If you are considering purchasing solar, you should be aware that you might get a quote from one firm for $10,000 and a quote from another for $40,000, and the systems would be the same quality. Because this is such a new field, there are some firms out there who might try to take advantage of you. This page is to help you be a “smart buyer” so that won’t happen to you.
This is a great resource to help you identify if you are being taken advantage of: https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/news/how-to-spot-solar-scams/
This lists some of the consumer protection available to solar customers: https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/learn-the-issues/consumer-protection/
And this is a general resource with information on pricing and how to buy: https://www.saveonenergy.com/solar-energy/#cost-of-solar-panels
See also the list of resources here on our site.
In general, homeowners should expect the following from any installer giving them a quote:
– Installer should provide a specific total cash price, not including any tax credits
– Federal tax credit: 26% in 2022 (currently scheduled to decrease to 22% in 2023, 10% for commercial in 2024 (0% for residential in 2024)
– A reasonable price for residential solar will be less than $3/W, installed, with maintenance included
– Installer should provide details on their company history, certifications, previous Virginia installs, and where they are based
– Your price may vary if your install is very complicated (lots of dormers, roof difficult to access, etc)
– Installer should provide details of what warranty and maintenance will be provided; 10 years of maintenance, and 15-25 year warranties on most equipment can be expected
– Homeowner can calculate the ‘production ratio’ of the proposed system: This is the annual production in MWh for the first year (e.g., 13 MWh which is the same as 13,000 kWh) divided by the system DC size in kW (e.g., 10 kW). For this example system the production ratio is thus 1.3 (13/10). South-facing roofs without much shade should have a production ratio of 1.2 to 1.3. E-W facing roofs will have a lower production ratio of roughly 1.1. If the proposed system has a production ratio much different than these examples, it is worth questioning the installer.
– Good practice is obviously to get more than one quote. Also, be wary of any installer pressuring you to sign immediately, who claims some special relationship with Dominion Energy, or who will not provide a hard-copy or static PDF bid, but instead only allows viewing the quote on a web site.
– Normally, system should not provide more than 100% of current usage, since payment by Dominion for over-production cannot be guaranteed. Current usage can be determined by adding up the last 12 months, (the last 13 months are shown on every Dominion bill).
– You should limit how much of the system price you pay before the final interconnect, to give you some leverage if interconnect is not successful for some reason.
– Be aware that you may be able to have an additional income stream from selling the credits for being a renewable energy generator, in addition to selling the electricity itself; these are called SRECs
Many installers do not mention maintenance or warranty, what certifications their company has, what installs they have done previously, or even where they are based
Production ratios are all over the map, for the same roof; some are not physically possible
Current assumed utility rate varies wildly; this should be an easy calcuation from your Dominion bill: subtract the fixed charge from your total bill, and divide by the number of kWh that month, to get price per kWh
Prices for the vast majority are unreasonably high, and many have unreasonably high financing rates
Many did not mention the extra income that can be expected from the Virginia SREC market
There have been recently many new entrants into the field of solar installers here in Hampton Roads. Some homeowners have reported aggressive sales techniques and lackluster performance. We decided to request quotes from many different installers, all on the same house with the same given parameters, to try and understand some of the differences between installers, and help homeowners determine what a good price would be, and what normal maintenance and warranty provisions would look like.
All these quotes were done on the same house. In general the request was for solar that would cover the annual usage of 9700 kWh/yr, but the installer could optionally also quote for maximum solar to cover the roof (because the howeowner was expecting a potential increase in usage)
These quotes were collected in January and February 2022. The data below, taken directly from those quotes, are only meant to represent the current practice of that installer at that time, from that sales agent. It is possible that installers could change software, practices, or sales agents, and have different performance than this.
This information is provided ‘as-is’; this is the information as we were given it on the dates these quotes were collected. Homeowners are responsible for making their own purchase decisions. This information is provided only to be helpful to homeowners in making this major financial decision, in a technical field that is relatively new and not well-understood by most people.
|Company (in alphabetic order)||System Size (W)||Annual Production (kWh)||Production Ratio||Price/W||Summary|
|Blue Raven Solar||6375||7804||1.22||$ 3.51||Price is somewhat high, but everything else looks reasonable. Good maintenance/warranties.|
|BrightSuite by Dominion||8000||10261||1.28||$ 3.25||Moderately high price per W, higher than many others here. Maintenance/warranty not mentioned in provided quote. Priced for 105% of usage without mentioning that excess over 100% would not be paid to the home owner. SRECs only mentioned as 10-year sale, at 30% of current retail value ($10.92/SREC versus $37/SREC). 25 year financing is one of the longest terms seen. Battery option offered.|
|Convert Solar||7200||9405||1.31||$ 2.85||Good price and good description of company. All parameters such as calculated offset and production ratio are correct. Production guarantee not stated explicitly. Good maintenance and warranty. Local company in Virginia Beach.|
|Expert Solar||6400||9054||1.41||$ 3.88||High price per W, no maintenance plan mentioned. Unrealistic production ratio. You pay for everything before it’s connected — extremely risky for the customer, as you would be paying in full before you know if the system operates.|
|Freedom Solar / Sunpower||7200||10513||1.46||$ 4.52||High price per W. Excellent warranties. Excellent financing (0%). Production ratio appears unrealistically high.|
|Green Brilliance||7770||10034||1.29||$ 2.67||You pay for 80% of the system before it’s installed (risky for customer). Offices in DC. Good price per W. No maintenance plan mentioned. No company certifications or past installs.|
|International Solar Experts||6400||9856||1.54||$ 2.74||Good price per W. Production ratio appears unrealistically high. No mention of company location, certifications, maintenance or warranties.|
|Ion Solar||7770||9541||1.23||$ 4.76||Very high price per W. Decent loan terms. Typo on annual utility bill. Includes some warranty and maintenance, but only 2 years of service.|
|LoSo (Local Solar)||9875||10731||1.09||$ 3.86||Very high loan rate. Very low production ratio. Somewhat high price/W, no maintenance plan mentioned. No mention of company history, expertise, past installs or certifications.|
|Noble Solar||11100||15369||1.38||$ 4.55||Very high price per W, no maintenance plan mentioned. No mention of company history, expertise, past installs or certifications. Only quoted for max roof coverage, not current consumption.|
|Nova Solar||10950||13851||1.26||$ 2.44||Good price. No mention of company location, certifications, maintenance or warranties. SRECs assumed for 30 years which is not reasonable. Good description of installation process.|
|Power Home Solar||11200||13812||1.23||$ 5.62||Incomplete quote: quote not savable as document – had to take screen shots. Price per W extremely high. No maintenance plan mentioned. No mention of company history, expertise, past installs or certifications. Cash price not given, even though that was the direct request of customer (calculated it from price given minus stated discount for cash).|
|Radiant Solar||8160||10893||1.33||$ 3.68||Fairly high price per W, no maintenance plan mentioned. No mention of company history, expertise, past installs or certifications.|
|Renew Energy||10800||9802||0.91||$ 3.07||Incomplete quote, confusing and missing actual cash price. System size appears to be wrong since production factor is unphysical. Maintenance and warranty are described. No mention of company history, expertise, past installs or certifications.|
|Sigora Solar||7200||10122||1.41||$ 4.37||Very high price per W, no maintenance plan mentioned. No mention of company certifications. Monthly production/usage graph does not appear correct. Includes giving “electricity for family in Haiti for one year” with no other specifics given. Very high assumption of increase in home value. Apears to include home energy audit, but not clear how much included in given price.|
|Solar Services||10800||$ 2.80||Not a lot of detail, but good price, and provided actual panel and inverter specs. Have heard decades of customer reports of satisfaction with service; local company in Virginia Beach.|
|SunBum||6800||10084||1.48||$ 2.90||Reasonable price/W, but no mention of maintenance/warranty, unrealistically high expectation of SREC income ($70/SREC for 25 years). No address or company history/certifications given.|
|SunPRO||7600||8979||1.18||$ 4.52||High price per W. Out of pocket cost not clear. Warranties are excellent. No mention of company history or certifications. No mention of SRECs. No company address except Texas license.|
|Tesla||9600||$ 2.10||Extremely low panel/system price. Good links to information about company and product. Not clear what the price and production is for a standalone solar system without a battery. Nice to have the option for a battery included.|
|Titan||9480||$ 3.64||Annual production not given. Fairly high price per W. No mention of company location, history or certifications. No mention of SRECs.|
|Unlimited Solar||6400||9154||1.43||$ 3.41||Somewhat high price per W. No mention of company location, history or certifications. No mention of SRECs in their cash price offer. Somewhat high production ratio. No mention of warranty or maintenance plan in quote (they don’t provide it in writing until you sign the contract).|
The table above is a reduced set of the information from the quotes.