Why Comparing Solar Quotes is Not “Apples to Apples”
Price. Price per Watt. Monthly payment amount.
These are a few financially-driven metrics which customers may consider when comparing different quotes from solar providers. However, price alone can be deceiving. You may have heard the phrase “You get what you pay for,” and in many cases that’s true. In many others, the highest cost provider may in fact offer the lowest quality. This is not unheard of, and harkens to the reasons why at least soliciting multiple quotes is a good idea.
Not only does seeking multiple quotes tell you which company charges the least, but speaking with sales representatives can also reveal a lot about the expertise, quality, and customer service to expect if you were to move forward. And if you ask the right questions, you may learn whether that company has given mind to the specific aspects that will create the best overall solution for you and your property. Let’s review some of the areas apart from pricing that should be considered when comparing solar quotes.
- Expertise and Qualifications
How long the company has been in business? Are their personnel experienced, knowledgeable and certified? The value of knowing your contractor is educated and capable is obvious, but should be a prerequisite to be considered independent of the price.
- Quality and Aesthetics
Not enough can be said about quality of workmanship. This is the care that an installation crew gives to a project above and beyond what anyone might see. Or maybe what they will see! In rooftop solar, this pertains to the choice and layout of modules, the location of inverters and other equipment, and the installation of conduit on the outside of the house, as well as other wiring methods.
- Customer Service Experience
It is relatively simple these days to find online reviews about customers’ experiences dealing with a contractor. In addition, your representative should be able to provide you with specific customer references in your area to speak with, as well as view their system. How someone speaks of a company when they have nothing to gain is very telling of how to expect them to treat you.
- Ethics of the Company
Why is this company in business? Do they pay their employees fairly? What are they doing for their community? Or, could you trust your salesperson to say “hey, maybe right now just isn’t the right time for you”? At Ecohouse, our people are 100% committed to doing our part to address climate change, and we believe providing honest, full-service solar installation is a great way to do that! This year, we also opened the Ecohouse Foundation, to give back 5% of our profits and doing what we do best – installing more solar – for non-profit organizations in the Columbus area.
- Hidden Financing Costs
How a solar system is financed is a huge part of the equation. It is also an area that leaves a bit more unknown to the customer. That is because traditional solar lenders often charge a fee that becomes built in to the contractor’s offer price (and therefore $/Watt). And the interest rate will add to your total price paid throughout the life of the loan, and is amortized much like a mortgage. Then again, it depends what is important to you, because a low payment can make it a lot easier to afford, and is a legitimate way to get more solar on the grid faster. Plus, most of these loans can be paid off early without penalty if you wish to save on interest. Don’t be afraid to discuss with your representative if you’re curious about other financing options, or have an idea for how you’d like to fund it.
Investing in a solar system is a big deal, and can be an emotional decision, possibly overwhelming with choices. It may be best to take your time in evaluating proposals and companies until you feel comfortable with your purchase. As costs can vary widely, especially with size and equipment choices, it’s important to prioritize your values and take this into account along with the price. So, if two comparable system quotes were a few hundred dollars apart, would you be willing to pay incrementally more for a consultant who is with you every step of the way? A good system installed right – the first time – by a company located and involved right in Columbus?