March 30, 2020

How to Compare Solar Bids

Cost of Solar Providers in San Francisco

At Simply Solar, we're proud to be the San Francisco Bay Area's number one provider of rooftop solar panel systems. We've installed countless projects ranging from single-family home solar panels to large, complex commercial solar systems, and we strive to create efficient, durable systems at the lowest possible cost. We want our customers to get the best deal on solar panels no matter what, so we always encourage customers to get multiple bids for their rooftop solar installation and compare them – if you're wondering how to compare solar bids, we can help.

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How to Compare Solar Bids: A Step-by-Step Approach

As more residential consumers make the switch to solar power, many people find themselves asking the same question: How do I compare solar bids and ensure that I am getting the best deal?

To help navigate this challenging situation, it is useful to consider several key factors. Finding a licensed contractor is a must, but beyond that are many options that may work for some homeowners but not for others.

Step One: Find Licensed Contractors

It should go without saying that before you can compare solar bids, you must acquire several different offers. Unfortunately, this advice is not always followed. Many consumers hire the first company they find – often based on name-recognition or favorable reviews – without fully vetting their options. To have the best chance of making the smartest decision, homeowners must first solicit several licensed contractors for solar bids.

Fortunately, this is easy to do. Licensing information is readily available online, and securing bids is as simple as calling the company or setting up an appointment.

Licensed contractors have the experience and knowledge of building and electrical codes to ensure the job is done correctly. However, finding a licensed contractor is only the first step in the decision-making process. After that, there are still many questions to ask.

How to Compare Solar Bids, Simply Solar

Step Two: Ask Questions

We recommend interviewing at least three potential contractors for the installation. This will give you a fair range of prices, abilities, and experience. You should expect a contractor to come to your home to assess your roof, electrical setup, electric bill history, and other factors that affect installation conditions. When you conduct your interviews, keep these helpful questions in mind:

    • Do you hire subcontractors during the installation process? If so, what is there experience?
    • If you have any unusual house features (unique roof type, etc), this should be explained upfront.
    • Do they partner with any lending institutions that offer financing?
    • What is the expected payback period?
    • If this is a lease, are there escalator payments?
    • Where are the materials manufactured? What type of panels will be used?
    • How will the system be mounted to the roof? Will it be secured directly into rafters and utilize a flashed, leak-proof, system?
    • What is the workmanship warranty?
    • How is the installation process handled? Do they have dedicated project management and customer service?
    • What is the top-line cost for the project? The top-line cost is the entire amount of the project, not broken down into monthly lease amounts.

Note: When asking about panels, it is important to not immediately dismiss a company because their panels are more expensive. Contractors may use a more expensive but more efficient solar panel that will pay off in the long-term. The total price also includes installation labor,

Step Three: Payment Options

This can be a challenging decision. A cash purchase can range between $8,000 and upwards of $50,000, which is daunting or even prohibitive for some homeowners. However, many solar providers work with lenders that have special, low-rate, loan options for solar power. The monthly payment for the loan is often lower than the amount a homeowner was paying before for their electricity. This results in immediate savings for the homeowner, with no upfront costs.

PPAs and leases offer similar payment options in that they often involve monthly payments and little money upfront. With a solar PPA, the consumer does not pay for the system but pays a rate for the electricity generated by the solar panels. In both lease agreements and PPAs, the homeowner does not own the system; therefore they will not benefit from rebates, incentives or increased property value.

Owning a system is by far the best option to maximize savings and benefits. Unfortunately, most homeowners believe owning a system is not possible if you do not have the money to pay for it upfront. The upside to this is that there are lots of financing options that allow you to attain your system with little to no money out of pocket while still gaining all of the benefits of owning a system. While purchasing your system outright has the highest upfront cost, it will save the most money in the long run. This should be clearly explained by your solar company.

Step Four: Review the Agreement

All quotes, communication, proposals, and agreements must be completed in writing. Be sure to ask for everything to be documented, and then take your time reviewing each step of the agreement. This is a major purchase, so discretion and careful review are necessary.

After careful review, it is time to sign the agreement. At this point, a diligent consumer will have researched and interviewed at least three contractors, confirmed qualifications with the licensing board, had every question answered about the system itself, decided on the payment method and reviewed the final agreement. At this point, you can feel secure in your decision – you have done the necessary research, and now it is time to enjoy solar energy as it powers the home.

Get a Free Solar Estimate Online

We hope this helps you compare different solar installation companies and make the right choice for your home, and if you're ready to take the first step towards a rooftop solar system of your own, we can help. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you achieve clean, sustainable energy independence and get your free solar savings estimate. We can't wait to hear from you, and we're excited to help you make the switch to solar!


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Why choose Simply Solar when there are so many commercial solar companies vying for your business?
  • Experience: With over 20 years in the industry, we have what it takes to build a solar system that will exceed your expectations.
  • Products and Partners: With industry-leading products, which we choose for their durability and outstanding performance, you can be sure that your solar panel system will last for many decades.
  • Expertise: Commercial solar companies hire out inexperienced contractors. Not Simply Solar! We handle the full site analysis, system engineering, permitting, installation, activation, monitoring, and maintenance of your solar system.
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