After many months of shopping and waiting for an install, we’re now installed! We ended up picking A&R Solar to do our system and we wanted to share why, what it costs, and the benefits.
Why Did we Pick A&R Solar?
We ended up getting about a half dozen quotes and while A&R wasn’t the cheapest they stood out on a few important points which made them a natural choice. I found a few types of solar companies – electricians that do solar, sales organizations that subcontract installs, and companies that are dedicated to solar installation. What I found was companies that were dedicated to solar installation had the best designs and gear, employee installers, the best guarantees, strong processes, and reasonable prices.
The Best Designs and Gear
First what surprised me is many vendors were using older panels – in fact some didn’t even know the panels I got were on the market yet! Beyond that the less sexy parts of solar are still very important – roofing and racking will make a huge difference in matters of appearance and maintaining roof integrity yet many bids never mention it. Lastly the power conversion design can make huge differences in output – which is really what it’s all about. Once I understood all these matters many of the quotes were eliminated.
Some firms did the installations with their own employees, others hired subcontractors. In the end I believe employee installers is best due to the complexity of the install. There’s a lot of details to getting all these bits installed optimally and legally, just because you’re a roofer or electrician doesn’t mean you’ll know how to get all these details right. Check some ugly work here and you’ll see why experience matters.
Aside from the hardware warranties for all the bits, really your installer is on the hook for making the whole system right. Some firms offer just a couple years of service and warranty on their labor, A&R provides 10 years. But A&R is unique in guaranteeing the output – they’ll pay 110 percent of the difference if the system underproduces. Needless to say they’re not guessing on designs but, with experience and tools like the SunEye they’re able to definitively identify the production of a system.
There’s many details to coordinate from permitting, submitting for state incentives, getting the utility production meter installed, monitoring setup, etc – A&R has project managers who handle this complex process for the buyer. The process was very easy from my perspective – e-sign some docs, let the project manager tour the house for final design review, then let in the installers. A&R was so organized they said they’d install starting Oct 29th for 2-3 days…and they actually started Oct 29th and finished in 2.5 days.
Cost and Benefits
Bids had about a 30% spread but dedicated solar installers were actually well priced – both in the bottom third of pricing. Here’s what I paid:
$29580 11.68 kW Solar System
$2544 Sales Tax
$32124 System Cost
Now here’s where the fun happens – the savings:
$9637 Federal Rebate
$13917 Estimated Washington State Production Incentive
$29538 Estimated utility savings over 25 years (factoring in panel degradation and estimated utility cost increases)
$53092 Savings and rebates
In other terms, buy a $32k system, get $53k back over the next 25 years (it can last longer, but a fair lifespan assumption). Over that 25 years that would save nearly a quarter million pounds of CO2 at current PSE CO2 output rates. Needless to say not a bad plan to help the environment and keep $21,000 more in your pocket over the next 25 years. BTW I know you’re probably thinking great plan but I don’t have $32k burning a hole in my pocket – you can get a 3.99% loan from Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union for solar systems!
Solar On Your Home
Keep in mind solar on your home may be different based on your energy consumption, power utility, current incentives, roof, etc. To find out what solar can do for you I’d recommend reaching out to Audra Willing [email protected] or 206-693-0538 and mention this blog!