Steady drops in the cost of solar panels in 2011 are great news for consumers, but bad news for manufacturers trying to make profits. In 2011, solar panel costs declined by more than 50 percent, and recently costs dipped even lower to between 80 and 85 cents a watt. While demand around the world grew by 40 percent in 2011, an overabundance of supplies has contributed significantly to the recent price drops.
To find the best price for solar panels, follow the same procedures you would in shopping for a major appliance. Contact solar installers in your area and see what the price difference is between purchasing the equipment straight from them versus buying the equipment online and paying them to install it. If you are handy and can handle basic wiring, you may be able to handle the installation of a few panels and their requisite equipment yourself. If you are putting in a larger system to meet some or all of your power needs, an installer is usually your best choice.
Solar hot water heaters are also increasingly popular as solar prices decline.