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Installing Solar Panels in San Diego? How to Compare Cost of Solar Providers

The decision to go solar is a big one. Even though you’re nearly certain to reap a financial return on your leap of faith, it’s no small investment to turn your home into a self-sustaining green energy machine. What’s more, with so many companies getting into the clean energy market, you may have more options for providers than you know what to do with. When it comes to solar panels in San Diego, cost can vary depending on a number of factors.

Do you know what to look for in a good solar panel installer? Cost isn’t the only consideration, but we understand that affordability is probably at the top of your priority list. There’s more to cost evaluations than the purchase price of a solar panel. You can benefit from breaking down other associated costs to make sure your solar provider is giving you the most value for your investment. Here are some things to look for when you’re running a comprehensive comparison of San Diego solar providers.

Evaluate the Efficiency of the Panels Providers Use

How efficient are the panels proposed by your solar provider? If your provider uses less efficient panels, you are likely to end up needing more panels. More panels could increase the installation time, labor costs, and burden to your roof. In other words, while the panels may be cheaper individually the overall cost could increase.

As you compare the costs of getting solar panels installed on your home, consider that more efficient panels cost a bit more up front. But they pay off big, too. These panels will take up less room on your roof, have a more reliable power yield, and boast excellent degradation rates. The providers who offer the best, most efficient panels are often delivering a better value in the long term.

How long will you be in the home? If you want to personally take advantage of lower utility costs for years, going for more efficient models at the point of installation is a wise decision. The long-run value created by high-efficiency solar panels can include selling excess energy back to the grid, lower home utility costs, and may even improve the value of your home more than less efficient models.

Ask About Inverter Costs

Solar panels capture solar energy as something called a direct current (DC). Your home, however, runs most of its electronics and appliances on power called alternating current (AC). Inverters are the magic device that translates the power from DC to AC so you can use it. The type and subsequent cost of your inverter will depend largely on two things: the needs of your solar system and the preferences of your solar provider.

Solar inverters fall into three categories: string, micro, or power optimizer inverters. String inverters connect all of your panels to the same inverter and are typically the cheapest option. Micro-inverters have a separate small inverter on each individual panel, and power optimizers are a hybrid of string and micro-inverters. If you notice your inverter costs are high with one provider, ask which type they’re using. The difference in inverter costs between providers is likely that one is recommending a centralized inverter while another prefers the micro models.

Consider Labor and Permit Prices

The costs may vary between providers who are using the same panels and inverters for a few reasons, including the labor and permit factors. Faster, more experienced installers may charge a premium to get the job done in a day. On the other hand, you can often score discounts by booking an appointment during the off-season. While labor costs vary, they are often based on the same metric: price per watt of installed solar. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, labor costs are usually about 10% of your total system expense.  

In terms of the local market, this portion of your cost comparison is pretty straightforward. Simply ask for an itemized estimate on labor costs from a few different companies to get an average. You should do a bit of digging about proposed permit costs as well. Your provider will need to draft solar plans and submit them for approval, and they should be able to explain to you what the cost implications are and why.

Don’t Equate Expense with Quality

In addition to breaking down specific costs between panels, inverters, and permits — you should bust a few broader myths as you investigate your local provider options. First, as alluded to above, don’t assume that a lower cost on solar panels means you’re getting the “best deal.” It’s tempting to jump at the lowest bid, but you could end up with a less reliable power source because you chose a discounted panel that has fallen out of industry favor for a reason.

At the same time, paying more doesn’t mean you’re getting top of the line. Some consumers see a higher price tag and assume that they’re getting the best of the best. Look at industry reviews, ask the provider about why they recommend this panel, and look at the manufacturer’s website to view the costs yourself. There could be a lot of reason why a provider increases their prices, including the fact that national companies require a large marketing budget. Stick with quality over perceived exclusivity.

Get a Quote for Roof Work at the Same Time

Have you taken a look at the condition of your roof lately? As you look for solar panels in San Diego, cost analysis must include what, if any, work on your roof looks like. A good solar provider will recommend roof work to maximize the lifespan of your solar panels and keep them secured properly.

Working with a company that does both roof replacement and solar panels means a more seamless experience. Juggling multiple vendors can make budgeting complicated and creating a realistic timeline a headache. If your roof repair team isn’t done by the time a separate solar panel provider shows up, you’re in trouble. Simplify the process and the cost by getting a quote for your roof at the same time you’re comparing solar costs and try to work with a single service provider.

Look Into Financing Options

Potential financing offers could also alter your cost comparison. Interest rates, required money down, and repayment terms are all worth your scrutiny as you decide on a local solar provider in San Diego. A percentage point could come down to thousands of dollars in the long run. Some providers don’t offer financing but can refer you to a trusted source where you’ll be able to obtain a reasonable rate. A provider that can work with you on reasonable financing and a payoff schedule could be saving you a lot of money up front, and then you can use some of your utility savings and selling excess energy to pay off the balance as quickly as possible.

Don’t Forget About Warranties

What if you get a great deal on your solar panels but a fluke manufacturing error causes problems in 11 years? Warranties protect you in the event of a problem with the materials or the installation workmanship. Avoid a future money pit by ensuring that you’re covered by warranties from the start. A typical manufacturer’s warranty lasts for about 10-12 years, but some solar panels have a materials warranty for up to 25 years. In short: factor in future costs when you’re comparing solar providers. Warranties are the best way to offset these hypothetical expenses.

Are you ready to go green in San Diego? Solar panels cost enough to warrant a careful comparison before you accept a quote and sign a contract. Any provider worth their salt will be happy to explain their costs to you and give your project the attention it deserves. Never be afraid to ask for a breakdown of costs and post meaningful questions about anything you don’t understand. You are your own best advocate, even if you’re not a solar expert!

Contact Semper Solaris today to learn more about the best solar panels for use in San Diego. We’ll deliver a no-pressure bid on your solar system and tell you if you need a roof replacement. Becoming energy independent is a huge deal, and you may just inspire your neighbors to get on board, too!


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