Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Solar Estimates in Orange County, CA

Collapse
X
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Solar Estimates in Orange County, CA

    Hi all,

    After toying with the idea of going solar on multiple occasions over the past several years, my wife and I are again considering solar. This time, instead of going with SunRun, Costco, or Tesla, we scoured a housing forum, this forum, and Yelp, for well-reviewed solar installers. In the process of conducting my due diligence, I learned our main electrical panel would need to be upgraded, so all estimates include upgrading our panel from a 100 amp panel to a 200 amp one.

    Based on the estimates I've received, here are the two best estimates (does not take federal tax credit into account) I've received, out of the 10+ estimates we have received thus far. Note these are preliminary estimates based on our annual usage (the system would produce enough to offset about 100% of our usage), and Google Earth images, i.e., none of the contractors have come to our house to a site assessment. Also, these were the two contractors that I liked best based on my conversations w/ their representatives.

    EQUIPMENT
    18 Panels
    Panasonic 330 watt HIT panels
    Enphase Micro-Inverters
    Size of system: 5,940 watts
    Upgrade to 200 amp panel

    CONTRACTOR # 1:
    System: $18,835.00
    Panel Upgrade: $1,800.00
    Total: $20,635.00
    Price Per Watt (w/o Panel Upgrade): $3.17
    Price Per Watt (w/ Panel Upgrade): $3.47

    CONTRACTOR # 2:
    System: $18,501.00
    Panel Upgrade: $2,500
    Total: $21,001
    Price Per Watt (w/o Panel Upgrade): $3.11
    Price Per Watt (w/ Panel Upgrade): $3.54

    A few notes: while Contractor # 2's initial estimate was higher, the representative basically stated it would most likely be able to price match any other written estimate. Also, Contractor #1 only has an electrical license, whereas Contractor # 2 has an electrical, solar, and roofing license. While we are fortunate that we would be able to pay for the system in cash, we are considering financing options, and Contractor #1 has provided more financing options, although that is something I will discuss further with contractor # 2. Also, both offer a 25-year warranty on the equipment and roof penetrations.

    In addition, we received additional estimates from a number of other companies, but all of those companies came in at or above the estimates above, and the designed systems called for optimizers rather than micro-inverters (we decided we preferred micro-inverters).

    Given the preliminary estimates we've received, are these good estimates? Assuming you believe there's additional wiggle room, i.e. to get the price below $3/watt, how does one negotiate to get the price down below that threshold, particularly since all the estimates I have received have been $3.11/watt and higher? Also, since we need to upgrade our main panel, what price per watt should we be aiming for? $3.25/watt? Higher? Lower?

    If you were not able to tell, I am not an expert on solar. I also understand that the repayment period is about 7 years w/ the panel upgrade, but solar is something we've been wanting to do for the past 3-4 years, and I think we are finally ready to do it. Also - I received an estimate for Sunpower 345 watt panels (came out to be about $3.60/watt, or $3.88/watt, inclusive of the electrical panel upgrade), but it is my understanding from reading this board that a lot of people feel like the premium for Sunpower panels is not worth it. As such, I am not considering the estimate for the Sunpower panels.

    Also, not sure this matters, but we have a concrete tile roof, and it is my understanding the roof was replaced about 15 years ago. However, the roof appears to be in good condition, and we don't anticipate a roof replacement anytime soon.

    I hope I have provided sufficient information so that you guys can provide your input. To the extent you need more information, please do not hesitate to ask.

    Thanks for any input you might be able to provide.

  • #2
    Seems like your review of this site has helped remove the scale from your eyes with respect to the bottom feeding vendors. Also, avoiding Sunpower is a move that probably will not harm you. Overpriced for what you get.

    Your perspective on the best vendor seems mostly based on initial price rather than most bang for your long term buck. Where do you get the most long term value ? Where do you get the best quality installation. Which vendor has been around the longest ? Which vendor do you think will be around in 10 or so years ?

    What's your annual usage in kWh ? Offsetting 100 % of a load, while it may feel good, may not be the most cost effective way to go about it.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by J.P.M. View Post
      Your perspective on the best vendor seems mostly based on initial price rather than most bang for your long term buck. Where do you get the most long term value ? Where do you get the best quality installation. Which vendor has been around the longest ? Which vendor do you think will be around in 10 or so years ?

      What's your annual usage in kWh ? Offsetting 100 % of a load, while it may feel good, may not be the most cost effective way to go about it.
      Of the vendors I requested quotes from, I only looked for the ones that had overall good reviews, e.g., at least 4 stars on Yelp, and at least 50+ reviews. Also looked for companies that had been around a while and/or had done a significant number of installs, e.g., did not want to save a buck so that a new contractor could learn on the job. Also wanted to go w/ a company that would stand behind its work, and would be responsive if problems arose. However, I also understand that there is a risk none of the contractors I contacted would be around in 10 years. That's why I mentioned in my original post that the system would be backed by a 25-year warranty.

      While you are right that price was a significant factor, that certainly was not the only factor. Contractor # 1 has been around since the late 1990's, but I suspect it started doing solar about 5 years ago, and Contractor # 2 is LA Solar Group, which has been around since 2012, and has been mentioned on this board, some housing boards I've looked at, and has 271 Yelp reviews.

      In addition, since I requested estimates from close to 15 contractors, I was not about to invite all the contractors to our home to do a site assessment, so I had to narrow the choices down to the top 2-3 contractors. I did so based on (1) price, (2) reputation, and (3) lack of a big sales pitch / pressure to purchase ASAP, i.e., companies that seemed more concerned w/ providing me with useful information so that I could make my own decision, versus a company that gave off the impression it was only interested in making a sale.

      As far as usage goes, we used 10,000 kWh over the past 12 months. Not sure if this makes a difference in terms of your opinion/feedback, but we are also considering purchasing an electric car in the next few years, so we expect our electricity usage to go up in the future.
      Last edited by OCRibeye; 08-20-2018, 02:00 PM.

      Comment


      • #4
        Shopping around myself right now. About to contact LA Solar. Will follow your thread for more advice.

        Comment


        • #5
          Shopping around also. OCRibeye, if you don't mind sharing...who is contractor #1?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by OCRibeye View Post

            Of the vendors I requested quotes from, I only looked for the ones that had overall good reviews, e.g., at least 4 stars on Yelp, and at least 50+ reviews. Also looked for companies that had been around a while and/or had done a significant number of installs, e.g., did not want to save a buck so that a new contractor could learn on the job. Also wanted to go w/ a company that would stand behind its work, and would be responsive if problems arose. However, I also understand that there is a risk none of the contractors I contacted would be around in 10 years. That's why I mentioned in my original post that the system would be backed by a 25-year warranty.

            While you are right that price was a significant factor, that certainly was not the only factor. Contractor # 1 has been around since the late 1990's, but I suspect it started doing solar about 5 years ago, and Contractor # 2 is LA Solar Group, which has been around since 2012, and has been mentioned on this board, some housing boards I've looked at, and has 271 Yelp reviews.

            In addition, since I requested estimates from close to 15 contractors, I was not about to invite all the contractors to our home to do a site assessment, so I had to narrow the choices down to the top 2-3 contractors. I did so based on (1) price, (2) reputation, and (3) lack of a big sales pitch / pressure to purchase ASAP, i.e., companies that seemed more concerned w/ providing me with useful information so that I could make my own decision, versus a company that gave off the impression it was only interested in making a sale.

            As far as usage goes, we used 10,000 kWh over the past 12 months. Not sure if this makes a difference in terms of your opinion/feedback, but we are also considering purchasing an electric car in the next few years, so we expect our electricity usage to go up in the future.
            Think about those reviews. They're from people who probably know less about how to determine what's a quality installation or what makes a PV system cost effective than you do. I suspect my neighbors are pretty typical. More than a few got self screwed on leases, but that's off topic. The general theme of comments from my neighbors was something like "I went with the cheapest quote, they showed up, worked fast and didn't leave a mess". A few even supplied Yelp, Angie's list and such like with reviews. I question the value of such reviews for several reasons. The lack of knowledgeability of the subject among the reviewers is one on those reasons.

            As you imply, only time will tell on the worth of system warranties. I'd suggest that as a general rule, and no more than a dart throw, I'd not assume a warranty's life span into the future won't be any longer than the company has already been in business, but that's just me. I'd put little actual value on any warranty based on the idea that behind complete failure, claims are next to impossible to verify, particularly claims involving output deficiencies.

            Seems like your biggest concern at this time is finding a reputable vendor with integrity that does quality work and that will be around for as long as you will own the PV system you're considering.

            On pricing vs. what you'll pay in terms of electric rates, if you can get a 6 kW system for, say, $3.25/STC W, and if it's mostly south facing with not much shade, it'll probably produce about as much as you use/yr. So, if you stay on tiered rates your bill will go from ~ $3,200 - $3,500/yr. or so if your on tiered billing and be close to ~ $120/yr. min. + some NBC's of around maybe $100 yr. after adding a 6 kW system. If you go to T.O.U., the issues get more and a bit involved. If you are or will be on a true T.O.U. tariff schedule that does NOT have a tiered rate schedule laid over it, a PV system can be thought of a revenue generator. At this time, in So. CA, a mostly unobstructed view southerly facing array will generate about $450/yr. per installed STC kW of PV that can be used against electric use charges. So, a 6 STC kW system under those conditions would generate something like ($450 )*6 = ~ $2,700/yr. in "revenue". Now, that revenue can only be "spent" to pay or offset incurred electric bills. So, for example, if all your usage is at the times of peak rates of, say, $0.53773/kWh (SDG & E's peak summer rate), that 6 kW system would off set ($2,700/yr.) /($.53773/kWh) ~ 5,021 kWh/yr. of use. You'll still have to pay whatever your bill is minus the ~ $2,700/yr. that the PV system will generate however. If, on the other hand, you only used power at super off peak times, a 6 STC kW system would offset ($2,700/yr.)/($0.228/kWh) ~ 11,842 kWh/yr., or you could decrease the system to around 5 STC kW.. but then you'll still have the $120 annual min. plus NBC's. All that's possible because the revenue a PV system can generate under a pure T.O.U. tariff scheme is mostly independent of how much you're usage is and when the usage occurs, provided the system is sized to generate less than or up to annual usage.

            As a practical matter, no one regulates their usage as described above, and the rates and times are undoubtedly figured by the POCO to maximize revenue and profit. But adjusting use patterns and times to avoid the 765 hrs./yr. of the peak rate of ~ $0.53773/kWh as much as possible (with the remaining 7,995 hr./yr. averaging out at ~ half that rate BTW) doesn't seem to me to add up to the hardship everyone is screaming about. Another little factoid: if PVWatts is a reasonable representation of system generation amounts and times, the average worth of a kWh of PV generation in SDG & E territory under DR-SES, that's the SDG & E T.O.U. tariff for residential solar users, the average worth of a PV generated kWh of electricity is, at this time, ~ $0.263/kWh or so, or about the same per kWh rate as the average rate for all the off peak rates. I'm not a big fan of the POCO, but minimizing use of power for less than 9% of the hours in a year doesn't seem like an insurmountable task.

            At this time, the issue for you isn't so much system price, it's getting the most quality from a quality vendor that has a decent probability of being around until you move, whenever that might be, and then adjusting your use patterns to either use less power and/or adjust your usage so that as much of it as possible is used away from peak pricing times, particularly in summer. An EV in the future is not as bad a task or consideration in initial sizing as it may at first seem, given that all of that additional usage can be achieved at super off peak times, and with a change to a different T.O.U rate schedule like EV-TOU-5 with a super off peak rate of ~ $0.09/kWh.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by J.P.M. View Post

              Think about those reviews. They're from people who probably know less about how to determine what's a quality installation or what makes a PV system cost effective than you do. I suspect my neighbors are pretty typical. More than a few got self screwed on leases, but that's off topic. The general theme of comments from my neighbors was something like "I went with the cheapest quote, they showed up, worked fast and didn't leave a mess". A few even supplied Yelp, Angie's list and such like with reviews. I question the value of such reviews for several reasons. The lack of knowledgeability of the subject among the reviewers is one on those reasons.
              Howdy, well thats one way to look at it, I dont see it that way. You do not have to be a solar expert to pass judgment on the behavior of a company. I think the value in the reviews is simple, did the company do what they said they would do, when they said they would, does it work to your satisfaction, and so on, you dont have to know squat about solar to report on the actions of your solar installer. Just two cents worth from someone who has skin in the game, cheers........ glad to see you back J.P.M

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by solar pete View Post

                Howdy, well thats one way to look at it, I dont see it that way. You do not have to be a solar expert to pass judgment on the behavior of a company. I think the value in the reviews is simple, did the company do what they said they would do, when they said they would, does it work to your satisfaction, and so on, you dont have to know squat about solar to report on the actions of your solar installer. Just two cents worth from someone who has skin in the game, cheers........ glad to see you back J.P.M
                I respect your opinion with respect to reviews but obviously don't share it.

                True, I don't need to be a solar expert to have an opinion about how I am treated by a solar company. But, I'm not paying them to make me feel good, nor is that what I'm expecting. I don't care if they call me an asshole as long as they meet the terms of the contract I sign with them. I'm paying them for a product and the execution of a contract. This is business, not a win friends and feel good contest. If I want unconditional and unfailing warm and fuzzies from a relationship I'll buy a dog.

                To my way of looking at most installations and contracts I've reviewed and monitored from presentation to the HOA through startup (~ 125+ and counting so far), before I, or for that matter any customer/user can determine if a company did what it contracted to do, I, or any customer/user must have at least some rudimentary knowledge of what's been contracted for in terms of, first off, whether or not the proposed installation is even fit for purpose, and then, if the contract scope is complete before continuing on to make sure/verify if what was done corresponds to what's required and what was contracted for and, whether the work actually fulfilled the contract requirements, and that the work was done in a safe, professional and competent manner.

                The crux of my point is this: Most customers/users, at least to my limited experience both from my pro bono HOA work and reading between the lines around this forum for the last 5 yrs. (and so long ago ceasing to be amazed at the solar ignorance exhibited), are unable to even understand what goes into what I wrote above much less how to follow through on it. To the degree that's a statement that may be a reasonable approximation of reality used in describing most residential PV customer/users, and because those are the folks who write what are mostly anonymous "reviews", I'd suggest most customers are therefore, at least IMO only, unqualified to offer an informed opinion about the safety, suitability and fit for purposeness of what they just bought.

                Why would I, or anyone for that matter, take uninformed and ignorant opinion seriously ?

                Probably a moot point because the proof/refutation of the statement is impossible, but if proof were possible, I'd bet a lot of the reviews of the type we're talking about are written by folks with the same general level of solar knowledge as that of most of the folks who show up on this forum. You know, the type who don't know a kW from a kWh, or when asked what their annual usage is respond with what their worst month's bill is and are obviously dolefully ignorant of the basics they need to know to make an informed decision, but who usually and quickly get their feather's ruffled when they're told they may be making a mistake and are having their ignorance exposed ? BUT, the typical response often comes: "The salesman told me it was just what I needed. My bills are killing me - I must do SOMETHING. You all (or maybe just me) must be wrong or not like me", or some such drivel. Yea. Real informed. Just the stuff people need to make better choices.

                Your position, were I to accept it, would seem to mean I'd need to hear and read such folks' ignorance on one hand both here and in my daily dealings while at the same time giving their uninformed opinion validity when it appears on a review. That seems illogical and not in my best interests, and FWIW, maybe not in others' best interests either. Seems to me that in most cases, for those taking such reviews as useful, it's a case of the blind leading the blind.

                Now Pete, don't take this personally (or Butch, Solarix or any other members here who are solar vendors, etc.), but that type of ignorance is what vendors feed and make money on. I believe I have some experience and therefore opinion in that regard, having made a pretty good living as a commissioned peddler of industrial process and power generation for ~ 10 years before changing careers. Peddlers like I was (and probably still am at heart) usually want the customer to like them. Partly because we all need to be liked, but primarily and more to the immediate need that it makes closing a sale lot easier. It's also been my experience that the more ignorant the customer, the easier they are to close. More of my limited experience: Ignorant customers who liked me made for the best references. Sound anything like those who write solar references ? If so, why would anyone wanting reliable information to help make an informed choice give such reviews any credence ?

                As usual, take what you may want of the above. Scrap the rest.

                Separate from the above, Pete: A public thank you for your time and assistance in sorting out the recent confusion regarding my banishment forever. Without your help, it may well have not been resolved as easily or as quickly. Again, I appreciate your help.

                J.P.M.

                Comment

                Working...
                X