Many people switch to solar because the system typically ends up paying for itself. It cuts (or downright eliminates) electricity bills, and there are reimbursements and performance-based incentives that put money directly in your pocket. Also, while additions like building a pool, renovating your bathroom, or putting a new porch in your backyard hike your tax rates, Massachusetts solar installations are exempt from property taxes. With so many financial incentives supporting the transition to clean energy, it’s crucial you choose the right company to partner with to secure your investment.
What Are Solar Savings Calculators?
The solar process begins with your initial request for a quote. Many national or non-local solar installers partner with EnergySage and other online marketplaces to give quotes to interested parties. To expedite the process, these marketplaces use automated systems to assess how much it would cost to equip your home with solar and how much money you’d save over time. However, there are a multitude of reasons these quick, computerized solar assessments are not the most precise.
Constructing solar projects involves patience, care, and attention to detail. A proper assessment is needed for accurate energy production rates and a personalized solar design. Otherwise, your quick quote from an online generator might be grossly inaccurate.
Solar savings calculators or online quote generators are the current buzz in the solar industry, and this popularity leads many prospective customers to assume they’re reliable. These tools, like those on EnergySage and Google’s Project Sunroof, quickly spit out potential savings from installing solar panels. They’ll also show you presumptuous quotes from solar companies that haven’t even visited your home yet. With little time and effort required from the user, it’s no surprise that this method has soared in popularity.
Why Solar Calculators Don’t Always Work
The problem is that solar savings calculators usually aren’t reliable. These systems are often coded with outdated satellite images (courtesy of Google Maps) and disconnected third party data about your energy costs. On top of that, they make broad assumptions about your home based on general location data. While receiving a free quote is a critical step in the solar process, these quote generators are often vague or downright defective.
Generalized Incentive Information
Solar calculators typically generalize financial incentives associated with the project, which is problematic since incentives vary by state and even city. For instance, the incentive rates within Massachusetts’ current incentive program, SMART (Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target), can vary daily. Under the SMART Program, Massachusetts utility companies (Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil) directly compensate you for every kilowatt-hour of solar energy that you generate monthly. Each of these utility companies have designated “blocks” of solar energy capacity (in megawatts), and solar owners are placed in a block for 10 years based on when they signed up for solar.
It’s important to note that SMART is structured as a declining block model. Each block has a limited capacity, and, once that threshold is met, new solar customers are placed in the next block and receive a reduced incentive rate. The value of the incentive, as well as the amount of megawatts allocated in each block, decreases by 4-percent (recently updated to 2-percent as a response to COVID-19) between each block. This poses an issue for online generators because they are unable to factor in the changing daily incentive rates. Calculators often assume you’ll be placed in a larger, more profitable block, so they tend to overestimate the money you’ll receive from the state, or, to the opposite effect, state incentives won’t even be factored in because of their inconstant nature.
Google claims that their tool creates solar estimates by factoring in roof size, shape, and shading as well as local weather, local electricity prices, and local incentives. Yet, if you compare different estimates on Google’s Project Sunroof, you can see that the resulting savings are not customized much at all. Often, your quotes will be the same or extremely similar to your neighbors’, regardless of your home’s unique roof size and style.
We used Sunroof’s online calculator to compare solar quotes for three distinct houses with similar solar exposure on Wolcott Street in Newton, MA. These unique properties greatly varied in size; one house had a 1,885 square foot roof, another had a 493 square foot roof, and the third had a 881 square foot roof. These variations in roof sizes should have produced vastly different quotes. When you have more roof space, you have more room for solar panels, which increases your long-term savings. Furthermore, bigger homes (which, logically, have bigger roofs) have higher electric bills and, therefore, more potential savings. Despite these factors, the solar calculator projected very similar savings estimates, demonstrating the inaccuracy of the quotes.
Imprecise Site or Location Data
Online solar calculators and quote generators paint an approximate picture of your home based on limited information. With a maze of factors influencing return on investment, there is ample room for mistakes. The variation in zoning codes from town to town, the unique qualities of a home’s roof, and the property’s access to sunlight are frequent causes of error for online quotes. For example, if parts of your roof are in poor shape or the number of trees on your property has changed, then the quote could drastically differ from actual costs and savings.
Regarding the same property, quotes from solar calculators can vary because each system gathers information from different third-party sources. The two quotes below show how inconsistent online solar calculators can be. For the same address, EnergySage predicted up to more than quadruple the savings than Project Sunroof did. This vagueness can confuse potential solar owners and leads to a general lack of understanding about solar energy.
Real-life Examples of Bad Solar Quotes
Many of our current customers first requested free quotes online before contacting us.
Anatol’s Solar Story – Plymouth, MA
In 2015, Anatol trusted an online calculator that considerably complicated his solar installation. He browsed online to explore his options and received a free quote. Based on pricing estimates, he selected a solar company to begin the solar process.
However, the quote and plans didn’t consider the specific limitations of his neighborhood, delaying his project over seven months. Naturally, Anatol was quoted for a system on the south-facing side of his roof, which happened to face the street. A zoning mandate from his homeowner association prevented him from placing solar panels on the street-view side of his home, so they rejected his design and proposal. Disappointed by this setback, he ditched the company that EnergySage endorsed and did more research on solar installations. He eventually found RevoluSun.
Our team visited Anatol’s home to thoroughly assess the property, evaluate his community’s mandates, and design a system that maximized energy production enough to wipe out his electric bill for the northern side of his roof. We made the process as hassle-free as possible, collaborating with his neighborhood association and arranging all necessary town inspections, so proper permitting wouldn’t slow Anatol down.
RevoluSun worked diligently on our solar panels and installed them quickly so we could still go green, save, and lead by example.
Anatol | Plymouth, MA
Bill’s Solar Story – Winchester, MA
Bill started his solar journey in June 2019. Like Anatol and many other interested parties, Bill joined EnergySage to get the answers he was searching for. EnergySage led him to numerous national solar installers who didn’t have clear answers for him regarding project financing.
A month or so later, Bill met with Dan, one of RevoluSun’s Project Developers in late September 2019. Dan walked him through the solar process, explained all the financing options available, and answered all of his questions. Bill noted that Dan was not like other salespeople he’s encountered who can be pushy to get the sale. Instead, Dan was responsive and straight-forward on exactly what a solar project would be like for Bill. A few months later in October, Bill signed his solar contract with RevoluSun.
I did a lot of online research and joined EnergySage.com. I received six different quotes and contacted a few of the installers who were local. EnergySage includes a lot of national installers which is not what I was looking for. One came to my house, looked at my roof and confirmed the estimate. I did some additional research on this company and found that they hadn’t done a lot of solar jobs in Massachusetts. They also didn’t provide any financing.
Bill | Winchester, MA
The Value of a Comprehensive Energy Assessment
A quote from our team is a no-cost, thorough assessment of your property, financial situation, lifestyle, and goals. By choosing an energy assessment with RevoluSun, you’ll receive:
- A site and roof evaluation, calculated shade reports, and guaranteed solar production numbers. Additionally, if you don’t produce within a range of what we quote you, we’ll cut you a check for the difference.
- Customized solar designs on your home or business that fit your aesthetic preferences
- Samples of equipment, photos of work, and helpful leave-behinds
- A clear explanation of financing options and incentives available to you
When it comes to solar quotes, quality and ease are not mutually exclusive. The feasibility of an online quote is enticing, but choosing a solar assessment from us is just as simple. Our team digs into local zoning codes, your monthly energy use, site and location, and the latest incentive data to give you a solar quote you can trust. Unreliable calculators only add to the many misconceptions surrounding solar and often result in negative customer experiences. To get a well-rounded understanding of how solar panels will work for you, choose a full-service solar installer to guide you through the process and provide you the legitimate information you deserve.
Get an Accurate Solar Quote
Get guaranteed power production and incentive information. We’ll provide a thorough assessment to see if solar panels make sense for you. No obligation, just transparency.