This article is an excerpt from the “Guide To Buying Solar” eBook.
Solar Price Calculator
Use our Solar Price Calculator to get a rough estimate of the cost of a solar system.
When it comes to solar you neither want to pay too much nor too little for a solar system. It might sound strange that you would not want to pay too little, but think about it as if you were going out to dinner. There are a lot of restaurants competing for your business on price, and if you pay very little, you often get poor quality food or service. You might get a reasonably tasty meal, but it probably won’t leave you feeling particularly sprightly afterwards. It is the same with solar, if you buy a cheap system you are far more likely to have a headache later on.
The problem is in order to install solar at a very low cost a company will often cut corners somewhere, either on the components being installed, or by using cheap installers/contractors which are paid per job and will not be around later if a problem occurs. Fortunately, just like restaurants, there is an easy way to separate the wheat from the chaff. For starters simply google the company name and look at some of the feedback as there are a huge number of reviews online for solar companies now. Also check the brands of the components being quoted are reliable by referring to our detailed solar panel and solar inverter review articles.
Watch out for cheap advertising
Companies advertising bargain basement prices on TV or Online are often using outdated or lower quality inverters and panels. They might sound convincing using terms like Tier 1, efficient or German engineered but these are often very misleading as explained in our quality solar panel review article. Also the price shown on the advertisement is often not what you will be quoted as they may add additional costs which are not clearly disclosed or explained in the ad.
Note any company that advertises ‘Free Wifi’ is generally a warning sign as almost all solar inverters now come with wifi built-in which is already free.
Price differences and added costs
Installing a solar system can be more complex and take longer than expected due to a number of reasons. Some companies may give you a quote over the phone or email without ever visiting your site and inspecting the property. This is ok is some situations but more often than not it can lead to problems during the installation which can result in additional costs. For example you might have an old outdated electricity meter or an old switchboard which needs to be upgraded in order for solar to be installed and operate safely. There are also many variables which can vary the cost of a solar installation including:
Roof type - Tin, Tile or slate (different mounting brackets)
Roof angle - Flat or angled. (Flat roof may need tilt racking)
Building height - Single or 2 story (May need special equipment)
Switchboard location - Cable distance from inverter to switchboard
Meter type - May need upgrading to a new smart meter
Considering the above variables a solar system installed on a 2 story home with a slate tile roof on a steep angle will cost far more than the same system installed on a single story home with a standard 20 deg pitch tin roof. This is because the 2 story home will require special panel lifting equipment and safety railing installed even before the installation can start plus the added time and difficulty installing on fragile slate tiles which require special brackets.
What is a fair price?
Going back to our comparison with eating out - it is a lot easier to get ripped off when buying solar compared to going out for dinner. When buying dinner you will presumably look at the menu first, and because you have eaten out many times before you generally know what a fair price to pay is. With some luck, you will only buy a solar system once though, so unless you do your research (and use our Solar Price Calculator), you probably have no idea how much a system should cost. Unfortunately there are solar companies that charge a very high price for the same, or even lesser quality components, that you can get much cheaper elsewhere.
Also your location can have a big effect on the price. Regional and remote area’s generally cost more to install solar due to the transportation costs and little competition. Also different countries can cost more due to different regulations, installation requirements and Governement subsidies/rebates.
The basic cost of a solar installation in Australia compared to the US
Average price per kW installed in Australia = $1000 - $1500
Average price per kW installed in the US = $2500 - $3000
With solar, as with eating out, there is a pricing sweet spot. Our Solar Price Calculator is not perfect (see the disclaimer before using it), but you can use it to get a rough idea of what you should pay. This is another reason why we recommend getting multiple quotes when buying solar, so you have a reference point.
The 5 basic steps to buying solar
Don’t rush or sign up with door to door salesman
Get at least three Quotes
Check the panels and inverter brands quoted
Research the company - Feedback from others
Use a local installer or company if possible
If you remember to take your time and do some basic research beforehand you will be much more informed and more able to see through any marketing spin or clever sales tactics. More often than not a local solar company will be the best choice as they have a reputation to uphold and will be contactable in the future if a problem does occur.