How Much Does Solar Cost in Portland, OR?

Installing solar panels on your home is a great way to save the environment and be a steward for clean energy, but is it worth the cost?  We'll explain 7 factors that determine the cost of solar and how we determine whether solar for your home provides a positive Return on Investment.
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    Installing solar panels on your home is a great way to save the environment and be a steward for clean energy, but is it worth the cost?  We’ll explain 7 factors that determine the cost of solar and how we determine whether solar for your home provides a positive Return on Investment.

    Intro to Solar Costs in Portland

    Oregon 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, Oregon truly is a fantastic market for solar power. The Energy Trust of Oregon is committed to renewable energy, which translates into high quality, low-cost systems that provide a great return on investment for Homeowners.

    Residential solar energy systems in Portland range from about $10,000 to $50,000 before incentives. However, the exact price depends primarily on 7 factors:

    7 Factors that Affect the Cost of Your Solar System

    Here are the top 7 factors that will affect the cost of switching to solar. While not all the reasons, these are the major players.

    1. The Size of Your Solar System

    The size of your solar system is the number one factor that determines the cost. The size of a system is measured in kilowatts (kW), which is determined by the number of panels multiplied by the wattage of each panel. 

    For example, a solar system with (20) 400W panels would be 20 x 400W = 8,000 Watts, or a (8 kW) system. Do not confuse this with your solar system’s ability to produce energy over time. The total amount of energy that a system can produce over a period of time is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). For more information, please read our article on System Capacity vs. Energy Production.

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

    The price of a system’s components (the panels, inverters, racking, and BOS) can range widely. You can have a 8 kW system on the same roof, with the same installer, that can cost between $16,000 and $32,000 depending on the components used. Even with 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, are much more expensive as well. Your racking system, which is used to safely fix panels to your roof and provides a watertight seal on roof connections, ranges in pricing simply by selecting black vs. silver or hidden vs. exposed end-clamps. 

    3. Workmanship & Quality of Labor

    Workmanship and quality of labor plays a huge role not only in the cost but in the value of your solar system as well. Going with seasoned solar installers that are paid by the hour to provide quality craftsmanship is vastly different than working with a national company that pays their installers by the panel with incentives to get on and off the roof as fast as possible so that they can rush over to the next job.

    The lower upfront cost may seem enticing but a couple of years down the line, when quality issues begin to arise, you’re going to wish you had paid for a quality installation that was able to withstand the test of time. 

    Also, small things like running exposed conduits over your roof 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 your roof. A 9/12 (36.9 degrees) roof pitch can take twice as long to install 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 production based on the latitude of Portland, OR. Any deviance off that ideal angle will begin to slightly reduce your system’s production.

    5. The Number of Individual Arrays

    The number of individual arrays affects the cost of a system because it can potentially take longer and require more materials to install. A single array of (20) panels organized 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. When breaking up panels, they won’t be able to share rail and utilize continuous wire runs, and will inevitably require additional materials and junction boxes to install.

    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) saves you money on rail and wiring, and is much easier to install. 

    Mounting panels in landscape orientation (long side on the horizontal axis) 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, flashing, and 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 array to your meter, main service panel, or sub-panel. While that distance can be short, sometimes it’s difficult to run wiring through a tight attic space and can potentially add cost to your project.

    Tesla home solar roof panels larger
    Image: Tesla Solar Shingles

    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 your solar system can save you over time. While every home is different, we are able to create custom designs that utilize the best features of your home to maximize your Solar ROI.

    The cost of going solar can be expensive upfront, but solar loans are a great way to finance your investment and spread the costs over low monthly payments. There are also zero down payment loan options available that can put solar in reach for many homeowners.

    Conclusion

    There are many factors that play into the cost of your solar system but when it comes to solar, you get what you pay for. Installing tier 1 panels with better warranties, mounted on black racking systems with concealed end-clamps, and paired with microinverters, may cost you more upfront. But by changing any one of these factors, you can potentially change your power production and the resulting Solar ROI.

    Caution: Be 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 installers incentivized to move as quickly as possible using poor methods and low-end products with poor customer 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.

     

    Questions to ask your Solar Installer

    Be wary of installers that are paid by the panel because they are incentivized to rush through jobs as fast as possible so that they can get to the next one. You can't rush craftsmanship.

    Many installers will use shortcuts like exposed conduit runs over the roof which are easier and cheaper, but they will deteriorate faster over time. What you want are concealed junction boxes that bring the wires through your attic. This isn’t possible on all homes, but is something to look for.

    Silver, or mill rail, is cheaper but a lot less attractive, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Don’t go with an installer who saves a few extra bucks on a less attractive rail mounting system. Ask for black on black panels with black rail.

    There are two types of clamps for rail systems; standard clamps and hidden end clamps. Standard clamps attach to the end of the outside panel and require that the rail extends out past the panel itself. Whereas hidden end clamps are attached underneath the panel itself, conceal the clamp and any extra rail from view. It takes a little longer to install, but provides a much cleaner look.

    The best option is a metal flashed connection. Be wary of installers that rely just on sealant or “pucks” to seal the roof. Sealant will break down over time, whereas metal flashings will last a lifetime.

    Estimate My Savings Today

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

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