The price of solar panels has fallen dramatically since 2010. They’re coming to neighborhoods near you, and they might be more affordable than you think. That’s good news for the environment, for your wallet and for the power grid.
“The big vision 10 years down the road is that there’ll be solar panels on house after house after house,” said Cailey Underhill, advocacy and development director at Solar Rights Alliance, a California solar advocacy group. “Everyone who wants it will be able to get it. There’ll be solar panels on the church, on the school, they’ll have community solar on an abandoned lot and there’ll be batteries in garages and in basements that are connected together in a grid that is healthy and flexible and functional, that doesn’t cause blackouts and doesn’t cause wildfires. And through that … we can help California hit its overall clean energy goals.”
Can solar panels save you money?
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The news is even better if you live in San Diego. Not only do you live in one of the cheaper states to get solar energy, but you may also have access to extra incentives and tax credits that can make the process even cheaper. Let’s take a look at what kinds of costs you’ll be facing if you decide to go solar.
Best national solar panel companies in San Diego
You’ve got a wide variety of choices when it comes to going solar. Here are some top national solar companies we’ve reviewed at CNET that operate in San Diego.
San Diego solar panel incentives and rebates
The cost of solar panels may be decreasing, but there are still ways to take advantage of programs that can help you save even more money, especially in California. Federal, state and local authorities offer tax incentives and rebates that can help you save money on solar panel installation. While many are aimed at residential situations, there are also a variety of incentives for those building commercial properties, which incentivize clean energy and can even expedite city processes.
San Diego solar incentives
|Disadvantaged Communities – Single-Family Solar Homes
|DAC-SASH provides no-cost rooftop solar installations to California households that meet set income qualifications.
|Property tax exclusion
|Consumers who install solar energy systems before 2024 are excluded from paying increased property taxes.
|Net metering programs
|California offers net metering programs, which let consumers sell back to the grid any extra solar energy generated by their system. Californians connecting their solar system to the grid after April 15, 2023, will be under net energy metering 3.0, which sets reimbursements for power lower than previously.
|Self-Generation Incentives Program
|SGIP provides rebates to homes and businesses that install energy storage systems, such as solar batteries.
Average cost of solar panels in San Diego
How much going solar will cost you depends a lot on what kind of system you get.
Often, solar costs are expressed as a price per watt, with system sizes ranging in kilowatts. Costs range from around $10,000 to upward of $20,000 depending on the size, and can be affected by tax credits and incentives, the condition or situation of your specific roof, installation materials and more.
The typical 5 kW solar panel system in California costs $3.47 per watt, according to data from FindEnergy.com. That’s a total of $17,350.
That price goes up if you want to include a solar battery, which provides you with protection from blackouts and could allow you to disconnect from the grid completely. Most batteries start around $10,000, although smaller ones can cost $5,000 or less, but a complete storage system can be significantly more expensive, depending on your needs.
Average solar panel costs in California
|Price per watt
|System size (kW)
|Average total cost
|Average cost with savings from federal solar tax credit
How to determine which solar company in San Diego is best for me
You’ve decided to pursue solar energy: you’ve done your research, ballparked the costs and you’re ready to shop. The next part should be easy, right? Not so fast. Underhill said determining your installer, how many panels you’ll need and other specifics of your installation can be “the most challenging part” of adopting solar power. Her organization doesn’t recommend specific installers, but they do have some tips.
“We always, always suggest that people get three bids,” she said. “Just like anything, any other major purchase. You would wanna look at a variety of options and choose the one that’s right for you. We definitely want to make sure people know that they should be looking at multiple bids.”
She also suggests checking out the certifications of installers you’re considering, reaching out to organizations like the Solar Rights Alliance for resources and research needs, and good old-fashioned asking your neighbors for recommendations.
Installation factors to keep in mind
Before you even reach out to an installer, it’s a good idea to get an idea of the other factors that will affect solar panel installation. Is your roof an odd one? Do you want to get a system with a battery to store extra energy? Will those trees on your property block out the sun?
Keep these factors in mind when shopping for solar:
How to pay for solar panels in San Diego
Like most large expenses, you can pay for solar panels in a variety of ways. Before you commit to buying panels for your home, research how to pay for them. Whether you’re using your savings, taking out a loan or going with the preferred method for your installers, here are the options you can expect:
Cash: If you can afford to pay for your solar panels in cash, it would be ideal to do so. Not many people have $10,000 or more ready to spend, but if you do, you’ll save yourself some extra costs in the form of interest and fees. That means your solar panels will pay for themselves with a lower energy bill even faster.
Solar loan: A variety of companies offer solar-specific loans. Often, these may be offered by the company that is going to install your solar panels. This may be a good option for someone looking for a one-stop-shop, where you can purchase, finance and schedule installation from the same company.
Other types of loans: As is the case with purchasing cars, appliances or other costly investments, you can find credit in the form of personal loans, home equity loans, home equity lines of credit and more. If your installer doesn’t work with a lender themselves and you don’t have the cash on hand, these can be a good option to finance your solar expenses.
Lease or power purchase agreement: Like buying a car, leasing your solar panels is an option, though it may not be the best idea. Rather than paying anything upfront, a lease would allow a third-party company to install panels on your roof. You would then pay monthly to lease the panels. Ultimately, this will likely wind up costing you more. A power purchase agreement is similar, but instead of paying a flat leasing fee, you’ll buy power from the solar company on a per-kilowatt-hour basis, as you would from the power company.