Common Mistakes Shoppers Make When Purchasing a Solar Energy System
In theory, the mechanism of solar energy sounds simple. The photovoltaic (PV) solar panel captures direct sunlight, converts it into electricity, and you save money. In reality, however, the process to power your home or business is much more complex, and even a small mishap could end up costing you a fortune.
Thanks to recent improvements in solar energy costs and technologies, demand for these systems has skyrocketed and solar energy is becoming known as a primary source of electricity for many. Unfortunately, a lack of awareness in this ever-changing field has resulted in several errors that are costly to fix, such as, equipping your home with outdated equipment, failing to hire a trustworthy installation professional, overlooking necessary permits, etc.
To eliminate the possibility of these situations and help you get the best energy solutions in the quickest possible time, Uptown Energy Solutions has compiled a list of common mistakes to avoid when shopping for a solar system installation.
1. Unclear about the functions of each solar energy system. Often, customers are interested in installing a solar energy system but get confused about the different types available. The three most common types of solar energy systems that you can purchase are Photovoltaic (PV) Solar, Solar Hot Water, and Solar Pool Heater systems.
For those who are new to the technology, it can be easy to get these mixed up, as each system does capture clean energy from the Sun and, therefore, falls under the broad category of “solar energy system.” Also each can, in fact, help you save money on your monthly utility bills. However, each of these distinct solar energy systems performs vastly different functions. So, if you are thinking about taking advantage of the warm, bright sunlight that covers your roof or lawn, you should have a general understanding of the costs, benefits, limitations, and use cases for each of these three types of solar technology first so that you can choose which is right for you. Luckily, this confusion can be easily remedied with ten minutes or less of reading.
2. Mistaking "Net Zero" with "Off Grid". Many outsiders and even people within the industry make the mistake of using these terms interchangeably or incorrectly. To clarify the difference, we'll give you a quick definition of each: "Off-grid" homes and businesses are scarce and refer to buildings which have no grid electrical connection and are not served by a utility in any way, shape, or form. However, a "Net-Zero" home or business is extremely common, and produces as much energy as they consume over a given period of time.
In many jurisdictions, it is actually against the law to disconnect a building from the electric grid if that building is within the service area of the prevailing utility. Therefore, truly off-grid buildings will only exist in extremely remote locations which are too costly for a utility to serve. Otherwise, the only other truly off-grid solar applications are those installed on things like RVs, mobile homes, and boats.
On the other hand, for Net-Zero homes, the financial and environmental benefits are created not by being completely disconnected from the utility and never using fossil-fuel generated electricity again, but by producing and selling enough power to offset what you consume at night or during cloudy days. The idea is that although you will sometimes use costly fossil-fuel generated electricity, you will produce and sell enough clean solar electricity during other times or days to offset these costs.
Batteries can also be used to reduce the amount of dirty energy you use from the utility grid, but it is usually very difficult, if not impossible, to be disconnected from your utility completely.
3. Not providing sufficient information. It is easy for a customer to assume that their solar energy system can be designed based simply on the square footage of their home or their monthly energy bill, but, while this is good for a solar engineer to know, these figures alone simply do not provide enough information. It is common for customers to feel that a solar salesman or contractor is not to be trusted with their personal information, and therefore you may hesitate to provide things like electricity or water bills during the first conversation. However, as a customer, if you don’t help the design team by providing the requested information, the designer will be forced to guess at first, and then need to revise or restart their design later in the process. Ultimately, this can create a very frustrating experience for both the designer and the customer.
So, if you are interested in receiving an accurate proposal of your solar energy system, please do your best to provide your contractor or broker with precisely what is requested, as soon as you feel comfortable. Don’t assume that one number (such as electricity expense) is the same as, or a good enough substitute, for something else (such as electricity usage).
Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable providing your solar rep with personal information, you may want to trust your gut and find another company. Although many solar companies are exceptionally well managed and filled with wonderful people, this industry is no different than any other; there are always bad actors looking to take advantage of your trust.
4. Not seeking multiple quotes or proposals for a project. Often, a home or business owner will be approached by a salesperson, either at home or at an event, and will be so impressed with this individual’s proposal that they will not bother reaching out to any other company in order to verify the information or to compare the proposal against the alternatives in the market. This is a common response for those who naturally trust others or feel that they don’t have the time to explore other options - "if this sounds like a good deal, why not just run with it?" This can be a mistake for the obvious reason that the person you are speaking to might be (purposely or accidentally) misleading you by using one or more of what we, at Uptown Energy Solutions, call the three laws of solar sales:
a. We only sell the best products.
b. We're not like those other guys.
c. You get what you pay for.
While these things may be true for the particular company rep you are speaking with, often times it doesn’t hurt to get a second, third, fourth, or even fifth opinion to verify and there could be a huge potential upside. Remember that purchasing a solar energy system is truly an investment and one that you could be locking yourself into for twenty-five years or more. So, even if you’re sold on the idea of going solar, you don’t have to be sold on the first proposal you see. Market data shows that customers who receive five or more proposals are more than eight times as likely to commit to a purchase, so it may take multiple tries to find the best fit for you. Remember, good deals are good, but great deals are better.
If you don’t have the time to call five companies, schedule five appointments, field calls from five salespeople, and review five very different proposals, you can always reach out to a solar consultant or brokerage service such as Uptown Energy Solutions to give you a professional assist.
5. Comparing solar installation proposals solely on cost. This is the method you probably use to shop for most items. You might assume that most companies sell the same thing as they all use the same buzzwords to describe their products, so you may be accustomed to simply looking for the cheapest (or second cheapest) offer you can find. However, in the case of solar energy systems, and especially PV solar, this is a huge error in analysis.
The decision to have a solar energy system installed is closely related to the decision to purchase other investment products such as stocks, bonds, or real estate, where you must weigh both, costs and expected benefits. PV solar has the unique characteristic of being extremely predictable in its performance, thanks to decades of data collection and design software development. This allows many financial metrics, such as ROI, NPV, and IRR, which are used to compare traditional investments, to be applied to solar energy investments as well.
Then, there is the third aspect of comparing the teams who will actually be performing the installation against each other. Remember that you will hire someone based on your trusting that they will provide, fast quality workmanship and the ability to stand by their warranty.
Professional experience should be weighed heavily against installation cost. By working with a solar expert who is well-versed in both, solar design and financial analysis, you can feel much more confident in your decision, and you might find that not all solar equipment (or installers) are created equal.
For all your solar system services in Orlando, FL, reach out to the experts at Uptown Energy Solutions. We are a premier, full-service, no-conflict solar company, offering solar energy consultation, project management services and purchase of commercial solar systems. We have designed different packages to maintain client confidentiality, provide more value, and reduce costs.