7 Ways to Save Money on Solar Power

Going solar is one of the best ways homeowners can address climate change. Here's how to save money by installing residential solar power.

Switching to solar power generation is one of the most effective ways homeowners can address challenges posed by climate change. As the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) points out, solar produces fewer lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional fossil fuel energy sources. While nominal GHG emissions may be produced during the manufacturing and recycling of solar system components, solar energy results in zero GHG emissions and zero environmental impact.

While purchasing a residential solar energy system certainly increases your home's value, it can be a pricey undertaking. The average cost of a rooftop system is between $15,000 and $25,000. Here are a few ways to save money on that price tag when converting your home to solar energy power.

01 of 07

Shop via a quote aggregator

If you intend to purchase solar panels (as opposed to leasing them), you can invite multiple installation companies to provide estimates individually. Alternatively, you can use an online solar marketplace that allows homeowners to obtain multiple competitive bids from pre-screened, local installers. "We're the Expedia or Kayak of solar," says Vikram Aggarwal, CEO and founder of EnergySage, which works with more than 500 pre-screened solar installers.

Created in 2013 with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot initiative (a program designed to reduce the cost of solar energy and make it cost-competitive with other forms of energy), EnergySage helps shoppers pay significantly less for residential solar than what's offered outside the platform. According to Aggarwal, that's because of the competitive nature of the EnergySage marketplace. "You're getting high-quality companies to compete and prices tend to be 20 to 30 percent less," he explains. "We have data to prove that."

A handful of government-funded research labs back up what Aggarwal says about costs saved using EnergySage to purchase residential solar. One such study published in 2017 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that quote aggregators like EnergySage drive installers to be transparent and drive down prices by as much as $5000.

02 of 07

Obtain multiple bids

If you opt not to use an aggregator platform, the best way to save money is to shop around. "Make sure you're getting quotes from at least three installers, but better yet, five," says Aggarwal. "By letting each know that you are getting quotes from three to four or five companies, typically that helps. No company wants to lose out. So when they know you're getting quotes from other companies, they come with sharpened pencils."

And while you're getting those quotes, ask a lot of questions. You'll want to understand the quality of the solar panel product you're being sold, as well as the quality of the company. Look for references, ratings, and reviews, suggests Aggarwal.

03 of 07

Pay attention to system size and style

The size of the solar panel system you choose impacts your price. "Think about how much of your energy consumption you want to offset," says Aggarwal. "We have served over half a million homeowners at this point and most want the maximum offset and to generate as much power as they can." A large system that maximizes cost and energy savings will likely cost more upfront, at least when it comes to purchasing price and installation fees.

"But there are some people who are very focused on aesthetics also," adds Aggarwal. Various style choices of solar panels also affect cost. For example, there are black-on-black options comprised of a black solar panel and a black rack (that the panel attaches to) as well as all-glass solar panels.

The bottom line with size and style options is that some cost more than others. "You should not make a lot of additions like this if you want to save money," says Aggarwal.

04 of 07

Choose smart financing

The way you pay for a residential solar system presents another opportunity to save money, says Aggarwal. Rather than accept a financing program from the installer, for instance, you might save more by obtaining a loan from your bank or credit union. Another option is applying for a home equity loan to pay for the installation.

If you choose to arrange your own financing, tell the solar installer and ask for a better, more competitive price for the system in exchange. "Ask the installer to cut you a deal if you bring your own loan," says Aggarwal. "That could result in very significant savings."

05 of 07

Install when it's cool

Few people enjoy working on a rooftop in 100-degree heat, so there's a seasonality to the solar panel installation business (and pricing), which varies depending on where you live. "While in the Northeast, summer is the best time to install, in the western states it's too hot," explains Aggarwal. "Installers may be looking for milder weather to do the installation."

06 of 07

Consider leasing

Leasing your solar panels is an option if you're looking to cut costs, though this alternative is less popular with consumers, says Aggarwal. Leasing allows homeowners to go solar without paying the upfront costs of purchasing and installing the system. Instead, a solar leasing company such as Sunrun or Vivint pays those costs.

Generally, this approach results in two monthly bills: one from the solar company for the lease agreement (which can be as long as 25 years) and one from the local utility provider for the power used above and beyond what your solar system generated.

In addition to eliminating installation costs, going solar saves customers money over the long term on utility bills, according to Wyatt Semanek, Sunrun's senior public relations manager. "Sunrun customers see an average bill savings of 5 to 45 percent over the lifetime of their system. It's a wide range because, as you can imagine, total savings depend on factors like the homeowner's energy consumption, system sun hours, geographic weather cycles, and more."

Bear in mind that leasing has drawbacks. For instance, leases don't qualify for state and federal tax incentives available to homeowners who purchase and install residential solar systems on their own. When you opt for a lease, those benefits go to the solar company that owns the system.

07 of 07

Use these tools

The EnergySage website provides a variety of helpful tools for homeowners considering solar. The site's Buyer's Guide is a Consumer Reports-style resource that allows for easy searching, sorting, filtering, and comparing the most popular models of solar panels, inverters, and home batteries. The guide also helps consumers learn more about the equipment and understand what's in their quotes, says Aggarwal.

EnergySage also offers a Solar Calculator that quickly calculates a customized estimate of solar costs and savings for your property.

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  1. O’Shaughnessy E, Margolis R. National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The Value of Transparency in Distributed Solar PV Markets. Accessed January 31, 2023.

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