The past decade has seen astounding growth in the U.S. solar industry across the board, but a few key states have led the way. Though many stakeholders are aware of the popularity of solar in sunny states like California, Florida and Arizona, very few are aware that Pennsylvania is one of the top states for solar in the country with some of the industry’s best prices. Over 34,000 PA homes are currently powered by solar and the state has witnessed a 64% decline in prices over the past 5 years. In this article we’ll explain what to expect a solar installation to cost in Pittsburgh and offer some advice for solar shoppers in the greater Pittsburgh area.
How much do solar panels cost in Pittsburgh?
As of the end of 2016, the average cost for solar panels in Pittsburgh was $3.27 per watt. Since the mean system size in the U.S. is 5 kilowatts (5,000 watts), the average price of a solar system in Pittsburgh is $16,350 before rebates and incentives.
While this price is competitive in terms of the overall state of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh’s average solar cost is actually significantly lower than the national average. Check out the following data from quotes on the EnergySage marketplace to see how Pittsburgh solar prices stack up against the rest of the country.
Solar pricing table: Pittsburgh compared to national average cost
|System size||National Average Cost (Post ITC)||Pittsburgh Average Cost (Post ITC)|
*Values in this table include the 30% discount from the Federal solar tax subsidy (ITC)
This table references data from prices quoted to homeowners on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace in 2016, offering a comparison of Pittsburgh pricing to quotes seen at the national average. Though prices in the Pittsburgh area are slightly lower than the greater state of Pennsylvania, the difference is slim. However, the difference in price between Pittsburgh and the national average cost of solar in 2016 is fairly significant, usually earning homeowners a discount worth hundreds of dollars.
Installing low cost solar panels in PA: a case study from a Pittsburgh homeowner
Leslie Heilman didn’t think it was worth it for her to go solar in Pittsburgh, PA. She lives in a cozy house built in 1905 in one of the city’s older neighborhoods, and it’s pretty grey most of the year. “Were as gloomy as they get except for Seattle and Buffalo” she says “My husband works in environmental protection, and so even though we have a real interest in lessening our carbon footprint solar never really came to mind because we assumed that Pittsburgh was not a cost effective place to put in solar.”
Then, Leslie and her husband attending a community meeting held by Solar Allegheny. Solar Allegheny is made possible by the support of The Heinz Endowments and is organized by EnergySage’s partner SmartPower. They learned that their area did indeed get enough sun to make the investment worthwhile, and started to reconsider. So they started to gather research about their house in particular using the EnergySage Solar Marketplace.
Finding the best solar system from multiple quotes on EnergySage
“The first thing that we liked about EnergySage was that you could use google maps to zero in on a particular property to tell you how well you are set up for solar” says Leslie. “We found the process to be really good because while it wasn’t apples to apples direct comparisons, because [the installers] were using different equipment, it was a really good educational experience, we learned a lot about the different options.”
Leslie received multiple quotes from installers who could build a solar system for her house, and The EnergySage Solar Marketplace helped her pick the right one for her situation.
“[The Marketplace] shows you how much money you can save over time, it shows you approximately how much energy you can create, in the end we went with one of the companies that was just a little more cost effective. We’ll be producing more energy and it’s about three to four thousand dollars less.”
Leslie also found the information she received empowering, and she used it to get the best deal she could on her installation.
“I’m not the best negotiator in the world but it showed me that one company was offering a 25 year warranty, so it gave me the idea to ask the other company for the same thing, it actually got pretty competitive.”
Leslie is expecting her installation to be completed in late April. Her system will cover about 120% of her monthly energy usage. “We’ll get to see our meter go backwards sometimes!”
EnergySage is a quote comparison tool that allows homeowners to shop for solar with guidance about equipment, financing and installers. Additionally, the price-auction dynamic of EnergySage creates a buyer-friendly scenario where multiple, pre-vetted installers compete for a homeowner’s business in real time. Because of this competitive environment, solar prices on EnergySage are between 10%-15% cheaper on average.
Three tips for solar shoppers in Pittsburgh
Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more
As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry.
To find the best solar contractors in Pittsburgh that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save $2,000 or more on their solar panel installation.
The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price
The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.
Comparing all your equipment options is just as important
National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.
For any Pittsburgh homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.