Things to Consider When Comparing Solar Quotes
If you’re considering solar for your home in Texas, one of the first steps is to compare quotes from different installers. This can be tricky, as there are a lot of factors to consider. However, it’s important to compare apples to apples when you’re looking at quotes. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
I. The Size of the System Being Quoted
How many kilowatts (kW) will it generate? Keep in mind that systems are often quoted in terms of the amount of electricity they’ll generate over their lifetime, not the initial size.
Now there are several factors in the design process that will determine what type of electric offset you are quoted. The best thing to provide the installer your “Green Button data” via SmartMeterTexas.com and select a year of data. This is as accurate as you can get as it pulls a year’s worth of data in 15 minute intervals. The next best thing is to send 12 months of consumption data via your bills or spreadsheet. Be advised that if your system is being modeled with less consumption data than this, your system may be sized incorrectly and you may not get the performance you expect.
Now if you’re shopping multiple solar quotes in the Houston area you may start to notice that you are getting a range of system sizes, energy offsets, and forecasted savings even if you provided solar installers all of the same data.
It is not uncommon for solar installers to overestimate the amount of offset you will receive. Why? Well sometimes it’s due to them using less accurate software, and other times its intentional to sell more systems. We frequently encounter this when someone is shopping quotes: “Company X is providing me with a system that’s half the size and five times as productive as yours.” If you encounter this here are a couple of things you can do.
1) Remember that your roof has a finite amount of space so if you have two similarly sized systems and there’s a big variance between the offset there’s something different in how the installer set their model.
You may want to ask how they handled shading. For example, did they remove all the trees completely? Are they putting panels in areas that would violate fire or city codes to make the production better?
Check out this quick video on how solar designers can “juice” their energy offsets.
2) You can ask all the installers to model the exact same system i.e. same panels, inverters, and layout.
II. The price per watt ( $/W)
is the most significant metric to compare costs when considering quotes, as it will show you how much you’ll be spending for each unit of energy generated by your system. This is the best way to compare apples to apples but keep in mind this number is usually generated before financing is added.
III. The warranty being offered
How long will the panels and inverter be covered? Make sure you understand what’s being covered and for how long.
IV. Financing Options
There are a lot of different financing available for homeowners looking to go solar. For example, Texas Direct Solar has dozens of different $0 down financing options available. They typically fall into two general categories: higher interest rates with a lower system cost or lower interest rates with a lower monthly payment. Most solar loans also assume that if you are eligible for the Federal ITC tax credit you will use it to pay down the loan. Otherwise your monthly payment will go up accordingly.
V. The Reputation of the Installer
This is critically important. There’s a whole host of actors in the solar business everything from multi-level marketing organizations, to sales companies that send out armies of people to knock on doors and then find a sub-contractor, and finally licensed electrical contractors like Texas Direct Solar. We are often contacted by sales companies, and MLM groups to do their installs for them. These groups are typically very good at selling, and can get big quickly but don’t have a lot of skin in game. So why not just cut out the middleman? We’re here locally, have the experience and credentials to get the job done.
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