How to Compare Solar Quotes: 6 Tips
As you shop around for solar panels, you’ll want to get multiple quotes to compare pricing. However, a solar price comparison involves more than just looking at the final cost. In other words, it’s not always as simple as it seems.
This article shares our top tips on how to compare solar quotes so you can be confident that you’re getting a high-quality solar energy system for the best price.
What’s in a Solar Quote?
A quote for a solar panel system should contain the following information:
- System size
- Brand and model numbers of solar equipment
- Solar production estimate
- How the solar array will fit on your available roof space or land
6 Tips to Compare Solar Quotes
Here are some tips to guide you through the process of comparing solar quotes.
Tip #1: Verify What is Included
Whether you are getting a turn-key solar power system or buying a DIY solar kit online, make sure you receive a comprehensive list of everything that comes with the system.
It’s a given that your system will include solar panels, but other components like monitoring equipment, permitting with your local building department, or the NEM application for your local utility may or may not be included in the price.
If your solar quote does not include the extras, you’ll need to factor that into your total system and installation cost.
Tip #2: Compare Costs Equally
When vetting numerous quotes, you want to ensure an even solar price comparison.
For example, if the competing quotes reflect different system sizes, you’ll want to break down the pricing to price per watt.
If you are financing or leasing the system, don’t look at the monthly payments alone. Be sure to add up the total dollar amount you will pay through the entire term of the lease or loan, including any upfront dealer fees or down payment.
Tip #3: Compare Solar Equipment Equally
Not all solar systems are designed equally. Don't just pick the cheapest system without considering the equipment that comes with it.
Solar panels vary in price; in general, you get what you pay for. Most solar panels guarantee production for 25 years, but that can depend on degradation rates and workmanship warranty length. Plus, a less reputable solar panel manufacturer may not be around 25 years from now to honor the warranty.
There are also different types of solar inverters to consider in your quotes. A string inverter is usually the least expensive option but typically has 5 to 10-year warranties compared to microinverters, which have 25-year warranties. While microinverters cost more, they are better for shaded areas or array orientations that need to face different directions.
By carefully understanding the equipment options in your solar quotes, you’ll be able to choose the solar power system that is right for you — not just whatever is cheapest.
To better understand what equipment or orientation is right for you, we recommend working closely with a solar professional during the quote process.
Tip #4: Compare Solar Production Estimates Equally
When you compare solar quotes, you might find production estimates confusing. For instance, you might see two quotes for the same size systems with different energy production estimates.
There are a couple of reasons this can happen:
- The company uses a different data source than other companies.
- The company draws up different panel arrangements or orientations. Your quote may show solar panels in an alternate configuration, or some may be in partial shade.
You may also notice quotes that show the same amount of energy production but a different estimated savings amount for your electric bill. Here are a couple of variables as to why that happens:
- The company chooses a different escalation rate for energy costs each year.
- The company assumes you might switch to a different electric rate after installing solar.
Tip #5: Read Reviews and Get References
Do your research and thoroughly vet the company before going all-in. Solar systems are a significant purchase, so you want to ensure you work with a trusted company that's here to stay.
"You want to work with companies that are in it for the long haul, committed to the industry and technology, and really care about their customers," says Jeff Spies, president of Planet Plan Sets and NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) board member.
If you are considering a local solar installer, ask for references from neighbors or community members. Be wary of any solar installers that offer a compelling price but don’t have any customer testimonials to back it up.
For other tips on choosing a solar installer, check out our tips here.
Tip #6: The Cheapest Quote is Rarely the Best Quote
Don't base your decision on the total cost alone. We previously mentioned that it's important compare the price per watt, or the equipment and brands that different installers have.
"People often source quotes from several businesses, then choose the lowest bid. But what's your criteria for making that decision? There’s a major difference between price and cost," says Spies.
"If a solar contractor quotes you a higher price, just ask why. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if the price is higher, because there are usually good reasons for this."
Tip #7: Consider DIY Solar
Are you overwhelmed by the estimated costs of your solar quotes? We get it. Solar installation makes up a considerable amount of your total quoted cost — almost equivalent to the system’s price or more. Luckily, there’s a way to save big on installation costs.
Consider doing a DIY solar installation if you enjoy working on home improvement projects. You’ll save at least $10,000 on average, significantly reducing the cost of going solar.
While many steps are involved in a DIY solar installation, the overall process is relatively straightforward. And, you can always elect to do a hybrid DIY installation. Install the racking and panels on your own, and seek help with the electrical work and final touches so your system can pass inspection. You can still save a good chunk of money with a hybrid install!
If you decide to do all or some of the solar installation yourself, you’ll want to get quotes from DIY solar companies like GoGreenSolar. All of GoGreenSolar’s DIY kits include dedicated technical support and assistance with permitting and interconnection. Learn more here.
The Bottom Line on Comparing Solar Quotes
Know that you’re not alone if you find solar quotes complex to understand. But by knowing what to look for and combing through the details, you’ll better understand what system you need for your unique situation.
The experts at GoGreenSolar are happy to provide a complimentary DIY solar quote for your home or property. Rest assured, we’ll walk you through the process so you know exactly what you’re getting and can purchase confidently. Request a quote today.