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  • Cost vs Location

    Why does this forum list $3/kW as a good price for home solar but when I link to the estimator, solar-estimate.org, it is higher. In my case living in Colorado, my company gave me a price for a 3.3kW system which was $3.94, better than the estimator of over $4.14 but not near $3. I chose this company based on a neighbor's recommendation.

  • #2
    $3/W is a rough rule of thumb. Some markets are higher and some are lower. In general, I would say that $2.75 to $3.25, perhaps $3.40 covers the vast majority of cases. BUT, in today's market, $3.94 seems exceptionally high -- did this include any roofing work, an upgraded electrical panel, ground mount? Check out Energy Sage Dot Com, you can get multiple bids from local installers -- with little or no follow-up hassle. Though, I suppose at this point, it's probably too late.

    Did you get any competitive bids? Was this a small local installer or a big box retailer (SunPower, SunRun, Tesla, NRG, etc.). I cannot comment as to the veracity of solar-estimates estimates. Or how old their data is.

    Equipment directly impacts price -- though not as much as the installers "margin." If you got expensive panels (SunPower, LG Neon R, Panasonic) and higher end inverters (Solar Edge, Enphase) and brand name racking you could easily be up to ~$1.75/W in parts, perhaps as high as $2/W on smaller installs.

    Then you have to add the installers costs for labor, paperwork, engineering services, etc. But basically installers can and do charge anything they want for their "labor" costs. Higher if they are busy, don't want the job, smell a sucker, or, regrettably, discriminating against the elderly.

    My install in NJ, where labor is very expensive, was "only" $3.24/W in 2017, for 12.2kW of Panasonic panels and a SolarEdge 11.2kW inverter. Which is still high by many standards. But I'm very happy with what I got. That said, it will still take me 8 years to break even, despite lucrative SREC's in NJ as our electric generation prices are pretty low.

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    • #3
      Ooops, sorry. I missed that your system was 3.3kW. Smaller systems cost more per Watt than larger systems. Installers have some fixed costs/profit expectations that don't get spread out as much on smaller systems, hence the higher cost per W. Generally speaking, systems are closer to $3/W as you get up into the 6.0 - 7.6 kW sizes and larger.

      How many MWh do you use per year? How many MWh is your system projected to produce (aka what is your anticipated solar offset percentage?). Unfortunately, you're not going to get much bang for your buck on a such a small system -- unless your energy usage is already very low.

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      • #4
        You are right, I should have gotten more bids. I looked at Solar-Estimate.org and my price was lower, but I don't know how accurate they are. Yes, they are upgrading the electric panel. Since I'm getting only 3.3kW, I guess the cost of the components not including the solar panels, makes it more expensive per kW as the other components are needed no matter the size. Your 12.kW system would be lower per kW.

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        • #5
          If you are getting a new 200 amp panel, for example, that could be as much as $1200-2000 in parts and labor (mostly labor) depending on electrician rates in your area ("retail" pricing -- actual parts and labor is more like $1000). So this upgrade alone could be adding $0.36 to $0.60 per W to your install price. This, when combined with your smaller system size, means that the price you paid is probably not that bad.

          What brand panel and inverter did you get?

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          • #6
            Certainteed. I know the company and figure they will be around a long time. I believe they are fairly new to solar panels. I'm not getting a new electric panel but they will have to add something to it as there are no more spaces left. Don't know the inverter.

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            • #7
              For a higher probability of getting a fit for purpose system for a sharp price:

              1) Educate yourself:
              a.) About how PV works. Get a copy of "Solar Power Your Home for Dummies". ~ $20 at bookstores/Amazon, or a slightly dated version on line for free.
              b.) What electrical energy is and how much of it you use, and then how you pay for it.

              2.) After that, decide if your goal are still the same. If so, decide what type and size system you'll need to suit your lifestyle. Do this as part of your self education. Do not rely on vedors or mouthy crackpots. They'll only cost you money, confuse you and make you more solar ignorant.

              3.) Size and do the preliminary design on your own system. Use PVWatts after reading the help/info screens a couple of times. Then, come back here and report on your annual load loads and preliminary sizing and get comments suggestions. Get a thick skin and be prepared for some unvarnished reality.

              Check with people whose opinion you respect and who have PV and ask what they paid per watt. Pay less attention to what they think. At this point in your quest, you'll know a lot more than they will about PV anyway. They'll most likely only confuse you and repeat what their vendor told them.

              4.) Only then call 3 or so local vendors who are also established electrical contractors who've sold PV for at least 5 years. Ask them questions you already know the answers to from your knowledge quest. You'll learn more about what they don't know which is important info in making a buying decision.

              5.) Everything is negotiable. Learn to negotiate.

              5.) NEVER share prices between/among vendors. You'll only pay more, or never less than ~ $0.01 below the price you share, and you'll never get lower. Think and look at it from the vendor's side of the table. Offer a price that's maybe 10% or more below what you know the market to be. You can always offer more if you're up against a better negotiator.

              6.) A good price is a lot more than simply a low price. Terrible to pay too much, worse to pay too little. A good vendor is worth a (slight) premium.

              7.) If you plan on a roof mount, get your roof inspected/serviced. Cheap insurance. Believe it.

              8.) Negotiate tough but fair. Remember, knowledge is power. In your situation, the power to avoid getting screwed by your own ignorance that some vendor will turn to his/her advantage.

              Good luck.

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              • #8
                "Certainteed. I know the company and figure they will be around a long time. I believe they are fairly new to solar panels."

                Yes, I believe you may be the first on this board with such a system. This is a brand new product offering as of later 2018 / early 2019.

                Which solution did you get? Solstice or Apollo? Do you know who OEM's the PV cells? Do you know which inverter it's using (just curious).

                These types of systems will be more expensive per Watt (because they are new and proprietary) than "conventional" systems.

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                • #9
                  I'm getting the Solstice system. The Apollo system subs for roofing shingles and are used mostly on new roofs.
                  After asking if the installer could throw in an extra panel they offered 2 options:
                  1. I pay $500 extra for a 12th panel, 3.6 kW, $3.75/kW
                  2. I pay $500 less for the current design, 3.3kW. So it would be $3.78/kW
                  A $1,000 difference.
                  I have IREA for my electric coop. Simplified, if I create too much of my needs yet want to stay on the grid, I get penalized with a Load Factor Adjustment. The solar company thought that unless I needed more in the near future, it would be better to keep the 3.3kW system as I could add more panels later if I go that route.
                  It was nice of them to offer a better price even though I already signed the contract, so I kept the 3.3kW system.

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