Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

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softwaregeek
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Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by softwaregeek » Mon Sep 09, 2019 6:25 pm

OK, I am in the process of deciding between two bids.

The economics of the solar panels for me are incredibly compelling (Northern California, 300+ days of sunlight, obscenely expensive electricity) with under 6 year payback.

I have two bids.

Bid 1:

Sunpower (Big guys)
6kw sytem
$16.8k after federal tax credit
17 panels
Sunpower branded everything and comprehensive 25 year warranty.
Might have to charge extra for my roof type, not sure.


Bid 2:

Little guys
7kw system
23 panels.
$15k after federal tax credit
Panasonic Panels and SolarEdge Inverter; 25 year warranty.
Roof warranty is from the little guys, who have only been around 10 years.
Will put no extra charges due to roof type in writing.

Any thoughts? What is the value of having one throat to choke here vs having to get warranty service 10 years from now on a small installer? Worth 30% extra per watt?

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SmallCityDave
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by SmallCityDave » Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:04 pm

They both seem a bit on the high side, I would think as long as the system works well the first few years you should be set so I don't put much value on the warranty. If the small guy goes out of business you have the manufacturers warranty and you can hire out swapping out the equipment.

Just to put it in perspective my 7.2kw that I had installed 2 weeks ago will cost $10k after tax credits.

How much are you paying for electricity (per kW) and how much will they pay you for the export?

sksavers3
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by sksavers3 » Mon Sep 09, 2019 10:56 pm

Are you in a small community? Small town ethics and reputation go a long way even today. We went solar a few years ago and has a similar choice. In suburban/semi rural sunny CA.

We went with the small guy who had been in business <10 years but owned the company himself and was an actual engineer not just sales. Have recommended him to 4 others and remain enthusiastic. Small business guy in a small community means he has vested interest in keeping customers happy. We haven’t had any issues except once about a year after the install we’d had a series of unusual storms that knocked out PgE service over a few days and a couple of weeks after that he came by the house to check the system. Apparently he continues to monitor performance and had noticed our system wasn’t active so he came by to reconnect it. Would’ve been a month of no solar and high electric bill if he hadn’t come by. Can’t imagine a big company doing this for free.

YMMV if you don’t have the small town reputation pressure. But either set of panels are high quality and the payback is fairly quick.

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softwaregeek
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by softwaregeek » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:32 pm

I am in Silicon Valley, which explains the huge price. Everything here costs more, since labor is expensive, as is regulatory overhead.

There were actually six quotes, these are the last two.

I quoted Sunpower and SunRun, two of the larger guys. They came in close to each other but SunPower has the better reputation.

The four smaller quotes were all different, but I have a weird roof and of the other three quotes, two quoted $6k extra to change the roof and one flat out refused when we discussed the roof.

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softwaregeek
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by softwaregeek » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:39 pm

SmallCityDave wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:04 pm
They both seem a bit on the high side, I would think as long as the system works well the first few years you should be set so I don't put much value on the warranty. If the small guy goes out of business you have the manufacturers warranty and you can hire out swapping out the equipment.

Just to put it in perspective my 7.2kw that I had installed 2 weeks ago will cost $10k after tax credits.

How much are you paying for electricity (per kW) and how much will they pay you for the export?
This is Silicon Valley.

Power is by "Tier". You get a certain amount of power, then the price goes up. It is designed to get you to use less power.

Tier 1: 21c
Tier 2: 28c

I estimate I am paying about 25c per kwh.

I estimate I will get 2-4c per KWH from the power company for extra power. But frankly, if I have extra, at 2c per kwh, I'm gonna crank the AC until icicles hang from the lighting fixtures.

jsaver
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by jsaver » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:58 pm

SmallCityDave wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:04 pm
Just to put it in perspective my 7.2kw that I had installed 2 weeks ago will cost $10k after tax credits.
That seems pretty good. What state? Pricing in my area seems to be about $3.40/watt before the Federal tax credit (that starts getting phased out next year btw). The local utility also had a credit but it's capped to a certain amount each year, has a fair number of strings attached, and demand way exceeds what's available.

NickNack
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by NickNack » Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:59 pm

Consider Tesla, 7.6 kW system for $15k after incentives.

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softwaregeek
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by softwaregeek » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:07 am

NickNack wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:59 pm
Consider Tesla, 7.6 kW system for $15k after incentives.
Tesla mounting won't work with the tile roof I have. I don't have plywood underneath. It's something they did in the SF bay area. It's just tile over 2x4 every foot or so.

Also,bad reputation and skimpy warranty.
On SolarReviews, the company currently has a terrible consumer review score: 1.71 / 5.00. Compare that against the average rating for the 100 most reviewed solar installers in America, which scored 4.78 / 5.00. Even more worrying, all 5 reviews received in June 2019 gave the company 1 star rating — ouch!
Last edited by softwaregeek on Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

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SmallCityDave
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by SmallCityDave » Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:05 am

jsaver wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:58 pm
SmallCityDave wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:04 pm
Just to put it in perspective my 7.2kw that I had installed 2 weeks ago will cost $10k after tax credits.
That seems pretty good. What state? Pricing in my area seems to be about $3.40/watt before the Federal tax credit (that starts getting phased out next year btw). The local utility also had a credit but it's capped to a certain amount each year, has a fair number of strings attached, and demand way exceeds what's available.
Is that after the tax credits?

I'm in Arizona.

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SmallCityDave
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by SmallCityDave » Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:05 am

softwaregeek wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:39 pm
SmallCityDave wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 7:04 pm
They both seem a bit on the high side, I would think as long as the system works well the first few years you should be set so I don't put much value on the warranty. If the small guy goes out of business you have the manufacturers warranty and you can hire out swapping out the equipment.

Just to put it in perspective my 7.2kw that I had installed 2 weeks ago will cost $10k after tax credits.

How much are you paying for electricity (per kW) and how much will they pay you for the export?
This is Silicon Valley.

Power is by "Tier". You get a certain amount of power, then the price goes up. It is designed to get you to use less power.

Tier 1: 21c
Tier 2: 28c

I estimate I am paying about 25c per kwh.

I estimate I will get 2-4c per KWH from the power company for extra power. But frankly, if I have extra, at 2c per kwh, I'm gonna crank the AC until icicles hang from the lighting fixtures.
Wow that's breath taking....

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softwaregeek
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by softwaregeek » Tue Sep 10, 2019 11:44 am

SmallCityDave wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:05 am

Wow that's breath taking....
In Silicon Valley, everything costs more. Minimum wage is $15 in my town. Rent on a studio apartment is 2400 a month in my area. Gas and grocery cost maybe 25% more than the national average. People say things like "I live in a HCOL area, my house costs $500k" and I laugh, because a 2BR condo costs $1 million around here. I just sold a rental townhouse for $1.4 million. It was nice but nothing special.

So Solar is going to cost more as well. But I expect to get about 15-20% of the total value back every year. That's huge.

You seem to be getting an unusually good deal. $3/watt seems pretty good for this area.

desiderium
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by desiderium » Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:08 pm

10 years in business is a long time in solar. Agree with previous poster to check local reputation. I think there is a difference between the long term financial perspective a large corporation vs a local firm that relies on service, reputation and customer relationships. In my case after about 5 years, inverters were recalled. My local solar company (well established reputation, smallish firm) handled everything in a timely manner, no fuss and no money. They are proud of a list/map of all their projects including running total of kW installed. These systems do have occasional maintenance issues and I feel better having someone I can call for potential troubleshooting.

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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by TomatoTomahto » Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:14 pm

softwaregeek wrote:
Mon Sep 09, 2019 11:39 pm
I estimate I will get 2-4c per KWH from the power company for extra power. But frankly, if I have extra, at 2c per kwh, I'm gonna crank the AC until icicles hang from the lighting fixtures.
In MA, we have net metering and can build up quite a surplus, but I don’t believe that Eversource will ever write us a check. OTOH, there are some charities that will accept spare electrons. I’m sure neighbors would welcome some spare electrons also.

After the dust settles (geothermal replaced oil heat, upgraded panels, insulation, etc), i will figure out what I can safely offer to charity. You can’t donate built up credits, only prospective production, at least in Massachusetts.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

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softwaregeek
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by softwaregeek » Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:58 pm

Not possible to donate as far as I know in California. And using the power in the summer is easy, you just crank up the AC.

In the winter, I suppose I could get an electric heater to reduce my gas bill or mine bitcoin. It wouldn't be much but more than 2c per hour.

Batteries don't make much sense from an ROI perspective as far as I can tell. Although they do allow you to be grid independent, which is valuable in earthquake country.

mervinj7
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by mervinj7 » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:06 pm

softwaregeek wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:58 pm
Not possible to donate as far as I know in California. And using the power in the summer is easy, you just crank up the AC.

In the winter, I suppose I could get an electric heater to reduce my gas bill or mine bitcoin. It wouldn't be much but more than 2c per hour.

Batteries don't make much sense from an ROI perspective as far as I can tell. Although they do allow you to be grid independent, which is valuable in earthquake country.
Does your utility offer a rebate for installing a hybrid heat pump water heater? Something similar to below will efficiently increase your electrical usage while reducing your gas usage. The newer models will also let you schedule heating to take advantage of TOU plans or if you don't have net metering, use the heater during peak solar production times.

https://www.svcleanenergy.org/water-heating/

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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by TomatoTomahto » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:13 pm

softwaregeek wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:58 pm
Although they do allow you to be grid independent, which is valuable in earthquake country.
We have 5 or 6 outages a year, mostly associated with nor’easters in our rural setting near Boston. Two weeks we had a surprise one caused by “animal activity,” possibly ants, which I’ve heard really like electrical wire.

We no longer have oil to fall back on, so being grid independent is priceless, a number that isn’t easy to put in a spreadsheet.
Okay, I get it; I won't be political or controversial. The Earth is flat.

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softwaregeek
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Re: Another solar post - Large vs Small installers

Post by softwaregeek » Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:38 pm

mervinj7 wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:06 pm
softwaregeek wrote:
Tue Sep 10, 2019 12:58 pm
Not possible to donate as far as I know in California. And using the power in the summer is easy, you just crank up the AC.

In the winter, I suppose I could get an electric heater to reduce my gas bill or mine bitcoin. It wouldn't be much but more than 2c per hour.

Batteries don't make much sense from an ROI perspective as far as I can tell. Although they do allow you to be grid independent, which is valuable in earthquake country.
Does your utility offer a rebate for installing a hybrid heat pump water heater? Something similar to below will efficiently increase your electrical usage while reducing your gas usage. The newer models will also let you schedule heating to take advantage of TOU plans or if you don't have net metering, use the heater during peak solar production times.

https://www.svcleanenergy.org/water-heating/
We have tankless gas. This allowed us to mount to the outside of the house and costs little to run.

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