If you have decided that a solar power system is in your future, you’ve probably done some research into local solar companies. While doing research and cost analysis on your own, you may have turned to one of the many online solar quote websites in hopes of finding the best system for the best price.
It’s true that many websites offer free online quote comparisons, but there are a lot of details you should be aware of when comparing solar quotes to ensure that you end up with the best possible service and system.
When comparing solar companies, look for reliable reviews.
It’s important to learn about the reputations of solar installers that you are considering—a good way to do that is to read online reviews. But here’s the thing: the Internet is chock full of review sites, and not all of them are reliable. Some sites allow companies to pay for placement on their “best in the region” or “top 10” lists. While some of these sites are unbiased, many of them are pay-to-play, which is why you should be a bit weary when reading online reviews.
Look at sites like Yelp, Google, your local business journal (which often has information on local companies), and even the chamber of commerce for the city in which you live. While Yelp in particular does promote businesses which pay for prominent page placements, it does not manipulate rankings and reviews. On the other hand, “best of” solar review sites that focus on the solar industry tend to be less transparent about whether a business has earned a positive ranking, or has paid for it.
Beyond reviews, try to find out how long the installer has been in business. Businesses with long histories are more likely to still be in business when you need support for maintenance issues with your system. Unfortunately, some people have purchased systems from now-defunct solar installers. The problem? They don’t have someone to call if there is a problem with their panels. Some solar companies are hesitant to perform maintenance on solar systems they did not originally install, and your system’s warranty for parts and labor will likely not cover another company’s labor.
Once you have a shortlist of companies, contact them to request a system estimate.
You might come across a website that compares prices depending upon system square footage, or other sites that use satellite imagery to determine system size and price. Both sound great, but they are not 100% accurate. Sure, they’ll give you an idea of system price, but don’t take what you see as fact.
Online quotes are rough estimates that do not consider all factors. You will need a contractor to come out to your home to inspect and measure your roof in order to get an accurate estimate.
After narrowing your list of potential solar installers, call them to schedule consultations. Their price estimates will likely include costs you were not aware of. Does your roof need replacing? Is your home’s electrical system up to date? How many solar panels do you need? The installer will answer these types of questions and tell you how much they will cost.
After getting multiple quotes, research the manufacturers of the major system components to find out about their quality and reliability.
It is critical that your solar power system uses quality parts. All parts are expected to last decades while being exposed to sunlight, wind, rain, and other inclement weather. While they may claim the same performance on paper, relatively inexpensive solar systems may use inferior components that reduce durability and energy production. Do your research and ask questions about parts and components. If you have two solar quotes, and one is cheaper than the other, you may be getting a good deal—or you may be getting a worse-performing, less reliable system. You will have to do your homework to know which is the case.
Of course, even the best parts can break down, meaning warranties and maintenance are important. Manufacturers often offer their own warranty. SunPower, for example, offers a 25-year system warranty that covers parts and components. Look for your solar installer to provide a warranty which covers the cost of labor, should an issue with the installation itself pop up.
Ensure that your system can generate enough power to meet your goals for reducing your energy bill.
Sizing your solar system correctly is a huge deal. Focusing on the upfront cost too much could result in getting a system that is too small, and you won’t see the big drop in monthly energy costs that you were expecting. When you talk with a solar installer, they should crunch the numbers to figure out what size system you need. You can also use this helpful guide to calculate system size for yourself.
This is why you want a solar contractor to visit your home. They can measure your roof, take a look at your recent energy bills, consider things like how much shade you receive and the angle of your roof, and then come up with the right size system that meets your energy needs.
Solar systems are a big investment. At Ilum Solar, we know how important reliable communication, transparent pricing, and technical information is for our customers. We will work with you every step of the way—from consultation through installation—to ensure your needs are met. Give us a call today to start your solar journey!