The Secret Guide To Buying Solar

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Solar Buyers Guide –

Discover Everything You Need To Buy Solar Panels – Including How To Spot Dishonest Solar Contractors

I think you will agree that spotting sales tricks & gimmicks can be difficult when buying solar.

It won’t be if you follow the advice in this article.

Discover secrets to use against dishonest contractors.

Solar Energy is sweeping the nation. Over the last couple of years, the home solar energy market in the United States has exceeded growth predictions. According to Ostrin, In “Report: U.S. Solar Market Set Record in 2016” published in Optics and Photonics News, solar saw more than 370,000 individual installations, which signaled a doubling of the capacity installed in 2015. The report also notes that over 1,000,000 US homes are being powered by solar and that the surge in solar power installation is just beginning.
This uptick is no accident, and there are powerful reasons behind it. In terms of financial feasibility, solar power is more attainable, due in part to governmental support in the form of tax breaks. There are many other solar incentives depending on your local state, Desire USA is a database that lists all the local incentives. The Federal Tax Credit is available until the end of 2019, the U.S. federal government is offering a federal tax credit up to 30% of the cost of the system. So, if all conditions are met, for a system costing $30,000, the government might rebate you up to $9,000 in a tax credit, thereby reducing your net cost to $21,000. That tax advantage,
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combined with falling prices of solar panels, has made solar, in some cases, more affordable than paying the power company. According to an article published by Consumer Reports in June of 2016 “now is the best time ever to buy solar” and because prices have stabilized, “there is no need to keep waiting for price reductions”. The price of Solar Panels has dropped by 70% since 2009. This article by Bloomberg Shows how solar is now cheaper than wind and ½ the price of coal.
Additional benefits push the value even further into the homeowner’s direction. According to Ebeling for Forbes Magazine, once you place solar panels on your home, 97% of the investment is secured in the subsequent appreciation of your home’s value. Furthermore, the article states that as of 2014, the average home fitted with solar is improved by over $20,000. Normally, the amount that your home appreciates is based on the size of the system installed, and personally, I have seen appreciation as high as $65,000. The best part about solar panels is that they are property-tax exempt which means you get the added value without added tax. And there is no sales tax on solar panel installations. Clearly, the financial benefits for solar are significant, but they increase when one considers the ancillary advantages. For example, securing fixed energy costs protect home and business owners against rising energy costs. In addition, flexible financing options allow you to use the money you save on your power bill to fund the purchase of your solar panel system. In most cases, there is no money down and no out-of-pocket expenses. Considering the overwhelming benefits it should be easy to purchase solar, right? Not so easy. What complicates purchasing solar is the tense relationship between technology, quality, and the market. Making a mistake in any of these areas can cost the homeowner a significant amount of money in the long run. Yet the good news is even if you did make a mistake in one of these areas, you will still fare better than continuing to pay the power companies escalating rates. No matter what country you are in many of the solar benefits apply. Here is a Solar Buyer’s guide from London by Steve N from Money Saving Expert.

“In this guide, you will discover the common pitfalls that exist in purchasing a solar panel system and how to protect yourself and purchase the best solar panel system in the process. We will cover all aspects necessary to purchase a solar panel system that will serve your needs at a reasonable cost.”

How Solar Works

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Understanding how solar power works is the first step in your journey to purchasing a solar panel system for your home or business. Solar energy works by using the photovoltaic process which entails using the sun’s energy to produce electricity. When the sun hits the solar panel, it separates the protons from the electrons which are then sent to an inverter. The inverter converts the DC electricity into AC electricity (i.e., direct current into alternating current) which is what homes on the power grid operates on. Solar panels create direct current electricity, and the inverter converts the power to the form we use. Once the power is converted, it can power your home, and any excess energy it produces will be sold back to the power company to be used by homeowner later when there is no sun to produce electricity. For more information on the history and basics of solar here is a great article from Florida Solar Energy Center. Equipment needed for your solar panel system are photovoltaic solar panels, better known as “PV solar panels”, an inverter to convert the energy from DC to AC electricity, a racking system to mount the solar panels, and wiring to connect them all together. With only a few pieces of equipment needed, it’s a wonder how different
solar panel systems can be. For a little history and more in-depth information on this process, you can check out this article by NASA.

Different Types of Solar Panel System Designs

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  There are three main types of solar panel designs: string inverter, micro inverter, and string inverter with power optimizer. Understanding the underlying differences is critical to determining the solar panel system the best fits your needs. By understanding these differences, you can quickly see if contractors have your best interest or theirs at heart. System design can seriously impact the performance of the solar panels, so two systems of the same size may have very different production levels which ultimately affects your bottom line. For example, if you are purchasing a 10KW system, depending on the design, your production can range from 13,200 kWh to 18,120 kWh. That is a difference of 4,920 kWh or $650 in lost savings, and that is just in the first year. That $650 lost saving will be compounded annually at about 4% (your power company’s annual rate increase) which will equate to a difference of over $27,000 in estimated savings. In many states, it will be even higher depending on the electric company’s kWh rate. Let’s look at which system works best and which system contractors most often recommend.

String Inverters

String inverters represent the most recommended solar panel system designed by solar contractors. It also features the most inefficient and cheapest design. I don’t want this to be a scathing review of solar contractors or string inverters. Even with this cheaper, less efficient design, you will save money in the long run as compared to what you would pay the power company. Most solar contractors are simply taking the path of least resistance by selling you a system based on price. The problem is this system may only perform up to 60% of its peak performance, and there are reasons for this. String inverters tie all of the panels together into one array that is only as strong as its weakest panel. Think of it as the old strings of Christmas tree lights–when one light goes out, they all go out. This poses great challenges to solar power production when there is any shade involved. Whenever one panel is affected by shade in string inverter design, they are all affected by it. For example, in Florida, even though it is known as the “Sunshine State”, it has a rainy season which impacts the effectiveness of your solar panel system. There tends to be cloud coverage that creates shade problems, rendering this system ineffective in Florida.  Solar panel systems Orlando should be designed with cloud shadding factored in. Another limit to string inverter design is that all the PV solar panels need to face in the same direction and angle to maximize the system’s efficiency, thus limiting the size of the system you can develop. Usually, you can’t build a large enough system to eliminate the electric bill, whereas other system designs are able to utilize multiple directions and angles to build your solar panel system. The main benefit of the string inverter is that if the inverter fails, the system stops, and you know what the problem is. Site Tech Connect offers a solid review of the different inverter types.

Advanced Inverter Solutions

There are two advanced Solar Inverter solutions available on the Market.  Micro Inverters and String Inverters with power optimizers.  There are two brands that are dominating this space at this time and they are Enphase for Micro Inverters and Solar Edge for Power optimizers

Micro Inverters

The micro inverter system is a strong step-up from the standard string inverter system and performs at 85% efficiency at peak performance. Micro inverters utilize an individual inverter for each panel which is then routed into your main power box. At the trunk connection of each power box, there is a 2% drop in efficiency. Advancements in technology has catapulted Enphase Microinverters into the predominant inverter of trusted solar contractors.  Specifically there new Enphase Q7 family models which carries a 25 yr warranty and the most efficient power conversion which equates to giving you tremendous long term results According to an article published in Solar Review, most solar contractors only offer system-wide monitoring, even though the main benefit of micro-inverters is to monitor each panel individually.  Most companies will offer panel by panel monitoring if you request it.  Many are now even including it but always best to ask to make sure that you are getting it because that is one of the main reasons why this system is becoming more preferred.  If you are able to see panel by panel monitoring then you will be able to see if one or two panels are out.  Without it you may not be able to recognize the minimal drop of 3% in your production.  You would have to wait until there were like 5 solar panels out so you would have a drop of like 15% in production before you would notice it and over time you could be losing a fair amount of production.  So make sure panel by panel monitoring is available. Although all PV Solar Energy Systems are safe, Micro-inverters have an edge as being the safest.  They offer rapid shutdown with no large transformers which increases its overall safety.  For more safety information you can check out this article from Solar Power World Online.

SolarEdge String Inverter with Power Optimizers

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  The SolarEdge Power Optimizer system gives you the best advantages of string inverters and micro inverters while minimizing the previously mentioned disadvantages, giving the SolarEdge Power Optimizer an efficiency capacity of over 85%.  This is what makes a power optimizer system a premium inverter solution. Power Optimizers are DC-powered which means there is no need to worry about a capacitor going bad as they are warrantied for 25 years. Even though the SolarEdge string inverters are only warrantied for 12 years, you can extend that to 25 years with a SolarEdge extended warranty. The Power Optimizers keep the voltage fixed at their maximum levels which are important in an environment like Florida because of the cloud coverage. The equation that produces the energy for your home uses is Volts X Amps = Watts, which means the higher the voltage is fixed, the more kWh your system will produce, or the more money your system will save you on your power bill. Power Optimizers perform at “maximum power point tracking” (MPPT) at the module level which impacts the efficiency in a positive way as it relates to Volts x Amps = Watts. Similar to micro inverters, power optimizers are fixed to each individual panel, thereby allowing for panel level monitoring. However, they do not convert DC to AC electricity on the spot like micro inverters rather, they condition the DC electricity and send it to the main inverter. Power optimizers also use a string inverter but add considerable efficiency and usability over a standard string inverter. The biggest advantage is still the (MPPT) function that improves module performance both at the module level and system level. Additionally, it can be utilized on multiple roofs at multiple angles which are what 80% – 90% of homes require satisfying their consumption needs. Lastly, it also stabilizes the system’s energy levels in response to shade and cloud conditions. “SolarEdge Power Optimizers give you a premium inverter solution from a strong and reliable company like Solar Edge. In addition, they will maximize the efficiency and production of your string inverter. As noted earlier, the main inverter that fails will cause your system to stop working, but you can easily detect the problem and have it fixed and running in no time.

Monocrystalline Panels vs Polycrystalline Panels

There are two main types of solar panels that a contractor will choose to use on your home or business: monocrystalline and polycrystalline. But there are significant differences between monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels of which every consumer must be aware. The biggest difference between the two is that monocrystalline panels convert 22% of usable rays into energy, whereas polycrystalline panels only convert 14-16% of usable rays into energy. In addition, polycrystalline panels utilize much more space to convert the sun’s light into DC electricity thus eating up more surface space to meet your consumption needs. Furthermore, they also have nearly double the degradation rate than do monocrystalline panels. For example, polycrystalline panels degrade at .64% a year vs. monocrystalline panels at .36% a year. Monocrystalline panels will last much longer than their counterpart.
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Granted, monocrystalline panels are more expensive at the time of purchase, but when you factor in their performance advantage and durability, they are a much cheaper option in the long run. Also, if aesthetics matter and they do for me, then monocrystalline win again. Many brands offer a very sleek Black on Black mono panel vs a rather unpleasing blue checkered poly panel. Overall, I highly recommend monocrystalline panels.
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  The challenge for consumers is that most solar manufacturers make both mono- and polycrystalline panels, so you cannot simply distinguish between the two by brand name or outside appearance. Choosing the less efficient and expensive polycrystalline panels is another way solar installers will cut costs to win a job, but they will end up building a system that takes up more space, performs less efficiently, and costs more in the long run for the consumer.

Inverter Panel Matchup

When comparing quotes from solar contractors, one of the trickiest decisions to make is panel match-up. After your consumption analysis is calculated, you determine that you require a 10KW system which requires a 10,000-watt inverter to prevent system clipping. To save money on their end and to increase their bottom line, many solar contractors will install a 10,000-watt system with a 7,000-watt inverter because the inverter can handle 35% more electricity. However, this strategy reduces the life of the inverter and creates DC system loss, but most importantly, it takes away from your long-term savings. It also adds additional long-term maintenance costs and voids most extended warranties. Unfortunately, this practice usually goes unnoticed. Do not be fooled by false appearances of savings. Very often the informed and honest contractor will bid slightly higher, but you choose the cheaper contractor that peddled a faulty system that will shorten the life of your inverter and add larger maintenance costs to your system. Luckily, you have read this and will know how to spot the typical industry tricks.
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Product Warranties

There are many competitive brands when it comes to solar. The industry standard warranty for solar panels is a 10-year manufacturer warranty and a 25-year performance guarantee. Most brands will offer an 80% performance guarantee for 25 years. The manufacturer warranty protects against any product defects that may occur during the warranty period, while the performance guarantee protects against a panel degrading faster than the manufacturer anticipates. As mentioned earlier, monocrystalline panels will degrade by .36% a year. So if your panel degrades faster than the performance guarantee then the manufacturer would replace that panel. The 80% performance guarantee over 25 years thus means your panel can degrade up to .80% per year and be covered under the performance guarantee.

Solar Panel Brands

There are countless solar panel brands and the purpose of this section is to give you an overview of the premium solar panel brands.  They can be broken down into two categories.  Name brand premium solar panels and none brand name premium solar panels.

Name Brand Premium Solar Panels

This would include brand names like LG, Panasonic and SunPower.  The biggest advantage of this group is they are well known brands and they carry a 25 yr manufacture warranty. Upon first glance it would be a no brainer to include one of these brand in your solar project.  However, most contractors do not offer them unless you request them.  Mainly because of pricing.  To include one of these brands you are looking at increasing the cost of your system north of $3,000.  So the question ends up being are they worth the price differential.  Most dealers believe that they aren’t.  Solar panels are one of the most durable products made on the market.  There are no moving parts which means there is nothing inside that should fail.  None Brand Name Premium Panels offer 25 performance guarantees which isn’t technically as good as a manufacture warranty but plenty good for your protection and you can save over $3,000.  When customers are shopping and looking at price most dealers what to try to give you the best system that they can for the best bang for your buck because they know you will look at more than one option.

Name Brand Scam

Here are the two ways that dishonest contractors will use name brands to deceive their customers.  First not all solar panels that are made by manufacture are of the same quality or even qualify as premium.  So they will include a lower quality panel or an older model that is not up to par with the current advancements of the newer models.  So not all name brands are the same.  Make sure you get the exact make and model of panel with available spec sheet to compare.  An even worse example is the equipment swap.  This is used by truly the most deceptive contractors on the market.  They will tell you are getting LG panels but then install a no name cheap panel.  They use the assumption that you are never going to go on the roof and inspect the actual panel that was installed.   Try to take a look at the panels before they get on your roof and make sure they are the ones that you are paying for.  

Premium Solar Brands – Less Known

Most solar contractors will chose a solar panel for your project from this group of panels.  They are high quality, high efficiency and affordably priced.  According to Clean Energy Review there are many quality brands that don’t have the name recognition but the performance and price to make them worth it.  They review the top 10 Solar Panels on the market. There are a few brands that stand out above the rest such as Q-cell solar panels which come with a 12-year manufacturer warranty and an 85% performance guarantee for 25 years. They are also competitively priced which makes them a triple threat. However, the solar panels your contractor offers will determine if Q-Cell panels are the most cost effective for your project. For example, your contractor may have a distribution deal with Heliene solar panels or axitec solar panels which means they may be able to pass along their volume discount to you. In that case, using the contractor’s preferred brand is fine, as long as that brand offer monocrystalline at with at least a 10-year warranty with an 80% 25-year performance guarantee. Solar panels that are made by a quality manufacturer will last for many years after the warranty expires. Solar Panels are very durable, here is more information on The Real Life Span of Solar Panels. When deciding on a contractor, pay attention to the contract, rather than the promises made in the presentation. Many contractors will talk about some of the name brand panels and their benefits, but when it comes to their contract, they will not list the brand but only the size of the panel. Often contractors will then will use a non-name brand panel of the dubious quality panel with little to no warranty. Request that your contractor lists the exact equipment including warranty details on the contract. This will help you to avoid confusion and keep your contractor honest.

“This is a long-term investment, so having a quality brand that backs up its product is what gives you your assurance of a productive and profitable solar venture.”

Solar Purchase vs. Solar Leasing

I refer solar leasing as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. There are very few scenarios where solar leasing gives the home or business owner a real advantage. The big ploy for solar leasing is that you will save money starting day one on your power bill. Yet it is also true that financing options for solar have come a long way and even with purchasing your own system your monthly payment will be less than your current electric bill. What those in the solar leasing market don’t tell you is that when leasing a system, you do not receive your 30% federal tax credit. Instead, the companies who is leasing the system enjoys the tax credit, a significant bonus that is not passed on as savings to the consumer. Furthermore, solar leasing agents don’t explain that they will be raising your rates every year just like the power companies do now. Typically, you will see a 3% to 4% increase every year you are in your lease, and most agreements last for more than 20 years. In addition, they also hold the right to decide to whom you sell your house because many contracts stipulate that you cannot sell your house to someone who does not want to take over the lease. Here is a great article about class action suits against some solar companies by Larry Bell of Newsmax. In contrast, when you own your own solar panel system, you get the benefit of the 30% federal tax credit, and you are able to fix rate your energy bill if you finance the system, so you will not have any increase in your rate, this is how you will profit over time. Installing a solar panel system that you own will increase the value of your house by 17% according to Forbes, and you do not get any property increase when you lease. In some cases, a leased system will reduce the value of your home because you are only able to sell the home with your lessor’s approval. The rare cases in which it might make sense to lease a solar panel system would be if you don’t have the income to collect on the Federal Tax Credit; in that instance, you might want to lease a system instead. However, in those cases, you will still lose a lot of profit over the life of the system, but you will save on your monthly rate initially with a lease. Lastly, there are some commercial leases that do make sense for the businesses for tax write off purposes.

“Ultimately, owning a system is going to maximize your return on investment. On average, owning your own solar panel system vs leasing one will give you a 300% greater return on investment. So, if you were to save $15,000 on a solar lease you would make $60,000 by owning your own system.”

Solar Contractors can use many tactics to muddy the waters. Finding a contractor that only uses solar installation best practices should be considered.

Solar Sales Tricks

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  I will preface this again there are honest and reliable solar contractors in the market, but there are just as many shady contractors out there. Keep in mind that solar is a competitive business, and contractors are just trying to get an advantage to gain your business. Just because you cannot see the future consequences of a poor decision or feel them immediately does not mean they do not exist and will ultimately hurt you. When you are buying a solar panel system, the being informed on the technology doesn’t always get you the best deal. Knowing and understanding the sales tactics employed in your solar presentation, combined with valuable consumer knowledge, will get you the best energy-saving system you can buy.

The System Size Calculation

The system size calculation fudge is the most common trick or deceptive practice that solar installers, especially in Florida, will pull on homeowners. In short, they will knowingly miscalculate the size of the solar power system you require. Understanding how to calculate your solar panel system needs will help you know who to trust. For example, if you require a 10KW system based on your energy consumption, some contractors will recommend a 7.5KW system. There are a few reasons as to why they would do this. If you require a 10KW system, and your power bill is $200 per month, the energy consultant will tell you only need a 7.5KW system to achieve this result. Here is why: a 7.5KW system contains 7500 watts, and if the price per watt is $3.50, a system will cost $26,250. With a 20-year loan at 5.95% financing, your first-year monthly payment will be $189 per month. So the solar consultant will claim to save $11 per month from the first month after installation. But your real benefit comes in the second year when you receive your 30% federal tax credit and your monthly payments will drop to $135 per month. However, in the above example, as you only received a system that will knock out ¾ of your power bill, you will still have a $50 per month power bill which will leave you with a first-year energy expense (combining your solar financing + remaining power bill) of $239 per month or an additional $39 per month. You will make this up in the long run, but you have left a lot of money on the table. Even in year two, your combined energy expense would be $189 then saving you $11 per month. Now if you were to receive a 10KW system (or 10,000 at $3.50 per watt for a total system) it would cost $35,000. Your first year, monthly cost on that will be $248, only $9 more for a system 33% bigger. In year two, after you apply your tax credit to the financing payment, your adjusted monthly savings would be $176, an additional $13 per month savings for a system that is 33% larger. This is obviously a no-brainer, but the energy consultant is choosing the point of least resistance when he tells you that you are going to save money starting day one. What makes matters even worse is how this example compounds against your return on investment (ROI) in the long run. If your 25-year ROI on a 10KW system is $60,000, which is typical for that size of the system, your ROI over the same time for a 7.5KW system would be $40,000.  PVWatts is a government sponsored tool that you can use to estimate your system production.  It will give you a good base but it doesn’t factor in advantages of power optimizers.

“Solar is such a great investment that it is very forgiving of deceptive sales practices as a consumer who makes $40,000 over what they would have paid the electric company is still ahead unless of course they read this guide and realized that they would have made an additional $20,000.”

Understanding what size system, you need is a good way to protect yourself against this. If you want to check out my post, Solar Math For Sizing The Right System, you will discover how to make these crucial calculations.
Another reason that some solar contractors will underestimate the system required is because in some states there are solar tiers that require additional qualifications or insurance. For example, in Florida, a homeowner  can have a tier-1 system that can go up to 10,000 watts of actual production which equates to an 11.65KW system. The difference is due to system losses that occur between when the energy is created by the panel and when the energy is converted through the inverter. However, if that Florida homeowner wants a system larger than an 11.65KW, they will need to get a tier-2 system that requires the homeowner to carry a $1,000,000 homeowner’s umbrella insurance policy. This adds an additional $300 or so per year and requires an additional step before the system can be installed.
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Therefore, a homeowner must obtain the insurance before moving forward, and this can slow down an installation by weeks if not by months. So, the solar contractor will again take the path of least resistance and tell the homeowner that the 11.65KW system is all the solar power they will require negating their energy consumption. Just as in the above example, if the homeowner really needed an 18KW system to negate their energy consumption, considerable money would be left on the table. But even more importantly, they are misinformed on how well solar works. They might say, “Yeah it lowered my bill, but not by as much as my contractor said it would”. Hence they believe that it is the solar itself that is unable to satisfy their needs when really it was a deceptive sales practice that prevented the consumer from getting what they really needed.

The Nickel and Dime Quote

A “nickel and dime” solar quote does not include everything in the quote. I have seen this done many ways. A common practice is only quoting the price of the solar panels. You have seen me reference $3.50 per watt as a standard going rate for solar which includes everything: solar panels, inverter, power optimizers, racking system, permitting, installation charge, sales, and management fees. So if a contractor only quotes the price for panels at $2.40 watt, and the homeowner accepts that contractor’s bid, he will end up paying additional costs and have a quote price, at the end, of $4.00 per watt. When the homeowner objects to this, the sales rep goes into high-pressure closing mode because he realizes he may lose the deal. So he usually proceeds to tell the homeowner that this is how all the solar companies quote their systems and there is not a cheaper price to be found. The purpose of this approach is to get the call back which they usually will get and then close them on the spot. At this point, they prey on the homeowner’s desire to get it done because they now have had quotes from 3 companies and now a second visit from one of them for a total of four appointments to get solar panels for their home. Stamina is low at this point.

The Confusing Kilowatt Hour Quote

To understand the confusing kilowatt hour quote, you must first understand the difference between KW and kWh. KW (kilowatts) is a unit of size. For example, a 10 KW System would be the size of a solar panel system you would install on the roof of your home. The kWh (kilowatt hours) is a unit of energy production or consumption. To illustrate, every month on your power bill you are shown your kWh which is how much energy you used. Your power company takes your kWh and times it by the price per kWh which gives you your electric bill. If you used 1,510 kWh and your rate was $.135 your power bill would be $202. Here is a technical explanation of this process by Think Energy. To figure out the size of the solar panel system you need to install, you must first find out the annual kWh that you need to produce. From the example above, 1,510 kWh would 18,120 kWh for the year. That just happens to be the amount of production you can anticipate producing with a 10KW system. So, a 10KW system will produce 18,120 kWh a year or 1,510 kWh per month. What a deceptive solar contractor might do is swap the kHw for KW to sell a smaller unit at a better price to win the bid. For example, you received a quote for a 10KW system. Using our standard rate in this example of $3.50 per watt this system will cost $35,000. What the contractor will do is show you how much the system he is proposing will produce in energy and compare it to the size of the system from the competitor’s quote. Let’s say he is selling a 7.5KW system that will produce 13,590 kWh for the year. The contractor will promise to offer you a larger system than his competitor at a better price. How does that sound? Any consumer would say “Great!”. They then would show that their system is 13,590 (kWh) vs the competitor’s 10,000 (10KW). Now they can use a price of $4.25 per watt which would give them a system cost of $31,875. Now the homeowner thinks they are getting a great deal, but they are getting beaten on two fronts. First, they are paying $.75 per watt. Secondly, they are going to own a system that is only 3/4 the size of what they need to produce in energy leaving them with a shortfall of 4,530 kWh annually (18,120-13,590). Why would a solar sales rep do this? They use this method to sell a smaller system at a better profit margin while having the cheapest price. Like most of these examples, the consumer simply doesn’t get the best deal and leaves thousands of dollars on the table. Learning how to properly size your solar panel system can help.

Second Year Pricing Quote

Solar energy is usually cheaper the second year than the first. This is due to the Federal Tax Credit that will rebate 30% of the cost of the entire system you will receive in your next year’s taxes. Most financing options allow you a one-time re-amortization of your loan so that you can pay down your principle by the 30%, which will lower your monthly payment by 30%. This often makes solar power cheaper than the current power bill. However, for the first year, homeowners are usually upside down on their electricity expenses when you combine the monthly power bill with the monthly solar power loan. Let’s return to the 10KW example we have been using. We will assume that the total system cost is $35,000. The 30% tax credit will be $10,500, giving us a net system price of $24,500. The current power bill is $203 per month. With a 20yr, 5.95% solar financing loan your first-year payment will be $253 per month. So, your total energy expense would be $253 +$15 (remainder of the power bill) or first-year monthly expense of $268 per month or $65 more than your current energy expense. However, in year two, when you re-amortize your solar loan, your new monthly payment will be $176 per month +$15 or a total of $191 per month or a savings of $12 per month. Many solar contractors will only show you your second-year rate so you can see you will be saving money, but they will leave out what you will have to pay the first year. After completing the sale, most people will not dispute the discrepancy, and if asked after the fact, they would explain it to you properly. It is about ethics.

The Combination Approach

There are many variables that a homeowner must consider when purchasing a rooftop solar panel system for their home. It becomes challenging when a solar installation contractor uses multiple deceptive practices within one approach. For example, they might recommend a straight string inverter system while underestimating the size of the system you need, all the while only showing you the second-year pricing. You must be astute and on the lookout for these “tricks of the trade”.
I want to stress that there are reputable and honest solar contractors doing business in the industry, but separating the honest ones from all of the rest depends on your educating yourself on as many of these issues as possible so you will be empowered to get the system that performs best and meets your long-term needs.

How to Get the Best Solar Panel System Every Time

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There are many landmines and obstacles to overcome to get the best and most profitable PV solar panel system for your home. The great news is there are two easy steps you can take to ensure that you get the best possible deal.

Demand a Solar Panel Production Guarantee

“Don’t Buy A Solar Panel System Without a Production Guarantee!”

A Solar Panel System Production Guarantee will give you a peace of mind that the system you are purchasing will perform as advertised. This is an agreement that you will add to the contract which states the estimated amount of kWh they claim the system will produce is guaranteed. For example, if a 10KW system is going to produce 18,000 kWh, the guarantee is usually based on 90% guarantee as weather patterns can affect yearly results by 10% either way. So your solar production guarantee, in this case, would guarantee that your system produces 16,200 kWh. How it works; if your rooftop solar panel system doesn’t produce the guaranteed amount of kWh, then your solar power company will reimburse you the amount of kWh they missed by at your current electric rate. For example, if your system only produced 15,000 kWh, your solar power company would owe you 1,200 kWh at your current electric rate of $.135 per kWh or a cash rebate of $162 for that year. Keep in mind you will rarely receive money back because a quality solar contractor who is selling a quality solar panel system can mathematically calculate an accurate estimate for the production of your solar power system. The purpose of the guarantee is to weed out those contractors who will stoop to deceptive sales practices, thereby giving you the peace of mind that you are getting what you pay for. This guarantee will accomplish multiple things. First, it will force your solar power company to recommend a system accurately by removing many of the deceptive practices they use to sell a system that will not perform to the level needed to gain maximum profitability. Secondly, it separates reputable solar power companies that will back up their systems from those who prey on unsuspecting or ill-informed consumers. Choose a quality solar installation contractor who backs up their product and holds themselves accountable.

Research Your Solar Contractors Reputation

The best way to protect yourself from dishonest contractors is to do a little homework on your prospective solar provider.  There are a few things that you should look for. First are reviews.  Specifically Google reviews , check them out and see how many 5 star reviews that they have.  Obviously a company with 10 plus 5 star reviews and no negative reviews starts to look like a reputable company.  following the notion that you can’t make everyone happy all the time, there is room for an unflattering review but what is important to look at is how the company addressed it.  If they ignored the review and didn’t respond and they have multiple reviews like that then it might be safe to assume that if you have a problem that they may be unresponsive and leave your very disappointed. Next is to check their service time.  How many years have they been in business.  Solar is still relatively a new industry but you should be able to find reliable companies with at least 5 years in business.  If they are in business for more than 5 years and have never had a bad review you know you are dealing with a company that will have your back all the way through your solar journey.  The easiest way to check this is thru the Better Business Bureau website.  You will be able to see years in business and if they have every had any complaints.  Between Google and BBB you can get a great understanding of a local companies reputation.

Independent Solar Consultant

” A Solar Consultant protects you from dishonest contractors and gives you a  professional set of eyes to review your solar installation bids”

A Solar Consulting Service is a solar expert hired to analyze the solar quotes that you receive from solar power companies. After obtaining your three solar quotes, send them to your independent solar consultant to review. They will eliminate any bad bids or adjust bids to fit your need. They will then recommend the bid you should choose to install your solar panel system. The biggest benefit of an independent solar consultant is that they know exactly what to look for when looking over solar bids. They will be able to spot inconsistencies that will cost you thousands of dollars in the long run and gives you the peace of mind of knowing you are getting exactly what you are paid for. I would equate this to hiring an attorney to review legal documents that represent your interests and protects you in the long run. The going rate for Emerald Sun Energy’s consulting service is a flat fee of $297 which procures a quote review and recommendation for the best one. They will also reach out to the contractor and help negotiate you a cash rebate of up to $297 so that the service is free for the homeowner. Emerald Sun Energy has never had a case where the solar company didn’t rebate the homeowner, but it is up to the discretion of the solar power company. However, they are always so excited to win the bid that they will make accept that as part of the deal.

Conclusion

The time for the solar revolution is among us, but we need to do our homework. There is a lot of information to digest to get the best solar panel system for your home. The good news is even if you make a mistake, there is so much profitability in going solar that you will still finish ahead. Avoiding the pitfalls of unscrupulous solar contractors takes a lot of preparation and knowledge. By following this guide, you will maximize your opportunity to purchase the most profitable solar panel system that you can. In addition, employing our advanced solar homeowner’s protection strategies can guarantee you the best results. If you choose to go it alone or with an industry expert, this guide has prepared you to enjoy all the incredible benefits that incorporating solar energy into your home or business will bring you.