5 Questions to Ask a Solar Company About Their Prices

Sabrina Lopez
August 26, 2019
5 min read

When considering switching to solar, pricing is one of the biggest factors in deciding yes or no. While the price tag on a solar energy system ranges from house to house, the good news is that adding solar to your home, no matter the system size is an investment that starts putting money back in your pocket on the very first day. There are also short-term federal and state incentives currently available that can cover more than 26% of the price of a solar energy system. These factors have made solar a no-brainer for countless families across Arizona who are turning sunshine into savings. But, time is running out as incentives slowly diminish over time. 

So, while you're conducting your solar research and gathering a few quotes from reputable solar installation companies, there are some questions you should ask them. You fully understand what goes into the pricing of a solar energy system and that the company's specific proposal will help you get the best value for your new solar system. Below, we cover the five most important questions to ask a solar installation company.


1. What panels are they quoting?

When it comes to solar panels, you have many options for color, warranties, and production efficiency, all of which will affect the overall pricing of your system. Depending on what qualified solar company you work with, homeowners typically choose between dark blue panels with a visible grid, black panels with a visible grid, and solid black panels with no visible grid. Some people strongly prefer it, and others don't, so it comes down to your desired aesthetics. 

The panel efficiency and warranty are the bigger factors to consider for the panels on your quote. More efficient panels produce more electricity from the same surface area but also cost a bit more. A more efficient panel is probably better if you have shading or limited roof space.  Most panels have up to 25 years of warranty periods, depending on the make and model. Be sure to also check on this, as a good warranty can help you maximize the savings potential from your solar energy system for years to come.


2. Are they focusing on kilowatt size (kW)? Or kilowatt hours (kWh)?

5kW is not the same as 5kWh. Your system's size (kW) is less important than your system's production (kWh), which measures the electricity produced in a given timeframe under ideal sunny conditions. An automobile engine is a good analogy to understand the difference between system size (kW) and production (kWh). Engine size is generally presented in liters or several cylinders (3 liters, 5 liters, V6, V8),  whereas production is generally measured in horsepower. Not all panels produce the same amount of electricity in a given timeframe, and understanding this can help you choose the appropriate panels for your situation.


3. What kind of financing options do they offer?

There are two ways to acquire solar panels and become energy-independent: purchase or lease. The most important thing to understand about each option is that when you lease your solar panels, the leasing company owns your system and can collect any available tax incentives. When you purchase solar panels, you get to keep the tax incentives for yourself.

You can purchase a solar energy system with cash or a loan and retain all the tax benefits of going solar. We recommend only financing the necessary portion of the net cost after incentives to get the best payback. Leases are a great option for those who don't have a tax liability and, therefore, cannot claim any tax incentives from it anyway. A qualified solar installation company will be able to walk you through their various financing options to determine which one works best for your unique situation.


4. Is there room to expand your system if your electricity needs increase?

Most solar energy systems are designed for current energy usage and don't necessarily consider future factors, like a growing family or adding an electric car. That's not to say you can't request a larger system in preparation for these life events. Still, most opt for a system optimized for the current usage while adding the necessary options for a system expansion later.  

If you think your electrical demand will increase, you should discuss with your solar consultant how much space you'll have for future panels if you decide to expand. Panel efficiency plays a big factor in this considerationthe more inefficient the panel is, the more panels you will need to reach a certain energy production level, leaving less room in the future if you need it.

Solar Panels in Anthem, Arizona Here is an actual example in Anthem, showing how a less efficient panel would require the addition of 10 extra panels on separate roof surfaces to produce the same output as the solar system design on the left.

5. Is your payment going to stay the same, or will it go up?

Sadly, every industry has bad players, including the solar industry. Many less-than-reputable installers practice a "bait and switch" approach to leases, offering a low-down payment to get you into a contract. This appealing up-front cost is attractive, but if you look in the fine print, you might notice a mandated escalator after a few years. Most reputable solar companies can keep the payment level for the duration of the contract. The difference is that you will always know upfront and never be surprised.


If you want to add solar to your home, we invite you to download our free solar guide, Is Solar Right For You? In it you'll learn about the factors that make a solar purchase decision.