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Solar pricing is a numbers game, avoid big companies overcharging you.

Here are a few questions to ask your potential solar contractor so you are able to understand what you are paying for. No matter how the proposals look or what is being suggested, following these tips will give any homeowner confidence when selecting the right proposal and getting a fair value for their solar installation project. When comparing quotes ask yourself these questions.

1) Which panels do they offer? Then do some research..what is the brand and rating on my suggested panels?
2) What is my per watt price?
3) What are my warranties for labor and products?

Use these tips to determine solar panel installation costs and compare proposals

1) Request each contractor provide the Top line Cost of the system being proposed, not the financing or monthly payment.
As home solar power has become more of a mainstream home upgrade, several new financing options have emerged. These include Solar Leases and Power Purchase Agreements. Of Course homeowners can always consider loans and other credit lines, but all those choices can make evaluating quotes difficult. Make sure the solar contractor provides the actual cost of the solar power system, regardless of the plan to pay for it. Having the price will help compare the quotes letting you make the determination of which quote is the best value and if you even need financing or not.

2) Calculate the solar price per watt figure on your solar proposal

30 - LG285W panels - 285W x 30 = 8,550 Total Wattage
divide system cost $30,000 with total wattage (8,550)
8550W = $3.50 per watt

Solar proposals are an apples to apples game. The best way to determine pricing is to calculate the “price per watt”. Once the contractor has given the actual installation price (including equipment, labor, permitting and any extras) the calculation is simple division. Take the price and divide by the DC wattage to arrive at the Price per watt.
Don’t let a contractor avoid the cost question by talking about “Free installation”, $0 down or monthly payments. If the system size proposals are the same wattage, the price per watt is an easier number to grasp.

3) Determine the panel manufacturer and panel wattage being proposed

With an established price per watt of the solar proposal, it is possible to dig deeper about the panels and other equipment being used. You can also compare system sizes, vs price. Different solar contractors will be proposing different panel manufacturers with varying DC wattages. Ask your contractor what panels they are using and what the wattage for each panel. Knowing the panel manufacturer is another factor to help compare quotes. At a minimum, make sure that the installer is proposing solar panels from a UL listed, tier-one solar panel company. Other manufacturer considerations are manufacturing standards such as ISO certification, years in business and where the panels are produced. Panels produced under higher quality standards might be slightly more expensive but will typically have better production yield and better warranties.

4) Calculate the lifetime cost per kilowatt hour (kWh)

How much do you pay for electricity today? The answer to that question determines the impact of converting your home to solar electricity. Installing solar power to your home is about controlling electricity costs. When comparing solar quotes for your solar savings (especially solar leases against a solar purchase) is to look at the cost per kWh. For a rough calculation of the cost per kWh with solar you can do the following:
Sticking with the 6000 watt example from tip 3:
*All numbers here are illustrative based on general conversion rates. Utility rates

So then you can decide how much you want to pay for your power for the next 20 years.
Solar savings is the difference between the price per kWh from the utility vs. the price per kWh with solar. In the major California utility areas, with tiered electricity rate, a monthly residential electric bill of $250 per month has an average cost of $0.30 (thirty cents) per kWh. Converting to solar buying the panels cuts the cost of power by $0.184 (18.4 cents). The lower the cost of solar the bigger the savings for every kWh used day after day, year after year. Below is an actual comparison of a solar purchase vs a solar lease.

5) Remember to factor in the 30% Solar Tax Credit
Tax credits are still available from the federal government. Claiming the tax credit with shave 30% off the final installation costs. Make sure to factor in the tax credit when looking at price of a lease or purchase. It is important to note that the solar tax credit is only available for solar purchases. Solar Leases absorb the tax credit in exchange for a lower upfront installation cost. In California the average system size is a 5.0 kW system. By the CSI data the average cost for fully installed solar is $5.82 a watt. Using this average pricing data, 30% of that 5 kW system cost is $8,730 that is the potential tax credit for this scenario. Choosing a solar lease, that entire amount is given up directly to the solar lease company.