Why compare solar quotes? The benefits explained

Comparing solar quotes

If you're like most people, you've probably spent somewhere between a few weeks and a few months researching a major purchase. Why should solar be different? Solar is a big investment, often accompanied by significant complexity. With that in mind, most solar shoppers in the U.S. compare two to five solar quotes before making a decision. 

We'll explain how to decide which quote is best for you based on four key factors.

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Key takeaways about comparing solar quotes

  • Comparing multiple solar quotes can save you as much as 25% on your system costs.

  • When comparing solar quotes, you should look at the system design, equipment quality, available financing options, and the installer's reputation.

  • While cost is an important decision factor, it shouldn't be the first one you consider.

  • Your quotes aren't set in stone: You can always request different equipment or financing options to see if the installer can accommodate your preferences.

  • The EnergySage Marketplace makes comparing solar quotes easy. You can even reach out to our team of expert Energy Advisors for help understanding the quotes you receive.

Comparing multiple solar quotes can save you money in two ways: competition and transparency. When you receive multiple quotes, installers compete for your business. You can use lower quotes as leverage to drive down prices and find the right solar panel system at the right price.

Transparency can be trickier to put a price tag on, but for a market that has historically been as opaque as solar, knowing what equipment will be installed on your roof (and the quality of that equipment) helps ensure you get the best solution.

When you receive multiple solar quotes through EnergySage, installers compete directly, and you can see transparent pricing and reviews side-by-side. These components combine to save an average of 15-25% on the cost of solar compared to going solar outside of EnergySage.

Comparing solar quotes to save money

When reviewing solar quotes, you should compare four key components: system design, equipment quality, available financing options, and installer reputation. EnergySage makes the comparison process simple.

Why you should compare solar quotes

1. System design

You should be comfortable with how much power your system will generate and how it will look on your property. The layout of solar panels on your roof impacts the amount of solar power you generate, as well as the overall aesthetics of your system. Most people aim to cover as much electricity as possible with solar panels to maximize savings. But, different installers will take different approaches to the design and configuration of your solar panels, so it's important to compare them and ask installers why they chose a specific design.

One specific thing to remember is the different production estimates for your solar panels. Because of variations in weather, it's impossible to predict the exact amount of electricity production from a solar panel system over a given year. However, installers can use different tools to estimate the amount of electricity your solar panels will produce, from the publicly available PV Watts to the powerful online modeling tools from Aurora and Helioscope.

It's not uncommon–or wrong–to see quotes from different installers include different system sizes (i.e., number of panels). Still, if one installer offers a much smaller or larger system than others, it's worth asking why. Just try not to get too hung up on slight variations in system size in your initial quote review: Installers may be using slightly different assumptions for your energy usage or the solar potential of your roof. When you're further along in the process and closer to making a decision, you can invite installers out for site evaluations so that they can refine their design and production estimates.

Choosing solar system design

2. Equipment quality

Not all solar equipment is equal: There are dozens of different brands and models of solar equipment (solar panels, inverters, and batteries), offering varying efficiencies, aesthetics, warranty offers, and more. Different installers will provide you with different options, and it can be challenging to sift through their pros and cons on your own. However, doing so will help you determine if the quality of your quoted solar equipment is worth the price.

Almost all solar equipment is durable and built to last, so "lower quality" doesn't necessarily mean "low quality." Similar to how a Lexus and a Toyota can safely and reliably get you from point A to B, any equipment included in your quote should produce solar electricity for over 25 years. You'll just pay more for the best available equipment on the market, as you would for a premium car.

Depending on your specific situation, it may or may not make sense to pay extra for higher-rated equipment. If you have more than enough space for solar panels to meet your electricity needs, it might not be worth paying more for the highest-rated equipment since you don't need to eke out every possible kilowatt-hour of production from a limited space.

EnergySage is here to help you decide which equipment is best for you. We've developed a solar equipment rating system in conjunction with the Department of Energy-funded National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) so you can compare the performance and quality of different pieces of solar equipment head-to-head.

If you're excited about diving into the weeds and comparing the technical specifications of different equipment, check out our Buyer's Guide for solar panels, solar inverters, and solar batteries. You can search, sort, and filter equipment options and select the ones you want to compare, putting all the details from equipment spec sheets in one scannable location. 

Choosing solar equipment

3. Available financing options

If you experienced a bit of sticker shock when you first looked at the project costs, you're not alone. Fortunately, there are plenty of $0 down financing options for those that want to go solar with no upfront cost: If you can afford your monthly electricity bill, you can afford to go solar! There are two key questions to ask yourself about different solar financing options: Do you want to own your system? How much do you want to pay upfront?

Owning your solar panel system makes sense for people who can take advantage of solar incentives and rebates (like the 30% federal investment tax credit, ITC) and who want to receive the full benefits of what solar can offer, such as increasing home value. Based on your agreement with your installer, you'll likely be responsible for monitoring the performance of your system and getting in touch with your installer if anything looks awry.

While solar is a significant investment, you don't have to pay for it all at once. Both solar loans and leases/PPAs allow you to go solar for no money down, offering the opportunity to pay monthly for your solar panel system. With a loan, you'll own the system and be eligible to receive incentives and rebates; with a lease, you won't own the system, and you'll see bill savings but no incentive payments.

If your solar quotes include financing options, compare the terms, monthly payments, and interest payments across each. Solar leases typically last 25 years, whereas a solar loan may have a 12- or 15-year term. Once you've paid the loan off, you'll receive the full benefits of free solar electricity for the remainder of the system's lifetime. The financier is another important factor to consider: You'll have a relationship with the lender for multiple years, so try and work with a reputable lender known for good customer service. 

Here's how those decision points translate to the type of solar financing that works for you: 

  • Cash purchase: If you want to own your system, maximize your savings, and can afford the upfront expense, a cash purchase is the best option.

  • Solar loan: If you want to own your system but would prefer not to pay for it all upfront, a solar loan allows you to go solar for no upfront cost and often pay less than you currently pay for your monthly electric bill. 

  • Solar lease/PPA: If you can't take advantage of solar incentives and prefer to pay monthly for your solar panel system, a solar lease or PPA is a great way to take advantage of solar.

Not sure which financing option is right for you? Don't worry: EnergySage presents the savings and cost of different payment methods next to each other in our Solar Calculator and when you're comparing quotes in our Marketplace.

Choosing solar financing

4. Installer reputation

The most important thing to consider is the solar installer who will install your system. You'll want a reputable solar company with experience in your area, with all the appropriate licensing and industry certifications, and who you can count on to pick up the phone in the unlikely event that anything goes wrong with your system. 

Some installers will include review ratings or customer testimonials directly in their proposals, which can be a helpful indicator of their overall reputation. If this information isn't in the quote, searching for reviews online will be your best bet. Remember that many companies also offer references if you want to talk or email someone directly to learn more about their experience with said company. If you're having trouble finding reviews for a company you're considering or they can't provide testimonials, you may want to look elsewhere.

When you select an installer through EnergySage, you can be sure that the installer is screened and vetted by our team for reputation, experience, certifications, licensing, and insurance. We work with the best solar companies in your area to help provide confidence in your solar purchase. Major purchases feel better with a referral from a friend, family member, or neighbor. When you look at installer reviews on EnergySage, it's like gaining access to a nationwide referral network. Check to see if a review is from a verified EnergySage shopper whose experience will be very similar to yours.

Choosing solar installer

As you're comparing solar quotes, we recommend not starting with the cost. While cost is one of the most critical factors in your decision, you should first understand the differences between system designs, equipment quality, financing options, and installer reputation.

The cost of the project is the bare minimum of what any solar quote includes, but it's pretty standard for installers also to include savings projections and any incentives you're eligible for in cost summaries. When comparing costs between various quotes, look at the price per watt. Like evaluating a home on a dollar-per-square-foot basis, $/W is a helpful metric for comparing pricing across solar panel systems of different sizes.

On EnergySage, we automatically calculate and display the $/W of each quote. However, if you're comparing offline proposals, you can easily calculate this yourself by taking total costs (not including incentives) and dividing it by the system size in watts:

$/W = gross cost / system size (W)

EnergySage is the nation's online solar marketplace. We take the hard work out of finding and comparing solar quotes by gathering custom quotes from local installers and putting them in an easy-to-compare, side-by-side format. The best part? EnergySage is entirely free for you to use. Over 10 million people visit EnergySage annually to learn about, shop for and invest in solar. Sign up today to see how much you can save with solar.

Find out what solar panels cost in your area in 2024
Please enter a five-digit zip code.
  • 100% free to use, 100% online
  • Access the lowest prices from installers near you
  • Unbiased Energy Advisors ready to help
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