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Solar Panels in Iowa: Costs, Savings, and Whether They‘re Worth It

Solar energy is having its moment in the sun in Iowa. In 2021, the 127 megawatt Wapello Solar project came online, delivering clean power to over 16,000 Iowa homes. More homeowners across the Hawkeye State are starting to ask: are solar panels worth it here?

The short answer is, for many Iowans, yes! While upfront costs may seem daunting, solar delivers major utility bill savings that pay off over time. Combined with some enticing incentives, solar makes sense for a growing number of Iowa homeowners.

In this post, we‘ll walk through everything you need to know about solar panels in Iowa, including:

  • Average costs and savings
  • Ideal system sizes
  • Factors that impact pricing
  • Top local installers
  • Available incentives and rebates

By the end, you‘ll have a clear idea of whether solar is right for your Iowa home and how to maximize your investment. Let‘s dive in!

What Do Solar Panels Cost in Iowa?

The average cost of solar panels in Iowa is $2.53 per watt, slightly below the U.S. average. For a typical 6 kilowatt (kW) residential system, you can expect to pay around $15,180 before incentives.

To put that in perspective, the average Iowa household uses 865 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per month. At an average utility rate of $0.1387 per kWh, that comes to about $120 per month or $1,440 per year in electricity costs.

So while $15,180 is no small chunk of change, it‘s an investment that can replace a major household expense. And with the federal solar tax credit covering 30% of that cost, your net price falls to just $10,626!

Of course, your specific costs will depend on a range of factors, like your energy usage, roof layout, equipment, and installer. To get the most accurate pricing, we always recommend getting quotes from multiple vetted installers in your area.

Sizing a Solar System for Your Iowa Home

The 6 kW system we used above is a common size in Iowa, but your ideal solar array depends on your specific energy needs. You can roughly estimate the right system size by dividing your monthly kWh usage by the number of peak sun hours your roof gets per day.

For example, say your home uses 900 kWh per month, slightly above the Iowa average. In Des Moines, you can expect about 4.6 peak sun hours per day. Dividing 900 by 30 days, then by 4.6 sun hours, we get:

900 kWh / 30 days / 4.6 = 6.52 kW

So a 6.5 kW system would likely cover this home‘s energy needs. At $2.53/watt, this size system would cost about $16,445 before incentives, or $11,511 after the 30% federal tax credit.

Every roof is different though, so we recommend working with an experienced installer to assess your home and energy usage. They‘ll also factor in things like shading, roof orientation, and panel efficiency to design the perfect system.

What Affects Solar Prices in Iowa?

While Iowa solar costs are fairly consistent statewide, a few key factors can influence your final price:

  • System size: Larger systems with more panels and capacity will cost more overall, but typically have a lower cost per watt.

  • Equipment: Higher efficiency monocrystalline panels will cost more than standard polycrystalline ones, but can generate more power in less roof space.

  • Roof characteristics: Roofs that are shaded, facing suboptimal directions, or have obstructions like chimneys are more complex to design around and may need special equipment.

  • Location: Local installation costs and permitting requirements can vary by city or county.

Compared to neighboring states, Iowa‘s solar prices are fairly middle of the road. Costs are lower in sunnier states like Missouri ($2.44/W) and Nebraska ($2.52/W), but higher than less sunny states like Minnesota ($2.84/W) and Wisconsin ($2.81/W).

Another major variable is which installer you choose. It‘s a smart idea to compare multiple bids to find the best overall value.

Top Solar Installers in Iowa

Iowa has a growing roster of solar installers, ranging from local specialists to major national brands. Here are a few of our top picks:

Simpleray: With locations in Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Des Moines, Simpleray is Iowa‘s leading local installer. All of their work is done in-house, they use top quality equipment, and have tons of great reviews.

Moxie Solar: Moxie Solar is an award-winning midwest installer serving Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. They offer some of the longest warranties around and have an excellent reputation for quality and customer service.

SunPower: As one of the largest national solar brands, SunPower combines premium American-made panels with a network of vetted local contractors. For Iowans, their elite line of 22% efficient panels are ideal for limited roof space.

Tesla: The newest addition to Iowa‘s solar market is Tesla, best known for their electric cars. Tesla offers sleek low-profile panels, batteries, and simplified online ordering. They‘re a convenient option for smaller, straightforward projects.

While these are some of the top names in Iowa solar, they‘re not the only good ones. We always suggest comparing multiple quotes to find the best installer for your needs and budget.

Do Solar Panels Save Money in Iowa?

For most Iowa homeowners, solar delivers major savings on electricity that add up over time. Exactly how much you‘ll save depends on electricity rates, incentives, and the lifespan of your system.

Let‘s break down an example. Say you install a 6 kW system for $15,180, or $10,626 after the 30% tax credit. Assuming a 25-year lifespan and average utility rates, this system would save you about:

  • $1,440 per year
  • $36,000 over 25 years
  • A net savings of $25,374 after your initial investment

Keep in mind this is a simplified estimate. Your savings will depend on a host of factors, like future electricity rates, panel degradation, and maintenance needs. In general though, most Iowans who go solar see a payback period of 8-12 years.

Beyond utility bill savings, solar also boosts your property value, insulates you from rising energy costs, and reduces your carbon footprint. With the attractive incentives available today, there‘s never been a better time to invest in solar.

Iowa Solar Incentives and Rebates

Iowa offers some solid incentives to make solar more affordable for homeowners:

Federal Solar Tax Credit: Through 2032, the IRS offers a 30% tax credit on solar installations. For a $15,000 system, this cuts your net cost to $10,500.

Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit: Iowa offers an additional state tax credit worth 15% of your costs, up to $5,000. Combined with the federal credit, this cuts a $15,000 system down to $8,000!

Property Tax Exemption: Thanks to the Iowa Solar Energy System Tax Credit, you‘ll also pay no additional property taxes on the value your solar system adds to your home.

Sales Tax Exemption: Iowa‘s 6% sales tax is also waived on solar products and installation, saving you about $900 on that $15,000 system.

Net Metering: Under net metering, extra solar energy you feed back into the grid earns credits on your utility bill, saving you even more.

At 30-45% off a system‘s sticker price, these incentives put solar within reach for thousands more Iowans. Some utilities and local governments offer additional rebates as well. Check with installers for other programs you may qualify for.

The Outlook for Solar Energy in Iowa

Iowa is making major strides on solar, with installs surging 70% over the last two years. While wind power still dominates, solar is poised to play a growing role in Iowa‘s energy mix.

For homeowners, affordable equipment, attractive incentives, and some of the best net metering policies in the country make solar a smart long-term investment. By sizing a system right, choosing a quality installer, and taking advantage of credits and rebates, you can slash your electricity bills for decades to come. And of course, you‘ll be doing your part for the climate too!

As you can see, there‘s a lot that goes into the decision to go solar in Iowa. The key is to evaluate your specific home, energy usage, and goals. Get multiple quotes from trusted installers to compare your options, costs and savings. And don‘t forget to ask about batteries, EV chargers, and other add-ons that can amplify your solar investment.

Iowa is a state with immense potential for solar energy. If you‘re a homeowner considering making the switch, there‘s never been a better time to pursue energy independence. Affordable and abundant, solar truly lets you own your power!

Iowa Solar Energy Resources

Interested in learning more about solar energy in Iowa? Check out these helpful resources:

Image Credit: © Mike Mareen / Adobe Stock

Iowa Solar FAQs

How much do solar panels cost in Iowa?
On average, solar panels in Iowa cost $2.53 per watt, or about $15,180 for a typical 6 kW system before incentives. After the 30% federal tax credit, that price falls to $10,626.

Is solar worth it in Iowa?
With lower than average equipment costs, attractive incentives, and potential savings of $25,000 or more over 25 years, solar is a solid investment for many Iowa homeowners. Most will see a payback period of 8-12 years.

Does Iowa have a solar tax credit?
Yes, Iowa offers a 15% state tax credit for solar, on top of the 30% federal solar tax credit. Iowa also has property and sales tax exemptions for solar energy systems.

How much do solar panels increase home value?
On average, solar panels will increase your Iowa home‘s value by 4.1% according to Zillow. For a median value home of $180,000, that‘s a $7,380 boost!

Can I install my own solar panels in Iowa?
Technically yes, but we strongly recommend working with a professional installer. They‘ll ensure your system is designed, permitted and installed correctly for maximum safety, performance and savings. DIY solar installations can also void equipment warranties.