The biggest complaint that people have when they look into “going solar” is that the installation is expensive. No matter that grants may pay for more than half of the cost (particularly in California, a progressive State in this respect). The fact that your power is free once you’ve made the investment is one of those “out there” type of statements that does little to reduce the immediate “sticker shock”.

cheap solar

Photo: by Stuart Miles

What can you do to reduce the cost, and thus feel better about making what you know is the right decision? You could wait a few years, I suppose, and the price of the solar panels is bound to come down, just as the price of computers reduces over the years. But then you would be missing out on all that free power for those years, so it’s not a good idea. There are a number of suppliers selling on EBay, and the secret to getting the best price is to “snipe”, that is, to bid just seconds before the auction closes, so that you don’t give other bidders a chance to respond to your bid. Don’t even bother to put in a bid before then, as it won’t gain you anything, and may push the price up.

Another source is the Internet, where you can search for “cheap solar panels” or other similar phrase, and see what sites come up.

Another idea, particularly if you are handy at fixing things, is to search for cheap used solar panels. Some suppliers specialize in brokering used panels that are surplus to requirements. When buying used, watch for the following things:

  • Old panels tend to have less output for a given size than new ones. This is both because of technical development, and because output reduces with age. If size doesn’t matter, used panels will give the best value.
  • Test the panels in sunlight, and if they are working o.k., then they’ll probably be good for your installation.
  • If you are handy, you can consider panels that have problems, such as broken glass, or broken wires, but make sure that they are really cheap to compensate you for your work, and the risk that you can’t fix them.

Finally, if you are really handy, you are able to buy bags of solar cells very cheaply, and wire them up yourself to make a panel. Just don’t complain if you buy them and it doesn’t work out!

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