How to Compare the Cost of Solar Panels in California
Have you noticed solar panels dotting a lot of the roofs in your neighborhood? If you want in on solar energy, you likely have some questions before you take out your checkbook.
As you research solar panels in California, you’ll notice that you have dozens of brands to choose from. And each solar panel brand comes with a different price tag. You want to get the best solar panels for your money, so how do you compare the cost of solar panels in California?
It can be confusing to accurately compare pricing on solar panels and to figure out what you’re really getting for your money. This is especially true if you receive wildly different quotes from different solar panel installation companies. Here’s everything you need to know to compare the cost of solar panels in California.
Comparing the Details
Before you can even start comparing solar panel pricing, you need to make sure everyone’s playing on the same field. First, make sure each quote you receive from a solar installation company gives you the same payment option. If one company quotes you a price to purchase the solar panels outright while another quotes you for leasing the panels, the price tag is going to be very different!
Next, double check that each installation company quotes you on the same solar power system size. The size of your solar system is a measure of how much energy the system will produce, and how many solar panels you need.
If solar Company A quotes you for a 5kW system (kilowatts per hour) while Company B quotes you for a 7kW system, then Company B’s quote is going to be a lot higher.
(Not sure what size solar power system you need? No problem! This article will help you figure out how many solar panels you need for your home.)
Comparing Cost Per Watt
As you start looking at the price tag of individual solar panel brands, you’ll notice they can vary by quite a bit. As with most industries, within the solar world you have your top-tier brands of solar panels as well as workhorse models that will save you on costs upfront but may not offer the same level of efficiency or lifespan as the premium models.
The best way to directly compare costs between different brands of panels is to find the average cost per watt of each panel. This will give you a direct head-to-head comparison of what you’ll be paying for each watt of electricity your system produces.
For example, two of our best-selling solar panel brands at Semper Solaris are SolarWorld and LG Solar. With SolarWorld, you can expect an average cost of $5.62 per watt before tax credits are calculated into the equation. LG Solar offers you a slightly better deal at $4.09 per watt before tax credits.
Does this mean that LG Solar is a better deal than SolarWorld? Not necessarily. A savvy consumer knows that an item’s price tag is only part of the story.
If you were in the market for a new car, you probably wouldn’t just pick the cheapest option on the lot. Instead, you’d look for a car with all the features you want. The same logic holds true for solar panels. Cost is part of the equation, but there are other factors to consider; one of the most important is the type of warranty offered.
Most solar panel manufacturers provide some form of warranty on their panels, which guarantees that the panels will meet certain levels of efficiency for a certain amount of time. The length of the warranty varies from brand to brand.
Panasonic, for example, offers a 25-year warranty on all of its panels, the longest warranty currently available in the industry. Compare that to other lower-cost brands that offer warranties as little as five years. If you plan on living in your current home for more than five years, you’ll probably want a longer warranty so your panels don’t just become roof art if they should break or degrade over time.
A warranty gives you peace of mind in your solar panel investment and also demonstrates the quality and pride a manufacturer has in their product. Panels with longer warranties tend to be more expensive, but you’re also getting a premium product.
Comparing Reputations of Solar Brands
A low-quality solar panel that will quickly lose efficiency or break down isn’t worth your investment, but how do you know which solar panels are the Cadillacs and which are the lemons? A great starting place is your solar panel installation specialist. As you search or solar installation companies, ask the representatives which solar panels they recommend. Each solar panel installation specialist will have their own favorite brands, but they can also give you inside information on many different brands on the market.
Another great resource are homeowners who have already purchased the solar panels you are considering. Check out SolarReviews for feedback from real-life homeowners. These reviews and the advice of your solar installation specialist can help you understand the true value of different solar panel brands.
Comparing Installation Cost
The cost of your solar panels is only part of the price that come with installing panels on your California home. You’ll also need to pay for the installation and accessory parts. Don’t overlook these costs during your price comparison!
It’s also wise to do your homework on the installation company. As with the solar panels, when it comes to solar installation companies, cheaper usually isn’t better! Semper Solaris, for example, is the only company to ever win the National Dealer of the Year Award two years in a row.
Finally, make sure to ask each installation company about the rebates and incentives they offer. Here at Semper Solaris, we are excited to extend to our customers $500 off our installation services. We also provide additional discounts to veterans and first responders, and provide a variety of zero-down financing options. We even offer additional discounts if you discover that you need a new roof and use us to install it.
Be a Savvy Solar Panel Customer
Solar panels are a big investment, so do your homework before you make your purchase. As a savvy solar panel customer, make sure you are comparing apples to apples when it comes to financing and the size of your solar panel system. Look at the average cost per watt to get a true price comparison between different solar panel brands, but don’t decide on price alone! If you wouldn’t buy the cheapest car in the lot, don’t automatically buy the cheapest solar panel. Instead, look at additional factors to get a true sense of each brand’s value, including its warranty and its reputation.
Still not sure which solar panels are the right pick for your energy needs and budget? If you live in California, sign up for a free energy analysis. We’d love to tell you about which solar panel brands we recommend to our clients and use on our own homes!