Where To Buy Solar Panels: Residential Solar Panel, Solar System Checklist

Georgette Kilgore headshot, wearing 8 Billion Trees shirt with forest in the background.Written by Georgette Kilgore

Solar Panels | March 29, 2024

Man looking at his computer wonders where to buy solar panels and if there is a guide to residential solar panel installation purchases, costs, options for new and used solar panels, with rebates and incentives.

Do you know where to buy solar panels? Or, how to tell if you’re buying from a reputable company?

Have you considered what your options are for financing solar panels?

If you’ve ever asked any of these questions, this guide is for you.

Find everything you need to know about where to buy solar panels, how much the average cost of solar panels is in your state, and how to take advantage of solar incentives that are designed to reduce the cost of green energy systems for residents.

How Much Does Residential Solar Cost?

For many people, the first thing they ask is how much do solar panels cost?

Graphic that shows the top factors that influence the price of solar panels such as installation type, roof type, shading, and panel type.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. However, here are some of the top factors that will likely influence the price of your solar panels:

  • Installation Type: Installing in other areas besides your roof might require extra labor and, therefore, extra money from you.
  • Panel Type: Most solar panel systems use monocrystalline or polycrystalline silicone.3 Monocrystalline is typically more expensive, but it also is more efficient than polycrystalline.
  • Roof Type: It’s easier to install solar panels on some roofing materials compared to others. For example, composite shingles are generally considered the easiest, whereas terra cotta tiles and wood shake shingles are trickier and may come with higher labor costs.
  • Shading: The amount of shade your property gets will influence the number of panels you need, as well as the overall price of your system.

All that said, the average system in the U.S. costs around $20,000 before any state, federal or local energy provider incentives and rebates are applied.4

Some states offer low income residents free solar systems, but typically, the choice of where to buy solar panels is up to you.

Ways To Save on Solar Panels

You might be a bit put off by the cost of solar panels. The good news, though, is that there are also various ways to save on them and find where to buy solar panels.

Here are some of the top options to consider:

  • Take advantage of solar tax credits. For example, the federal Residential Clean Energy Credit lets you take 30% of the system’s cost off your income taxes.5
  • Get quotes from multiple installers. That way, you can compare and know you’re getting a fair price.
  • Install panels when it’s cooler outside (that may help to bring down labor costs).

Don’t forget to consider long- and short-term savings when installing solar panels. A larger, more powerful system might cost more money upfront. However, it could save you more money in the long run and be more worthwhile.

Where To Buy Solar Panels

You can buy residential solar panels from several different sources, but these are the most popular options:

  • Work with a reputable, licensed, and insured solar company that partners with well-known and trustworthy solar panel manufacturers
  • Purchase a DIY kit from a home improvement store (which will typically come with all the other materials you need to set up your panels)
  • Visit a manufacturer’s website and buy solar panels directly from there

Most people decide to work with a solar panel company after considering all their options. After all, a team of solar technicians will do the heavy lifting for you — literally and figuratively. They also give you confidence that your system was set up correctly.

Graphic that shows the ways to save on solar panels.

What should you look for to know you’re working with a reputable solar provider? Start with the following steps:

  • Ask about licensing and training: Most states require solar installers to have some kind of license, such as a specialized solar installation license or an electrician license.6 Find out what education an installer has before you let them climb on your roof.
  • Ask about insurance: Ideally, the installer will be insured. That way, you won’t be held liable if something goes wrong during the installation process.
  • Get a detailed quote: The best installers will share a quote breaking down the cost of your system. They’ll also explain the reasoning behind each aspect of the price (labor costs, materials costs, etc.).
  • Be wary of too-good-to-be-true claims: If a price seems drastically low, or an installer is making promises that seem unrealistic, they might be trying to scam you and set you up with a subpar system.

Can You Buy Used Solar Panels?

You can purchase used solar panels at lower prices than new ones, but should you?

It’s important to note that used solar panels might not be up to the same standards as the latest models. Not all solar panels are the right fit for every home, either. For example, some small solar panels might also have been used for other projects and won’t work for a roof installation.

Don’t forget that solar panels will degrade over time. If you buy used ones, you might save money upfront. On the flip side, the panels likely won’t last as long as brand-new ones.

Also, the maintenance performed on the panels will impact their lifespan, so those that were not taken care of will last less time than those that have been regularly cleaned and maintained.

Finally, before you start searching to find out where to buy used solar panels, keep in mind that the federal solar tax credit (and many other incentives) only applies to new systems. If you don’t want to miss out on this perk, don’t buy used.

Where Can You Buy Solar Panels Wholesale?

Many online merchants sell solar panels wholesale. They often work with solar distributors and resellers directly and offer panels in bulk at a discounted rate.

This option can benefit those who are interested in getting into the residential or commercial solar installation business, as well as homeowners who are thinking about installing solar panels on their own roofs.

Can You Install Your Own Solar Panels?

Speaking of installing solar panels on your roof, is this actually something you can do by yourself? Technically, the answer is “yes.”

However, you must have in-depth electrical knowledge and knowledge of how solar panel systems work, specifically.

This task isn’t one you can figure out as you go or learn from watching a YouTube video and doing some quick Googling.

Moreover, most municipalities require that electrical connections, even those that don’t connect to the main power grid, be performed by a certified electrician.

What Are My Options for Financing Solar Panels?

Say you’re interested in buying solar panels, but paying for a system in full simply isn’t in your budget. In that case, solar financing — taking out a loan to pay for your panels — is a good alternative.

Many banks and credit unions offer solar panel loan options. Most solar panel installation companies do as well.

Depending on where you live, you might also be able to utilize a Property Assessed Clean Energy or PACE program.7

This program is a special type of financing that offers fixed, lower-than-average interest rates. You also pay back the loan through your property tax bill, which makes it easier to manage than some other lending options.

Leasing Vs. Buying Solar Panels: Pros and Cons

When you lease solar panels, the developer handles the installation and maintenance. You then pay a flat monthly fee in exchange for the panels.

The monthly cost of leasing solar panels is more manageable for many people compared to paying for a system outright or repaying a loan. However, there are some downsides to this option, including these:

  • You don’t own the system.
  • You have to put the money you save on electricity toward paying to rent your solar panels.
  • You can’t take advantage of tax credits and other incentives.
  • Your monthly payments might increase over time, depending on the specific terms laid out in your contract.

Why Should You Invest in a Solar System?

It doesn’t matter if you care about saving the planet or just want to save some cash each month. Either way, solar panels can help you get there.

The following are some of the top reasons to invest in a solar panel system:1

  • Solar panels can save you money on your monthly electric bills.
  • When you add a battery storage system, you can power your home even when everyone else in the neighborhood is dealing with outages.
  • Solar energy is renewable, and relying on it will lower your carbon emissions.
  • Solar panels work well in various climates, even those that aren’t warm and sunny year-round, meaning homeowners nationwide can benefit from them.
  • Solar panels typically have low maintenance costs and last around 25 years on average (without requiring much extra work from you).2

How To Get Solar Panels for Free (Where To Buy Solar Panels)

Put simply, no programs offer solar panels completely free of charge, other than in a few states that offer income based solar installations.

However, you can significantly lower the cost of your system by taking advantage of federal and state incentives and rebates. Solar loans also, in most cases, don’t require you to pay any money upfront, which can make them more accessible.

Some states, like California, also have programs in place that subsidize the cost of solar panel systems for those who meet specific income requirements.8

This is especially helpful if you are already looking forward to where to buy solar panels.

Frequently Asked Questions About Where To Buy Solar Panels

Will Solar Panels Get Cheaper?

Over the last decade, the cost of solar panels has decreased by over 50%.9 They will likely continue to become more accessible in the coming years, too.

Does Solar Increase Home Value?

Solar panels are a good investment because they add to your home’s resale value.

But wait, there’s more. Many states also don’t require you to pay additional property taxes even after your home’s value increases from adding solar panels.

Is Financing Solar Panels Worth It?

Financing solar panels can be worth it if you want to experience the benefits of going solar but can’t afford to pay for a system in full right now.

Remember to shop around and consider multiple loan options before making a final decision to ensure you get the best terms and interest rates possible.


References

1Minos, S. (2023, February 13). 5 Benefits of Residential Solar. Energy.gov. <https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/articles/5-benefits-residential-solar>

2Banoni, V. A., Arnone, A., Fondeur, M., Hodge, A., Offner, J. P., & Phillips, J. K. (2012). The place of solar power: an economic analysis of concentrated and distributed solar power. Chemistry Central Journal, 6(Suppl 1), S6. <https://doi.org/10.1186/1752-153X-6-S1-S6>

3Solar Energy Technologies Office. (2019, December 3). PV Cells 101: A Primer on the Solar Photovoltaic Cell. Energy.gov. <https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/articles/pv-cells-101-primer-solar-photovoltaic-cell>

4Aggarwal, V. (2023, May 1). How Much Do Solar Panels Cost in 2023? | EnergySage. Www.energysage.com. <https://www.energysage.com/local-data/solar-panel-cost/>

5Residential Clean Energy Credit | Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Www.irs.gov. <https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/residential-clean-energy-credit>

6Nguyen, O. (2015, February 24). Solar Certification and Licensing Requirements By State | Refrigeration School, Inc (RSI). Refrigeration School, Inc. (RSI). <https://www.rsi.edu/blog/solar/solar-certification-and-licensing-requirements-by-state/>

7Property Assessed Clean Energy Programs. (n.d.). Energy.gov. <https://www.energy.gov/scep/slsc/property-assessed-clean-energy-programs>

8Solar in Disadvantaged Communities. (n.d.). California Public Utilities Commission. Retrieved October 14, 2023, from <https://www.cpuc.ca.gov/industries-and-topics/electrical-energy/demand-side-management/solar-in-disadvantaged-communities>

9Why the Cost of Solar Panels Will Likely Keep Falling. (n.d.). CNET. <https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/why-the-cost-of-solar-panels-will-likely-keep-falling/>