Tips on How to Talk to Your Solar Installer and Save Money in the Process

Reader Contribution by Sarah Kezer and 123solarpower
article image


How To Negotiate With A Solar Installer

If you’re ready to spring into a solar panel system for your home, this is a great year to do so. The continued drop in solar systems prices paired with exciting technology developments have made 2017 a great year to go solar. Solar energy can help you reduce your utility bills, improve your property value, and of course help the environment!

When you begin shopping around for a solar system, you may wonder what goes into the hefty sticker price. The largest part of the expensive derives from the actual­­ equipment. This usually includes the panels themselves, the inverter, and the mounting system. Then you have to factor in the costs of labor, installation, and permitting. Plus, your installation cost can fluctuate depending on exactly where you’re going to be mounting the panels. A complex roof, for example, can be more difficult to install and require more man-hours. This type of specification is a perfect example of something to go over with solar installers when you start negotiating overall price. Want to save money on your solar panel system? Start by knowing how to negotiate with the solar installers you interview. Below is an overview of what you need to know to get started. In the case of buying a solar system, knowledge is definitely power!

Cost Per Installed Watt

Your ability to pull the trigger on a solar system is probably going to depend on whether it can fit within your budget. It’s crucial to be able to decipher pricing quotes from vendors and understand how that will or won’t fit within your requirements. First, the quotes you receive should clearly state the maximum generating capacity of the system in AC watts. If they provide a quote with DC watts, have them convert it to AC before you get started.

The size of a solar system is typically measured in kilowatts (kW). It will be helpful for you to know how much a system will cost you per watt (1 kW is 1,000 watts). To do so, take the quoted price that you get from a trusted installer and divide it by the expected output. This is your cost per installed watt. You can use this to compare to other installers and figure out who has the lowest cost per installed watt. Use this figure to compare systems, regardless of size. Just because one system is more expensive, that doesn’t necessarily mean that its value in terms of power output is greater. Configure your cost per watt and compare.

Break It Down

Ask for a breakdown of all that is included in your quote. Does the quote incorporate reductions granted by the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) incentive? The ITC affords a 30 percent rebate for eligible solar technologies including photovoltaic, solar water heating, and solar space heating/cooling. That’s right, this incentive reduces the total cost of your solar system by 30 percent! Plus, there may be additional state tax credits available to you depending on what state you live in.  You can do more research on which rebates are available in your state with the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Also, be sure to ask whether the quoted price includes sales tax, permitting, connecting to the grid and all hardware.

Credentials and Warranty

Take to your installer about their insurance coverage and available warranties. There are often different warranties. One issued from the parts manufacturer and a second from the installer, so be sure to ask about both. Make sure you’re getting the right warranty that suits your budget

Last but not least, don’t be afraid to ask for the installer’s credentials and certifications. Ask how many years of experience they have installing photovoltaic systems, and their experience in your area. Ask if there be a project manager responsible for keeping the project on time and within budget? Who will be your point-person. What’s your projected turnaround time for this project?

Compare at least three installers to get a good sense of who you’re working with and to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible.

Once you’ve spoken to several installers and are armed with all this knowledge, you can make an informed decision. Take all these aspects into consideration and use them to negotiate exactly what you want. Choosing the right solar installer is arguably the most important step in the solar power process. You can always turn to a trusted solar power marketplace to get a head start and see how much you can be saving.

Photo byskeeze

Sarah Kezer is passionate about helping others take advantage of the power of solar energy. At 123SolarPower, Sarah assists in answering questions and providing expert information for users to explore their options when it comes to going solar. 123SolarPower connects individuals with the largest network of solar power providers in the U.S. Connect with Sarah on Twitter and Facebook. Read all of Sarah’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.