Tips for getting the best solar quotes
What to know before you start
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Getting a price quote from a solar company may seem like the first step to adding solar to your home, but if you want to get the best results, it shouldn’t be. There are a few things you should know before you make the call or fill out a contact form on a solar company’s website.
These seven tips will help you find the best solar energy system at the right price for your budget.
- Get to know the terminology you’ll hear during your quote to avoid confusion.
- Understand the typical cost of going solar to ensure you’re getting a good deal.
- Add a solar battery to your quote if you want to avoid power outages.
- Know your options when it comes to companies, financing and extra charges.
1. Understand solar terminology
During your quote, a solar rep may throw out a bunch of words you don’t understand. Here are a few terms to know to avoid confusion:
- Inverter: Along with your solar panels, this is must-have equipment. An inverter is a device that turns direct current (DC) electricity from your solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity that your home can use to run lights, appliances, etc.
- Efficiency: Efficiency is how well a solar panel can take energy from the sun and turn it into power for your home. The higher the efficiency percentage, the better. (The number will typically be between 15% and 20%).
- Net metering: Net metering is when you sell the excess energy your solar panels make to your local electric company. Typically, your payment comes as a credit on your electric bill.
- Price per watt: Most solar companies will give you a quote that includes the price per watt, which can make it easier to compare one system with another. Be aware, though, that these prices can vary with the size of your system (3kW, 6kW, 10kW, etc.).
- Power production estimate: This is the amount of energy the company estimates that their solar panel system can provide. This estimate often takes into account your local weather, the trees around your home, the estimated number of panels you’ll need and other factors. This is generally more accurate than the calculations you can do at home, but it can still be helpful to have some context for their estimate.
» CALCULATE: How many kWh does a solar panel produce?
2. Have an idea of what going solar costs
Now that you’ve learned the jargon, do a little research into how much solar costs on average. Sales reps often significantly mark up the price per watt to improve their commission, according to Neil Gallagher of BrighterWay Solar, a solar construction and contracting firm, so it’s important to know what the normal price range is before you get a quote.
On average, going solar costs anywhere from $17,430 to $23,870 after the federal solar tax credit (or $3 to $5 per watt). However, there are a lot of factors that go into your final cost, and there are plenty of other ways to save, so it’s worth reading up on solar costs in more detail to get a better feel for how your system will compare with the national average.
» MORE: How much do solar panels cost?
3. Consider adding a solar battery to the quote
“Just because you have solar panels doesn't mean you have solar power. This isn’t commonly known and is often dodged during sales calls because it's a consumer misconception,” said solar expert Linh Tran of FranklinWH.
During an electricity outage, grid-tied solar panels are shut off to prevent shocks to those fixing the electric lines. If you’re getting solar to avoid power outages, staying off the grid and purchasing a solar battery is key to preventing a loss of power. You can learn more in our article on how solar-powered homes work with backup generators.
On the other hand, if you’re planning on net metering and want to stay at least partially on the grid, a battery is optional.
» MORE: Best solar batteries
4. Check your roof
Before you jump into the quote process, check out your roof. Since your solar panels will more than likely be on your roof, you need to know a couple of things.
First, is your roof ready for solar? “It should have a minimum of ten years of life left if going solar,” said Gallagher. You don’t want to have to remove your solar system to replace your roof just a few years down the road. Plus, you want a sturdy base for the solar energy system to sit on.
Second, you need to know if your roof is big enough to hold enough solar panels. You can figure this out using our solar panel size guide.
If your roof needs an upgrade soon or doesn’t have enough room for solar panels, you’ll need to get quotes for panels that can be mounted on the ground.
5. Go with trusted brands
To get the most value for your money, you want a brand with quality equipment that works with trusted installers. It’s key to research brands before even asking for a quote. We’ve rounded up the top brands to get you started.
Also, be sure to read reviews from each company’s customers while making your assessment.
For example, Michael, a ConsumerAffairs reviewer from California, had this to say: “I have been researching solar for several years. I received a random email from SunPower and decided to look into them. They ended up providing the best customer service, the best follow up, the best warranty and best overall quality. … They weren’t the cheapest, but all providers I received quotes from were very similar.”
6. Know your financing options
If you can’t afford to pay cash for a solar system, don’t worry — there are several options that can make going solar more affordable:
- You can take out a solar loan through your solar company or a third party.
- You can lease equipment for a monthly fee.
- You can sign up for a power purchase agreement (PPA).
You can learn about all these in our solar financing guide.
» MORE: Solar lease vs. solar PPA
» MORE: Solar panels: lease vs. buy
7. Be sure about what you’re getting
Gallagher told us that it’s important to get more than one quote to get the best deal, but don’t just go with the cheapest company. Make sure you know what a quote includes, and be sure to get it in writing.
Here are some things to check for:
- How long is the warranty? Typically, companies offer warranties that last around 20 to 25 years.
- Is installation included, or is the quote just for equipment? Residential solar panel installations are often best left to professionals, so don’t gloss over this detail.
- Does the company cover inspection and permit costs? One of the reasons many people prefer professional installation is that solar installers know how to navigate your local permit process, which can be daunting to DIYers.
- What are the upfront costs (if any)? If there are monthly fees or payments, how much will they cost? Knowing how you’re expected to pay for your solar panels can make a significant difference to your finances.
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
- U.S. Department of Energy, “Solar Integration: Inverters and Grid Services Basics.” Accessed May 22, 2023.
- U.S. Department of Energy, “Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar.” Accessed May 22, 2023.
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