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  • Choosing between proposals

    Now we have three proposals that I'm trying to compare. Please see the attached template and help me make sense out of it.
    The first vendor did not include a storage solution because according to them "A battery is not required for NEM 3.0 customers. A battery may provide more bill savings and pay for itself if operated correctly, but even a 100% energy offset solar-only system will bring value to a customer."
    The vendor with Panasonic panels doesn't see a need for Module Level Monitoring.


    Most vendors don't provide a lot of detail. Getting itemized proposals is like pulling teeth.
    Am I wasting my time with unnecessary analysis?
    How do you evaluate proposals and vendors?
    Any recommendations for installers in California Sacramento, San Joaquin, Alameda counties?
    Attached Files

  • #2
    Originally posted by rmk9785e View Post
    How do you evaluate proposals and vendors?
    Do you really want to know ?
    If so, be careful what you ask for, but read the dummies book before you do and study up on solar process economic as well. You'll learn most of the basics you'll need to understand what's required.

    Comment


    • #3
      Welcome to the decision process! We went through that as well. I talked with all of my neighbors who went solar before us for advice on their experience, researched the local installers through the BBB and looked at every available YouTube video on different systems and configurations. Took into consideration our age and how long we expect to remain in our home. Given upgrades we were making to our home at the beginning of the research process, we waited a year before selecting a vendor.

      The neighbors were wealth of information. Of the four of us, by the time we made our decision, two had full solar rigs, one was just deciding.
      • One neighbor responded to the "Door Knocker" solar sales people who offered to lease her roof and give her an electric bill offset each month. Her system was online all of a few weeks when it went offline, and she had a bear of a time getting the system serviced. She experienced a lot of finger pointing because the leasing company had sold the rights to her system to 3rd party vendors. She's been offline most of the Summer. None of the parties seem interested in following up with her or the local electrical service provider.
      • The other neighbor went with a "Solar Only" system installed by a mom-n-pop local company when they bought the house last year. Due to financial constraints, they opted for a smaller system with the capacity for expansion, to offset the electric bill. He's had a few hiccoughs, but the system more or less works. Roof has a maze of pipes running all over the ridge line and down the side of his house for one array of panels on his Southern facing roof.
      • Third neighbor also went with the mom-n-pop installation right after us, for solar only. Installation looks sloppy - panels are sitting high off the roof surface and he also has a maze of pipes running all over his roof line and down the front of his house. The panels are also crammed onto every available angle of the roof; even some that get blocked by shadows and trees.
      • I'm retired, husband is planning to retire in a few years. We expect to be living here for another 15-20 years. Along with renovations, we upgraded our house to be carbon neutral (moved from fossil fuel heating to all electric). Went with a hybrid solar/battery rig. We went with a complete Generac installation for panels, inverter and batteries. Visited a few of the local Generac vendors installations and everything was tight to the houses with little exposed conduit. Best of all, I have one phone number to text / call when we have had issues (sporadic configuration issues that have been resolved OTA). Ours is otherwise working as expected. Nice energy credits, and with the 18kW battery backup, we went 12 weeks this summer without pulling any power off the grid. With winter approaching and the days getting shorter, I am just keeping the batteries for backup and using the panels more to generate the energy credits.
      Like you, we had multiple vendor bids. I will say, Generac worked with us the most. We added a garage to our home (along with interior renovations), and when we started looking at solar, we were in the process of having an addition built between the house and the garage. Along with the house, we knew we wanted to use the garage roof for panels. Now... we were NOT under contract with Generac, just preliminary designs and tacit discussions. But the local Generac electrician worked with our contractor through the construction to help design the proper electrical conduit into the addition. That kinda sold us on the vendor. Also, we were going to look at Tesla, but Tesla does not have a strong support footprint (or good reputation) in Rhode Island.

      From these forum posts, what I learned is to be patient. Solar is still a relatively new technology and each year there are improvements, but to expect "settling in" issues. Ours, knock on wood, seems to be past the new system bug period.

      Good luck!
      Rade
      Rade Radosevich-Slay
      Tiverton, RI

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Rade View Post
        We went with a complete Generac installation for panels, inverter and batteries.
        Rade
        Thank you for sharing your experiences. I thought Generac was mostly in the backup power generator business. I see they have added battery and inverters to their line but still don't see complete systems at their website. Called them and they referred me to two local authorized installers.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by J.P.M. View Post

          Do you really want to know ?
          If so, be careful what you ask for, but read the dummies book before you do and study up on solar process economic as well. You'll learn most of the basics you'll need to understand what's required.
          Thank you for providing guidance when I was choosing solar some 5 years ago. Read the book at that time and need to refresh my understanding in the changed landscape.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rmk9785e View Post

            Thank you for sharing your experiences. I thought Generac was mostly in the backup power generator business. I see they have added battery and inverters to their line but still don't see complete systems at their website. Called them and they referred me to two local authorized installers.
            You're more than welcome! What also sold us was the Generac name is plastered on all the parts. Not different vendors providing different things.

            Yes, they have a big following for gas and propane generators in these parts, and the solar rep wanted to sell us a back up generator for when the batteries are depleted, but we looked at historically how long average power outage is (2-3 hours) and determined that we could survive just fine on the 18kW PWRCell batteries. We had them install a sub panel and identified 6 circuits (mainly ones with refrigerators and freezers on them, and our heat pump). Even if the power goes out for several days (you never know?), the solar panels will provide enough recharge during the day to keep us safe.

            We would have gone with Tesla; we like the Tesla solar roof shingles and the Power Wall system, but they just do not have a presence here in RI, and folks who had them installed locally have had an awful time with service calls. That kinda killed them for us, but as I pointed out to other folks, we follow a Vlogger on YouTube, Marques Brownlee, and he went all in on the Tesla solution in the metro NYC area and has been blown away by it. Great video to look up, if you want to hear about a user experience.
            Rade Radosevich-Slay
            Tiverton, RI

            Comment


            • #7
              I am in the middle of an install and used reviews off here:

              https://www.solarreviews.com/

              For my valley of 5 million people, many installers are listed.

              To be on that sight, all companies must be on there 5 years.

              Not responsive after the sale is a pretty common complaint. You, however, are before the sale.

              I am going with an Outback installer and they publish a lot of documentation like spec sheets and user manuals. Tesla and Sunpower did not. Because documentation is available for me, I can find the answers to those questions. I could get answers from the salesman about inverter type and monitoring equip and battery type.
              Last edited by chrisski; 10-27-2023, 09:12 PM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by rmk9785e View Post
                Now we have three proposals that I'm trying to compare. Please see the attached template and help me make sense out of it.
                The first vendor did not include a storage solution because according to them "A battery is not required for NEM 3.0 customers. A battery may provide more bill savings and pay for itself if operated correctly, but even a 100% energy offset solar-only system will bring value to a customer."
                The vendor with Panasonic panels doesn't see a need for Module Level Monitoring.


                Most vendors don't provide a lot of detail. Getting itemized proposals is like pulling teeth.
                Am I wasting my time with unnecessary analysis?
                How do you evaluate proposals and vendors?
                Any recommendations for installers in California Sacramento, San Joaquin, Alameda counties?
                I don't think you are wasting your time at all analyzing your needs and proposals. After all, you are buying an expensive piece of equipment. If you put out vague requirements for your system, you might get a system that meets your needs or maybe not.

                When purchasing an expensive semi custom piece of equipment, it makes sense to first specify what you want that piece of equipment to do.i.e.


                1) Offset 100% of my current power usage
                2) Use a battery to shift my power usage and minimize my power bill
                3) Run entire house for 3 hours during normal power outages
                4) Run critical loads panel for 3 days during wildfire season (assumes smoke and ash obscure solar production)
                5) etc.

                Then list make a list of specifications of how to build your semicustom system (must vs. wants). i.e.

                1) Must have battery OR battery preferred but not required
                2) No battery in basement
                3) Inverter and/or battery not in direct sunlight or shielded from direct sunlight
                4) LiFePo4 battery OK, all other Lithium technologies NOT acceptable
                5) Main Panel replacement OK
                6) All equipment must fit on North wall of garage
                7) No exposed conduit on roof
                8) Roof penetrations using Soladeck or similar
                9) Customer has full installer access to all equipment
                10) etc.

                It goes without saying, for almost every equipment supplier out there, internet connection is a requirement of the warranty. You can segregate your home network to isolate devices constantly accessing the internet, but the question you should be asking is "during extended power and internet outages, will my system still produce solar power and recharge my batteries?"

                If you have long extended periods of power outages where you will deplete your battery, you should also be asking whether or not your system will cold start or black start without the grid being present.

                As chrisski points out, lack of after sale support is a pretty common complaint. Troubleshooting to get to root cause is a skill that is lacking in today's equipment suppliers/installers (not just solar equipment). Sadly it's easier for companies to shotgun a solution and throw away equipment. The more information and control of your equipment you have, the better off you will be in the long run. Good luck!

                Comment


                • #9
                  What counts is the total output and the choice of the inverter. Multi-string inverters allow for splitting up the panel arrays for more placement options on a roof and allow for adding more panels in the future with the existing inverter. The Solis inverter has a 10-year warranty and the SolarPower have a 5-year warranty. When my SunPower inverter failed I waited six months to have it replaced under warranty and finally bought a Solis inverter to get my system back into operation.

                  If you need any service 5 years from now it will be critical that the original installer is still in business. When my inverter failed in 2022 there was not a single solar installer that would touch anything if they were not the original contractor.

                  Installations can damage the roof and safer to go with a contractor that also does roofing. Another concern is that when the roof needs to be replace the cost to take the panels off and put them on again is going to be in the thousands of dollars. Better if there is less than 10 years of life on the existing roof area to take care of it with new roofing before installing the panels.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    What’s up with those prices? Are these supposed to be installed prices or just the panel and inverter prices with no installation?

                    Sorry, but I don’t see you getting a system installed at something like $1.30 a watt.
                    8.6 kWp roof (SE 7600 and 28 panels)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by oregon_phil View Post

                      I don't think you are wasting your time at all analyzing your needs and proposals. After all, you are buying an expensive piece of equipment. If you put out vague requirements for your system, you might get a system that meets your needs or maybe not.

                      When purchasing an expensive semi custom piece of equipment, it makes sense to first specify what you want that piece of equipment to do.i.e.


                      1) Offset 100% of my current power usage
                      2) Use a battery to shift my power usage and minimize my power bill
                      3) Run entire house for 3 hours during normal power outages
                      4) Run critical loads panel for 3 days during wildfire season (assumes smoke and ash obscure solar production)
                      5) etc.

                      Then list make a list of specifications of how to build your semicustom system (must vs. wants). i.e.

                      1) Must have battery OR battery preferred but not required
                      2) No battery in basement
                      3) Inverter and/or battery not in direct sunlight or shielded from direct sunlight
                      4) LiFePo4 battery OK, all other Lithium technologies NOT acceptable
                      5) Main Panel replacement OK
                      6) All equipment must fit on North wall of garage
                      7) No exposed conduit on roof
                      8) Roof penetrations using Soladeck or similar
                      9) Customer has full installer access to all equipment
                      10) etc.

                      It goes without saying, for almost every equipment supplier out there, internet connection is a requirement of the warranty. You can segregate your home network to isolate devices constantly accessing the internet, but the question you should be asking is "during extended power and internet outages, will my system still produce solar power and recharge my batteries?"

                      If you have long extended periods of power outages where you will deplete your battery, you should also be asking whether or not your system will cold start or black start without the grid being present.

                      As chrisski points out, lack of after sale support is a pretty common complaint. Troubleshooting to get to root cause is a skill that is lacking in today's equipment suppliers/installers (not just solar equipment). Sadly it's easier for companies to shotgun a solution and throw away equipment. The more information and control of your equipment you have, the better off you will be in the long run. Good luck!
                      I think that is really important, to have specific goals in mind.
                      That study in turn will bring out the many possible approaches,
                      and dispel some initial illusions. AND show the costs, capabilities,
                      and shortcomings of each approach.

                      Is the internet capability so important? Not used here, the most
                      reliable system is the most simple. I am wondering why it is so
                      hard to find PV system service? Maybe the original installer only
                      does it as legally obligated, no one actually wants to do support
                      work? I have heard similar stories about DIY heat pumps, heat
                      pump clothes driers, and some other things. I do hope that changes
                      as the anticipated sweep of heat pumps takes place.

                      Bruce Roe

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by oregon_phil View Post

                        I don't think you are wasting your time at all analyzing your needs and proposals. After all, you are buying an expensive piece of equipment. If you put out vague requirements for your system, you might get a system that meets your needs or maybe not.

                        When purchasing an expensive semi custom piece of equipment, it makes sense to first specify what you want that piece of equipment to do.i.e.


                        1) Offset 100% of my current power usage
                        2) Use a battery to shift my power usage and minimize my power bill
                        3) Run entire house for 3 hours during normal power outages
                        4) Run critical loads panel for 3 days during wildfire season (assumes smoke and ash obscure solar production)
                        5) etc.

                        Then list make a list of specifications of how to build your semicustom system (must vs. wants). i.e.

                        1) Must have battery OR battery preferred but not required
                        2) No battery in basement
                        3) Inverter and/or battery not in direct sunlight or shielded from direct sunlight
                        4) LiFePo4 battery OK, all other Lithium technologies NOT acceptable
                        5) Main Panel replacement OK
                        6) All equipment must fit on North wall of garage
                        7) No exposed conduit on roof
                        8) Roof penetrations using Soladeck or similar
                        9) Customer has full installer access to all equipment
                        10) etc.

                        It goes without saying, for almost every equipment supplier out there, internet connection is a requirement of the warranty. You can segregate your home network to isolate devices constantly accessing the internet, but the question you should be asking is "during extended power and internet outages, will my system still produce solar power and recharge my batteries?"

                        If you have long extended periods of power outages where you will deplete your battery, you should also be asking whether or not your system will cold start or black start without the grid being present.
                        Looks like battery manufacturers bundle their own inverters. We have narrowed it down to two battery options; one with Solis 1P6K inverter for 1/2 the panels & NeoVolta NV7600 with NV14.4 kWh battery to handle critical loads (except the two ACs and the oven, the second is using Sol-Ark 15K inverter & Fortress 3x eFlex (total 16.11kWh) batteries that we are advised will handle all loads and supposedly cold start for ACs. Any opinions on these batteries?
                        How about opinions on choice of panels between Panasonic EVPV410HK, REC Alpha REC410AA and Silfab SolarSIL-410 BG?
                        Last edited by rmk9785e; 11-22-2023, 08:36 PM.

                        Comment

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