10kW solar systems: what to know
Learn if a 10-kilowatt solar energy system is right for you
Everyone has slightly different needs when they go solar, but 10 kilowatts of solar capacity can likely provide you with plenty of emission-free power.
We’ll outline everything you need to know about 10kW solar systems below, including how much they cost, what they can power and how to determine if a 10kW solar energy system is right for you.
- Ten kilowatts of solar power is enough to run a larger-than-average home.
- Nationwide, an average 10kW solar energy system costs roughly $21,000 after a 30% tax credit.
- The average 10kW solar panel system can pay for itself in a little over eight years.
- If you’re interested in going solar, it’s often easier to work with a professional solar installer to ensure you get the right size system for your needs.
Can a 10kW solar system power a home?
A 10kW solar energy system can provide all the electricity the average home needs and probably more. In other words:
- If you’re connected to the power grid, a 10kW solar panel array can functionally offset all of your utility energy use. We say “functionally” because, while a 10kW system likely produces more energy than your home uses, only part of your energy consumption takes place during the day while your panels are producing power. The excess energy produced by your solar panels can be sent back to the grid, where you can make money from it due to something called net metering.
- If you’re looking to go off the grid, a 10kW solar power system would likely be a waste unless you invest in a solar battery to capture the extra power produced during the day and make that power available when the sun’s not shining.
How much energy can a 10kW solar system produce?
The exact amount of energy a 10kW solar system can produce depends on many different factors, including the efficiency of your solar panels, your geographical location, your local weather, and unique features of your property, like shading from trees around your home and your roof layout.
Still, you can roughly determine the amount of energy your 10kW system will be able to produce on any given day based on the number of peak sun hours in your area. Peak sun hours vary depending on both the time of year and your location’s latitude, with amounts ranging from roughly three to six and a half hours nationwide. For example:
- In San Diego, California, a 10kW solar energy system could produce an average of 17,826 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.
- In Seattle, Washington, the same 10kW solar system would only produce 12,570 kWh annually.
While both of these loads are above the national average for residential electricity consumption (10,632 kWh), the difference in solar power production here is fairly substantial, so it’s worth being aware of. You can find the estimated energy potential of a 10kW solar system on your property using any number of online resources. (We used the Global Solar Atlas for the estimates above.)
» LEARN: How do solar panels work?
How much does a 10-kilowatt solar system cost?
On average, a 10kW solar energy system costs roughly $29,935 before any tax incentives or rebates are applied. If you qualify for the federal solar tax credit, though, it can reduce your net investment by 30%, lowering the average 10kW system’s cost to just $20,954.
Although this expense can be financed or recouped via energy bill savings (which we’ll get into more later on), 10 kW of solar may still be too expensive for some homeowners. Just remember that a 6kW system or even a 3kW system can still help most Americans reduce their long-term energy expenses.
» MORE: How much do solar panels cost?
10kW solar energy system prices by state
In the same way solar panel performance changes from area to area, the cost of a 10kW solar energy system depends on where you live. We’ve broken down the average cost of a 10kW solar panel system by area below to help you get a better feel for what you may spend.
|Location||Cost per watt (before tax credit)*||Cost of a 10kW system (before tax credit)||2022-2032 fed tax credit value (30%)||Cost of a 10kW system (after tax credit)|
Just note that these estimates shift over time, and your costs may be higher or lower depending on any number of factors unique to your installation.
How much can you save on your power bill with a 10kW solar power system?
A 10kW solar power system can erase practically all your grid-energy expenses through a net metering or net billing program. (Grid transmission fees and other utility charges are hard to get rid of without going completely off the grid.) So, although you will likely still have a power bill after going solar, a 10kW energy system can dramatically reduce the amount you pay each month.
In most cases, the amount of money you can save with a 10kW solar system is actually limited by the amount of money you're already spending on your monthly energy bill. If you live in an area where solar savings go the furthest, going solar could save you hundreds of dollars in utility bills every month. Your 10kW solar power system can help you even more as electricity rates rise.
» LEARN: How long do solar panels last?
How long does it take for a 10kW solar system to pay for itself?
On average, it should take less than nine years for your 10kW system to pay for itself, but your results will vary based on your electricity usage, investment costs and local utility rates. Let’s break down how this happens to help you understand why your system may take more or less time to save you more than it initially cost you:
- Let’s say you pay $20,954.71 on your 10kW solar energy system (the nationwide average cost) after qualifying for the federal solar investment tax credit.
- Your system produces 15,198 kWh of electricity annually, which is right in the middle of expected production rates between San Diego and Seattle under ideal conditions.
- Assuming your home actually uses that much energy, this saves you roughly $2,583.66 per year in utility expenses, based on a national average of 17 cents per kWh.
In this example, your 10kW solar system would take 8.11 years ($20,954.71 divided by $2,583.66) to pay for itself. If energy prices were to rise within that time (which they often do), the system could then pay for itself even sooner, though.
» MORE: Are solar panels worth it?
How many solar panels do you need for a 10kW system?
You’ll likely need between 20 and 40 solar panels to create a 10kW solar energy system, but that number can go up significantly if you try using the wrong solar panels.
While it may be tempting to invest in cheaper solar panels for a DIY installation, piecing together a 10kW system with low-wattage panels may be unrealistic. Given that 1 kilowatt equals 1,000 watts, you would need 100 separate 100-watt solar panels to create a 10kW system, for example. That would require a massive amount of installation space as well as many additional considerations and expenses.
As Daniel L., a solar electrician in Denver, Colorado, explained to us, “The amount of wire you would need to string together 100 solar panels would be expensive and even potentially dangerous” when compared with a smaller panel installation.
That’s why you’re better off choosing solar panels that are a better fit for residential installations, like 300- or 400-watt options.
How much roof space do you need for a 10kW system?
You’d probably need between 500 and 625 square feet of roof space for a 10kW system, assuming you use a reasonable number of 300- or 400-watt solar panels. (An average-size solar panel takes up about 18 square feet of space. More powerful solar panels tend to be a little larger, though. In our experience, 400-watt panels tend to take up around 21 square feet, and 500-watt panels take up around 28 square feet.)
To maximize the efficiency of your system, you should install your solar panels on a roof face that receives direct sunlight throughout most of the day and away from any trees or other obstructions. If your roof doesn't have enough usable roof space for a 10kW solar energy system, you may want to consider a ground-mounted installation on your property.
Is a 10-kilowatt solar energy system right for you?
Overall, a 10kW system may be right for you if:
- Your home uses more electricity than the average residence. (This is usually seen in larger homes or those with an electric vehicle charging in the garage.)
- You spend over $2,000 per year on utility electricity.
- You want to invest in a renewable energy system that will pay for itself in under a decade.
These systems are large enough that they can provide enough power for a wide range of properties. However, they may produce more electricity than you really need if your home doesn’t consume a lot of power. A solar energy company can help you determine the size of solar installation needed for your home, and it might be a good idea to speak with professionals before you invest $20,000 or more in a solar energy system.
How do I know what size solar energy system I need?
If you're like most homeowners, the size of the solar energy system you need will correlate to the amount of electricity you use. Unless you are limited by the amount of usable installation space on your property, most solar installers will design a system for you that can produce roughly the same (or slightly more) power than you consume each year.
Can you install your own 10kW system?
It is possible to install your own 10kW solar system if you have the necessary building and electrical permits in place. However, most municipalities and utilities require a licensed electrician to sign off on solar energy plans before your system can be built or connected to the grid. As a result, most people install their solar panel systems with professional help.
How much battery storage do I need for a 10kW solar energy system?
It’s hard to say exactly how much battery storage you’ll need because it depends on your goals and how much your system actually produces under real-world conditions. If your 10kW solar energy system produces an average of 42 kWh of electricity per day, you’d need a massive amount of battery storage to capture all of that daily power production.
That’s not what most people need, though. Most solar batteries are only sized to hold a portion of your system’s production to reserve for power outages or periods of peak utility electricity rates. For example, Ryan, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from North Carolina, decided to purchase “a 10kW system with an 18kWh battery backup” and reported being “very happy with the system.”
- U.S. Energy Information Administration, “ How much electricity does an American home use? ” Accessed May 2, 2023.
- Global Solar Atlas, “ Map .” Accessed May 2, 2023.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “ Average energy prices for the United States, regions, census divisions, and selected metropolitan areas .” Accessed May 2, 2023.
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