Each solar company has its unique solar quote.
Several critical pieces of information should be consistent when you compare solar quotes.
We know comparing apples to oranges can be difficult, so we’ve created a checklist of items you need to watch out for when you’re considering which solar company to hire.
The information we’ve chosen to highlight is based on what we’ve seen in other proposals shown to us by our customers.
1. Solar Module Manufacturer
It’s essential to know the specifics of what equipment your installer will be supplying you. Although it can be difficult to trace exactly where a panel is made, make sure the manufacturer and model name are identified in your solar quote so you can verify that the panel manufacturer is reputable.
Keep in mind, the industry standard for a panel warranty is around 25 years. You will need to establish the likelihood that the manufacturer will honor your warranty during that time.
Solar panels degrade gradually over time with exposure to sunlight, wind, and weather. Panels are typically warranted 25–30 years and have a design lifespan of over 30 years. Energy production is expected to degrade by about one-half of one percent per year.
Inverters are warranted for 10–15 years and have an expected lifespan of 15–20 years. You may need to replace an inverter once in the system’s lifetime, and we figure that cost into our financial predictions.
Any home improvement typically has a “workmanship warranty” covering the quality of the work done. This promise from the contractor that they will install things correctly generally is two years. In the solar installation business, warranties often range from 2-5 Years, sometimes up to 10.
We rolled out our 20-year workmanship warranty in our twentieth year of business to give our customers peace of mind when they go solar.
3. Production Factors
Watch out for fluff! Production factors should be based on:
- Climate Data
- Inverter efficiencies
Some companies will add in some “fluff” to the numbers to make their quote look better. We have enough confidence to guarantee our customer’s production because we always confirm our solar production estimates with a physical in-person site assessment to take accurate orientation, tilt, and shading measurements!
4. Solar Production Guarantee
Your most considerable risk in solar is that the system doesn’t perform as you were told it would.
We believe that the homeowner should not be liable for that risk.
As a solar installer, we back our production estimates with a performance guarantee.
5. How are they estimating the increase in energy prices in the future?
Your solar company must know your current energy rate to project your system’s lifetime solar savings potential. If this number is wrong, the accuracy of their estimate of the financial benefit of the system will be off from the beginning.
We have seen some installers grossly overestimate how the cost of energy will rise in the future to make the solar system look like it has a greater return on investment or quicker payback. Make sure the current electricity price and price escalation rate are presented clearly on any solar quote you consider! The rate used dramatically affects the economics and the system value.
6. Bundling energy efficiency upgrades
Watch out for:
- Unverified energy audits
- Estimated utility savings from efficiency upgrades built into the projected solar system savings
Energy-efficient homes indeed help a homeowner maximize their solar purchase. We know of a few solar companies that bundle energy efficiency upgrades with their solar installation.
While this is great, watch out for these red flags:
For starters, there is no way to model the actual energy saving these upgrades have, so there is no way to do economic modeling for the estimated cost savings of the upgrades.
Second, some solar installers roll the projected energy savings into the solar system payback analysis. When installers add energy efficiency upgrades to the solar system payback analysis, they mislead customers about the actual capabilities of the system’s performance.
8. Installer Accreditation
Looking at reviews can make a world of difference when evaluating your solar partner. Beyond the Better Business Bureau, Google Reviews, and other review sites, there are a few accreditations that you’ll want to keep in mind.
- Does the installer hold an electrical license? Find out here.
- NABCEP Certification is the most respected, well-established, and widely recognized certification organization for professionals in renewable energy. A company that employs NABCEP certified individuals shows a commitment to the industry standards and practices.
- Dun & Bradstreet – is the solar installation company you’re working with in good financial standing? Remember: your solar installation is a long-term investment. You’ll want to work with a company that demonstrates that they’ll be around for the long haul to assist you if any warranty claims arise or if your system needs maintenance down the line.
A solar energy system is a big investment and comparing solar quotes is one of the first steps in the journey. Our biggest takeaway is to choose a solar installer you trust.