Solar Panel Cost Averaging (Part 1)

What’s the best way to purchase solar panels for your home?

That used to be a hard question.

It isn’t anymore.

The best way to install solar panels on your home is a method called “Solar Panel Cost Averaging”

In the past, the costs of installing a system dropped dramatically as you increased the size of the installation.

That meant that a typical initial installation would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

That’s not true anymore.

With newer panels, it’s possible to get started for a couple of thousand dollars (less if you DIY).


The reason is due to micro-inverters.

This makes it possible for you to start with an installation as small as one panel.

That’s right, one panel.

The only other costs are a couple of hundred dollars to wire that panel to your junction box and file the paperwork (or you can DIY it).


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Discussion — 5 Responses

  • Matt March 4, 2015 on 8:43 am

    Re: Solar

    I recently moved to Austin from San Francisco, I lived in the foggiest neighborhood in the city (Outer Sunset).

    I had Solar on my house because of the initiatives that made it cost effective, So I agree with some of your info, but I am also a bit more informed, and you could have done more homework. I didn’t pay any electric bills for the last 12 months, only had a small system. (7 Kyocera Panels with Microinverters).

    First thing is that Microinverters suck, they crash all the time, not a problem for the people with large single inverters. (I had every panel replaced under warranty twice) my home ended up helping them figure out the design flaw because of the number of crashes.

    Second issue is the DIY comment. If you don’t have a serious background in electronics or engineering, you’ll never pass inspection, and may burn your home down. (and won’t have anyone to call when the micro inverters/panels crash)

    If you want to go totally off the grid, and live a lifestyle most are accustomed to (TV, lights, Hot water, computers etc) you will need a battery bank the size of a minivan to save all that power. I’m not opposed to that, except for the space consideration and potential harm living next to a giant battery might cause.

    Another issue is that solar works well on cloudy days, and panels run more efficiently when not overheated.

    Lastly, the price that the power company buys the power back from you is a raw deal, but not quite as bad as you represent it. (I hate power companies, especially when you can’t choose).

    I definitely agree with you about leasing, that’s a complete scam.

    Just my two cents.


    • John Robb Matt March 4, 2015 on 3:53 pm


      Thanks for the feedback.

      1) It appears you bought your micro-inverters from a bad vendor. The technology is sound and effective.

      2) If you can wire a room (lights and outlets) you can install solar panels with micro-inverters. It’s simple AC wiring (DC wiring can kill you). Also, there’s no fire risk with doing it (they don’t island like panels with DC inverters). Unfortunately, the old DC inverters rules are still in place in many areas, which prevent self-installs. To get around this stupidity, use an electrician for the first couple of panels, get the inspection so you can get the tax credits, and add the rest on your own (up to the limit of the connection).

      3) Going completely off-grid isn’t smart right now. That’s changing. Affordable whole house batteries (Musk is building a plant for those) are a few short years out. Regardless, the best plan isn’t to go off the grid, it is to stay connected but produce more than you consume. The only problem is getting paid what that peak power is worth. For example, in a place like Austin, during summer afternoons that power can be worth up to 50 times what we get paid for it.


      • Matt John Robb March 4, 2015 on 10:32 pm

        hey John, Thanks for taking the time to respond.

        I had Kyocera panels, which were and might still be cutting edge for the micro inverter product, you’d be better off setting up a full size inverter, and adding panels as you can.

        I’m renting now, so it’s pretty much moot for me, but I paid zero last year in electricity in SF, and my Ex would leave lights on all over the place even in the am (the house faced west on a corner with about 20 south facing windows). I actually got a check from PG&E for $133 about a month ago.

        I haven’t spent a summer in Austin yet, and will be interested to see what my power bill looks like (pretty pissed off about all the additional charges they currently impose , I used $30 worth of Electricity, and my bill was like $76). Thought I was getting screwed in SF, seems much worse here.

        I’m with you on the issue of what Austin Power pays V. what they charge, I believe there should be parity as seasonal costs change, and think people will only take on the city when more people are using solar.

        I’m a fan of Musk, he’s brilliant but a mad man at the same time.

        The main issue with solar now is that the best panels (sun power) still loose efficiency when they overheat, and that’s why places that are very hot haven’t embraced it.

        anyway, cheers man, if you have any interest in teaching someone to shoot handguns with accuracy, send me an email. (saw your background and appreciate your service)

        Be well,


  • Beth Morgan May 13, 2015 on 4:52 pm

    Hey John, I tried to sign up for your email list but is says it’s not active at this time. Help!

    • Jobeth Beth Morgan March 9, 2017 on 9:23 am

      Thknas for taking the time to post. It’s lifted the level of debate