Installing solar panels on your home can dramatically reduce both your dependence on traditional utility companies and your environmental impact. One of the first steps in switching to renewable energy is figuring out where to buy solar panels. It can be a little confusing at first.
As you prepare to buy solar panels, remember it’s important to do your research and compare prices in order to make a sound investment. If you’re ready to start getting quotes from some of the best solar companies in your area, you can use this tool or fill out the form below.
Where Can You Buy Solar Panels?
Home and business owners typically purchase solar panels through solar companies, which are certified to deal and install products from top manufacturers. These solar installers then plan and execute the installation. However, solar panels and solar panel kits are also sold directly from distributors in the event you’re qualified to carry out your own DIY solar installation. Consider the following when making a decision about where to purchase your panels.
Choosing an Installer
Certified solar energy companies carry out the vast majority of solar panel installations. When hiring a professional solar company, you can either go with a local or national installer.
A local solar installer will usually be able to offer you more personalized service, more affordable prices and more intimate knowledge of local solar incentives and policies. The flip side is that nationwide installers can often have access to a wider range of solar products, like the most efficient solar panels and the best solar batteries in the industry. This can give you more options to maximize the power output and durability of your system.
There’s not really a right or wrong answer here, and in fact, the best approach may be to consult with two or three installers that service your area before making your decision.
DIY Solar Panel Installation
Installing your own solar panels provides the opportunity to save money on labor and also gives you greater control over the final configuration of your home solar system. Be aware, however, that there can be significant downsides to do-it-yourself solar jobs.
First, it is complex, technical work, requiring electrical expertise and thorough knowledge of how solar works. If you’re unskilled or inexperienced in working with electricity, installing solar panels presents concerns to both your safety and the integrity of your roof and electrical system. Additionally, going with DIY solar panels means you won’t reap the benefits of experienced solar designers, who can help you design the optimal energy-generating, money-saving system.
If you do choose to buy solar panels and install them on your own, you can purchase panels from:
Manufacturer websitesHardware storesAmazon.com (where you can buy full solar panel kits)
How to Buy Solar Panels
Now you know where to purchase panels, but as for how to buy solar panels, your next steps will again depend on whether you hire a professional or go the DIY route.
Hiring an Installer
For most of our readers, we recommend hiring a solar installer that will plan your system and purchase the solar equipment on your behalf. Note that installers buy in bulk and have access to wholesale prices, so they can actually help you save money on your equipment costs, though of course, you’ll then have to pay for the labor.
The general steps in the process are as follows:
Consultation: Meet with a few of your area’s top solar companies to compare pricing and proposals outlining the pros and cons of solar for your home.System design: Once you choose a solar installer, a representative will take a look at your roof and design a solar system that meets your energy goals. The importance of this step usually outweighs that of the installation itself, as a solar system will only be as effective as its design.Permitting: Depending on where you live, you may require permits and approvals from your municipality before your solar system can be installed. Your installer can handle all of this on your behalf.Net metering: If your local utility company offers net metering, you’ll need to apply and enroll prior to the installation itself. This step should also be handled by your solar company, though it may require a signature or two from you.Installation: Once you receive the needed approvals, your installer can begin work to assemble your system. This may take anywhere from a day to a full week depending on the complexity of your project. Most installations are finished within a day.Review and approval: Most municipalities will require you to have your system inspected for safety before it’s “switched on.” Both cities and utility companies usually require inspections. Again, your solar company will handle the logistics of these inspections.Using your system: After you get your final approvals, you’ll be ready to turn on your solar system. Your installer will advise you on how to do so. Applying for tax credits: Any reputable solar company will walk you through how to apply for solar tax credits, rebates or grants available in your area. Some will even do so on your behalf.
Buying Your Own Solar System
If you’re a more qualified homeowner looking to research, design and install your home solar system, you’ll need to purchase equipment on your own.
First, determine how many solar panels your home requires. This hinges on an array of factors: the amount of electricity your household consumes, the surface area available on your roof, the amount of sun exposure your roof receives and more. For residential installations with limited roof space to work with, we recommend looking into highly efficient solar panels. This will ensure your investment is worthwhile. (We’ll get more into the different types of solar panels below.)
Also, remember that designing a solar system requires a lot more than just panels. Consider what equipment you’ll need before purchasing your solar panels. Do you want a string inverter or microinverters? Do you need a battery? A charge controller? (We’ll also get more into this later on).
Even if you carry out your own installation, you’ll still need to apply for any necessary permits and interconnection agreements. In the event you perform an off-grid installation, you may not need permission from your utility.
What Type of Solar Panel Should You Buy?
There are three basic types of photovoltaic panels available today: monocrystalline, polycrystalline (also known as multicrystalline) and thin-film. The factors differentiating these options have to do with the efficiency, flexibility, solar cell makeup, size and cost of the solar panels. These can all impact which solar panels you purchase.
Solar Panel Type
Monocrystalline solar panels
Highest efficiency and best performance
Highest upfront cost
Polycrystalline solar panels
More affordable than monocrystalline
Lower efficiency than monocrystalline
Thin-film solar panels
Portable and flexible
Lowest efficiency and power output
An important note we’ll repeat: For homeowners with a limited surface area on their roofs, efficiency is the name of the game. Make sure to buy solar panels with high efficiency ratings, as this will maximize the sunlight available to you, making your investment more worthwhile. Most of the best solar panels will be monocrystalline.
Other Equipment You’ll Need to Buy for Your Solar Panel System
If you’re doing your own installation, you’ll need to consider purchasing the following when you buy your solar panels:
Inverter: This converts direct current (DC) solar energy into the alternating current (AC) electricity needed to power your home. Most options will be string inverters or microinverters.Battery: A solar battery allows you to store excess energy for future use rather than feeding it back into the electrical grid. Having a battery maximizes your solar energy use. Mounting system: This stabilizes your solar panels and ensures they stay in their proper rooftop position.Wiring: Wiring is used to connect your solar system to your electrical panel.Solar charge controller: A charge controller regulates voltage and prevents batteries from overcharging.
Final Thoughts: Where to Buy Solar Panels
Installing solar panels involves a number of decisions, starting with where to buy your panels. Are you qualified to install solar panels yourself? What type of solar panel is best for your energy needs? What other equipment will you need to buy along with your panels?
If you choose to go with a solar company, make sure you do your research and hire a vetted, experienced solar contractor with a track record of success. Ask any friends or neighbors with solar who they hired and how their experience was. Some solar companies have programs that reward $1,000 or more for referrals. You can also continue your research on the best solar companies, or look for local solar installers in your area.
Shopping around can end up saving you money and can help you better understand your energy needs and budget. To start getting free quotes from solar companies near you, you can use this tool or fill out the form below.
FAQ: Buying Solar Panels
Can I just buy my own solar panels?
You can buy your own solar panels directly from manufacturers, from hardware stores or online. However, installing panels on your own when unqualified to do so can result in safety issues, an inefficient system or issues to the structural integrity of your home. With an investment as significant as solar, we usually recommend hiring a professional.
How much does one solar panel cost?
Solar panel costs differ widely due to variations in quality, efficiency, warranty and power. One solar panel for an off-grid or small DIY project can cost as little as $100. A standard 350-watt, high-efficiency residential solar panel will cost closer to $300 or more.
Are solar panels a good investment?
When properly planned and executed, solar panels are one of the best investments you can make in 2022. This won’t be the case for all homeowners, however. If your energy use is already minimal, your roof doesn’t receive enough sunlight or the cost of solar in your area is unusually high, you may not get enough out of your investment to make it worthwhile. It’s best to consult with a solar company near you to determine the solar potential of your home or business.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
Read More at EcoWatch