This article was featured on KSL.
If you’ve had an interest in making the switch to solar, chances are you will do your research and look into multiple companies. If this is the case, how will you know what questions you should be asking? How can you compare companies when they all throw such complicated industry jargon at you?
Tad Carter, Director of Sales at Solaroo Energy, takes us through a little Solar Energy Training so you have the right questions to ask making you the solar expert.
Mr. Carter starts by telling his personal story: “In the 5 years I’ve been in the solar industry, I’ve had the opportunity to work for a few different solar companies. When I made the decision to move back to Utah, I began searching for the right solar company to work for. I feel like the same questions I was asking each company are the exact same questions every consumer should be asking when researching solar.”
According to Mr. Carter, here are the top three questions you should ask the solar companies.
Question 1: Is there only one type of solar equipment?
Answer: No there is not. There are several, and when you are purchasing a solar system, the equipment should be the first thing you look at.
“Without getting too technical,” says Mr. Carter, “there are 2 main types of panels that are installed: Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline. Monocrystalline panels are made up of a purer type of silicon and usually carry a much better linear warranty which means it doesn’t lose as much efficiency, year to year. In my opinion, I wouldn’t even consider a system with polycrystalline panels for our climate. The difference of a system producing at 70 percent and 90 percent in 20 years is a LOT of money.”
Mr. Carter then explains there are a few different types of inverters. You have a string inverter, a DC optimized string inverter and a micro inverter.
“String Inverters without DC optimization are one of the most commonly used inverters. However, if one panel is shaded, the entire string will act as if it were shaded.
Microinverters invert the electricity to AC straight from the panel. This makes each panel work individually with respect to shading. Most companies use an inverter that can only invert at 250 watts at a time even though they usually sell a lot higher wattage panels, so sometimes you can lose valuable production on high production days.
The DC optimized string inverter (SolarEdge) gives you all the benefits between string and micro without any of the downfalls. You have a highly efficient string inverter that has every panel working individually with respect to shade as well as not being limited on max production days. It will also be easier to convert your solar system to incorporate batteries, as some batteries are compatible with the SolarEdge inverter.
Question 2: How do I calculate price per watt?
Answer: Simple easy math equation.
Take the wattage of the panel (we’ll use 280 for this example)
Times that by the number of panels (we’ll say 20).
In our example, this would be a 5,600-watt system (5.6 KW).
You then take the total cost of the system you are getting sold and divide it by the size of system (5,600 watts).
For example: You have a proposal for (20) 280-watt panels for $20,680. You take the $20,680 and divide that by 5,600 (size of the system) this gives you the price per watt ($3.69 per watt).
Mr. Carter warns, “When comparing price per watt, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Just like most things you can buy, the lowest price isn’t always the best. You should consider the quality of the equipment, the warranty offered, and the company you are selecting. This is an investment that should stand the test of time.”
Question 3: How do I know I am getting quality installation and warranties?
Answer: “In my experience, I have found that is is always better to work with companies that do their own installations,” Mr. Carter says. “It is a lot easier to have miscommunications when dealing with a sub-contractor. There are plenty of companies that provide in-house installation so it shouldn’t be hard to find one.”