For anyone with livelier interest in solar, getting multiple solar power quotes can be the single most important to do.
The process is really simple and hassle free: you fill out a form with some basic information about your need, after which the quotation company sends your information to three businesses serving your area. And finally, you receive three separate solar power quotes in your inbox, from three different solar companies.
If you’d asked for site assessment while filling out the quotation form, companies will call you to make an appointment for this visit before sending you the quote. (I personally recommend that you request for site inspection.)
The whole process can take anywhere between 2 days up to a week depending on how quickly the solar companies contact you, and whether or not you requested for site visit. Some businesses are really good at mobilizing their resources, while others are just a little slow. (This should be your first clue while shortlisting).
Here is a diagram that shows the whole process…
Who are the solar power quotes service provider?
All that offer solar quotes service are either one of the two:
- Independent online businesses, or,
- Solar Panel companies themselves.
No matter who you choose for your quote, the service is free to use. Furthermore, there are no obligations attached, which makes it very attractive for homeowners.
Independent online businesses survive by selling the lead (you) to multiple solar power companies (usually up to three).
Solar companies offering free solar power quotes on their own websites profit by selling you their products and services.
Some of the key benefits of using independent online service over the solar companies are as follows:
- The biggest advantage is that the service is impartial.
- Instead of filling out separate forms, one for each solar companies, you fill out only one form; this saves you plenty of hassle.
- All solar power quotes will be from companies that are pre-screened based on customer’s feedbacks.
How do you know if the business is a solar company or just a service provider? This one is easy to spot. You can quickly check out their ‘About us’ page to find out who they are, or spend some time clicking through few pages and reading what’s in there.
Now let’s jump into more details….
What’s included in Solar Power Quotes?
The amount of information in the quotation can get overwhelming, especially when you have more than one to look at…
But mainly, focus on these things…
- Identity of the business: Name, ABN, Address, Accreditation, etc.
- Product specifications: Panels and inverters types.
- Expected annual solar generation.
- Rebate estimate and final price.
- Image of your roof with solar panels.
- Warranty of the products and the installation work.
I will quickly go over each item… Let’s start with the business identity…
Here, you’ll find the business name, website, and most importantly their ABN. Copy this ABN and paste it here to cross-check the company’s background.
If the company is CEC member, the document will have the member logo. CEC is the peak body for renewable energy in Australia, and it recommends that everyone only use its member companies for solar project. If you don’t see this logo anywhere, proceed with caution.
A solar power system has two major components: Solar modules (also known as solar panels), and inverters. All solar power quotes specify what combination of product is included in the quote.
Below is an example:
Expected daily and annual solar power generation
The actual generation may vary from what’s shown in your solar power quote. Nevertheless, it is an estimate of how much power your system is likely to produce from your roof.
Note: As an example in the figure below, just because this system produces 6.2 kWh/day doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how much you’ll consume everyday (something to consider while calculating savings on your power bill).
Price of the system
Price structure is usually broken out as follows:
- Full or original price of the system.
- Expected solar rebate.
- Actual out-of-pocket cost of the system (rebate applied).
- Any up-front deposit requirement.
As shown in the figure below, each of the above are usually stated clearly in your solar power quote.
Due to the nature of rebate process, the actual amount you pay for your system may slightly vary from the quote.
Few more things you should note:
- If you want solar companies to honor their quote, always ask for site assessment before they quote you for supply and install.
- Price of a system can fluctuate by up to 40%. For example, a 5 kilowatt system cost range can be $6000-$9000.
- Be wary of companies that require unreasonable amount of up-front deposit.
- If you decide to lease your system, the beneficiary of the rebate will be the solar company, not you.
Roof-layout with solar panels in it
Solar panel quotes have a render of your roof with solar panels in it. Whoever works on the installation will match what’s shown in these renderings.
This visual aid confirms the orientation of panels on your roof, especially if you’re putting them in more than one direction. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the panels’ position on your roof, it is better you talk to the retailers sooner than later.
Here is a sample roof layout…
And, finally, the warranty for supply and installation.
Sometimes it is hard to find detail information on things such as warranty. With solar quotes, these details are usually hidden in the fine prints of the document under the terms and conditions section. Because this is such an important aspect of your purchase and so confusing at the same time, I will highlight few things you should look for in the warranties…
There are two components to a solar power system; modules (panels) and the inverters.
Solar modules, or solar panels, come with two types of warranties…
- 13.A in the figure below shows Manufacturing warranty, also known as parts ONLY warranty: This protects you in events of faulty panels and any accelerated wear and tear on the panels. Most manufacturer’s provide 10 years of parts only warranty. In case something happens within the warranty period, you’re responsible for all the soft costs involved to replace the faulty panels (including labor and may be shipping). Off course, the new panels themselves will be covered by your warranty.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have parts and labor both covered?
According to the experts at onestepoffthegrid.com.au, there are only a few companies that offer parts AND labor warranty. LG is one of them…
If there is one thing the experts recommend, it’s investing in the quality of the product. Just like the LG NeON mono crystalline modules..
- The second kind of module warranty is the performance warranty (13.B). This warranty covers the output from the panel based on it’s power rating. The LG NeON panel in my example is power rated at 315 Watts. What LG, the manufacturing company, guarantees is that the panel will output at least 80% or 252 Watts until 25 years.
The most common performance warranty is 90% until 10 years and 80% until 25 years. The natural degradation of solar cells causes power loss over time.
Out of the two, the one you should be paying close attention to is the manufacturing warranty. If you don’t see this information in your solar power quotes, you should ask the local solar company.
Now, let’s look at the warranty of other component….inverter..
Compared to solar panels, inverters have shorter warranty period. The most common is 5 years, some have it for up to 10 years (like the Enphase micro-inverters shown below). Inverter warranty usually covers parts and labor, both.
If you can, solar experts also agree that you should put more money into better quality inverters than solar panels. That’s just because they tend to breakdown more than the solar panels. Also, it is highly recommended that you purchase any extended warranty that is available at the time of installation.
Okay, that’s all for the Product warranty. There is one more warranty hidden in the Terms & Conditions of your solar power quotes, and that’s the Solar Company’s workmanship warranty.
Workmanship warranty from local solar company
Just like manufacturer’s product warranties, the solar company that installs your system also provides warranties: for their workmanship.
An average solar company will have a one year workmanship warranty, which means that if anything related to the installation (cables, connections, etc) goes faulty over this period, it is covered in the warranty. If a panel or an inverter goes bad, nothing this warranty will do.
However, there are few solar companies that have signed what’s called CEC retailer’s code of conduct. What does it mean? I copied the information for you directly from the CEC consumer flyer
If you happen to choose a solar retailer that is a CEC member (thus, has signed the retailer’s code of conduct), it means that, in case something goes wrong with your system no matter what, the whole system warranty will cover every bit of it, for the first five years. It is not only the workmanship but also the products. it means you don’t have to deal with the manufacturer even for product related issues in this warranty period.
Before I wrap up, there is one more thing regarding the warranty…here is the #15 in the list of top 15 things to spot in your solar power quotes….
These are the things, if you do, will violate your warranty conditions. What can be such things, you ask? Some of them are….
- Modification of the system in your roof by someone other than the company that installed it.
- Moving the system.
- Unusual physical environment or electrical stress.
As you can see, warranty is a huge part of your buying decision. That’s because solar is expensive and new. Everything you see in your solar quote must be confirmed and anything you don’t see that the company claims must be obtained in a written form, before you sign any papers with them.
I think this concludes about everything I wanted to cover on things you should pay close attention to in your solar power quotes. The saying, what you pay is what you get, is indeed true in case of solar as well. Cheaper shoddy panels and inverters can end up costing you more in the long run and a lot more headache.
As Jeff Wehl points out, the first and the most important part of getting solar is picking the right solar company for your project. Which is where sites like Solar Quotes come into play. Solar Quotes maintains a list of pre-vetted companies around the country and only uses the highest ranking companies in their quoting service. If you want to get three free quotes from three companies that Solar Quotes trusts, head this way.