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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've had Solar City and a reputable local company, Monolith Solar, come and give me quotes. Solar City came first and initially wrote an estimate for panels on the front and back of my house (front faces South). I told them I wasn't interested in having panels facing North, so they just wrote for just the front. Their quote was $4,443 (after rebates and incentives) for 12x 315 watt panels, which they say is good for 83% of my usage at 4872.34kwh. I'm unsure of the brand of panels or inverter they use and haven't contacted them back to ask.

Then the guy from Monolith came. He had a quote for $8,614 (after rebates/incentives) for 19x 280 watt panels, which they claim is good for 110% of my usage at 6817kwh. He was confused why Solar City would have only put 12 on, as he says I could put over 20 on the front of my house. This company uses SolarEdge power optimizers and inverters and Silfab panels (although he referred to them as Canadian Solar panels when I asked). I'm not sure about either of these products, but they seem to have good warranties.

My parents used Monolith and would get a $1,000 referral if I went with them, which my father said he'd sign over to me, but I said we'd split. Monolith will finance a 0% bridge loan to cover the cost while I wait for my tax credits. They also offer 0% financing for the cost of the system. I have the money to pay cash for any system, but wouldn't want to lay out more than $5k in cash and you can't argue with 0% financing.

Solar City actually had a tech come out and look at the house and record sunlight, etc. The guy from Monolith just looked at the house on Google Earth before showing up.

Unfortunately I don't have an apples to apples comparison right now, because they're obviously different systems and I'm looking for further advice on what else I should be asking for and if I should be getting further quotes.

Thanks in advance!
 

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First of all you must know that the panels will only produce around 75-80% of the name play rating. Roof pitch makes a difference. You net metering plan makes a difference. Was Solar City a lease at that price? Was Monolith a lease?

You can look at PVwatts, a NREL run site, that looks at your location, weather data, roof pitch and solar panels setup to give you a monthly/yearly estimate that for most is pretty darn accurate.

Recording the sun light at a moment in time is really kind of scam-ish.

I have 72 175 watt panels for 12,500 watt nameplate. In AZ the best month is May (with my 26.5 degree tilt) and we produced about 2200 kWh then.

Really get to know your net metering program. Here solar generated on a TOU can only be used during that TOU. Meaning no carry over to my off-peak usage.

BTW it is almost always cheaper to save a watt than to generate a watt.
 

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I have the money to pay cash for any system, but wouldn't want to lay out more than $5k in cash and you can't argue with 0% financing.
Just remember that a higher amount paid with 0% financing may not be as good as a lesser amount with X% interest. 0% financing is just like any other loan with interest presented differently.

Solar Dave knows far more about solar than I do, I'll watch this thread with interest as I've watched friends and neighbors get panels installed with varying levels of satisfaction. To me, it just seems like the cost of putting the panels in is just a prepayment of electricity with a break even point of 10 or more years. If one does it for environmental reasons, great. If it's for financial reasons, I'm not sure you get the benefit you might think you are. Not to mention the possible damage to the roof/tiles and water intrusion. Lifetime warranties offered by these companies are probably, in some cases, limited by the lifespan of the very company installing the panels.

So for now I'm a bit skeptical, but open to getting a better education on this option.
 

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Couple of thoughts on your post. I may not know what I am talking about, so keep that in mind :) I am entering my 6th year with Solar City panels. I will not bother going over the equipment used as it can vary by region and individual installs as well as what they can get a hold of at that time. Some things that held true then likely still hold true now. Solar City will not install a system that generates more than you use on an annual basis. Of course sometimes the direction your home faces, amount of roof available, your budget, etc. is the bigger limitation. The way to get around this is simply do the power reducing things (led lights, upgrade appliances, add insulation, etc.) AFTER you get solar.

The "not more than you use" rule I know applies to leasing, but might apply to purchase. The other side of the coin is ROI. If you install panels wherever they will fit, you might not get enough sun on parts to justify panels in that area/direction. I was very impressed with the amount of work pre-install that Solar City did in order to optimize my sun capturing. I can't have panels on the front of my home due to HOA rules.

Panel prices have dropped a lot over the years and continue to do so, but you need to just bite the bullet when you are ready. No telling how long the 30% tax incentives will last. Also, Telsa owns Solar City and I personally would look at what companies can stick around if panel prices continue to fall. I have had to have both of my inverters changed since install due to failures.

I did a lease as I stated, but I was part of a solar panel tour and talked with a guy in our area that bought his system from another company (Solar City had halted installs for some reason when he wanted his) in 2014/2015. He paid the same as I did for about the same size, but he owns his system. I have an 8.8 system that cost about $8,500. I did a pre-pay 20 yr lease so it would not be a qualifying issue for future home owners if we move and it was cheaper than monthly payments.

Lastly, I will say this. You can always go with a smaller system and add to it over time as prices continue to drop. You also will become more aware of your usage and could perhaps make that smaller size use closer to 90%-95% of your usage via changes to your home/lifestyle. ROI can be VERY hard to figure out because of moving targets. Your per kw price changes, changes in the home, etc.. but the more you spend, the more you have to make up down the line. If you pay .25/.30 a kw like some in CA, ROI is quick. If you pay .07 kw as often in TX and some other states, it can be a much harder sell.

BTW...if you or anyone wants Solar City referral, I would be happy to be your referral. We want everyone who can get solar to do so, regardless of who you use.
 

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I would definitely find out what Solar City is providing before going with them. I am a firm believer in using microinverters (a small inverter on each panel), or at least optimizers as your local company is quoting. If you have "conventional" solar, which is what Solar City quoted me 3 1/2 years ago, the panels are divided into 2 or 3 strings of panels. If any panel fails, is partially shaded, or even has a few leaves on it, the whole string stops producing. Also, with a single large inverter such as these systems have, that inverter has to try to optimize the output for the system as a whole.

With a micro-inverter or optimizer system, every panel stands on its own. If a panel fails, only that panel stops producing. The same happens when shade gradually crosses over your roof - only the panels where shade has reached stop producing while the others keep going. With each panel's output being optimized individually, the output will always be higher than with a single inverter.

When I had my solar installed I did quite a bit of research and ended up doing a fairly long write-up on my web page. I include a basic tutorial about the different configurations of solar systems to help others get up to speed faster than I did. If you would like to look at it you can find it at:
http://masonclan.org/HouseMods/MySolar.html
On the first page is a link to my tutoria.

Dick
 

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Our PV system (see signature for details) production, 12 Mos. ending 11/16/16:

Monthly Avg. 1840 kWh
12 Mos Production 23659
Peak Monthly Production 2247 (Apr 16 - May 16, 2016)

Our REA Co-Op rate: $0.1032 plus $25.00 base charge (no TOD adjustments)
Net Metering 100% credit with annual cash true-up (excess kWh x prior 12 Mos. avg. wholesale power cost)

pvwatts.nrel.gov prediction: 20,740 kWh, with "range from 19,830 to 21,271kWh per year near this location."
 

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Solar City actually had a tech come out and look at the house and record sunlight, etc. The guy from Monolith just looked at the house on Google Earth before showing up.

Unfortunately I don't have an apples to apples comparison right now, because they're obviously different systems and I'm looking for further advice on what else I should be asking for and if I should be getting further quotes.

Thanks in advance!
Not exactly the same but Sunergy just looked on google Earth or something to come up with an estimate. They got the wrong house. When they got the right house they gave up. I think someone needs to climb up on the roof to get good data on the site. Google is probably ok for a no-brainer easy site. Look over the performance report carefully.
 

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The bottom line is you'll likely be happy with either one. Check on the warranties and then make a decision.

I'm generally a quality over price guy, but in this case I'd go for the cheaper alternative from Solar City. Not only is it cheaper, but it will likely cover 100% of your usage though it's only designed to cover 80%. Most people cut their power usage when they install solar panels because they start paying attention. That's my experience. I thought we were excellent about saving energy but after the panels were installed we cut our usage by over 30%. Amazing what a few more LEDs, a ceiling fan in the bedroom, and getting rid of vampires will do.

You could of course ask Monolith for a quote on a smaller system but you'd still be paying a 20% premium per kWh generated. (I calculated this using a $1000 discount, not sure if this would still be available on a smaller system).

The SolarEdge equipment can increase production in heavily shaded areas but that's a little misleading because (1) it assumes you have a heavily shaded area and (2) you don't get much production from heavily shaded areas in the first place so 25% more won't be very much, likely not enough to cover the extra cost. There also isn't a ton of experience with this system yet either, so the reliability is more uncertain than what you get with inverters.

FYI a loan on a solar system can complicate a home sale (it's treated as a second loan which may increase the buyer's income requirement or even disqualify the buyer from getting some loans) so you may want to take that into account when deciding to finance.
 

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I've had Solar City and a reputable local company, Monolith Solar, come and give me quotes. Solar City came first and initially wrote an estimate for panels on the front and back of my house (front faces South). I told them I wasn't interested in having panels facing North, so they just wrote for just the front. Their quote was $4,443 (after rebates and incentives) for 12x 315 watt panels, which they say is good for 83% of my usage at 4872.34kwh. I'm unsure of the brand of panels or inverter they use and haven't contacted them back to ask.

Then the guy from Monolith came. He had a quote for $8,614 (after rebates/incentives) for 19x 280 watt panels, which they claim is good for 110% of my usage at 6817kwh. He was confused why Solar City would have only put 12 on, as he says I could put over 20 on the front of my house. This company uses SolarEdge power optimizers and inverters and Silfab panels (although he referred to them as Canadian Solar panels when I asked). I'm not sure about either of these products, but they seem to have good warranties.

My parents used Monolith and would get a $1,000 referral if I went with them, which my father said he'd sign over to me, but I said we'd split. Monolith will finance a 0% bridge loan to cover the cost while I wait for my tax credits. They also offer 0% financing for the cost of the system. I have the money to pay cash for any system, but wouldn't want to lay out more than $5k in cash and you can't argue with 0% financing.

Solar City actually had a tech come out and look at the house and record sunlight, etc. The guy from Monolith just looked at the house on Google Earth before showing up.

Unfortunately I don't have an apples to apples comparison right now, because they're obviously different systems and I'm looking for further advice on what else I should be asking for and if I should be getting further quotes.

Thanks in advance!
Hi I bought solar about 2 years ago after exhaustive research. At that time I found that SUNPOWER PANELS offered the most production and the Least amount of degradation in 5 years and offered the best warranty. I have found so far that all to be true.
I would ONLY consider SUNPOWER PANELS see: https://us.sunpower.com/solar-panels-technology/facts/
I would also compare only exact job bids using same job descrition and equipment for each bid so you can get the best quote on the same work...good luck
 

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I've got my electric bill down to $1191 for the last year and I haven't even touched the A/C system, refrigerator or freezer yet and they're decades old. Now, if I could get them to let me charge at work, I could get that down about another $150 for the year. :D

I figured that I'd get usage down before I consider solar. Quite a few of the neighbors around me have leased solar and I'd swear they have every light there is in the house on during the evening. Kind of defeats the whole purpose. :rolleyes:
 

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I just got solar after having been looking since I got my Volt about two years ago - did a lot analysis of the options.
I'd recommend the local installer and solar edge power optimizers.

If you want to dig into the financials as the key determinant, get production estimates from each ( and ask if they guarantee production). From this, you can calculate the cost of the power from your solar for say the next 10 years ( most consider residential solar systems system will last 20 years) or at least sanity check the math / accounting from each provider. The net cost should get reduced by the federal tax credit (30% of system cost), and the NY state incentive ( looks like $1/watt paid to the installer, but verify, I'm not from NY).

Solar city and their pre-paid lease was tempting for me - sounds like you are looking at something similar. In the end I chose to use a local installer and own the system, and wound up using Sunpower panels because I had limited roof area and needed the higher power panels, and wanted their solar bridge micro inverters to avoid getting anaphase - the only other option from my installer. Sunpower warranty and company history were factors - their warranty includes labor as well as materials.

Fiscally, owning the systems will save more money in the long run. With a local installer, you're more able to get the system you want, configured as you want - you give up a lot of that flexibility with Solar City - things like where to run the conduits, and aesthetics are secondary to install cost, especially when you do a lease with them. Of course, some Solar City reps are more able to get you the system you want. But, hearing that they were suggesting putting panels on the north side of your house makes it seem like this is a well considered proposal.

I recommend either micro inverters or optimizers, and I favor solar edge optimizers over emphases' micro inverters. I do power electronics for a living, and enphase uses a type of capacitor that I think will fail inside of the 20 year life of the system seeing as it lives on the back of a solar panel year round. They do have a warranty, but I fear needing it too much...

Lumos

2014 gen 1
 

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I'm installing a SolarEdge system this weekend. Inverter and wiring is done. 8 panels on roof and 20 to go...

Before installing mine I researched what systems in my area were actually generating here; https://monitoringpublic.solaredge.com/solaredge-web/p/home/public?locale=en_US

It gave me a more realistic idea of my payback. I'm fortunate to have friends that are licensed master electricians/industrial electricians willing to help me on this. By buying my equipment wholesale and putting a bunch of sweat equity in; our system should have a 66 month payback. It was originally 60 months, but permitting fees and paying a structural engineer to sign off on it drove the price up some.

Should have the system finished today, then only time will tell if it was a good investment.
 

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I just got solar after having been looking since I got my Volt about two years ago - did a lot analysis of the options.
I'd recommend the local installer and solar edge power optimizers.
I recommend either micro inverters or optimizers, and I favor solar edge optimizers over emphases' micro inverters. I do power electronics for a living, and enphase uses a type of capacitor that I think will fail inside of the 20 year life of the system seeing as it lives on the back of a solar panel year round. They do have a warranty, but I fear needing it too much...

Lumos

2014 gen 1
They both work well, but I favor Enphase over Optimizers for these reasons.
1) Dedicated inverter per panel
2) Longer warranty without paying extra
3) No string configurations (this comes into play by trying to "wake up" your inverter as you must size your array to have at least 8 panels per inverter (most installers gloss over this without ever mentioning it)
4) Easily add additional panels without any consideration to adding another inverter (because you have to wake it up, this is not necessary with Enphase)
5) Enphase has burst mode
6) No single point of failure. With Optimizers, you still have one large inverter, if it goes down, everything goes down. And these large inverters die long before microinverters
Enphase generally costs a little extra, but I enjoy paying for quality and reliability. It is actually quite funny that Solar Edge has duped many people into thinking that Enphase has more points of failure than SolarEdge when just the opposite is true for reliability. I like them both, but Enphase wins in my comparisons for the reasons stated above. The biggest edge SolarEdge has is it is slightly cheaper and when consumer A and consumer B looks at an overall costs and sees maybe a $500 dollar difference, they tend to go with the cheaper alternative. I always recommend the following parts; Enphase, IronRidge, SolarWorld for a long lasting trouble free system.
7) Faster and easier installations with more options for sizing the array with different configurations
 

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One more thing that tilted me towards SolarEdge was the safety of having only 1V per panel max when the Optimizers don't "see" the grid.

Also, I have a reputation of buying systems/cars/products that the parent company quickly goes out of business. I may have done Enphase a favor and kept them from becoming a memory. I can't tell you how many orphan items I've picked over the years. (Betamax baby!) so my decision was swayed from Enphase to SE by market share.
 

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I have solar as well and I went with the prepaid 20 year lease for two reasons: I couldn't use the rebates and with a prepaid lease, the solar company (SunRun) is on the hook for maintenance for the life of the lease. It's already paid off as I had an inverter go bad in the first year. Just an FYI as your gathering info.
 

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Exactly.. the lease is working for me as Solar City promises it will produce x amount each year. Both inverters have failed, didn't cost a dime. They can see if the system has an issue and I can monitor it on website as well. As with car leasing, not right for everyone. Some of us can't put panels up ourselves (or not allowed due to city, HOA, etc.) and want extra protection of not having any costs down the line. Solar basically is pre-paid electric and I figured we are at about 2 cents a kw instead of 10-12 cents when buying from the grid. The cost may continue to get cheaper on panels, but I don't expect grid electricity to fall. Certainly the sellers of solar give you very lovely charts showing predictions of high cost of grid electricity. This is needed in order to give you some ROI figures. They are just that though, predictions. It might be you get your return on your investment in 30 months or 60, or 160.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Sorry, I should have mentioned, both quotes were for purchases, not leases.

Thanks for the feedback. I'm not sure what I should do to get a better comparison.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Update: I asked for another quote from Monolith closer to 4k watts, he sent me a quote for 15x 280 watt panels (4,200 watts), expecting 5,382 kwh for $6,750.
Anyone have any thoughts about what I should do next? Keep collecting quotes?
 

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Up to you of course, but I would think if you are buying, go with the one that you are comfortable and be done with it. It is unlikely that two companies are going to use the exact same equipment or set it up the exact same way. We assigned value to expecting something to go wrong down the line and want the solar company to be there when that happens. If/when Solar City can starts installing their roof tiles and people determine that is a good option, the rest of solar panel companies are going to be in trouble.
 
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