Solar Power for Homes: PV Solar Panels vs. BiPV Solar Shingles in 2021

How Does PV Solar Power Work?

How PV solar power system works

All photovoltaic solar power systems, whether you go with the traditional PV panels, BIPV solar shingles and tiles, or thin-film solar laminates, are installed to face the sun, and then connected to an inverter by a licensed electrician during the installation, so the Direct Current (DC) electricity generated by the photo-voltaic cells can be converted to the Alternating Current (AC) to be used domestically or sold back to the local power grid.

Did you know? You can sell excess solar-generated electricity back to the grid.

Did you know? Many local electric utilities are often required by local laws to buy your excess electricity at pre-set rates.

You might also qualify for tax credit benefits at the end of the year for the installation of a PV solar power system. Be sure to check your state’s and federal rebates and talk to your tax accountant to see if this might be a worthwhile pursuit for you.

Solar power systems use photovoltaic cells to generate clean, renewable electricity from the abundant solar rays. — Currently, there are three main types of PV solar systems available to homeowners.

New Shingle Roof

$7,500
Average price
New Metal Roof

$14,500
Average price
New Flat Roof

$8,225
Average price

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Crystalline PV Solar Panels are based on solar cells made from silicone and placed inside a panel designed to contain many individual solar cells.

PV panels are the most common and recognizable type of solar power systems installed on the residential roofs today by companies in the likes of Tesla Solar (Formerly, SolarCity, which was the most well-known and priciest of all the solar power providers. — Notably, the price had nothing to do with the quality of the product or service, but rather it was the result of the aggressive approach to sales — knocking on doors and using high-pressure sales tactics to get you to sing the contract.

Did you know? The company was on the verge of bankruptcy when it was acquired by Tesla and has shrunk in size quite a bit since acquisition).

Other residential solar players in the space include SunGevity (now merged with Horizon Solar Power), SunPower, Vivint Solar (acquired by SunRun in the summer of 2020), and many other regional and local solar installers.

Fun fact: In the northern hemisphere, PV solar panels normally get installed on the south-facing side of the roof for optimum exposure to the sun.

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PV Solar Power Cost per Watt: 5kW-7kW Solar Panels System Costs 2021

This is a good time to install a photovoltaic solar power system on your property. Residential PV solar panels cost per watt installed has been dropping, and newer technology is enabling a far greater efficiency – that’s more solar energy converted into electricity for home usage – for less money.

A new asphalt shingle roof outfitted with PV solar panels

Your options for buying, leasing, Purchasing Power Agreements (PPA, see below) are expanding, and many homeowners are getting solar panels installed on their rooftops for zero down.

In this guide:

  1. Cost per Watt
  2. Total System Cost
  3. Cost Factors
  4. Rooftop Installation Considerations
  5. PV Solar Panels
  6. Buying, Leasing, and PPA Options
  7. BiPV Solar Tiles
  8. Thin-Film Solar Laminates
  9. PACE Solar Finance Program
  10. Solar System Payback Period

Cost per Watt

The national average residential solar cost per watt installed is $2.96 for a typical 5kW ($14,800) to 7kW ($20,720) PV solar panels system when installed by local installers, before the 26% solar investment tax credits rebate from the federal government.

Did you know? The 26% solar tax credits have recently been extended by congress through the end of 2022. Notably, solar ITC apply to the full amount paid for the installation of a new solar panels system.

Depending on the state you live in, your quoted cost per watt can range from $2.80 to $3.22, on average, when installed by a (small) local solar panel installer.

Note that solar investment tax credits (ITC) are being phased out, gradually, with the amount of tax credits decreasing from 26% to 22% in 2023 (the final year for solar ITC).

How Solar Pricing has Decreased Over Time In 2008, the cost of a solar power installation was $8.82 per watt.

Average System Cost for residential PV Solar Panels installed by Local Installers:

Small Home Average Home Large Home
Home Size 1 – 2 bedrooms 3 – 4 bedrooms 5 bedrooms
System Size 5 – 7kW 7 – 8.5kW 9 – 10kW
System Cost $14,800 to $20,720 $20,800 to $25,160 $26,640 to $29,600
After Tax Credits $10,952 to $15,333 $15,350 to $18,618 $19,714 to $21,904

Note: The federal solar investment tax credit is 26% through 2022, and 22% in 2023. After the recent extension by congress, the program is slated to end on December 31st, 2023.

Homeowners take note: large solar installers with national presence like SunRun and Vivint Solar (acquired by SunRun in 2020) will have higher costs per watt installed vs. a small local solar installer due to much higher marketing and customer acquisition costs for large installers with national presence.

SunRun and Vivint Residential Solar PV system cost per watt installed. Source: Corporate filings

Based on the recent data from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL),
the average price per watt installed by Vivint and SunRun in 2020 has been ranging between $4.00 and $5.00 per watt. In fact, SunRun’s and Vivint prices per watt installed have increased in 2020 over 2019 due to higher marketing costs in 2020.

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BIPV Solar Shingles Cost: SunTegra, CertainTeed Appolo, Tesla Solar Roof

Your options for building integrated photovoltaic solar roofs have expanded with Suntegra, CertainTeed Appolo, and Luma Solar tiles to compete with other PV solar products currently being installed.

Certainteed Apollo-2 solar shingles roof

This guide covers the currently available and newly emerging BIPV / roof integrated PV (RIPV) solar shingle options, their costs, availability in specific markets within the US, and pros and cons of each option.

Cost

The table below includes the cost info and availability details for the top four leading RIPV competitors:

Product Cost per sq.ft. Cost per watt* 2,750 sq.ft. roof
CertainTeed Apollo II Shingle $11.45 – $13.10 $4.20 – $4.80 $31,487 – $36,025
CertainTeed Apollo II Tile $17.40 – $18.25 $6.38 – $6.69 $47,850 – $50,187
Dow PowerHouse $11.00 – $11.85 Est. $4.15 $30,025 – $32,587
SunTegra Shingle $10.35 – $11.60 $3.80 – $4.25 $28,462 – $31,900
SunTegra Tile $16.80 – $17.75 $6.16 – $6.51 $46,200 – 48,812
Tesla Solar Tile $22.00 – $26.00 $7.85-$9.00 $60,500 – $71,500

BIPV solar shingles costs

Note: the above figures are baseline costs (estimated). The actual costs can, in some cases, be up to 25% higher, depending on the particulars of the jobs including more complex roofs and/or in areas with high cost of living and in major coastal cities.

All costs include what is known as BOS, or balance of system, costs. These include the connectors, wiring and electrical inverter required for the installation. They do not factor storage battery costs ($7,500 – $9,000 for most systems).

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