Cost of solar panels in New York (2024)

How much is it to go solar in the Empire State?

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Beautiful white wall house with solar panel built on the roof on a bright clear day

Average solar panel installation costs range from $10,885 to $31,100 in New York. How much you pay depends on the size of your system, what incentives you’re eligible for, your home’s sunlight exposure and other factors. Assuming an upfront purchase, it takes about 6 years to break even (when your savings with solar panels make up for the cost).

Based on feedback from over 500 solar energy customers in New York, the general consensus is that solar panel investments pay off over time. Thanks to a decent amount of sunlight and relatively solar-friendly policies, New York ranks among some of the best states for solar panels.


Key insights

The average solar panel installation costs $3.35 per watt in New York. “Cost per watt” is similar to the price per square foot when you buy a house. It helps you compare the value of solar energy systems in different sizes.

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The federal investment tax credit (ITC) is the most significant financial incentive for most homeowners going solar. It is not a rebate or a refund, but goes toward what you owe on federal income taxes.

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In New York, you can lease a system or enter a power purchase agreement with low upfront costs. However, you won’t be eligible for the federal tax credit if you do.

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How much do solar panels cost in New York?

Installing residential solar panels can cost between $10,000 and $30,000 or more. The size of your solar panel system is a big factor in your overall solar costs. A typical New York household needs a 9.22 kW system to offset enough energy costs to make solar viable.

With professional installation, a typical 9-kilowatt residential solar panel system in New York costs $27,990. That price drops to $19,593 after using the full federal solar investment tax credit (ITC). You might need a smaller or larger system depending on your household energy usage. On the higher end, Sasha in Bronx, New York, told us that they invested $50,000 going solar.

Average solar panel cost by system size in New York

This doesn’t include the cost of a solar storage battery, which sometimes costs as much as the panels. Solar batteries are a must if you want real energy independence and essential if you go off-grid. Permitting, utility fees and maintenance also add to the cost of going solar.

Are solar panels worth it in New York?

Solar panels are generally worth it if you like the idea of lower monthly utility bills and more energy independence. Many New Yorkers seem particularly happy with their savings since going solar. For example, Joseph in Queens, New York, is saving “about $300 a month even with the cost of the lease.”

Another solar customer, John in New York City, said his monthly electric bill used to be anywhere from $100 to $300. After going solar, he only has to pay $32.

On average, New York homeowners with solar panels avoid $75,242 in utility costs over 25 years.

“The solar panels produce enough power for our house,” Barry in Pawling, New York, told us. “I'm getting about 44% of my electrical needs and I'm saving about a little $1,000 a year. I expect them to be more like $1,500 a year,” he said.

The high upfront costs are the major barrier for most wanting to go solar. In the best-case scenario, if you finance or lease solar panels — and many in New York do — your monthly payments are less than you would pay for traditional utility bills. If a solar panel system simply is not an option, community solar is a way to go green and save some green on your utility costs.

Overall, solar panels seem worth it for many New Yorkers throughout the state. Electricity costs are generally higher in NYC, making the return on investment (ROI) for solar potentially more favorable.

We suggest using NREL’s PVWatts Calculator to estimate how much electricity a solar panel can produce over a year on your house — just type in your address. Project Sunroof is another free solar savings estimator powered by Google Earth imagery.

» STILL NOT SURE? Solar energy pros and cons

Solar panel installation cost factors in New York

The equipment — solar panels, inverters, mounting hardware and other electrical accessories — is typically the largest portion of your overall total costs (approximately 25% to 50%). Labor, which includes planning, preparing and connecting your system to the grid, accounts for 10% to 30%. Permits and other soft costs generally make up the rest of the total price tag. Solar panels require minimal maintenance, but periodic cleaning can add to the lifetime cost of your solar panel system.

Most installers set the price according to the system's wattage, with a typical cost between $2.50 and $5 per watt. In New York, the average cost per watt is $3.35.

Solar panels and other equipment

Solar panel efficiency is how well each panel can turn sunlight into electricity. The better the efficiency, the fewer panels you need, which lowers your overall costs.

Monocrystalline panels are considered the best bang for your buck. Cheaper solar panels are typically polycrystalline. The difference comes down to efficiency and materials: Monocrystalline panels are made from pure, single silicon crystals; various silicon fragments melted together are used to make polycrystalline panels.

Average solar panel efficiency rates range from 15% to 20%.

High-efficiency panels are great if you have limited roof space — they generate more power per square foot, allowing you to produce the same energy with fewer panels. However, lower-efficiency panels may be more cost-effective if space isn't a concern. Systems also contain mounting equipment, wiring and other devices.

  • Solar batteries: A battery stores energy for later use. It’s a must if you want real energy independence, and they sometimes cost as much as the panels. Prices often depend on the battery’s storage capacity, lifespan, brand and other factors. Expect to pay between $7,000 and $18,000, though some cost $30,000 or more.
  • Solar inverter: Inverters convert the electricity generated by your solar panels from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). Inverter costs usually range from $1,000 to $3,000.
  • Monitoring system: Some companies include a solar monitoring system to track how much energy your system produces and if there are any problems. If not, you can get one for $80 to $400.

Size of your system

Your system size greatly affects how much you pay overall. The cost difference between a 6-kilowatt system and a 7-kilowatt system is thousands of dollars.

How do you know if the average size system is enough for your home or if you need a bigger one? Check out the amount of electricity you used in the last year in kilowatt-hours (kWh). You’ll find this information in your online account dashboard. Then, divide your annual kWh by 1,200 to find the system size you need. For example, if your home used 30,000 kWh last year, you would need a 25-kW system.

It’s smart to upgrade any old appliances before going solar. Replacing an old refrigerator with a more eco-friendly one reduces your electric load, which also helps lower your utility bill. You need fewer solar panels if you use less electricity, making the whole system cheaper.

» WATT’S THE DIFFERENCE? kW vs. kWh

Where you live in New York

Compared with the rest of the state, going solar is a little different in New York City. Most New Yorkers live in apartment buildings with limited roof space, so large-scale solar installations may be shared among many residents.

For instance, Paul in Queens, New York said: “On our block here on 69th Avenue, we have a couple of brownstones that we own and on two of the two-family brownstones, we put in solar panels and we were able to divide up the panels. Eleven for the first floor and 11 for the second floor. And that gives my tenants 100% of their heating in the winter and 100% of their air conditioning in the summer. So, they pay the flat $18.62 a month, winter and summer.”

Condition of your roof

Solar panels tend to be large and heavy, and your roof needs to be able to support this weight. It’s important to get a roof inspection if you plan on getting a new solar system, especially if you live in an older home.

Solar panels last around 25 to 30 years, and your roof needs to last at least just as long. Otherwise, you have to pay the extra expense of removing the panels, fixing your roof and reinstalling the panels. Avoid this if you can. Many disgruntled solar customers have told us about feeling blindsided by expensive roof repairs needed after their solar panel installation was complete.

» SHOULD YOU: Replace your roof before going solar?

Labor costs

Solar equipment costs are going down, but labor costs are higher than ever in some areas. Installing solar panels yourself might initially seem cheaper because you'll save on labor costs. However, it's crucial to consider several factors for safety before going the DIY route. If not installed correctly, solar panels pose safety risks, causing roof leaks and other problems.

The cost of hiring professionals to install your solar system varies based on project size and complexity. Labor costs are usually included in your system's initial price estimate, but be sure to confirm before committing to a contract.

Local permits

New York has set up a standardized permitting process for solar projects, so the rules and requirements are the same no matter which town or city you live in.

However, some places offer discounts on solar-related permits. For instance, If you live in the Town of Riverhead on Long Island and want to put up solar panels or a solar water heater, there’s a pretty sweet deal for you. The permit fee is usually $150, but if your solar system qualifies, you get it for just $50 plus a "fast-track" approval to get it done quickly.

How can I pay for solar panels in New York?

You have options when it comes to paying for your solar system. You can pay cash upfront, take out a solar loan, lease your system or get a power purchase agreement (PPA). With leasing or a PPA, you get the benefits of solar, but you don’t own the system.

  • Solar loans: A solar loan works like any other type of home improvement loan — there’s an application and approval process, and you pay it back over time (with interest) each month. In an ideal financing scenario, your system generates enough extra power to pay off the loan. Solar loan terms typically last eight to 20 years.
  • Solar leases: Leasing solar panels is a great way to set up a system without the high upfront costs. A potential downside is that you are not eligible for the same tax incentives.
  • Power purchase agreements: A solar power purchase agreement (PPA) is similar to leasing. A solar developer buys, installs and maintains solar panels on your property. You buy the power generated by the system on a per kilowatt-hour (kWh) basis. It’s a fixed price, and the cents/kWh is usually cheaper than the utility’s rate for the same amount of electricity.
  • Home equity: Using a home equity line of credit or loan to finance a solar installation can be a financially beneficial option — home equity interest rates are relatively low, and homeowners can still take advantage of the federal solar investment tax credit.

» SOLAR PANELS: Lease vs. buy

How to save money on solar panels in New York

There’s no way around it — solar panel installations are expensive. Here are some tips to maximize your savings on solar panels in New York:

  • Compare quotes: Get quotes from at least three or four different solar installers in New York. This lets you compare different proposed equipment, pricing, financing terms and estimated energy production to find the best overall value. Don't just go with the cheapest option without vetting quality and services.
  • Explore payment options: Affordable financing makes the upfront costs of solar more manageable. For instance, leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) can let you start saving from day one with little or no money down.
  • Use incentives: New Yorkers can take advantage of multiple incentives to reduce solar costs, including the federal tax credit and manufacturer rebate programs.

» TIPS: Get the best solar quotes

Solar incentives, tax credits and rebates in New York

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is the biggest factor in reducing the cost of going solar in New York. The ITC credits 30% of the system’s total cost — including equipment, labor and permits — toward what you owe on federal income taxes.

For example, if you spend $10,000 installing a solar panel system, the ITC is worth $3,000. If you owe $15,000 in taxes, the credit reduces your debt to $12,000. The ITC only offsets your tax liability; you can't take advantage of it if you don’t owe taxes in the first place.

The ITC drops to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034.

New York has got your back if you want to make your home more energy-efficient. Residents can take advantage of additional tax breaks and other programs that help make it more affordable to adopt home solar power. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has a program for low-income residents and small businesses. There’s also statewide net metering, which may compensate you for any renewable energy sent to the local power grid.

» EXPLORE: New York solar incentives

Compare solar installation companies in New York

We compared ratings and reviews, equipment options, warranties, availability and other factors to pick the top solar companies in New York.

Do you own or rent?

FAQ

Can I get free solar panels in New York?

We’re not aware of a totally free solar option in New York. Though neither is totally free, you can lease or enter a PPA with little to no upfront costs. Solar leases usually come with a flat monthly fee, and PPAs make you pay per unit of electricity. In general, beware of deals that sound too good to be true. Solar scams promising free solar panels often, unfortunately, end up costing people quite a bit of money.

» FREE SOLAR PANELS: Are they really free?

How does net metering work in New York?

New York is transitioning from net metering to a new program called VDER for solar homeowners. With net metering, you get paid the full retail electricity rate for excess solar power sent to the grid. With VDER, the compensation rate for solar power is generally lower, but the additional fees are also lower. The better option depends on your situation: Net metering has a higher pay rate but higher fees, while VDER has lower compensation but lower fees. We suggest discussing options with your utility provider to understand which works better for you.

Will solar panels increase the value of my home?

Installing solar panels can significantly increase a home's value, according to a Zillow study. Homes with solar panels sell for 4.1% more on average. Exact value increases vary by location.

What’s the difference between a solar broker and a solar installer?

A solar broker is a middleman or intermediary who helps connect homeowners with solar installation companies. A solar installer specializes in designing, procuring and installing solar panels and related components.

Ultimately, deciding between a solar broker and a solar installer depends on how much you want to be involved in the process. A broker can be helpful if you value convenience. If you want more control and potentially lower costs, it’s best to work directly with a solar installer.

How are solar costs trending in New York?

The cost to go solar in New York has fallen 47% over the last 10 years, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Bottom line

If you’ve been thinking about going solar, you’re not alone. More than 200,000 solar installations already exist in New York — enough to power almost a million homes and account for about 5% of the state’s electricity. The main drawback is the high cost of purchasing and installing the panels and equipment. Many residents we've talked to say the long-term savings outweigh the upfront expense.

The ConsumerAffairs Research Team conducted an in-depth analysis to determine how much it is to go solar in New York and the average costs in other states.

Solar costs vs. savings: New York and nearby states

* For 100% usage offset; ** Over 25 years

Article sources
ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. DSIRE, “New York Programs.” Accessed May 1, 2024.
  2. EnergySage, “The cost of solar panels in New York.” Accessed March 2, 2024.
  3. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), “New York Solar.” Accessed March 2, 2024.
  4. SolarReviews, “How much do solar panels cost in New York, 2024?” Accessed March 2, 2024.
  5. Grid City Solar, “Solar Financing, Power Purchase Agreements, and SRECs in NYC.” Accessed April 15, 2024.
  6. Syracuse.com, “Solar energy company warns of possible door-to-door scam in CNY.” Accessed April 15, 2024.
  7. NYSERDA, “Residential Solar Incentives & Financing.” Accessed May 1, 2024.
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