Right when you think you’ve finally figured out your true cost of going solar… You find out something you didn’t know about your home in your site assessment.
Don’t you just hate it when things don’t go exactly as planned?
But the truth is, there are several factors that your solar installer and “free quote calculators” just can’t account for until they send someone out to see your property in person.
And in case you’re wondering if any of these extra expenses are really necessary, you should know that they’re often essential to ensure your new solar system is safe, efficient, and built to last for decades.
But, if you’re looking to skip the surprises, brush up on these 4 hidden costs of going solar first.
What 4 Factors Can Increase My Solar Cost?
Your solar cost may be more expensive than you initially anticipated for various reasons. Here are a few of the most common culprits behind increased solar costs:
- Main panel upgrades
- Tree removal
- Roof repairs or replacement
- Trenching or foundation work
Let’s get into why these adjustments are necessary, how they can improve your system, and about how much you can expect to pay in each instance.
1. Main Panel Upgrades (MPU)
If you live in an older home or rural area, you may need to upgrade your main electrical panel to handle the additional power load of solar panels.
Old and outdated electrical panels aren’t just inefficient—they can even be dangerous. When an aging electrical panel becomes overloaded, it can spark an electrical fire that can be deadly to you and your home.
In addition to accommodating the additional amps needed for your panels and improving the safety of your home, main panel upgrades (MPU) are also a great investment in your future.
An up-to-date electrical panel adds value to your home just like your panels do and can prepare you for other power-hungry home additions down the line, like an electric vehicle (EV) charger.
An MPU is also an excellent opportunity to incorporate energy storage into your solar system, like a backup battery that can power you through outages and help you use more of your energy onsite.
Your solar installer will be able to tell if your panel needs an upgrade after your site assessment. Depending on how many additional amps your new solar system will need, you can expect to pay around up to $2500 for a main panel upgrade.
2. Tree Removal
Often, solar installers use satellite imagery to determine different details of your system. The problem is that they may be working off old images that aren’t a true reflection of your property.
Once your solar installer performs a site assessment, they’ll have a much better idea of your property’s needs and might recommend removing or trimming trees that could block your system.
Their goal is to make sure your Southern view is unobstructed so that your panels can soak up as much sunlight as possible. Though East and West-facing roofs are sometimes just as valuable.
Nobody likes removing trees, but doing so will ultimately improve the efficiency of your solar panels, which puts more money back in your pocket.
And while trees are great for the environment, your switch to solar is even better: the average residential system eliminates 3-4 tons of carbon emissions each year, which is equivalent to planting more than 100 trees annually (EnergySage).
Tree removal pricing depends on a variety of factors—like where you live, the number of trees you need to be removed, and how large they are—and can add anywhere from <$200-$2,000+ to your cost of going solar.
3. Roof Repairs or Replacement
Your solar system is set to last for several decades, so you want to make sure that the roof it’s installed on will, too.
If your current roof shows any signs of aging, has structural issues, or is not compatible with solar panels, consider repairing or replacing it first—especially if it only has a few years left in its lifespan.
Repairing or replacing your roof after your panels are installed involves additional expenses like labor and storage that can be avoided entirely by making sure your roof is ready first.
That’s why at Kuubix Energy, we recommend installing panels on roofs with at least 10 years left in their lifespan, though we install on any roof that is structurally sound. In any case, we recommend doing any repairs or replacements before your installation.
And as an added benefit, your solar panels will actually extend the lifetime of your new roof by providing an additional layer of protection from the elements.
4. Trenching and Foundation Work
If you’re installing a ground-mounted system, you should factor trenching and foundation work into your solar costs.
Ground-mounted systems are a great option if your roof isn’t fit for solar or if you need a larger system to meet your energy needs, but they’re also more complicated and labor-intensive than your standard roof mount.
Your solar installer will need to build a sturdy structure to support your panels (instead of just attaching them to your roof) and safely bury your wires through a trenching process.
Trenching involves digging a trench at least 2 feet deep from your panels to your home to keep your solar cables protected underground. Trenching is usually charged by the linear foot, so your cost here will depend on how far your cables will need to go.
Ground-mounted systems also require a strong foundation, which solar installers achieve by creating custom solutions based on your property’s soil, like driven beams or ballast systems. However, working with questionable soil or around large rocks can quickly run up your solar costs.
So, when considering the cost of a ground-mounted system, make sure you include trenching and room for possible foundation issues in your estimations.
Reviewing 4 Common Hidden Solar Costs
Your hidden costs for solar might involve upgrading your home with a new electrical panel or roof or improving your solar panels efficiency by removing trees that shade your system.
If you roof is not suitable for solar, you may have additional costs when setting up a ground mounted solar system, like trenching or a custom foundation solution for your soil type.
Sometimes, a higher upfront cost is essential to creating a long-lasting and efficient solar system that is compatible with your property.
Like with solar, you’ll likely be able to recoup on these investments later, either through the value, they add to your home or your panel’s increased production.
Let’s review 4 common hidden solar costs you should know about before you switch to solar:
- You may need to upgrade your main electrical panel to handle the additional load of your panels, but this investment will ultimately improve the safety and value of your home
- Removing trees that could shade your system can improve your solar panels production
- Repairing or replacing your roof before your panels are installed can save you money down the line
- If you’re installing a ground-mounted system, consider the costs of trenching and foundation work in your pricing