Are Solar Panels Worth It In Washington State?

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    Are Solar Panels Worth It In Washington State?

    Installing solar on your home is a great way to save money, the environment, and be a steward for clean energy, but are solar panels worth it in Washington? 
    We’ll explain 7 factors that we use to determine whether or not solar is worth it on your home.

    Intro to Solar Costs in Washington

    Washington state is one of the best states in the country for investing in solar energy systems. With our long summer days, beneficial net-metering programs, and the State and Federal incentives available, Washington state truly is a fantastic market for solar power.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s right for your home.

    Here are 7 factors that will dictate the cost of your solar system, return on investment, and help to determine if solar is right for you.

    7 Factors that Affect the Cost of Your Solar System

    While not a complete list, here are 7 major factors that affect the cost of your solar system. For a better idea of the cost of switching to solar, we recommend signing up for a free estimate with our consultants.

    1. The Size of Your Solar System

    The Size of Your Solar System is the number 1 factor that determines the cost. The size is measured in kilowatts (kW) or 1,000 Watts and is determined by the number of panels times the wattage of each panel. For example, a solar system with (20) 300W panels would be 20 x 300W or 6,000 Watts (6 kW) system. Do not confuse this with your solar system’s ability to produce energy. The amount of energy that a system can produce is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh).

    2. The Components - Panels, Inverters, Racking, and BOS

    The Components – Panels, Inverters, Racking, and BOS – of your system can range widely! You can have a 6 kW system on the same roof, with the same installer, that can cost $12,000 all the way up to $24,000 simply by changing the components. Even within Tier 1 panels, there is a wide range in cost depending on the brand of the panel, the warranty, the power density (watt per square foot), and the aesthetics (black on white vs. black on black). Microinverters, with all of their benefits over string inverters, cost a premium as well. Your racking system, which holds your panels to your roof and provides a watertight seal on roof connections can range in pricing, simply by selecting black vs silver or hidden end-clamps vs exposed.

    3. Workmanship & Quality of Labor

    Workmanship & Quality of Labor plays a huge role in not only the cost of your solar system but in the value. Going with cheap day laborers as compared to seasoned solar installers might seem like a good idea when you’re writing the check on day one. However, a couple of years down the line, when issues begin to arise, you’re going to wish you had paid just a bit more for a system that will stand the test of time. Also, small things like conduit runs over the roof as compared to concealed wiring can save time and cost, but greatly reduce the quality and aesthetics of your installation.

    4. The Pitch of Your Roof

    The pitch of your roof determines how fast or how slow the solar installers can move about. A 9/12 (36.9 degrees) roof pitch can take twice as long to install as compared to a 4/12 (18.4 degrees) pitch. The pitch can also affect solar production. A 35-degree pitch is an ideal angle for solar collection based on homes in our area.  Any deviance off that ideal angle slightly reduces your system’s production.

    5. The Number of Individual Arrays

     The number of individual arrays affects various cost impacts such as time to install and required materials. A single square array of (20) panels in a 4×5 layout can be mounted on a roof in an afternoon by (2) installers. Those same (20) panels can take up to three days to install if they’re broken up in sections of 2-4 panels. Also, by breaking panels up, you’re unable to share rail and utilize continuous wire runs, requiring additional materials and junction boxes.

    6. Portrait vs. Landscape Orientation

    Portrait vs. landscape orientation is a big factor in material and labor costs. Mounting a panel in portrait orientation (long side on the vertical axis, “hamburger”) saves money on rail, wiring, and is easier to install. Mounting panels in landscape orientation (long side on the horizontal axis, “hot dog”) uses more wiring to connect from panel to panel, and more rail to support the long side of the panel. The more rail that you have, the more standoffs that are required. The more standoffs, the more roof penetrations, the more flashing, and the more time it takes to install. 

    7. Distance to Home Run

    Distance to home run is how far your point of interconnection is from the furthest array. This can be the distance from your meter, main service panel, or a sub-panel to the array. That distance could be short, however, if it’s a difficult run through a tight attic space it can add cost to your project.

    Solar Return on Investment (ROI)

    Totaling up your project cost and comparing it to how much energy it’ll produce gives us your Solar Return on Investment (ROI). We factor in your existing cost of power and how much solar can save you over time. While solar doesn’t make sense for all homes, we can create a custom design that utilizes the best features of your home to maximize your solar ROI.  

    While it can be expensive upfront to install solar panels, solar loans are a great way to finance your investment and spread the cost of the system into low monthly payments. There are $0 down loan options available which put solar in reach for most all Homeowners!  


    There are many factors that play into the cost of your solar system and system costs can vary. Outside of site conditions, you get what you pay for. Tier 1 panels with the high power density and great warranties, paired with Micro-Inverters, mounted on black racking systems with concealed end-clamps cost a premium. You can save money by reducing any one of those factors, but that can change your power production and resulting ROI as well.

    Caution: Be very wary of any solar supplier who offers a one price fits all model. Each roof is unique and each installation is different. A low-cost solution will likely be done by day laborers who install low-end products with poor warranties and support. Invest in your home and invest in a system that’s built to last. If your solar system is installed correctly there’s no reason it won’t last 50 years or more!

    What is PowerNW's Service Area in Washington?

    Currently, our Washington state service area includes Clark County and Cowlitz County.

    power northwest washington solar service area

    Estimate My Savings Today

    Contact our team of solar experts at Power Northwest today for a custom quote! We will be more than happy to discuss your solar project, provide a quote, and estimate your long-term savings as a result of going solar.


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