Thinking of going solar in Pennsylvania? Don’t just go with the first company to knock on your door or cold call your phone. The wrong choice could leave you stuck with unexpected costs or a nonfunctioning system.
Getting solar panels for your home can be a valuable investment, paying for itself in a matter of years with a steady stream of clean electricity. But a solar panel system can cost tens of thousands of dollars, so you should treat it like any serious home improvement.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the top national companies that install solar panels in the state, along with local companies and some general advice to help you with your decision.
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Best national solar companies in Pennsylvania
There are over 400 solar companies in Pennsylvania, including 198 installers. Some of the best solar companies CNET found in its research of the larger providers, like SunPower and Palmetto, do business in Pennsylvania, although you’ll find plenty of local providers as well.
Local solar panel companies in Pennsylvania
How to determine which solar company in Pennsylvania is best for you
As with choosing a contractor, you’ll need to do plenty of research and get multiple quotes before you settle on a solar installer. Here are a few tips we’ve gathered from experts to help you make your choice:
- Understand your local solar incentives.
- Read a solar company’s reviews and complaints.
- Talk to neighbors who have solar panels.
- Check that a company has the right licenses and certifications.
- Get multiple quotes and compare the prices and offerings.
- Ask the installer questions.
Average cost of solar panels in Pennsylvania
Here’s a look at the average cash price for a 5-kilowatt system before factoring in tax credits incentives, according to data from FindEnergy.com. But your system might become more expensive if you choose to include solar batteries or additional equipment in your purchase.
Pennsylvania solar panel costs
|System size (kW)
|Price per watt
Pennsylvania solar panel incentives and rebates
Solar is still a considerable investment, even with lower prices, the federal solar tax credit and state incentives. The Clean Energy Credit allows you to claim 30% of the cost of a solar system from your federal income taxes. The 30% Clean Energy Credit applies to systems installed between 2022 through 2032. The credit drops to 26% in 2033 and 22% in 2034 and expires in 2035.
You can complete and submit form 5695 (PDF) to the IRS to receive the Clean Energy Credit. Follow the IRS instructions on how to complete this form. After your paperwork is authorized, you will receive your solar savings in credit when you submit your federal tax return for the year.
Pennsylvania provides two additional incentives to spur residential solar development.
Pennsylvania solar incentives
|Solar Alternative Energy Credits
|SAECs allow solar system owners to get financial compensation for the energy they generate. Solar owners can get one SAEC for every megawatt-hour) power their system generates. SAEC values fluctuate daily, driven by market supply and demand conditions, but are valid for three consecutive years.
|Net metering allows a solar system owner to sell excess solar generation to the utility. Utilities in Pennsylvania must offer net metering at nondiscriminatory rates and can’t charge net-metered customers any fees they wouldn’t charge a non-net-metered customer.
How to pay for solar panels in Pennsylvania
There are different ways you can pay for solar panels in Pennsylvania. Each one has its benefits and downsides.
Cash: Buying a solar system outright gives you full ownership, and you don’t need to deal with monthly interest payments or loan fees — but purchasing in cash comes with a high upfront cost. However, the residential clean energy credit, a federal solar tax credit program, can significantly lower it (more than that below).
Solar Loan: The benefit of using a loan is you don’t need to pay a hefty upfront cost like paying with cash. But loans come with interest and other associated fees, which add to the total cost of solar.
Home equity: You don’t have to use a loan from your solar company. Financial institutions offer home equity loans and lines of credit (or HELOCs) that are commonly used for home improvement projects. These loans can be used for basically any purpose, and they may be a good fit for your solar project. Shop around and make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Personal loan: You can also borrow the money through a personal loan. The main difference between a personal loan and a home equity loan is that a personal loan is typically unsecured. That means your house isn’t at risk. The downside is they tend to have shorter terms and higher interest rates than home equity products.
Leasing: With leasing, a solar developer installs solar panels on your home and charges you a fixed monthly rate (think of it as paying rent) for using the power generated by the panels. Since the developer owns the panels, you wouldn’t be eligible for any tax and other incentives. All the incentives go to the developer.
Power purchase agreement: It’s similar to leasing but different. Under a power purchase agreement, you pay a fixed price per kilowatt-hour (a unit of energy measured as one kilowatt of power for one hour) for power produced by the panels. Like solar leasing, the company providing you energy through a power purchase agreement owns and maintains solar panels and receives all incentives.
While going solar isn’t cheap up front, owning a solar system through purchasing or taking out a loan is the most cost-saving option in the long run. The average payback period is six to nine years if you purchase your panels. However, solar panel ownership isn’t feasible for everyone. If you can’t buy or finance a solar system, your roof doesn’t have enough space for solar panels, or you rent your home, entering a solar lease and power purchase agreement could be other alternatives to go solar.
Read more: Want something smaller than a whole-home solar system? See our picks for the best portable solar panels and solar generators.
Installation factors to consider
Investing in a solar energy system is a serious financial commitment. It’s worth considering various factors that may or may not make solar panels suitable for your home.
Condition and angle of your roof: The US Department of Energy calculated that solar panels operate most efficiently at a tilt between 15 and 40 degrees. Roofs with this pitch may help your solar panels produce more energy. Your roof must also be in good physical shape before panels are installed. Your solar installer should recommend any repairs before you finalize your solar contract.
Location: Solar capacity in Pennsylvania has increased in recent years despite its northern location, considerable snowfall and cold winters. Solar panels not generating energy in the winter is a myth. On the contrary, solar panels achieve high efficiency during colder seasons, because their ideal internal temperature is between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. While solar generation is lower in the winter compared to the summer because of shorter days, solar panels produce electricity if they are exposed to sunlight.
Insurance coverage: Adding your solar system to your homeowner’s insurance policy could provide more protection for your solar equipment. Talk to your insurance company about coverage for your solar system.
Cost vs. time: It’s important to consider how long you intend to reside in your home before committing to solar panels. A solar investment makes sense over the long term. Binding yourself to an expensive solar commitment may not be worth the cost if you decide to move a few years after installation.
How we found the best solar companies
Doing a hands-on review of a solar company and accounting for all the differences between projects is tricky. Instead, we focused on what we can evaluate and measure among solar companies.
When evaluating solar companies, we focus on three categories: equipment, warranties and service.
In the equipment category, companies receive scores for the solar panels, batteries and inverters they install. The warranty category includes the guarantees on the solar panels, workmanship and weatherization against leaks. Companies earn points in the service category if they offer a price match guarantee, a decent level of price transparency and a highly rated app for monitoring solar energy production. Companies lose points if there are any major issues concerning customer service, including lawsuits, investigations or reputations for low-quality service. These service issues will always be detailed in the review.
Here’s a more detailed look at how we break down the scoring.
We don’t consider the average price of a company’s installations in their score. Accurate pricing information is hard to find and tricky to compare across service areas and project to project. Companies are often slow to disclose their prices as well. We also leave out easy-to-find (but not useful information), such as how many states a company operates in.
How we evaluate solar companies
Pennsylvania solar power FAQs
Correction, Feb. 22: The comparison chart originally misstated the average solar panel system size in the US. The average system size is 8.6 kilowatts.
Source : https://www.cnet.com/home/energy-and-utilities/pennsylvania-solar-panels/#ftag=CAD590a51e