how to compare solar quotes

Compare Solar Quotes to Pick the Right Solar Company

A solar energy system is a long-term investment that needs to be thought of more like a marriage, and not a one-night stand. That is why it is vital to thoroughly vet and compare the top solar companies to ensure that you are picking the right one that matches your needs. But how do you compare and choose from the dozens of solar installation companies near you? If you’re feeling overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to start, follow this helpful step-by-step guide on comparing and choosing the top solar company for you and your home.

Compare Solar Quotes: Step-by-Step Process

  • Step 1: Get quotes from solar companies
  • Step 2: Compare the Pros and Cons to Your Goals
  • Step 3: Apples-to-Apples Solar Cost Comparison
  • Step 4: Analyze Their Warranty
  • Step 5: Check Solar Company Credibility
  • Step 6: Read their Solar Reviews
  • Step 7: Ask Relevant Next Step Questions

Step 1: Get Quotes from Solar Companies

The first step to comparing solar providers is getting quotes from solar companies that provide service to your area. One of our customers shared a copy of their spreadsheet that they used to compare solar companies.

Regardless of whether you are using an excel spreadsheet or paper and pen as long as you can quickly write down a list of solar companies and their pros and cons, that is all you need. To have a proper comparison, be sure to include large national solar companies and local solar companies that service your area. Because your city is unique, and your home’s weather conditions are unique, it is essential to ensure that the company installing solar on your roof, understands how to build a system for your area correctly. Local expertise can help ensure that your solar company makes the proper design modifications to factor in for things like wind and humidity as well as provide you have a smooth permit process.

Step 2: Compare the Pros and Cons to your goals

When comparing your provider options, it’s essential to be aware of the differences between local businesses and a global solar company. Typically speaking, larger solar companies are more established and can offer more comprehensive warranties. They may also provide additional payment options and maintenance services, like panel cleaning.
On the other hand, local solar companies are likely to be more familiar with your state’s rebates and county permitting requirements. And as they service fewer locations and customers, the process may move faster, potentially allowing you to make appointments for pricing quotes and installation sooner.

There’s no right or wrong answer on this step—consider whether a small or large company makes a difference. Note on your document which companies fall into each category.

Step 3: Apples-to-Apples Solar Cost Comparison

Price per watt is the language of solar sales. Just take the quoted price and divide it by the system size in watts. For example, a 6 kW system is 6000 watts. So, a $16,500 price divided by 6000 watts gives you a rate of $2.75/watt. Evaluating the cost of your solar energy system by Cost/Watt is the best way to compare prices, and it is a metric solar sales guys understand correctly.

Step 4: Analyze their warranty. Does it cover labor?

Your solar energy system has two types of warranties, workmanship warranties, and solar equipment warranties. Solar panels, solar inverters, solar rails all have various kinds of warranties. Typically, most companies will cite the solar panel manufacturer’s warranties. Most solar panel equipment warranties will range from 25 years to 10 years, and cover any equipment issue regarding failure. When evaluating a solar panel warranty and it’s manufacturer, it is essential to understand what your warranty includes.

Equipment Related Warranties

Solar PV systems, if installed correctly, will last for a considerable amount of time. Solar energy systems are built to last. But like all things, parts can fail, and in that event, it is essential to know what the warranty will and won’t be covered. In that event of an equipment issue, the solar equipment manufacturer will ship the spare replacement parts, and cover for the labor. Some solar panel manufacturers will also provide a performance warranty for the equipment itself. They are ensuring that your solar panels perform at a certain level through 25 years. Some solar panel manufacturers also offer a performance warranty to guarantee that the panels will produce based on the original forecasts. Solar panel performance warranties will typically ensure 90% production at 10 (ten) years and 80% at 25 years. Solar panels that come with performance warranties are a fantastic way to gain peace-of-mind regarding the types of solar panels you purchase. This is because the performance warranty is much more encompassing than one that focuses on a panel breaking. 

Workmanship Warranties

A more encompassing warranty since it guarantees that your PV system will perform to a specified level and that workmanship would be guaranteed. This means that if there are any issues regarding the labor or the construction of the solar panels on your roof, it will be covered by the solar company who installed the system. Any defects that arise from the assembly and installation should be fixed free of charge. 

Step 5: Investigate their Credibility and Credentials

Look into the credentials and credibility of the solar company you plan on working with. In particular, the state license is extremely important. Make sure that the solar company you end up working with is properly licensed, bonded and insured.

It is also important to evaluate the quality of the work and the company’s experience installing solar. In most cases, experience is more important than company size if you want a great experience. Look through solar business directories and solar company websites to find out how long each has been in business. Some companies may advertise that they have been around even before solar existed. It is crucial to determine how long the company has been specialized in solar installation. Installing solar is tough; it requires a blend of electrical and roofing expertise. Many companies have tried to expand into solar, but it has proven difficult for many. The solar process is exceptionally complex, and with the high degree of specialization required, even some of the largest roofing companies like PetersenDean have had to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. When checking your solar company’s credibility, it is vital to see if any advertise how many solar panel systems they have installed. And consider the types of roofs each solar company has worked with successfully in the past.

Step 5: Read their solar installation reviews

All the solar-related certifications and experience in the world won’t matter much if the solar company doesn’t treat its customers well. Going solar is complicated from attaining the proper permits, properly designing the system to choosing the right size of your solar array. You want to work with a solar company that is responsive, fast, and trustworthy. 

Search for solar customer reviews on websites like Best Company, Solar Reviews, EnergySage, Yelp, and the BBB. Feel free to contact the solar companies you plan to work with and ask for references. Most will provide two or three references upon request. Solar is a significant investment, and ensuring that you are working with a professional solar company you can trust is vital. 

Use your comparison chart to note the general impressions you get from the reviews you find. This will make it easy to remember which concerns you want to address with a company before proceeding.

Step 7: Ask Relevant Next Step Questions

As of February 24th, 2020 the CDC has formally announced travel guidance warnings with relation to COVID-19 to the following countries:

Regardless of how good a solar company looks on paper, your interaction with that company is the most pivotal factor when choosing a solar company. To properly vet your narrowed down solar company list, you want to potentially inquire:

  • How fast do your jobs typically take to complete?
  • Do you handle all of the permits that my city and state require?
  • What’s included in the warranty provided?
  • What is your building and safety inspection pass rate?
  • Do you subcontract your solar installation?
  • What’s the process like if I wanted to take the next steps with your solar company?

These questions can help you further narrow down your list of solar companies to ensure that you get the best solar experience possible.

Additional Considerations When Evaluating Solar Quotes

1. Check and Compare Solar Production Estimates

Go to PV Watts to fact check production estimates. Solar production forecasts vary from software to software and can be manipulated to skew more conservatively so that more panels are required in a design.

2. Roof Type – Your Roof Type Matters Significantly

Regarding roof type, anything other than a standard composition shingle or flat concrete tile roof usually requires some form of extra work to be done to prevent future leaks and having to replace a crap ton of broken tiles. Most clay or lightweight concrete “s” tiles break just by looking at them wrong, and having to replace 50 to 100 broken tiles with every install will kill a company’s margins. Furthermore, if you break those tiles and leave them on the roof, you are just begging for a call during the next rainy season due to leaks from water not channeling efficiently down the roof. If you have one of those “s” tiles roofs made of clay or lightweight concrete, paying anything above $3.25 would be considered high. This price point assumes that the installer will be removing the tile from where the solar will be installed and laying down paper with composition shingle instead. If you have a flat roof, it might be a tad (5-10 cents more per watt) more expensive since the mounting and sealing materials used are quite costly and time-consuming to install.

3. Review Each Company’s Financing Options

There are a few ways to finance your solar energy system, including paying cash, getting a loan, solar lease, or entering a solar power purchase agreement (PPA). How you want to finance your solar energy system, could factor into which solar company can best facilitate your request. Some solar companies focus on solar PPAs and solar leases, while others may concentrate on solar purchases. Find out which option each company offers and make a note of it if it impacts your situation.

If you already know how you want to finance your solar energy system, make sure any solar company you consider offers those options. If you aren’t sure which financing option makes the most sense for your circumstances, focus on companies that provide multiple financing methods. This will allow you to ensure you consult with the right group of solar companies to make your decision. If a solar company on your list doesn’t offer your desired financing option, cross it off.

4. Don’t Get too Hung Up on the Solar Panel Equipment

Way too often, we see that people get too hung up on the equipment, which is not their fault. Other solar companies treat the selling of a solar energy system like a car, where it’s all about the flashy brand and the extra bells and whistles. While this is true to some extent, it is essential to know that what you want in a solar energy system is a workhorse, not a racecar. As a company specializing in solar repair, we find that the most significant impact on a homeowner’s ROI is if you require service. We see that the equipment is rarely the cause of failure, just poor installation practices. With over 12 years of experience in this industry, we have only seen the need to replace a solar panel twice out of tens of thousands installed. Inverters, micro or otherwise, tend to have more issues. 

Forme Would be Happy to Help Compare Solar Quotes

At Forme Solar, we recommend you evaluate at least five other solar companies to ensure that the solar system installed, is done properly. 

There are hundreds of solar companies, with new ones popping up each day. To know which solar company to go with, we suggest comparing multiple solar quotes to ensure the solar panels on your roof are installed safely. 

At Forme Solar we are solar installation experts. If you have questions or would like more information on how to compare solar quotes, give us a call we’re always happy to help.