Solar has been booming in recent years, and if you’re considering making the switch to solar yourself, you’ve likely received multiple quotes from different companies.
However, you likely came out of the process more confused than anything. You probably wondered: “How do I compare quotes? What do I look out for? How do I know I’m getting a good deal?” These are exactly the kinds of questions you should be asking! Solar is a big decision and you want to make sure you’re making the right choice.
This blog post is your guide through the process of comparing solar quotes, so you can make an informed decision.
What's Included in a Solar Quote?
When you receive a solar quote, it generally includes several key components:
1. System Size: The total capacity of the solar system, usually expressed in kilowatts (kW). This will have the biggest influence on the total price you are quoted. This is based on your home’s current energy consumption.
2. Equipment: Information about the solar panels, inverters, and possibly optimizers, including their brand, efficiency, and warranty.
3. Cost and Financial Incentives: The total cost of the system, available federal tax credits, and any state or local incentives.
4. Energy Offset: The percentage of your electricity needs that the solar system is expected to cover. It might also give you an estimate of your payback period (how long it will take for you to recoup your investment in solar).
5. Warranties and Guarantees: Manufacturer warranties for the equipment and any production guarantees from the solar installation company.
6. Project Scope and Schedule: What's included in the project, what's not, and the estimated timeline for completion.
7. Payment Terms: How and when you're expected to make payments.
What Makes Comparison Difficult?
Comparing solar quotes is difficult because of several reasons:
1. Two solar companies will likely recommend two different system sizes, making the total cost incomparable.
2. Equipment quality and warranties vary.
3. Project timelines and customer satisfaction can differ greatly depending on the company.
Despite the difficulties, there are ways to make comparison easier…
Price Per Watt: The Equalizer
One of the most effective ways to compare solar quotes (though not the only way) is by looking at the price per watt.
Have you ever been in a grocery store comparing two similar items and looked at the price per ounce or price per pound? That’s equivalent to the price per watt for solar; it shows you the “bang for the buck” you’re getting.
The price per watt is calculated as follows:
For example, if you were quoted $22,500 for an 8kW (8,000 watts) system, your price per watt would be $2.81.
This metric represents the overall value you’re getting from your solar and it will have the biggest influence on the payback period of your solar system.
You can take the price per watt and make a nearly apples-to-apples comparison between different two solar quotes.
Other Factors to Consider
Though the price per watt should be one of your primary considerations, it shouldn’t be the only thing to consider.
1. Equipment Quality: Ensure the panels come with at least a 25-year warranty, as this is the industry standard. Also, consider the efficiency and brand reputation.
2. Installer Reputation: Look for customer reviews, ratings, and the installer's workmanship warranty.
3. Project Timeline: Consider how long it will take for the system to be installed. Faster isn't always better, but it's worth considering.
4. Financial Assumptions: Be critical of any assumptions made in the quote or payback period they estimate, such as future electricity rate increases.
5. Financing Options: If you're not paying upfront, compare the terms, monthly payments, and interest rates of any financing options presented.
The Benefits of Going Green with Solar Energy
Switching to solar energy is not just a financial decision; it's also a commitment to a more sustainable future. As we grapple with the challenges of climate change and dwindling natural resources, the need for renewable energy sources becomes increasingly urgent. Solar energy stands out as one of the most accessible and effective solutions for both individuals and communities.
Firstly, solar energy significantly reduces your carbon footprint. Unlike fossil fuels, which emit harmful greenhouse gasses, solar panels produce clean, renewable energy from the sun. This helps combat climate change and reduces air and water pollution, contributing to a healthier environment for everyone.
Secondly, solar energy is abundant and inexhaustible. The sun provides more energy in one hour than the entire world uses in a year. By harnessing this immense power, we can reduce our dependence on finite and polluting energy sources like coal and natural gas.
Thirdly, solar energy can also bring about economic benefits. By reducing or even eliminating your electricity bills, solar installations often pay for themselves over time. Additionally, they can increase property values and provide energy independence by allowing you to generate your electricity.
Lastly, solar energy supports local job creation. The growing solar industry provides a range of employment opportunities, from research and development to manufacturing and installation.
In summary, going green with solar energy offers a myriad of benefits that go beyond the individual. It's a step towards a cleaner, more sustainable, and economically sound future for all.
Comparing solar quotes can be a complex task, but by focusing on the price per watt and considering other key factors like equipment quality, installer reputation, and financial assumptions, you can make an informed decision that suits your needs and budget.