With electricity costs on the rise and growing concerns about the sustainability of traditional energy sources, many people throughout the U.S. are looking into solar power. Even in cloudy areas like Western Washington, solar panels can often generate a substantial amount of energy.
However, solar energy still comes at a cost and isn’t always cheaper than other options. If you are looking to install solar panels in Washington State, here’s what you can expect.
How Much Does A Solar Panel Cost?
A 5 kW solar panel system will typically cost $11,000 to $16,000 in Washington State. However, the net price is often several thousand dollars lower after accounting for the 26% Federal Investment Tax Credit and other local solar incentives.
It takes an average of 14.07 years for the solar panels to pay for themselves. Over a 20-year period, Washington State residents can expect to save $12,657 on energy if they install and use solar panels rather than a utility company.
Federal tax credit
The federal government offers a significant Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that helps taxpayers claim 26% of the installation costs for solar panels. The 26% tax credit applies to systems placed in service by Dec. 31, 2022, then shrinks to 22% in 2023 and expires in 2024 (barring renewal from Congress).
The ITC is nonrenewable, which means you can’t receive the savings as a refund. However, you can reduce the amount you owe on your taxes.
Sales tax exemption
Washington State has a sales tax exemption for solar power. That means you are effectively saving 7-10.5% of the cost of your solar panels, depending on your local sales tax rate.
How government trade policy affects prices
Changes in government trade policy can impact the cost of solar panels and cells. When President Trump imposed a four-year tariff on imported solar cells and panels in 2018, there was a 16 cent per watt increase in price for the average consumer, or roughly a $960 increase for a 6-kW solar panel system, according to EnergySage.
Other factors that can affect the final cost of solar
The going rate for solar panel installation varies from city to city and county to county. You may find that it’s less expensive to install solar panels in Pasco than in Seattle. Your location will also affect the amount of sunlight you get and the time it takes to recoup the cost of a solar panel system.
When it comes to solar energy, not all roofs are created equal! Some roof angles are better for soaking up the sun than others and will allow you to get by with fewer solar panels. For most U.S. property owners, the ideal angle for solar panels is a degree close to the latitude of your home on a south-facing roof.
Nearby trees and tall buildings can do a number on your solar energy production. Ideally, there should be no shade on your roof that could interfere with your solar panels’ function. While you might not be able to do much if you are in the shadow of a high rise, Washington State does have solar easement laws that help you work with your neighbors to avoid anything shading your solar power system while the sun is shining.
Monthly energy needs
Not every household needs the same amount of energy. If you have a large home with lots of people or tend to use a lot of energy, it will take more solar panels (and a higher installation price) to set up a system that will fully power your home.
Long-term Savings From Solar Energy
If you stay connected to the grid while also having a solar panel system, you can send your extra solar energy back to the grid and gain credits on your electric bill. You can use your credits instead of paying for electricity from the utility later when your panels aren’t producing enough, such as at night or in the winter.
Locked-in energy prices
If your home is powered by the sun, you don’t need to worry about utility hikes. Instead of a fluctuating bill, you may have a payment plan for your solar panels and some minor maintenance expenses. Your energy costs will be very predictable and stay the same for years to come.
Does the Cost of Solar Panels Save You Money?
If you live in a moderately sunny area or have a good roof angle for solar energy, solar panels can save you a great deal of money. Many people can save thousands of dollars in the long term by installing solar panels.
However, it depends on the individual home. Some homeowners in cloudy areas that have less-than-ideal roof angles or excessive shade may find that solar does not make financial sense for them, at least not with today’s technologies.
How to estimate savings vs. costs
At Switch Electric, we have a free solar power savings vs. costs calculator for Seattle and Walla Walla area residents. The calculator provides an instant estimate of how much it would cost to install a solar panel system in your zip code and what level of savings to expect.
If you would like a more accurate, personalized estimate, you can reach out to the Switch Electric team for a free quote from one of our solar design specialists.
Contact a Solar Energy Expert at Switch Electric
Are you curious about solar energy for your home or workplace in the Seattle or Walla Walla area? Switch Electric is here to help. We’re always ready to assist with energy system layout and design needs as well as troubleshooting and maintenance. Reach out to our team today for a quote.