The Cost Of Solar Explained

Honestly, we can’t tell you the cost of a PV Solar System until we’ve completed an audit.

Just as the cost of all houses, cars, or cell phone plans are not the same, neither is the cost of all PV solar systems. “How much is it going to cost?” is not only the most common question we get, but typically the very first one we’re asked. That’s why we believe in the importance of educating others about the costs of photovoltaic solar systems.

If you’re looking at a residential install, and hoping for a ballpark figure, let me ask you this, is “somewhere between $5,000.00 and $40,000.00” helpful?

Ballpark figures can be a deterrent for those who don’t have a solid understanding of how PV solar works. Some will only hear the highest figure and say, “What? No way!” when in reality their usage may only require a small system to cover all their needs. It also excludes the option of putting up a partial system. The end result is a customer who has walked away with a negative, inaccurate impression of how solar is “unreasonably expensive”…

We’re here to answer any and all questions you may have about the world of solar!

For example, if you decide on a net zero grid tied solar system, the annual Energy Charge portion of your electricity bill should work out to $0. If the cost of electricity ($/kWh) goes up over the next 25-30 years (as it has historically) the impact on you and your bill would be minimal. You would still have to pay the per day flat rate portion of Transmission & Distribution, Access Fees and Administration Charges, but you’ll experience further savings as your daily T & D consumption costs ($ per kWh) will be lower. During daylight hours, your T & D consumption is down because your system is producing the power. In addition, when your system is producing more power than you need that power gets sold to the grid and credited to you at whatever your current retailer rate is. Hence, the more Transmission, Distribution and the cost of electricity increase, the more you save if you’ve installed a solar array.

Your modules are also guaranteed to be producing at 85% efficiency on year 25 and have the potential to keep producing for another 10-15 years. In this big picture perspective, the savings are huge!


What Factors Affect The Cost Of A Solar System?

System Size and Module Type

Are you interested in simply offsetting your electricity bill, or are you constrained by what you can afford right now? Did you want to try and attain net zero?

The size of a system, and type of modules used have a major impact on the final price. Knowing what you can afford if you choose to buy a system is very important. Consumers can install any size of system they want, up to a maximum net zero capacity.

Consumers have many options when it comes to selecting the size of a system. Your goal might be to reach net zero at some point, but it doesn’t have to be right away. We can install a partial system for you, making it an easy option to add to at any time.

In regards to modules, the higher the watt, the higher the cost. We only recommend a module higher than 260W if you really want to reach net zero but are constrained by available roof space.


Roof Pitch

The slope of your roof can have an impact on costs as well. Think of it in terms of walk-ability. A 4/12 pitch is easy for installers to maneuver on, a 12/12 pitch means installers are constantly relying on their harness and therefore have to work at a slower pace. What it means for you, may be a few extra hours in labour costs, or equipment rental to get the job done more quickly.


Bungalow vs. Two-Stories or More

A typical PV module weighs about 43lbs. When buildings are higher than a single story bungalow you need to consider how installers will get materials to where they’re needed. Will it require a simple material lift, or a zoom boom?


Roof Material

Although asphalt and metal are the easiest, most common installs, there may be additional costs when installing on tile, cedar shakes, gravel or torch-down roofs. A ballasted system is usually used on gravel and torch-down roofs where there is little, to no pitch. This type of install uses weight to hold the modules down, rather than screws, which penetrate the roof surface.



Are you near Lethbridge, or will installers have to drive more than an hour to get to you? As with most trades, there may be fees for the added mileage and/or travel time.


New Electrical Panel or Trenching

Residential homes require between 2-4 available panel breakers depending on the system size. If your panel is full, you may need to consider a panel change, the addition of a sub panel, or a simple rearranging of circuits to make it work. On occasion it may also make sense to use a garage, or other remote building for your solar install, and therefore wires may need to be trenched in to allow access to an available panel.

These factors are used to determine the cost per watt of an installed solar system. Residential and commercial installs typically cost $2.50 – $3.50 per watt.


Are Solar Modules Expensive?

With continued advances in technology, the cost to produce solar modules continues to decline. Research by the International Energy Agency indicates that prices for solar modules dropped over 90% from 2000 to 2013. These lower prices are opening the door for more people to invest in solar energy.


How Do The Costs Of Grid-Tied vs Off-Grid Compare?

Many people inquire about the possibility of going off grid. Although the idea may sound appealing, the reality can be a different story. Installing a grid tied PV solar system is the most common, and cheapest way to go solar if you live in an area with access to the grid.  It also allows you to get paid for the excess power you pump out to the grid.

Off grid systems can be substantially more expensive if they require a battery bank big enough to run major appliances and A/C units. The higher your expected power usage, the more batteries an off grid system will need, and the higher the cost will be. You will also have the added costs of replacing the batteries every 5-10 years.

However, something smaller – for example, a remote weekend cabin which requires the occasional few plugs and/or lights, off grid becomes a much more desirable, feasible, and affordable option!

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