Best price, prompt installation (2 days), all timing commitments met, got all needed paperwork with the HOA, city (Encinitas), and Electric Company (SDGE) correct the first time with zero issues or push-back. Cleaned up after each work day. Higher degree of expertise saved me thousands (see story below). There were no undisclosed costs or surprises.
EnergySage gave me 4 estimates. Additionally, I got an estimate from Tesla and another from a vendor who installed at the home of someone I know. I was very transparent with all vendors, telling them that they are competing for my business primarily on the economics of the system and that I will give each competitor an opportunity to provide their best bid. I sized the system to cover all my current and projected electrical use needs, but not more.
Of the 6 estimates, Clayco was the lowest (~$15K for 17 panels), but not by much; the nearest competitor was less than $100 apart, and the next one another $100. Tesla, even with their "price match guarantee" still came the highest (about $3800 above Clayco for same system size; while their guarantee is much more comprehensive, I wasn't prepare to pay that much more for a better guarantee).
However, each of the other contractors, when they visited and inspected my breaker box, asserted that it does not have the capacity to handle the solar system as sized. They offered to either downsize the system (to about half), install a new box for me, or have me install a new box myself (except Tesla, whose price included a guarantee that if my box isn't adequate, they will give me a new one at their expense). The cost of a new box would have been in the $2000-3000 range.
The issue was that the 40+ years old box is missing a sticker that would have designated it's "Bus Capacity". Absent that sticker, all the other vendors would only go by the lower "breaker capacity" number which was inadequate. They warned me that SDGE will do likewise and not provide a license to operate if I were to attempt to install a full system without a box upgrade. Clayco, who had a licensed electrician (Clay himself) make the home visit, was able to determine that the "Bus Capacity" is indeed adequate. He had come across identical boxes elsewhere, and had a file copy of the correct sticker. As a way of protecting myself, I asked that he incorporate into the contract that if SDGE fails to give a license-to-operate, he will do whatever remediation -- including installing a new box -- at his expense. Clayco agreed, and we were in business.
Paperwork was smooth. Clayco interfaced directly with my HOA, the City of Encinitas, and SDGE, and got all approvals right the first time and with zero issues.
Installation was also smooth. They arrived and left exactly at the agreed time (took 2 days); and left everything nice and tidy each day.
The final step, the visit by SDGE to inspect and provide the license to operate, happened 3 days ago (2 business days after the installation was complete). I wasn't home at the time, but it must have gone smoothly, because a few hours later I got an email notification that the license was granted. I still don't know if the "Bus Capacity" issue ever came up during the inspection at all.
We have now been producing electricity for 3 days. From the monitoring website and the SDGE website, I can see that we are, in fact, producing more than we are using (which, to my understanding, will build a credit with SDGE; to be drawn down in the winter when we will be producing less than using).
While I'm still new to the process and would like to see my first post-installation electric bill before I declare "mission accomplished," everything looks good right now and Clayco clearly did what they promised they would do.
Vicky and Dan.