Cost of solar panels in Pennsylvania

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

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Average solar panel installation costs in Pennsylvania range from $10,229 to $29,225. How much you pay depends on the size of your system, what incentives you’re eligible for, sunlight exposure and other factors. Assuming an upfront purchase, it takes about 9.5 years to break even (when your savings with solar panels make up for the cost).

Based on feedback from thousands of solar customers all over the country, the general consensus is that solar panel investments pay off over time. There might be states that are better for going solar, but solar panels still save Pennsylvania residents an estimated $58,076 over 25 years on average.


Key insights

  • The average solar panel installation costs $3.05 per watt in Pennsylvania. “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.
  • The federal solar investment tax credit is usually the most significant financial incentive when buying solar panels. It is not a rebate or a refund but goes toward what you owe on federal income taxes.
  • In Pennsylvania, 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.

How much do solar panels cost in Pennsylvania?

With professional installation, a typical 6-kilowatt residential solar panel system in Pennsylvania costs $17,535. That price drops to $12,275 after using the full federal solar investment tax credit (ITC).

The size of your solar panel system is a big factor in your total cost. The average Pennsylvania household needs a 10.17 kW system to offset enough energy costs to make solar viable. Depending on your household energy usage, you might need a smaller or larger system.

On the high end, one solar customer in Franklin said their system cost $70,000, and another in Pennsylvania told us they spent $100,000 on a system (including batteries).

Average solar panel cost by system size in Pennsylvania

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 Pennsylvania?

We’ve talked to dozens of solar panel customers in Pennsylvania, and most seem happy with their decision to go solar. For many, the long-term savings on energy bills make solar panels worth it. On average, Pennsylvania homeowners with solar panels avoid $58,076 in utility costs over 25 years.

For instance, after a year with solar panels, Stephanie in Philadelphia said their electric bill is $0 in the summer and about half what it used to be in the winter. Barry in Blandon said their electric bill is only $7 each month, and Ted in Huntingdon hasn’t had one in over a year.

Over 25 years, homeowners with solar panels can typically avoid $20,000 to $90,000 on avoided utility costs.

Still, the environmental benefits are secondary for residents like George in Homestead. ”I'm not here to save the planet,” George said. “I wanted to get money away from Duquesne Light. They were robbing me blind and I detested paying them so much.”

People who are dissatisfied after going solar often tell us about slow installations, faulty equipment and hidden fees. These problems are usually more specific to a particular solar company, though. With the right solar partner, you could be well on your way to powering your house with cheap, clean energy for decades.

By investing in solar, you can protect yourself against future electricity rate increases and contribute to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. Going solar can also potentially increase your home's value. One Zillow study found that houses with solar panels typically sell for 4.1% more than houses without them.

» STILL NOT SURE? Solar energy pros and cons

Cost factors of going solar in Pennsylvania

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.

Most installers set the price according to the system's wattage, with a typical cost between $2.50 and $5 per watt. In Pennsylvania, the average cost per watt is $3.05 (one of the cheapest in the United States).

Solar equipment costs

The highest cost of your solar installation will be for the solar panels. More efficient panels produce more electricity for your home, and systems with higher efficiency ratings may take fewer panels to produce the power you need, so you may find the extra cost is canceled out by the savings of buying fewer panels.

Other than panels, the biggest equipment costs are solar batteries. You need a battery if you want to store your system’s excess energy rather than sell it back to the grid. Solar batteries can add an extra cost of $7,000 to $18,000.

» COMPARE: Most efficient solar panels

Size of your system

The cost difference between a 5-kilowatt system and a 10-kilowatt system is thousands of dollars. To estimate what size system you need, first look up how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) you used last year on your electricity bill. Divide that number by 1,200. This will be roughly 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. For example, 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? Kilowatt vs. kilowatt-hour

Condition of your roof

When it comes to solar panels, durability is key. Quality solar panels are designed to last for 25 to 30 years. If your roof fails while panels are installed, you may find yourself having to foot the bill for panel removal, roof repairs and reinstallation. This can be both an annoying and costly endeavor.

ConsumerAffairs hears often from disgruntled solar customers who felt blindsided by expensive roof repairs needed after their solar panel installation was complete. It's important for your roof to match the system’s longevity if you want to ensure a seamless and cost-effective solar journey. Get your roof inspected, fixed or replaced before you get a solar energy system.

» MORE: Should you replace your roof before going solar?

Other cost factors

Good solar installation companies make sure your system is set up for optimal performance, but this expertise comes at a price.

  • Labor costs: Solar equipment costs are going down, but labor costs are higher than ever in some areas. Labor and installation costs are usually included in the initial cost estimate of your system, but be sure to confirm.
  • Local permits: Don’t forget about local permits and fees, especially if you're installing a larger system that might require additional permits or inspections. The permitting process depends on your city. For example, the City of Philadelphia has a different process than the City of Pittsburgh.
  • Ongoing costs: Solar panels require minimal maintenance, but there’s still an associated cost. Potential repairs and periodic cleaning also add to the lifetime cost of your solar panel system.

How to save money on solar panels in Pennsylvania

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

  • Compare quotes: Get quotes from at least three or four different solar installers in your area. 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, solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) let you start saving from day one with little or no money down.
  • Use incentives: Pennsylvania residents can use multiple incentives to reduce solar costs. For example, the City of Philadelphia currently has a program to streamline solar permitting with reduced fees. There is also the 30% federal tax credit available.

» TIPS: Get the best solar quotes

Solar incentives, tax credits and rebates in Pennsylvania

The federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) is usually the most significant financial incentive for homeowners to go solar in Pennsylvania. The ITC credits 30% of the system’s total cost — including equipment, labor and permits — toward what you owe on federal income taxes.

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

Don’t get confused: The ITC is not a rebate or a refund. It is a credit that goes toward what you owe on federal income taxes the year your system becomes operational. Any unused portion of the credit rolls over into the next tax year.

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.

Pennsylvania also has grant and loan programs through the Department of Community and Economic Development that support solar adoption. If you live in Philadelphia, you can get a permit fee break through the solar incentive program. 

» EXPLORE: Pennsylvania solar incentives

How can I pay for solar panels in Pennsylvania?

When it comes to paying for your solar system, you have options. 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. Each option has pros and cons, and your choice affects your overall cost to go solar.

  • 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 between eight and 20 years.
  • Solar leases: Leasing solar panels is a great way to set up a solar 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

Compare solar installation companies in Pennsylvania

Compare popular solar companies below. Read our guide to finding Pennsylvania's best solar companies for more information.

Find a Solar Energy partner near you.

    FAQ

    Can I get free solar panels in Pennsylvania?

    We’re not aware of a totally free solar option in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, scams that promise free solar panels can end up costing people quite a bit of money. However, you can lease solar equipment to reduce your upfront costs.

    Can I get a power purchase agreement in Pennsylvania?

    Yes, power purchase agreements (PPAs) are available in Pennsylvania.

    How are solar costs trending in Pennsylvania?

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

    How does net metering work in Pennsylvania?

    When your solar panels produce more energy than you need, the extra electricity can be sent to your power grid. You are then paid for the energy your system produces. This is called net metering.

    In Pennsylvania, residents with solar systems up to 50 kW can benefit from net metering (selling excess electricity to the grid). Through the Pennsylvania solar alternative energy credits program, homeowners are compensated from $30 to $47 per megawatt-hour (MWh) of surplus energy generated. An alternative to net metering is to store that energy in a battery.

    Can you live off-grid with solar panels in Pennsylvania?

    It is legal to have off-grid systems in Pennsylvania, but make sure to check with your local authorities to see if you need any special permits. 

    » EXPLORE: What are grid-tied solar systems?

    Bottom line

    Residential solar panel system costs typically fall between $10,000 to $30,000 or higher, depending on factors like the system's size, local labor rates and available incentives. Pennsylvania homeowners with solar panels can typically save more than that in total avoided energy costs over the lifetime of a system.

    The ConsumerAffaris Research Team has done extensive research to compare how much it costs to go solar in Pennsylvania and other states.

    Solar costs vs. savings: Pennsylvania and nearby states

    * To fully offset energy usage; ** 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, “Pennsylvania Programs.” Accessed March 3, 2024.
    2. EnergySage, “Pennsylvania solar panels: local pricing and installation data.” Accessed March 3, 2024.
    3. Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, “High Performance Building Program (HPB).” Accessed March 3, 2024.
    4. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, “Pennsylvania Sunshine Guidelines for the Residential and Small Business Solar Program.” Accessed March 3, 2024.
    5. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, “Considering a Solar Photovoltaic System?” Accessed March 3, 2024.
    6. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, “Homeowner’s Guide to the Federal Tax Credit for Solar Photovoltaics.” Accessed March 3, 2024.
    7. Solar Energy Industries Association, “Pennsylvania Solar.” Accessed March 3, 2024.
    8. SolarReviews, “How much do solar panels cost in Pennsylvania, 2024?” Accessed March 3, 2024.
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