How to Compare Multiple Solar Bids
So you are finally ready to pull the trigger on solar. You have done your due diligence, and gathered quotes from different solar installers. That is great. How do you choose which installer to go with? There are a few obvious pieces to compare, but there are also a lot of small details that can make all the difference with a quote. Below are a few of the details to look at when you are comparing quotes.
Own or Lease?
Solar installs can either be owned by the property owner, or leased from a solar utilities provider. These days, it makes more sense to own your solar system outright, and not lease. By owning the system you receive the state and federal incentives. By leasing, the solar utlity provider receives the benefits. You can purchase a system with cash, or finance it. Either way it is considered customer-owned. Owning the system adds value to your home, and gives you lots of options if you decide to sell in a few years. Leasing solar can create lots of headaches when it comes to selling your home. The buyer must agree to take over the lease, or buy the system outright. If you are receiving multiple quotes for solar, make sure they are all for customer-owned systems.
- Customer-owned solar is best
- Adds value to your home
- Easy to transfer if you sell your home
- State and federal incentives available
Price is a key element that we are comparing. Everyone wants the best price. Most solar pricing is around $3.00-$4.00 per watt. That is a ballpark, and there are a ton of variables that can affect that price including roof top or ground mount, electrical upgrades, and battery storage. Most solar companies are going to be competitive on overall price for installation, but what else can affect the cost?
System size can have a large effect on overall price, even if the per watt price is identical from one installer to the next. Most systems are sized for about 100% to 150% solar offset. If one installer uses 100% or less, and another uses 150% offset, that will affect cost. Discuss your “offset” with your solar company to make sure your system fits your energy goals.
The equipment specified on your proposal can drastically change the pricing and quality of your solar install. This is the biggest difference between quotes we see when discussing solar installs with customers. One solar installer is quoting the equivelent of a Ford Focus, while another is quoting a Mercedes. Ask where the solar panels are manufactured. Panels made in North America are generally better quality. The easiest way to tell quality is by asking what the component warranties are. Tier 1 solar equipment will come with a 25 year warranty or better. Budget solar equipment will come with a 10 year warranty. This is true for batteries as well, but batteries generally have a warranty in the 10 to 15 year range. Warranties on the actual installation can vary greatly between installers as well. Ask what the warranty is on the installation, and if it includes roof mount attachment points.
- Make sure the quotes are using comparable equipment
- North American made equipment is generally better
- Tier 1 equipment has a 25 yr or better warranty
- Ask about the warranty on installation/labor
The Little Details
The small details can really affect the cost of a system. Do you need your panels mounted on the ground instead of the roof? Do you need trenching? Do you need a main panel upgrade? Do you have a steep pitched roof? Are you thinking about including batteries or a generator? Does the quote include all permitting, and engineering costs? If one quote contains all the details, and another omits them, it can skew the pricing of what looks like a comparable quote.
Is the company you bought the solar from the same company that does the installation? This is common with large and small solar companies. Make sure the company you purchased solar from is the same compnay installing the system. This ensures the installation company will honor warranty claims and service calls without giving you the run around.
Financing options can greatly affect price as well. These days, solar installers and lenders are offering financing with no upfront costs, and great interest rates below 3% for conventional loans. A lower interest rate will have a lower monthly payment and higher overall cost for the system. A higher interest rate will have a higher monthly payment and lower overall cost for the system.
Same as interest rates, the term of the loan can greatly affect monthly loan payments and overall price. Generally, loan terms are available from 10 to 25 years. The shorter the term, the higher the monthly payment, but lower overall price. Decide what is most important for you, a lower monthly cost, or a lower overall price.
Also, make sure there are no surprises in the fine print. Will the interest rate change over time? Is the monthly payment assuming a down payment on the loan? Are there fees for paying your loan off early? These are all details that can make the sticker price of a system look lower.
- What is the interest rate?
- What is the term of the loan?
- Does the interest rate change at any point?
- Does the monthly cost assume a down payment?
Making the decision to go solar will save you money compared to what you are paying your current utilities provider. As time goes by, this becomes true more and more. However, taking the time to shop around, and really understand the quotes you receive can save you even more money, and headaches. California requires all solar customers to sign the California Solar Consumer Protection Guide. Not only is it required, but it is also a great document to learn more about residential solar, and what options you have as a solar customer. Below is the link for your convenience.
If you have questions regarding you solar needs, or want someone to review a quote you received, please contact us, and we will be glad to help.
Still Have Questions? We’re Here to Help!
We are here to help. Solar can feel like a daunting task. The more you research, the more confusing it becomes. Contact us for a free over-the-phone solar consultation. We are the experts and can tell you if your home is a good fit for solar, batteries, and/or a whole home generator.