate/incentive standpoint? d) What is the current rate/Watt Xcel will pay? I saw some legislation recently where they wanted to lower it. e) What if my company is based in another state, but owns property in Colorado? How does that affect the rebates and incentives if I build a solar farm in CO? Thanks

  2. Avatar for Robert S. Ruppert Robert S. Ruppert says:

    How about selling SREC? Any feed back?

Have anything to add?

Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to get solar news

The Federal Solar Tax Credit Has Stepped Down. It Steps Down Again In:

Learn more about the Federal Solar Tax Credit before it goes away.

Solar Power Rocks is a Wave Solar company

Wave Solar Logo