10 tips for getting the best solar quotes
In the residential solar industry in America, high pressure, in-home sales tactics are the norm. However, you can beat these tactics and get an excellent deal if you are armed with the right information.
On this page:
- Check solar panel costs by area
- Stick to reliable brands
- Read equipment reviews
- Check installer reputations
- Explore financing options
- Calculate projected savings
- Learn about incentives and credits
- See what utilities will pay you
- How to get quoted the lowest prices
- How do solar quoting sites work?
Good information and transparency of pricing data is the key to consumers getting offered the best deal on solar.
Solar companies know that users of platforms like SolarReviews have been given access to accurate pricing information; to win your business, they will have to make you an excellent offer.
Here are the top 10 things you need to know (and do) when collecting solar quotes, to ensure you get the best deal on solar panels.
1. Check average solar panel costs in your area
It is important to know the average cost of installing solar panels in your area, as this figure will serve as the benchmark of what you should pay.
SolarReviews displays key cost data on our site.
Our quote platform has the largest collection of solar panel installation cost data in the US. More than 350 solar companies submit estimates through this site, providing solar quotes to over 350,000 homeowners per year.
The volume of quotes generated through SolarReviews means that we have access to the most accurate and up-to-date solar panel cost data available anywhere.
Is government data as useful?
In some states, data from each installation of solar panels is reported to the government. It can be obtained from sites like:
The problem with official data sets, however, is that they include Purchase Power Agreement (PPA) jobs. PPAs are often reported at inflated prices by vendors to maximize their tax credit claims, which makes the cost of installing solar in these states higher than they actually are.
Elsewhere, this data is either not reported or not published by the state government.
SolarReviews, by contrast, displays data from across the United States. More importantly, we only show data for residential solar panel installations, which allows for an apples-to-apples comparison of solar costs by homeowners.
2. Only consider reliable solar panel brands
To make sure you get the right solar panels, you first need to become familiar with the two main categories they belong to:
- Tier 1 solar panels
- Tier 2 and Tier 3 solar panels
Tier 1 solar panels are high-quality modules made by large, established manufacturers. Large-scale projects such as solar farms use Tier 1 solar panels almost exclusively.
Tier 2 and Tier 3 solar panels are made by companies that are either new or small, and thus lack a proven track record. A large project will struggle to raise financing if they use one of these brands.
Learn more: Tier 1 vs Tier 2 solar panels
You should only consider quotes for Tier 1 solar panels, even though they are more expensive than Tier 2 and Tier 3 products.
The reason is simple: solar panels are built to last at least 25 years. As such, you want reliable solar panels that are unlikely to fail. Moreover, you want a manufacturer that is highly likely to still be in operation 20 years down the line, so if there is a problem then, the company can honor the warranty claim.
Learn more: Best solar panels for home in 2020
3. Read reviews of the solar equipment
Check to see how the brands you’re looking at have been rated by other consumers.
Why? Because reading the product specifications and marketing materials only tell part of the story. To get the full picture, you want to hear what end-users have to say about the equipment’s real-world performance.
Luckily, finding consumer reviews of solar equipment is easy. SolarReviews has the largest collection of solar company reviews on the internet. You can check them out here:
The most recent reviews tend to be the most valuable, as they reflect customer experiences with the company’s most recent model.
4. Check the reputation of the solar installer
The installation company you choose to install your solar power system is as important as the specific brands of solar panels and inverter you choose.
It is up to the company to install the equipment correctly and they are the ones to call if anything goes wrong.
Read solar installer reviews here.
5. Explore home solar financing options
If you want to maximize your financial savings, it is best to buy your solar system outright (i.e. cash purchase).
For many people that’s not possible, which brings us to financing. The next best option is to secure a solar loan for your purchase.
Most solar companies will offer to connect you with financing. However, we recommend that you first check if you are eligible for a HELOC (home equity line of credit). HELOC rates are lower, at around 4.5-5.5%, whereas unsecured solar finance offered by solar companies is around 6-8%, or higher.
If a solar company knows that you can get financing sorted out yourself, they will feel they have to offer you a better deal to get your business.
As for PPAs and solar leases, these generally offer the lowest savings, but they’re worth considering if a cash purchase or loan isn’t possible.
6. Calculate your projected savings
An informed decision about solar involves many factors because it is a very long-term investment. One of the most important is factoring in your potential financial savings before you commit to install solar panels.
Checking the figures for your monthly electric bill savings, as well as the total savings over the life of the panels is easy thanks to our solar savings calculator. You can use it just to see an estimate based on cost data data from your area, or you can choose to take the next step and use it to get live pricing from local installers.
The calculator will show lots of other relevant information, such as how many solar panels you need, what the solar panels will look like on your roof, and the monthly loan repayments if you finance your solar panels.
7. Know how solar incentives and tax credits work
It is possible to save a lot of money when going solar by taking advantage of the solar tax credit and other incentives.
It’s important to know how much these are worth, and what the eligibility criteria is for each.
When you use the solar savings calculator, it will show you what incentives and rebates are available to you and how to go about claiming then. There is an almost overwhelming number of incentive programs out there, but the calculator uses a filter to only show the incentives that apply to your address and for customers of your specific utility.
8. Calculate solar energy output for your home
A key assumption determining the return you will make from your solar system will be the amount of power it produces. This varies depending on the location, the direction of the roof (south is best) and the tilt angle or slope of the roof.
If your house has roof space facing anywhere between south-east and south-west, at a normal roof pitch of around 22 degrees and is largely unshaded between the hours of 9 am and 4 pm, then this is probably not a big issue for you.
If you are concerned, then the best calculator for working out the exact production from a specific roof is a government solar calculator called PVWatts.
This PVWatts solar production data is also available through the solar savings calculator.
9. Check what the utility will pay for your grid exports
Many states offer net metering, which means that you can sell excess power from your system to the utility grid at the retail power rate. Florida and New York State are notable examples.
Other states apply Time of Use billing, which changes the electricity rates over the course of the day, potentially influencing how much you’ll earn for your exported power. This is the case in California, for example.
In states with Time of Use and feed-in tariffs, you may be better off with a hybrid system (solar panels plus battery storage). These systems allow you to store the surplus power produced during the day in a battery, for use at night.
And then there are states where your exported power will earn a price lower than the retail rate. This is usually called a feed-in tariff, and is in effect in places like Arizona.
If net metering is available, you should take advantage of getting the full retail rate by installing a grid-tied system that will export plenty of power to the grid.
Make sure you discuss compensation for exported solar power with your utility and your solar company.
10. For the lowest prices, get your solar quotes through bulk buying platforms
It is no secret that solar companies will hand out their best pricing when they know they are facing stiff competition.
That is why you are often better off requesting your solar quotes through a marketplace like SolarReviews.
Our combined platform is used by over 350,000 consumers per year and receives competitive bids from more than 350 solar companies nationwide.
Installers know that if you have used our platform, you are an informed consumer who is shopping around, and the only way to win your business is by offering you a great deal.
Users of the SolarReviews platform in 2020 paid $3.40 per watt for their solar system compared to a statewide average of $4.66 per watt.
How do solar quoting websites work?
Solar quoting websites provide you, the homeowner, with a much-needed platform where you can find out everything you need to know about solar before negotiating with a solar company.
Data shows that users of solar quoting websites like SolarReviews tend to purchase their solar power system at a lower cost than the market average.
|Average cost of residential solar panels in California - official figures||What users of SolarReviews in California paid on average|
$4.66 per watt
$3.40 per watt
It is easy to get a quote through this site. You enter your details, utility, and monthly power bill and it displays an online estimate of how much solar you need and the market pricing based on the average pricing of the installers that service your area. It then gets three of those installers to provide their live prices and an accurate bid for your house.
This is where SolarReviews steps up to the plate.
This site shows you the reputation of both the solar installer and also the brand of solar panels they sell you.
There are significant variances in cost between the cheapest and best solar installers, and the cheapest and best solar equipment. SolarReviews allows you to access the benefit of feedback from approximately 30,000 consumers who have already gone solar and have been generous enough to share their experiences with SolarReviews. The ratings of installers and solar panels give you an easy way to compare quality.
SolarReviews offers consumers highly accurate and unbiased information about both price and quality, the two biggest factors a consumer needs to consider when considering a purchase of solar.
With this information at hand, you will get the best solar deal for your house and start saving money quickly.
- Solar panel costs vary by area, so first check what costs are like where you live
- Stick with reliable solar brands - you can read reviews on SolarReviews
- Choose a local solar installation with good reviews; again, SolarReviews can help you here
- Use our solar calculator to figure out applicable solar incentives and work out your financial savings from solar
- Explore solar financing options - HELOCs usually offer the lowest interest rates
- Solar quoting websites like SolarReviews allow you to access unbiased information and lower costs
Author: Andrew Sendy | Home Solar Journalist
Andy is deeply concerned about climate change but is also concerned about cost of living pressures on American families. He advocates for solar energy and solar battery storage only to the extent that they make financial sense for homeowners. He is not affiliated with any particular solar company in the United States.