In this week’s podcast we respond to a listener question about sorting out the various solar quotes he received, and what to look for in a solar company before going forward.  It’s not so much about the equipment as it is about the financing and installer reputation.


About Jamie Duran &
Solar Harmonics
Brought to you by Solar Harmonics in Northern California,  who invite their customers to “Own Their Energy” by purchasing a solar panel system or their home, business, or farm.  You can check out the website for the best solar energy equipment installer, Solar Harmonics, here.   Each episode we discuss questions facing people making the decision to go solar. The solutions to your questions are given to you –  straight  – by one of the leading experts in the solar industry, Jamie  Duran,  president of Solar Harmonics.   Feel free to search our library for answers to questions that you’re facing when considering solar.

Produced by
Magnified Media
Solar Cast is produced by Adam Duran, director of Magnified Media. Based in Walnut Creek, California, Magnified Media is an internet marketing firm focused on getting Google local Maps placement, digital marketing, website design, local search ranking and reputation management for businesses of all sizes. Check out their podcast, Local SEO in 10 here!
Magnified Media helping business owners master their marketing by:
– getting them more online reviews,
– getting their website seen and
– creating engaging social media content.
In his spare time, Adam enjoys working as the volunteer director of the Delta Education Foundation and practicing Jiu-Jitsu.

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Solar Soup [Transcript]

Listen to the Episode Here

Adam (00:00):

Hello. Hello, Jamie. Alright. Here we go. Alright. Another episode of straight talk, solar cash coming at ya. That’s right. And man, Oh man, I think I’m gonna. There’s so much stuff going on. I think we’re going to have to start doing bonus episodes. Oh boy. Oh yeah. There’s more happening in the solar world that we don’t know about and I just can’t keep up. There’s just so much and it’s it is, it is interesting for sure. But today I wanted to talk about we actually got a question from a listener. So his name is Sean and essentially he’s going solar and he lives in Florida. And he’s listening to the podcast. Love it, which is great. I try replying to him by email, but it bounced back, which is odd. But I don’t know. So Sean, sorry about that.

Jamie (00:51):

I did try to reply it just your email. Anyway, so it basically, his question is, you know, with all the quotes that they’re getting, they’re all substantially different. And how in the world can that be, you know, how can you go to three different solar companies and they’re going to give you three different, completely different system sizes and prices and panels and financing. And it’s just, it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin. So I thought that’s what we, we can talk about today is how to sort out the solar soup. Is there a, so can you give us a step by step process? Yeah. The first thing I would recommend is get your own financing. So if that is at all possible, most banks now are eliminating the home equity line of credit because they’re not a, it’s not a profitable loan for them, but there’s still a few out there that are doing it.

Jamie (01:47):

And a us bank has one. Wells Fargo has one, but definitely check with your bank first. It’s always better to be preapproved. Just like if you were going to go buy a house, it’s better to be preapproved when you start looking rather than trying to say, okay, I love this house and now you have to try and find financing on your own. So a home equity line of credit is the best because most of them have no prepayment penalties and there’s no loan fees. And because you’re using it for home improvement the interest is still deductible, so, okay. That makes sense. So, yeah, it’s the least expensive way to finance solar and nothing makes a solar company happier than knowing that you already have financing secured. So when I go to my bank, I should, how do I how do I, like, should I say, okay, I’m going to need a loan from 20 to $80,000.

Jamie (02:42):

What are you doing? Yeah. I would say get preapproved for about, you know, depending on where you are about about $30,000, you don’t have to spend that much of course. But you know, it’s a, you know, it’s really, each situation is different. You know, how much equity they have and all that stuff. But the bottom line is getting solar financing on your own reduces so much of the solar mishegoss the games that these companies are playing, where they’re just selling the payment, they’re not selling the system. And I remember on a previous episode, yeah, they can tack on a little something, some at the end, it doesn’t go to them. It goes to the finance company and you know, wow. So anyway, there it’s all kinds of, I’d say 90 90% of the games that solar companies play is with the payment. And so if you have your own payment and you have the best financing, that’s no longer an issue.

Jamie (03:35):

So now we’ve separated out you know, critical factor number one, which is the financing critical factor number two is do some research. You know, I mentioned Sean is looking at three different companies. He didn’t mention you know, he’s talking all about the solar panels and the microinverters everything, but he didn’t mention anything about the reputation of the company that is installing it. So there’s plenty of online sources for, you know, people to find out if the company is legitimate and has a license. And, you know, w what are people saying about them? I know in the local SEO and 10, we were talking just about how companies can manipulate the reviews. But you know, if you can check like say Yelp or Google or Facebook and nextdoor.com and if they’re all saying vastly different things, then you kind of know maybe there’s, there’s something going on there.

Jamie (04:31):

But if they’re all saying kind of uniform, really, really good feedback, then that’s, that’s kind of more important than even the equipment that you’re going with because those are, and also in those reviews, don’t just look for the ones that were done right after the install was done. I mean, the happiest day is when the solar first gets turned on and people are super excited. We try and ask for reviews a year or two, three, four, five years down the road. And if somebody is still willing to write a five star review five years after the system is installed. I can’t think of anything that I would review. I’ve seen five years down the road, but it happens. And so those ones are, we think are really, really important. So we’ve talked about the financing, talked about reputation of the company. So those are, those are two huge things.

Jamie (05:21):

And now, you know, talking about the systems somewhere, you know, it can be, it can be very tricky because each solar company thinks they have the best recipe for solar power. There are some brands like SunPower which have an amazing efficiency and a really, really great solar panel. But as we’ve talked about in previous podcasts, they have lost, you know, they’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars every year. And you know, if there’s an issue with the system, you know, and say it’s 10 years down the road and they’re not around, then that could be a big, big trouble. The, the customer is going to go back to the solar installer and the solar installers and say, well, our warranty is based on the manufacturer not on, you know, if, if we can’t get the parts that company’s in alarm, that’s not, you know, that’s not on us.

Jamie (06:12):

So, and it says it in every single contract of every single, you know, if you were buying a whatever you know, if you’re getting your home remodeled and you put new appliances in and you know, the appliance manufacturer, once it goes out of business during the warranty period, you can try and go back to the general contractor, but they’re just gonna stare at you. So it’s kinda the same, same thing. Yeah. But anyway, so really I would say if you’re buying the equipment, not leasing, not doing power purchase agreement, not, you know, we’ve talked about the finance side. You already have that squared away and you’re going with a truck, you know, a company with a good reputation. Everything else you really can’t go wrong with. So all of the solar equipment is really good cause there’s so many different brands of solar panels.

Jamie (07:02):

And you can start out great and you can get greater and greatest kind of thing, but you at the end of the day, you won’t be disappointed at that. You know, when you, when your system is producing. So, and if you do have a problem, you can always go back to the company and say, Hey, I think there might be something wrong. If they have great reviews, they want to protect their reputation and they are going to do everything they can to fix it. And if not, you know, a lot of those reviews say, you know, I called them and took them six months. I hear all the time company, you know, the inverter went out and it’s now I’m on month eight where I’m not only paying my full electricity bill, but I’m paying the full lease payment or the full loan payment. And so that’s just brutal. So yeah. Anyway, so I w I was going to reply back to Sean, you know, go ahead. And not, you don’t have to worry so much about the equipment, worry about the company and the financing and the rest kind of sorts itself out. So

Adam (08:01):

I think really, yeah, so you don’t, I mean, I, I’ve seen, you know, to try and do apples to apples comparison, you know, they’ll choose different equipment, but you’re saying the equipment is generally all good.

Jamie (08:14):

As I mentioned, I just came back from the solar trade show and you know, like I said, there’s variations in, in solar panels, which is true. I’m just saying, you know, if I pick LG versus SunPower versus sill fab versus a Trina, they’re all produce solar kilowatt hours. Some have a great brand name. Some say there they, they’re gonna produce more than others. When you break it down and you say one might in California anyway, one solar panel system may break it even at, you know, five years. And if you went with the most expensive solar panels, it might break even in 5.8 years. So it’s not a, you’re not, I mean, you go with the most expensive and go with the least expensive, but you know, I would definitely look at the warranties, the inverters, kind of the failure point of the system.

Jamie (09:04):

And so and pays microinverters they are guaranteed for 25 years. Enphase was in big financial trouble, but now they’ve, they seem to have come out of it and they’re doing really well financially. So we think that could be great. Very good. Solar edge really, really good company, very solid. We have had some issues lately with inverters going out, but they’d been solar edge, been great about not only replacing them, but reimbursing us to do the replacements. It’s just, you know, we, we would prefer to be doing installations rather than inverter replacements. So but I think, you know, we did head to head tests with the solar edge versus Enphase and we saw a solar edge. I’ll produce them by about 10 to 15%, so we’d like that. Whew. But yeah, really, I mean, the monitoring is really important.

Jamie (09:54):

You don’t want to be able to, and we’ve covered that a previous episode, but what I mainly wanted to stress to Sean and any other listener out there is get your own financing. That’s like I said, that knocks out 80 to 90% of the, of the games that solar companies play. And then really check the reputation of the company that you are considering. And if there’s a lot of turnover in the sales force you know, you’ll, you’ll see it in really kind of look at the reviews and then analyze the reviews. Are they from,

Adam (10:26):

Yeah. And I know a, what about being diamond certified? I think you guys are one of the few [inaudible] Northern California. So, but I did not know that

Jamie (10:37):

Diamond certified companies in the Bay area and it’s diamond certified for those who haven’t heard of it. Many people in the Bay area haven’t even heard of it, but there are rating service and they rate, they generally rate contractors and they go back and they audit every one of our customers for the last five years. And then at random they pick customers that they call and they ask them, you know, would they use us again? Would they recommend us and anything we could have done different. And in our first year we scored a 9.9 out of 10 and this will be our second year and I’m expecting we’ll be close to the 10, 10 out of 10. So which

Adam (11:20):

I’m waiting for my call. It’s off the list. I’m gonna see. Do anyway, back to Sean. So Sean, feel free to

Jamie (11:34):

Email us again if you have further questions. Again, you can’t go wrong with the equipment. It’s all doing great and go with a good company and get your own financing if possible.

Adam (11:46):

Yeah, the shenanigans that have used consequently before our upcoming solar podcast,

Jamie (11:54):

A preview is that I was admitted into a private Facebook group of all the solar professionals out there and Holy macaroni, am I reading some stories? I’ll probably get kicked out after this podcast or podcast airs, but

Jamie (12:12):

Yeah, that’s fine.

Jamie (12:14):

Man. Oh man, it’s it’s, it’s worse than I thought. So if you’re, if you’re considering solar out there you’re doing a great job by listening to this podcast.

Adam (12:28):

Yeah, I know. I’ve learned a lot, so that’s great. All right, we’re going to wrap it up. All right. Thank you very much for taking a listen. I hope you found this podcast to be a little educational. You learn something. If you did, you can drop us a five star review on Apple podcasts or wherever you found us. And make sure to follow us on Facebook cause we dropped these new episodes once or more per week because the solar industry crazily is full of news. It’s just amazing. Anyway, please make sure you can also, if you have a question please send us a send us a message through our Facebook page. It’s straight talk, solar cast. We’re going to say goodbye. Have a great week. Everybody.

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