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Tips For Understanding Quotes From Different Solar Installers

17 Aug 2017

Posted in Commercial, General, Residential by Alba Energy

So you’re looking to install solar panels to save money on power costs – Good for you! But before you sign on the dotted line, there are a few things to consider to ensure that you get the right solar solution and not a major headache. This article will explore various parts of the process of going solar to help you educate yourself before you make the final decision.

Not All Solar Components Are The Same

Solar components are the things that make up the actual system. You can think of them like ingredients in a recipe – The better quality ingredients you use, the more satisfied you will be with your meal!

A solar power system includes all of the following components:

Solar Modules (often called Solar Panels)
These are the rectangular devices that absorb sunlight, often installed on the roof of a home. Like other electronics, there are varying qualities of solar modules, from the low end up to the premium or high performance.

Solar modules are made up of either polycrystalline or monocrystalline solar cells. Be sure to read Colors Of Solar Panels - What Are The Differences for a comparison of poly and mono solar panels.

Solar modules are rated based on maximum power capacity, 300 watts for example, which tells the maximum amount of energy they can generate. As you would expect, a higher capacity solar panel will generate more energy than a lower rated panel (300W vs. 250W).

Solar modules are also rated based on efficiency which tells what portion of sunlight can be converted into electricity. Most solar panels have anywhere from 14-20% efficiency ratings, though recently manufacturers have achieved efficiencies as high as 25%. All things constant, a 250W solar panel with a 20% efficiency will produce more electricity than a 250W solar panel with 15% efficiency.

Inverters, Microinverters, and Power Optimizers
Just as important, inverters are the devices that convert the DC solar energy absorbed by the solar panels into usable AC form.

Historically, you would have a group of solar modules tied to a single inverter. More recently, however, technologic advances have given way to smaller inverters (microinverters) being used for every solar module. Enphase has made a name for itself as a leader in microinverter technology.

Another recent advancement is to use a single inverter connected to a group of solar panels, each with their own power optimizer. SolarEdge has established itself as the leader in power optimizers.

Racking And Flashing
Solar modules are installed on top of racking (aluminum rails). The racking is secured using bolts directly into the beams of the home. Where penetrations are made on the roof, flashing is installed to make the installation nice and strong (and water-tight).

Solar Warranty Terms

When comparing quotes from local solar installers, be sure to view an actual copy of the warranty. You’ll want to find out what is (and isn’t) covered under warranty, and for how long of a period of time each aspect of the warranty is valid.
For example, most solar installers offer a 3 to 5 year labor warranty that covers any sort of roof leaks that could potentially come about from a rooftop solar panel installation.

Most solar panel manufacturers offer 20-30 year warranties on the modules, and most installers extend this warranty to customers.

Inverters may have 5, 10, or 12 year warranties, while microinverters and power optimizers generally are covered under warranty for 25 years. Be sure you compare warranties with all of the solar quotes you collect, and keep in mind that components with shorter warranties (a 5 year inverter warranty, for example) will cost money to be replaced over time.

The takeaway here is that not all solar panel installations are created equal. If you receive a quote that is much lower than another, it might be due to lower quality components, or shorter warranties. Ultimately, this could cost you more money in the long run if you have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for replacements.

Solar Installation Output Over Time

When comparing solar quotes, another important consideration involves an analysis of exactly how much money each installation will save you. But, because there is not yet an industry standard, solar installers often use different calculations in their proposals.
It’s unfortunately too difficult to give a simple calculation for solar production for this article, but we can suggest a number of questions for you to ask so that you can get a better understanding of exactly what each proposal means:

How many kilowatt-hours (kWh) will this solar installation produce each year?
What dollar value will this solar installation provide each year?
What percentage of my annual electricity costs will be offset with this solar install?
How many total kWh will this solar installation produce over it’s lifetime?
How many years worth of power production does your warranty cover?
How do I know if my system is producing it’s expected level of power?

Various solar monitoring packages are available, allowing you to track in real-time the amount of energy your solar install is producing. You should also ask if a solar monitoring package is included in your quote, and if not, find out how much more it costs to have one included. The peace of mind from being able to monitor your solar install is well worth any added cost.

Quality Of Solar Installer

When comparing quotes from solar installers, ask for a portfolio of local home solar installations that you can drive to and see in person, and customers that you can speak with in person.

A great way to distinguish a higher quality solar installer is to speak with recent customers. Here are some questions you can ask:

Did the installer pick up all the trash during the job? How clean did they leave the job site?
Were they on time, courteous, and responsive to your questions? Did they complete the project within the agreed upon time table?
Was conduit painted to match the house?
Did any problems occur? If so, how were they handled?

Recommended Reading: What Customers Are Saying About Going Solar In Texas With Alba Energy

Additionally, ask about the crew who is responsible for the actual installation. It’s important to find out if the same crew is used on each job, or if work is contracted out to different sub-contractors.

Quality Of Solar Design & Layout

Finally, when comparing quotes from multiple solar installers, you’ll want to learn about the design of the actual solar installation that will be placed on your home.
Be sure to ask for a drawing or illustration showing where each solar panel will be installed, and where the inverter and other electrical components will be mounted. You have the final say in the design of your solar power system, so if you want the panels to go in a certain place, speak up and say so.

Sometimes there are pipes or other roof obstructions that have to be worked around. If this is the case for your solar installation, be sure to find out before work is started. The last thing you want is a random solar panel squeezed into a corner because the designer forgot to account for vents or pipes on the roof!

A Top-Rated Solar Installer In Texas

Alba Energy specializes in the design, engineering and application of beautiful commercial and residential solar power systems. Click to view our portfolio of solar panel installations in Texas, or request information about an install at your location by contacting one of these solar installers in Texas near you.
Alba’s SMART solar financing means you can POWER your home with solar panels, pay LESS on electricity bills, and contribute to a CLEAN energy future. Call or click today to request your FREE solar savings analysis!

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