Until recently, Texas wasn’t even among the top 10 for solar energy, and many were surprised when the Lone Star State was ranked #3 in the U.S. for solar jobs in 2016. Texas is adopting solar at one of the fastest rates in the country, and for good reason. Prices fell by 20 percent last year, and a number of utilities across the state created or extended major incentive programs for solar panel systems.
If you’re considering solar, look no further than Houston to find the lowest cost of solar in the state. In this article we’ll explain how Houston is becoming one of the top cities for solar in the nation and why it is home to some of the lowest solar prices in the country.
How much do solar panels cost in Houston?
As of the end of 2016, the average cost for solar panels in Houston was $3.22 per watt. Since the average system size in the U.S. is 5 kilowatts (5,000 watts), that means the average price of a solar system in Houston is $16,100 before incentives like the solar ITC.
Though this price would be attractive to homeowners across the country, it’s actually a very affordable price even when compared to the rest of Texas. Because of increased installer activity and the active energy market in Houston, prices are some of the lowest you’ll see in the U.S.
Texas solar pricing table: Houston compared to state and national average cost
|SYSTEM SIZE||NATIONAL AVERAGE COST (AFTER ITC)||Texas AVERAGE COST (AFTER ITC)||Houston AVERAGE COST (AFTER ITC)|
*Note – prices in this table have the 30% Federal solar subsidy already included
The above table, which uses pricing data from solar quotes received by homeowners on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace in 2016, offers a comparison of national, state (Texas), and city (Houston) prices for solar panel systems. The data illustrates the large disparity between typical solar prices in Texas and the rest of the country.
When looking at the solar industry as a whole, Texas is without a doubt one of the most affordable places to install solar panels. Even more so, when comparing Houston’s market to the rest of the country, the advantage for homeowners is further outlined. The good news for most Houston homeowners is that these low costs do not even incorporate the added benefit of net metering, offered by one of the leading Texas utilities.
Green Mountain Energy net metering: the top solar incentive for Houston homeowners
One common concern for homeowners installing solar is whether or not their system will be able to completely offset their energy use. In most cases, the typical PV system in the U.S. offsets between 70 and 80 percent of electricity use, which begs the question: where will I get power when my solar panels are not producing enough energy (like at night or during bad weather)?
Though adding more panels to one’s system or pairing your solar panels with storage products are solutions to this problem, the best solution is net metering: the process of pushing excess power to the grid when your solar panels over-perform and pulling from the grid when your panels are not producing enough. In layman’s terms, net metering offers homeowners free solar storage – a game changer in terms of solar economics and a great benefit that Houston homeowners enjoy.
In addition to net metering, customers of Green Mountain Energy may qualify for their SolarSPARC program, which offers a rebate to further reduce the price of installing a solar system. This program is offered in limited supply so you will need to confirm with the utility that you can still qualify. Rebates can take an additional $3,000 off solar system price tag on average, according to a study done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
How Houston homeowners can save big on solar panels
Though the record low up front costs for solar in Houston are a major selling point for locals, the long-term return on investment for solar in Houston makes it even more ideal. Due to the rising cost of electricity in Texas, solar homeowners in the Lone Star State face substantial utility costs: in 2016, the solar quotes Houston homeowners received on EnergySage yielded 20-year savings estimates of $15,708 on average.
However, what isn’t captured in that estimate is the drastic impact you as a solar shopper can have on the economics of solar based on how much research you do and how savvy you are in the market, bringing us to our…
Three tips for solar shoppers in Houston, TX
With solar quotes, the more the merrier
Shopping for a solar panel system is a long process that should include a hefty amount of research. Part of the decision-making process should be a thorough consideration of every option available to you and every company that serves the Houston area. Remember, Texas has one of the most active energy markets in the country and some of the lowest prices in the country: there are plenty of solar installers to consider.
Of course, in order to find the best small contractors in Houston that are not on billboard ads or in TV commercials, you’ll need to access an installer network like EnergySage. If you’d like to start getting quotes from Houston solar contractors today, register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save ten percent or more on their solar installation.
The biggest company will not always quote the best price
The “bigger isn’t always better” premise is one of the main reasons we always recommend that homeowners compare every option available to them, especially in big solar markets like Houston. In residential solar, a handful of large companies control most of the market, and their business model operates on the assumption that homeowners won’t bother to shop around. On the contrary, the small Houston installers on EnergySage know that they are not the only company offering you a quote and thus they offer lower prices on average to stay competitive.
If you have quotes from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers in your area to ensure you don’t overpay for solar. (Remember that the prices displayed in the above data table reflect quotes received on EnergySage – prices from bigger installers are likely to be higher).
Always compare multiple equipment options
Just as large installers will not need to offer the best price because they face minmal competition, they will also feel less pressure to offer a diverse selection of solar equipment – they may even only offer one brand of solar panel and one type of inverter. For this reason, it is imperative to get multiple solar bids so you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.
Certain solar panels will have much higher efficiency ratings than others and depending on where you live in Houston and the roof type you have, you may not need to pay more for premium solar equipment. There are many variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. Your roof may best suit a cheaper economy solar panel – the only way to find out is to look at quotes that have different equipment and financing offers.
For any Houston homeowner in the early stage of solar shopping that would just like a ballpark estimate for a solar panel installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your specific location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local installers today, check out our quote comparison platform.