The Cost Of Solar Panels In Florida. Is It Worth It?

Kenneth Wilson

As our state has abundant sun, it’s not a surprise that a lot of us want to go solar. But even if we are called the Sunshine State, we only rank third for solar potential and 14th for the number of rooftop solar installed in the United States. 

Do we have enough sun? You’ll find the answer in the latter part of this guide, but for now, let’s see what are the advantages of switching to solar energy in Florida and other information you should know before investing in solar panels.

What are the benefits of going Solar in Florida?

There are several benefits and incentives for switching to solar energy in Florida. You can be eligible for Investment Tax Credit, sales and property tax exemptions, and net metering.

1

Federal Government’s Investment Tax Credit (ITC)

One of the best incentives of going solar is a part of your installation cost can be reduced from your federal taxes. If you buy your own solar energy system this year, you will get back 30% of your solar installation and battery expenses. For example, if you bought your solar energy system for $20,000, the actual cost will be $14,000 after the investment tax credit. Sunrun recommends that you contact a tax professional for a more accurate number of your ITC.


You should know that the percentage changes every year. It will drop to 26% by next year and then be reduced to 22% in 2021. Unfortunately, the solar tax credit will expire by 2021 for residential installation. 


Note: This only applies to those who buy their solar energy system with cash or solar loan. You should also have enough income for the ITC to be relevant.

2

Sales and Property Tax Exemptions

When buying your solar energy system, you don’t have to pay the sales tax due to the Solar and CHP Sales Tax Exemption. This will save you 6% of what you would have originally paid.


For property tax, you will be exempted from the usual tax costs when adding value to your home. Florida has a Property Tax Exclusion for Residential Renewable Energy Property so you won’t see additional costs on your property tax bill.

3

Net Metering

Net metering depends on your utility company. For Florida Power and Light (FPL), they allow residential solar energy systems to connect to their grid. Homeowners will receive credit for the energy they produce, which will reflect on their energy bill. By January the following year, homeowners will get monetary compensation for unused credits the previous year.


For other utility companies, check them out here: Tampa Electric CompanyGulf Power, and Duke Energy

What is a Kilowatt Hour (kWh)?

Before we discuss what kilowatt-hour means, let’s find out what kilowatt means. A kilowatt (kW) is a measure of energy that pertains to one thousand watts of electricity. Solar panels, generators, and other similar appliances use this rate to show the maximum amount of power it can produce.

A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is how much kilowatts an appliance or device uses per hour. This is the amount you see on your energy bill.

How much power can Solar Panels create in Florida?

The power a solar energy system will generate depends on the month, location, and the kilowatts of the system. One day in Florida usually has 5.2 hours of ideal sunlight in a month. Ideal sunlight pertains to a sunny day with clear skies. Don’t worry, even if it’s cloudy, the system will still capture solar power, but it will be less than when there’s ideal sunlight.

If a 5kW solar energy system is installed, Florida homeowners tend to generate the most energy in April with 6.41 kilowatts per day. The lowest energy captured is in December with 4.49 kilowatts per day.

The data above only applies to a 5kW solar energy system. If you get more panels, you can generate more power. When computing for the energy you can produce, you should know that each panel is not 100% efficient, but only 85% to 92% - this also applies to the new ones.

Is there enough Sun?

Yes, Florida receives 18,581.94 KiloJoules per square meter (KJ/m²) of sunlight every day. Solar panels in Florida receive 33% more than solar panels in New York State which only receives 13,933.79 KJ/m² of sunlight per day. Specifically, for every 1 kilowatt of solar panels on a south-facing roof in Florida, it produces an average of 1,351 kWh per year.

Compared to other states, we have 10% more amount of sunlight, so the lack of sun is not a problem for us. But even if we have more sunlight and have the name 'Sunshine State', why aren’t we the leader in solar energy in the United States?

We may have more sunlight but our state is actually not as sunny as other states. The top states with the biggest potential for capturing solar energy are in the southwest, those with lots of desserts, namely Arizona, New Mexico, parts of West Texas, and areas in southeast California.

How much money will a Solar Energy System cost?

The average price of a solar energy system in Florida is $2.97 per watt as of October this year. For the specific cost, it will depend on the size of the solar energy system, equipment, installation company, and other factors. So if you wanted a system with 5 kilowatts or 5,000 watts, this would probably cost you $14,850, excluding incentives such as ITC and other tax exemptions. With ITC, you can get it for $10,395.

To give you a better estimate of the system you will need, the average size used by Florida homeowners is a 9.5 kW solar energy system. This will cost around $28,215 before ITC or $19,750.50 after ITC. On the other hand, the national average cost of solar panels per watt is $3.05, which is higher than Florida’s. But the average size of solar energy systems in the United States is only 6 kW, making it less expensive.

Is it worth investing in a Solar Energy System in Florida?

Yes, because even if we need to shell out more money to get a system installed, we have lower solar energy costs than the national average. A household in Florida typically uses 0.11 kWh or 1,078 kilowatts per month. According to the United States Energy Information Association (EIA), the average cost of energy in Florida is 11.90 cents per kWh. This is lower than the national average of solar energy cost, which is 13 cents per kWh.

If you get a 5 kW solar energy system, you will already be saving $4,455 thanks to ITC. For energy cost expenses, you will save $91.25 per month or $1,095.04 annually. This varies depending on the size of your system and electricity usage. You can maximize your savings by replacing your appliances with energy-efficient models.

Aside from saving your money, going solar will also help the environment. Some people prefer using clean and renewable to decrease their carbon footprint.

How long do Solar Panels last?

Your solar energy system should last more than 20 years. Most systems also have more than 25 years of warranty. 

With this in mind, if you spend $10,395 on the installation of a 5 kW solar energy system and save $1,095.04 from your energy bill, your payback period will be around 10 years. In 20 years, you could save about $10,950.40.

What are the Pros and Cons of Going Solar in Florida?

If you are not sure about switching to a solar energy system, here is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of going solar in Florida.

Pros

  • 30% federal tax credit (as of 2019)
  • Property and sales tax exemption
  • Net metering
  • Capture plenty of solar energy since we have a lot of sunshine
  • Environmentally-friendly solution
  • Quick payback period
  • Great investment and saves money in the long-run
  • Lower cost per watt for installation than the national average
  • Lower solar energy costs than the national average

Cons

  • Lower savings and returns compared to other states
  • There are no third-party ownership PPAs available*
  • *Other states offer this financing option which allows third-party solar developers to own the system installed on the client’s property and sell the captured solar energy back to them. Our state laws only allow public utilities to sell the electricity, which is available to the general public. 

Things you shouldn’t do before going Solar

LDS reliance shares the seven most common mistakes to avoid to efficiently capture solar energy.

1.

Do not confuse sun hours with daylight hours


Sun hour is a measurement for the hours a solar panel can get the most energy out of the day. Even if you have 15 hours of daylight during summer, you are only getting 7 sun hours (assuming that your solar panel is working efficiently). It still works for the other hours but at a reduced rate.

2.

Do not underestimate your energy consumption


You can find out how much power you consume by:

  • Getting a device to measure the electricity consumed.
  • Check the manufacturer’s information of each appliance for its estimate power consumption (the important appliances you should check are air conditioners, heaters, blow dryers, microwaves, refrigerators, and stoves).
3.

Do not forget to decrease your usage


Decrease your usage and make upgrades before going solar so you can save some money. Before installing a solar energy system, you can maximize your savings by upgrading to energy-efficient appliances, lighting, and more.

4.

Do not have unrealistic expectations


If you want to go solar to save money or even if you just want to reduce your carbon footprint, don’t forget that there will be limitations and it will vary depending on your solar energy system. If you just got a 100-watt solar panel kit to power a 600-watt appliance, the system will not be enough to power it. To get a good grasp of your system’s capability, start with something small, like a light.

5.

Do not install a solar panel system without plans


There are important variables you need to consider when installing solar panel systems, for example:

  • The angle of the solar panel should be equal to the latitude of your location.
  • Surprisingly, solar panels do not like heat and best runs when it is cool. This means you should have enough air gap between the roof and the solar panel.
6.

Do not rush decisions


Do not immediately accept an offer, especially unrealistic deals from grid-tied or lease systems. If someone is offering you a free solar energy system that can eliminate your energy costs, it probably has hidden drawbacks. Always check the fine print before signing.


You may also find a less expensive solar panel while doing your research, but you shouldn’t buy it immediately. It probably has B-grade cells or won’t work efficiently as stated. Get some guarantees before purchasing solar equipment.

7.

Do not buy a solar system if you haven’t planned what to do with it


You should first determine how you will use your solar system before purchasing one. Similar to buying a house, one should first know how many people will be living in it and determine their needs. Even if there’s a great deal for a one-bedroom place, you shouldn’t just get it. What if you are a family of 5?


Always do your research and ask people who have solar energy systems to help you decide on which system to get.

How to find a Solar Contractor

If you are planning to get a solar energy system installed, you should know that the cost will still depend on the system, equipment, size and angle of your roof, and contractor who will do the installation.

To get an estimate of your cost, you can check it using The EnergySage Solar Calculator. Input your address and estimated average electricity bill per month, and you will see estimates based on your roof and bids in your location.

You can also check out the top 20 residential contractors in Florida. There is also an option to see the best contractors by city.

If you are looking for a specific service, here are Florida Solar Installers that can be filtered by services and zip code. You can look for contractors who offer Residential Solar PV Installation, Residential Solar Hot Water Installation, Home Energy Audits, and more. You’ll find the address and phone number with the results.

Kenneth Wilson
November 8, 2019
Ideas & Inspiration, Solar

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done.

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