When shopping for airline tickets or other big-ticket items, people generally shop around. For airline tickets you might compare: How much will it cost? When are the flights? What are the baggage charges? What’s the airline’s safety record? What’s their “on-time” percentage? How much leg-room will there be? Etc. People use a comparison shopping approach because it gives them all the information needed to make the right choice. The same is true when shopping for solar power systems for your home or business. If you take the first offer that comes your way, how will you ever know if you got the right system or the best price or terms for your property?
Like every other purchase, comparison shopping for solar will yield the best results. EnergySage recommends that you engage 3-4 solar installation and financing providers to get quotes and system design plans to ensure that you maximize your investment. Take the time to review each option, ask questions about key differences between the proposals, and tease out the differentiators.
Here are some key points of comparison when reviewing solar power proposals:
- Solar Panel Brands and Models: There are more than 100 different solar panel brands and many models within each brand. These different panel options include variations in size, design, color, efficiency, country of origin and warranty, to name just a few. Different installers will provide you with different options, but all of them will stand by their choices. You will want to evaluate each option objectively. (Read more about solar panels)
- Inverter Types and Brands: This is the technology that converts the solar energy (direct current or DC) into usable household electricity (alternating current or AC). Depending on your particular property and the amount of shading it receives throughout the day, different inverter technologies (e.g., string vs. micro inverters) or even different brands of inverters may be better for you. Again, many solar providers will offer you what they have and they will be loyal to their options, so you will need to investigate these options yourself and ask each provider about the key differences in the technology that he or she has quoted.
- Financing Options: Financing options can be very important, especially if you don’t have the appetite to write a fairly large check to purchase your system outright. Some options include (1) leasing where you would pay a fixed monthly payment to “rent” your system; (2) power purchase agreements (PPA) where you would pay a lower rate for the electricity produced by the system (but the system would be owned by the PPA provider); or (3) Low cost loans to finance a purchase. Understanding all of your options and the underlying economics is essential to getting the right deal for your particular situation. (Read more about financing options)
- System Design: The configuration of solar panels on your roof determines the amount of solar power you can generate and also how your system will look from the ground. Each installer will design your system differently, taking into account variations in your roof. Again, each installer will be confident in their design, but more likely than not, they all will be at least slightly different. Compare each design and ask your installers about the reasons for any variations. Make sure you are comfortable with both the amount of power your system will generate and how it will look on your property.
- Other Things to Consider: Some other details to consider include: When is the proposed installation date? How are they with customer service and responsiveness? What are the available warranties? Are they local companies or large regional players? What kind of experience / expertise do they have? (Read more about how to choose an installer).
Comparing multiple quotes provides you with multiple options so you can find the option that’s best suited to your needs. In addition to more choices, it also introduces competition into the process which always helps if you want to make sure you are getting a fair price and the best terms for your project! Having choice is important to many people and making a decision to go solar is one that you will enjoy for many years to come. It’s worth it to take the time to connect with multiple high quality providers and to evaluate the various options they provide so you can be confident that you are choosing the right option for your project. EnergySage makes this process very easy. To get started, click here.