Imagine this. You’re excited. You’re ready to go to a solar lifestyle and stop paying for coal power. You call several solar companies, just as you called several power companies when you first set up your electric utility service. You tell the solar company how much power you use each year, and they are ready to help. They send you a bunch of information on solar panels, solar cost, and how much you will save by switching to solar. It’s a lot of information, but, how do you know that you have a good company and accurate information in front of you? Let’s discuss how to prepare, what makes a good solar proposal, and what you should be looking for.
1 – A great solar proposal comes from a certified solar power company.
There are a great deal of solar advertisements out there from companies that are actually rooted in other businesses. The most common one you will see are roofing companies selling solar on the side. There are also companies out there that are rooted in heating and air, but also sell solar as an add on. There are many factors that will effect what solar should cost and how much power you should produce. Most of these are perfected by experience and by using the proper tools to design your solar system.
Solar is not an industry that one can tack on as side projects and instantly offer their customers the lowest price. By taking the time to understand and gain experience in solar, solar companies get partnered with the best banks at the best rates and offer the best warranties. When looking at solar, be sure to find a company that specializes in residential solar for more than five years. These companies likely have proven themselves, have a good pool of references, and have enough experience and certifications to get the best backing for financials and warranties. Array of Solar is one of the best examples of these qualifications.
2 – A great solar proposal will provide an accurate UV analysis.
A solar panel soaks up UV or ultraviolet rays like a sponge. These UV rays are the same ones that cause you to get a sunburn when you’re outside too long. UV rays are effected by the latitude and longitude of the home, elevation, the angle of the panel, and any obstacles that cause shade. Things like trees, your chimney, or that big two-story house next door. Without a satellite image of the roof of your house, and the UV exposure it gets for the month and the year, there is no way to fully know how much your system will produce. If your Solar Consultant does not share that with you, keep shopping. The only way to get a full picture of your system, is to complete this analysis.
Here is an example from Array of Solar of the what the UV analysis image should look like.
3 – A great solar proposal will show you how many kWh the system will produce.
Each system will produce a given amount of power based on the things mentioned in point number 2 that are specific to your home. For example, a 2 kilowatt (kW) or 2000 watt system, depending on panel placement could produce anywhere from 2000 kWh to 4000 kWh; it all depends on that UV analysis and panel placement.
Shame on the company that comes in and promises those 4000 kWh without an analysis! For an output that strong, you would likely have to take the panel into outer space for some real, up-close UV exposure. In reality, the output falls in the middle. For reference, when looking at your proposal, the total amount of production per year in kWh is the number that you want to have in order to compare to other proposals as you review each one. Find out how many kWh you used in the past year on your electric bill. Your solar system annual production should fall close to or better than that average in order to achieve the 90 to 100% usage offset. You can be green and save money. If they can’t show you how to make that happen with a formal analysis, how do they know how much you’re getting from this new little power plant you’re adding to your roof?
System annual production and usage offset example.
4 – A great solar proposal will outline costs and savings.
This one is pretty straightforward; your proposal should cover exactly what you’re paying today, how much you can save, and how much solar will cost. If your Solar Consultant does not share that with you, keep shopping. If they whip out a piece of paper and start estimating how much solar you need for every “X” dollars spent on your electric bill – RUN. This should all come from a formal proposal tool.
Example of costs and savings.
5 – A great solar proposal will show you warranty, insurance and monitoring information.
Warranty & Insurance: Every solar company should be bonded and insured. Ask each company about the solar equipment and installation workmanship warranty, as well as if they have insurance. (Keep in mind, this insurance is different from the insurance for your panels.) Every company should be able to easily regurgitate what warranties come with your system and warranties that cover the work being done. The company’s insurance will cover any loss or injury while on your property and/or to any equipment during transit.
Monitoring: Once you get your system installed, you should have access to monitor your system. The best tools out there for solar will show you, in real time, what your system produces, if the system is fully online, and if you have any system errors. If the company is not showing you the monitoring that comes with the system, find a new company.
Hopefully this helps to keep you informed as to what to look for when shopping for solar. Solar power isn’t very complicated, it’s electricity. We all use it. We all need it. Your already paying someone for it. If you find a company like Array of Solar that shows you the details that are important, then you will enjoy decades of self produced power at the best possible price!
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