Variation in quotes $32k and $13k! Florida, USA

#1

Hi, I recieved two quotes. One from 3D solar that was 31 panels cost of 32,000. One from solar advantage 18 panels for 13,000! What is that about? Is it normal to get that big of a price difference?

Thanks
Cathy

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Hi I would like some help quotes for a solar system for my home. The house is surrounded by trees good sunlight from around midday to late arvo
#2

Hi @Cj34668

No, it’s not normal. But also not normal to have such a huge variation in size of system. Would be interested in more details of the quotes. Size of panels, inverter brands, any batteries (I think you posted previously saying you were looking into batteries?).

What is your main driver for getting a system (financial, environmental, energy security)? How much power do you use? Presuming panels are ~ 300W, 31 of them will give you 9.3kW, which is quite large. That will generate about 40kWh a day in Florida on an average install I would imagine. Do you need that much?

Did you end up getting an appointment with Tesla btw?

Cheers
Marty

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#3

Thanks
Cathy

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#4

Hi, thanks for your help. Guess we want to achieve all of what you stated. Cut down on our energy use, save money as we are putting in a pool, we have repaired/replaced our ducting & insulation as we just bought the home. We have impact windows being put in.
Below is one quote the other I’ll send separately. Tesla pulled out of servicing FL.

Cathy Southerland Residence

o Monthly Spend: Average: $227

o Net kW Usage: 49 kWh per day / 1482 kWh per month / 17,791 kWh Recommended System: 6.175 kW

• Q-CELLS 325 WATT. (19 panels) BLACK ON BLACK. Fortune 500 company. German technology, manufactured in South Korea. Top 5 largest manufactureres in the world. With more than 65 years’ track record of industrial leadership. Publicly traded company.

o SMA SUNNY BOY INVERTERS Most stabile and highest efficency. Only inverter on the market that has day time back up storage in case of a power outtage.

o IronRidge Racking Flush mount. 25-year warranty.

o Rheem Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heater $1250 (online or thru Home Depot). Installation: $250+. Total: $1500.

Amount: $13,062

Thanks
Cathy

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#5

Sorry, had some issues sending these. If you received duplicate I apologize.

Thanks
Cathy

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#6

Hi Cj,
If you consumption is 49 kWh per day, then your Micro power grid will only need 24x 380W 72cell panels =9.12kWh/p array. That is calculated on harvesting 5 hours of peak energy per day using tilted Roof Racking.
The panels should only cost $7’000 for the latest 380W, 12bus bar, Perc panel technology.

If you out in Rural land, consider spend the additional money on a Duel-axis Tracker unit, as they harvest energy for some 10+ hours per day, then you only need 12x 380W Panel Tracker, they cost approx. $6’000 +installation, what you save on Panels you spend on a Tracker !

However, the key point is the additional energy harvesting will be ongoing for decades to come, and that in it’s self will reduce your investment payback time quicker, and there after ongoing profits, if grid connected !

The heart of a good quality system is the Inverter, and a good quality 5kw YIY / SolaX Hybrid inverters, that are all ready for batteries, will set you back from $1’500 / $3’100 respectively.

So, that is $10’000 for the Lion share of your system equipment.
Leaving the roof racking, switches & Installation costs, commonly the installation should only take a day for two people, and the cost is usually/always covered by signing your STC over the Installer.

The common TV marketing Specials offering 6.6kW Array supplying 24x 270W, 60cell panels including SolaX solar only inverter, offer a great price of around $3’500 fully installed.
Even though 270W panels require more roof space per kw, the STC calculate to approx. the same price as the System that are offering.

So, including the hidden/non mentioned STC Credits the retailer or installer receives it ends up costing you $7’000 fully installed, as the STC, that you can sell yourself, by simply filling in a form, are calculated for some 10 years in advance, am sure that equates to over …$3’500 ÷ 2 installers =$1’750 each, not bad for a days work.

All said and done, you will need approx. 33x 270W Solar panels to Harvest 45kWh day, fine if you have enough Roof space.

NB: All Quality panels be them 100W to 500W, should last 25+ years.

Be Warned: Don’t listen the any marketing crap about Tier-1 panels, it is a deceptive & misleading term, Tier-1 has NOTHING to do with the Quality of Panels or equipment, it’s a marketing term relating to the turnover & financial stability of a manufacturer only!

I hope that helps.
Good luck!

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#7

I believe Cathy is in Florida, so the pricing will be considerably different to Australia.

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#8

Sorry, I missed your latest message Cathy.

The products and system size of this quote seem fine, but the price does seem a bit dear. I’m guessing you can claim 30% tax break on that? That sweetens it a little, but still on the dear side. I would see if you can get a similar system for cheaper price with another retailer.

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#9

Thank you. Still confused with the price difference. Seems this is a norm for this area. Quote on a pool the same Two quotes $71,000 other 32,000. Strange.

Thank you for all the info. Really appreciate your time. Cathy

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#10

Cathy I am also in Florida and I am getting quotes that are all over the place as well both in system sizing and pricing but my lowest is considerably higher than yours. Everything from $25k to $42k for ~8kWh to 14.65kWh. My current actual is likely somewhere from 12kWh to 13.41kWh. To start with you have to decide if you are looking to cover all your power or just a portion of your power. I am looking to cover all my power if possible, so it was very easy to look on my electric bill on the website and it shows total kWh for the month and even the day. Then take an average of the amounts for all your bills for a year. That gives you a solid average. This is NOT what the salespeople ask you to tell them, they all want to know how much you pay, but how much you pay doesn’t have to do w/ your consumption of power.
Then at least you know if the “sales” people know anything about what they are talking about. If someone it quoting you very low or very high, kill them from your list honestly; its not worth bothering with them. I had lots of people I have spoken to now that were totally full of it. https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/pvwatts.php also will show you how much power you will produce with the specs you were given for a quote. There is also a SAM database on the top right under other Solar tools that you may find helpful. There was a third tool I used but I am now drawing a blank on where I found it that helped with sizing based on your current usage since its not a 1:1 ratio, the derate from DC to AC its actually .8. I just memorized the calculation. So you take the AC amount you need: ie 6kW and divide by .8 (6kW/.8 = 7.5kW DC). But you can also take the watts of the panels you are quoted and multiply it times the number of panels and that you were quoted for and see if that matches what you need.

You want an average of your consumption because some months you will produce more power than you need and you will backfeed it to the grid or store to battery; and then other months you will be slightly short of power so the idea is that you come close to breaking even.

Then I also live near the Florida Solar Energy Center fsec.ucf.edu/en. I went in and talked to them and they shared with me that you should make sure whomever you are speaking to is certified with them, its surprising how many are not. The list is on their website. They also suggest trying to hook up with a co-op, this is actually why I went in to try and find out if I could get any news on a co-op coming up. https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/florida/go-solar-in-florida/go-solar-in-a-florida-group/. Your pricing may or may not be better but you will get the wealth of knowledge from watching the entire group learn from this and there are people involved that are familiar with earlier co-ops. Turns out I work with a surprising number of people involved in a few of the past co-ops in my area and I got on Nextdoor and was able to get some details from neighbors around me too. Plenty of people want to share their monitoring sites because they are so happy.

With all this I was able to narrow down who was just a sales person and full of it and who actually knew anything about solar. I let most of the people talk themselves into a hole telling me about their commission structures, one guy told me how he was on salary. When they are on commission it is to their advantage to oversize a system because they are paid more based on the higher number of panels. But the guy on salary really knew nothing about solar. That is not who I want designing my system. Most of the companies I spoke to honestly were the ones involved w/ the co-ops. They were the ones who actually seemed to know the most about solar in the end. I also read BBB, google and yelp reviews, looked up business filings and looked at the top installers from https://www.solarpowerworldonline.com/top-solar-contractors/ list. I met with one company who I found after was trying to open under a different name, hiding from their prior complaints. That company was Sunbility, avoid them and Blue Sky, Dani Grant and Grant Solar Energy, they are all the same company. Then I had to read warranties, this was the first thing that made me very suspicious of Sunbility the guy knew nothing of the warranties; and they insisted on coming to my house especially when it was clear he had no reason to be at our house. He kept trying to write up a sale with us but he couldn’t even tell us what panels could be installed.

We have had other types of solar before and the warranty can be important in my experience. We also live on the river nearby the ocean and it turns out many of the panels have exclusions for this area. In the end the only two manufacturers that allowed coastal installations were Sunpower and LG. Many of them had surprising exclusions. This is just my experience and everyone goes into this with very different goals. About half went in trying to go solar for the cheapest price, some wanted a better system than the cheapest price gave them or better components. There are vastly different types of inverters for instance. I am happy to share the companies that I narrowed my list down to if you wish. They all seem to work in a large area of Florida. I haven’t made a final decision yet but I have narrowed things down to a few companies.

Take care and I hope some of this helps you,

Alysa

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#11

@alysaleve this is fantastic insight, thank you for sharing such a detailed report for the community, it’s incredibly valuable information. Whilst all of this is insightful for Floridians, most of it also applies to everywhere in the world. The following for example is all too familiar:

As well as the hard ball sales tactics. It is unfortunately really difficult to get a persistent salesperson out of your living room without signing something, and they know it.

I really hope that solar becomes a lot easier and cheaper in Florida, having the population of Australia, and probably better sunshine overall.

Thanks
Marty

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#12

Yes I agree, anyone with hard ball sales tactics was immediately out of my list of consideration. Anyone who was truly honest dealt with me on the phone and via email first, all the information is online. There is no reason for anyone to show at your house. I only ended up wtih the one guy from Sunbility at the house, because the company insisted he HAD to be onsite. I only let him come because I was mildly interested to see the story I was going to get. Everyone else did exactly the same thing electronically with me. When the Sunbility rep told me that he wanted to make a sale tonight I said, sorry but there is no way I am signing anything today. Obviously I wasn’t actually sorry, except for his company wasting my time. So far, he never came back to me because he clearly had no answers for me. At least in the US the warranties seem to really be an issue, many I read were riddled with exclusions. I think it must have been clear that this guy at our house wasn’t selling us anything so there was no point in contacting me back.

Happy to share more, but I fear I have already overshared.

Again good luck,
Alysa

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#13

Thank you for all the information. If you don’t mind I would like to know what companies you did narrow it down to! Please share?!

Sincerely

Cathy

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#14

Absolutely I am happy to. Each of these companies it turned out have very large numbers of wattage installed and are listed as top installers w/ Solar World.

Brevard Solar has good pricing, their assessment of system size was pretty accurate and I know quite a few people that installed their system locally. They were the company chosen by the Brevard Co-op think it was in 2017 now. Their prices are extremely low, they are advertising on their webpage that they have systems now for $1.62/watt. They are pretty well regarded as having the lowest prices. They have their current winter offer on their webpage @brevardsolar.com. They are NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified as well as the Solar Energy Industries Association. They and their systems are FSEC (Florida Solar Energy Center) certified, only use a FSEC certified installer.

One of the Orange County Co-ops chose ESA Solar also known as ESA Renewables. The company split at some point recently to commercial and residential service which is the reason for the two names. They are likely one of my top contenders. I know a bunch of people that have installed with them that I work with and I have heard a lot about them. One of their energy consultants was actually involved in an engineering project as well with a co-worker of mine and told me to contact him directly unrelated to getting a quote for solar. When I ended up getting the quote it was with the same person. I liked the fact that he was an engineer. They really like Sunpower panels and microinverters but they will install other products. They are NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified as well as the Solar Energy Industries Association. They and their systems are FSEC (Florida Solar Energy Center) certified.

The Seminole County Co-op from 2017 choose Superior Solar. I know Superior actually from dealing with them regarding pool and domestic hot water at another house years ago. They seemed very honest at the time. One of the pluses with them is actually how long they have been in business, they are around since 1984. No other company I know of is around this long. Most PV solar companies don’t do other types of solar, but Superior does. They have done a lot of big commercial projects too that are noted on their website. They have what they have indicated is a unique racking system that eliminates the possibility of leaks. I haven’t gotten a quote from them yet though. I stumbled on two new to me reviews that offered good information on dealing with them here: https://bestcompany.com/solar/company/superior-solar-systems#reviews. They are NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified as well as the Solar Energy Industries Association. They were FSEC (Florida Solar Energy Center) certified previously so I am sure they still are.

…
Now I saw that Odessa is in Pasco County. These are some other local area co-ops that are closer to your area. I haven’t done any digging on most of them:
Polk County just did a solar co-op at the end of 2018, they choose Wayfare Energy. I have never heard of this company.

North Pinellas County chose Guardian Solar for their co-op in 2017. I did get three quotes from them through a group called pickmysolar.com. I would be happy to share them with you, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with either the quotes or Guardian Solar honestly. With the co-op they may have felt they would have better luck because there are a lot of people to keep Guardian honest with the co-op. I read a lot of reviews about them that I didn’t think were favorable. Now pickmysolar supposedly guarantees you the lowest pricing, and they had a list of things they do to ensure you are happy with installing solar with them and again to keep them honest. The prices they got me were not terribly good and they oversized the system as well, so I didn’t put much stock into their price guarantee.

Hillsborough went with Sem Power Tampa Bay Solar. SEM is on the Top Florida Solar Contractors list at www.solarpowerworldonline.com. I recognized the name and went back to check.

The early co-ops were able to get pricing at $2.01/watt for the standard panel options. I know people that went with Hanwha and Hyundai, but there are quite a few others in this same level. They all were able to do single string inverters which is what allows them to get the lower pricing, and the return on investment is very quick. Solar United Neighbors indicates that average pricing in Florida is $2.50/watt. That number is higher because some people upgrade to more efficient panels or inverters with optimizers or microinverters. These options cost more but are necessary for some installations. Some of the technology has also changed since the earlier co-ops were created, especially with inverters which has again pushed some prices up.

Don’t fear where each solar company is located as I found out they get involved all over the place. Now I could not find a co-op that has occured yet in Pasco county but that doesn’t mean that there will not be one that is going to start. I would recommend signing up on the site to get notified if you want to try to wait for one. I have been re-researching this since the end of December and just realized tonight that another co-op has started. They have a solar guide you can download as well that may help you learn about this and definitely read their FAQ. It will answer a lot of questions that my husband wanted to talk to the solar reps about that is just not needed.

Also you may find that https://www.consumerreports.org/energy-saving/how-to-install-a-solar-system/ & https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy04osti/35297.pdf will help too. I know I am throwing a ton of information at you but I found that I couldn’t just trust some solar “salesperson” who is not looking out for my family and just wants to make a sale. This is just not the type of purchase I feel someone can make without understanding what they are buying. Trying to pass on what I can. YMMV though.

Please ask any questions.

Alysa

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#15

Cathy,

I wanted to share that another group of local solar co-ops have started. I would recommend signing up and getting involved if there is one in your area or contact Solar United Neighbors and ask if they know if one is starting soon, I still don’t see one by you. They also have a Facebook group you can join. You can at least learn more than you ever thought you needed to know about solar and take advantage of the bulk pricing. It may even be helpful to get involved in a group in another county just for the knowledge and if you are close enough to attend their meetings. I have volunteered to be one of the decision makers who decides what installer is chosen by the co-op in my area.

I feel I need to be involved to take the next step, while I think I have a ton of understanding of the technology and products, it hasn’t helped me in the slightest to feel comfortable with a decision because of how much money is involved here. It only allows me to lay out all the technical detail and pros/cons. The general pricing I have seen w/ the co-ops is ~$2.01 to $2.50/watt. I have now read the docs for most of the co-ops that happened in Florida. The price difference depends on what the co-op decides is their focus. Some groups want the lowest price possible to reduce their ROI and some groups are more focused on quality and want the higher end panels & inverters. I am leaning towards quality over lowest price myself, which would mean likely going with ESA Solar who has some of the larger numbers of installed watts in Florida. I don’t want to spend the next 25 years getting repairs on our solar system constantly, but the quote I got was ouch …$2.70/watt.

In addition I know Brevard Solar that I mentioned earlier is doing a special right now where you can get the slightly lower efficiency foreign made panels and a single inverter for $1.65/watt. Brevard Solar has done this special in the past as well, which is why they have solar so much solar they also have installed in the area and in Florida in general.

This group https://www.energysage.com/project/7187/tampa-solar-pv/?utm_campaign=CE%205-6%3A%20Nurturing&utm_source=hs_automation&utm_medium=email&utm_content=60455057&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-_8BIk2iYvliABpS0D-mlxx0MFMofY0jpINsGKnZx5XIGZ_YqsIVRgNC5S8LqMV4O1BDvMZkgOFVMKoU8SzKllpw-yYgg&_hsmi=60455057 has lots of reviews from people all over Florida about their experience going solar and they can even help you find quotes in your area as well. Each of their installers was $2.50/watt on my quotes. pickmysolar.com does the same thing but I felt their pricing was high and they had sized the system higher as well. There are also local solar Facebook groups too that maybe can give you some direction in your area. I had a link here that I realize is incorrect. But they did also lead me to a link for wholesale panel kits if you wanted to buy and then find a local electrician to install https://www.wholesalesolar.com/.

I would be happy to keep you updated on what happens with our co-op but I know its not the same getting it second hand.

Wishing you the best,
Alysa

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#16

I have another link that I think will help. I forgot that the Florida Solar Energy Industries Association has a list of contractors that belong to FSEIA at least:

I am not sure what a Platinum member is but you can ask them. Two of the companies I was leaning towards were both Platinum members.

This is the link for the Facebook page I couldn’t find before: https://www.facebook.com/groups/SolarUnitedNeighborsofFlorida/

Take care,
Alysa

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