When looking at the system price from a couple of different Las Vegas Solar Company installers, it can be hard to figure out if System A, System B and System C are really apples-to-apples. Different panels, different inverters and even different panel placement can mean a HUGE difference in payback time and value for your buck. It’s not always the cheapest Las Vegas solar company that offers the best value for your money. (Not sure what you’re looking at? Click here to learn more about how solar technology works.)
Below, we’ll walk you through how to compare purchase prices for rooftop solar systems in Las Vegas. With this handy chart and the ranges listed for Las Vegas, you’ll quickly be able to nail down which bid has the best value for your money.
The lowest price in the world won’t mean much if the company is not licensed to install solar in NV or has ran afoul of contracting laws. Before you call someone for a quote, you should check their license with the Nevada State Contractors Board. They should have an active C2 Commercial Electrical or a C2G (solar electrical only) license in good standing. The bid limit on the license should be greater than the quoted cost of your project, and there should be NO disciplinary action against their license.
You can search licenses by license number, company name, or principal name. The license number should be on their bid, on their business cards, on their website, on company vehicles and any marketing materials. If you have trouble locating a license number, that’s a red flag. NV Law requires that a contractor be properly licensed for the work and that they display their license number prominently. If you cannot find a valid contractors license for the company or the name on the license does not match the name on the bid/emails/folders, or if they tell you some other company is doing the actual installation, that means you are talking to a lead generator or a solar broker/marketing company. These are middlemen who will make your solar project cost more and take longer. Robco Electric does all of our own installs in-house using Robco Electric employees. No middlemen here.
It’s tempting to go for that super low price sometimes offered by unlicensed contractors or ones who are in trouble with the Board. Contracting in NV without a valid license is a crime. If you choose to hire an unlicensed contractor, you are taking on a huge risk if they damage your home, someone gets hurt on your property during install, or they do not complete the install as promised. Here are some more tips from the Contractors Board on how to select a good quality contractor.
Next, check their reviews on Yelp!, Google, Facebook, Nextdoor, the Better Business Bureau or any other review site you like. If you cannot find any reviews or you see a lot of one and two star ones, move to the next company on your list.
Lastly, look for any add-on fees such as monthly monitoring costs, pigeon proofing, or warranty extension fees. These things should already be included in the price.
Are you comparing apples-to-apples or apples-to-oranges? Are the companies using monocrystalline or polycrystalline panels? What type of inverters are they using? How many watts are in the panels? Differences in equipment type can mean differences in price and long term performance. Learn more about how solar equipment type impacts your payback here.
These four numbers on the bid are the most important for figuring out where the best value in a Las Vegas Solar Company is for the money.
Cost per Watt
Kilowatt Hours produced in Year 1
COST PER WATT:
All Las Vegas Solar Company prices are quoted as an “all in” price. The price you get includes the panels, inverters, racking, labor, permits, engineering, HOA approval, clips, rails, clamps, warranty costs, overhead, insurance, and everything else that goes into installing your system. In solar, the cost per watt is the unit price – like the price for a gallon of gas. You’re going to buy the whole tank, but you decide which station to stop at based on who has the lowest price per gallon. Same thing here. You can use the cost per watt number to figure out which Las Vegas Solar Company is giving you the best deal for the money. Remember, the cheapest Las Vegas solar company bid you got may not be the best value for your money
Figuring out the cost per watt on your Las Vegas Solar Company bid is easy.
Cost of system/how many watts are in the system = Cost Per Watt.
Here’s an example:
The system costs $35,989 before the tax credit is applied. It’s made up of (37) 330 watt panels so it’s 12.21 kw in size. (To get the watts for the cost per watt formula, just multiply the kw by 1,000. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts.)
$35,989/12,210 watts = $2.94 per watt
In Las Vegas, the average COST PER WATT for solar is about $2.90 if you pay cash. (It is about $3.50/watt if you finance – depending on the loan term.) You should see prices between $2.60 – $3.15 a watt. If you see a price outside this range, you should be asking lots of questions.
Solar companies selling far below average might not have the financial strength to be here to take care of you. They may be desperate for work. They could be using cheap or end of life equipment. Maybe their customer service is really bad? Is it worth taking the chance that a really low price is worth the extra headaches if you cannot get someone to fix things or answer questions?
Solar companies selling far above the average cost per watt may be hiding very high loan financing fees in the purchase price or paying very high sales commissions to brokers. Overpaying for solar can cause you a big headache down the line – especially if the loan they sold you has to be paid off before your home can be sold. Learn more about how solar financing works here.
Doing the math on the cost per watt can really help you pinpoint where the best deal is and who to avoid.
The cost for the system after the federal solar tax credit is factored in, this is the true out of pocket cost for your system. Remember, the tax credit is NOT a rebate. Click here to learn more about how it works.
KWH PRODUCED IN YEAR 1:
When you go solar, you are buying equipment and installation expertise, but what you are really after is cheaper, cleaner kilowatt-hours!
The real value in a system is how much power you get out of that equipment each year. The amount of power used now that is being replaced by production from your solar system is shown on proposals as an Offset %. A properly sized solar system will show an offset of 95% to just over 100%. Learn more about how solar systems are sized here.
Each solar bid you collect should clearly list how many kilowatt-hours you use in a year now and how many kilowatt hours the system is expected to produce in the first year. Those two numbers should be very close together. Nobody gets rich selling solar kwh back to the power company. Oversizing your solar system to make more power than you use has no financial benefit to you.
PRO TIP- Check their math! Before you can compare the annual output of the systems you are looking at you need to check that their power output projections match what you actually use. If they are based on an average bill or an incorrect annual use total, your solar system is not going to deliver what you expect.
You can get a good idea of your annual use number by looking at your NV Energy bill. There is a bar graph in the upper left corner. Simply add up the amount shown by the blue bars (the gray bars are the year before) for the last 12 months. If your total annual kilowatt hours used and their total are more than 500 kWh different, that is a red flag that other things in the proposal might be inaccurate as well.
Next, check their production totals by using the National Renewable Energy Lab PVwatts calculator. No matter how low the price is, if the annual use number or expected system production number is wrong, what else would be wrong about the deal they are offering? Once you’ve checked the math, you can now compare the value.
Obviously, since solar costs less than getting power from traditional sources and it NEVER goes up in price, more solar is better. A system that delivers 75% of your annual power use is not as good of a value as a system that delivers 100% of your needs.
All of your bids should show about the same number of panels needed. Most installers use 330 to 400-watt panels, so we should all be landing at about the same system size – give or take 2-4 panels. So, if you have 4 bids and 3 of the bids show that you need 24-26 panels, but the last one says they can get the job done with 16 panels and provide the same 100% offset, something doesn’t add up. It would be kind of like a car dealer telling you this little 4 cylinder sedan has the same amount of power in the engine as this giant work truck. That’s impossible and it’s impossible for 16 solar panels to create as much energy as 26 solar panels.
PAYBACK IN YEARS:
Net Cost of System/Annual Cost of Power Produced by the System = Payback Time in Years
In Las Vegas, payback time averages 8-14 years for a system purchased outright using this simple payback formula. This number might not be listed on your proposal, but it’s effortless to figure out. You just divide the annual value of power the system makes into the system’s net cost to see how many years of full-price power it would take to equal your solar system’s net cost. Since power rates from NV Energy can go up or down, we’ll use today’s per kWh price to estimate payback time.
This system makes 16,849 kWh annually. Right now, NV Energy charges 10.2 cents a kWh for electricity. So, the value of the 16,849 kWh x .102 = $1,718. The system you are evaluating costs $17,675 after the tax credit is applied.
$17,675/$1,718 = 10.28 year payback
This system makes 12,496 kWh annually. At 10.2 cents a kWh, the value of that power is $1,274. The system you are evaluating costs $21,203 after the solar tax credit is applied.
$21,203/$1,274 = 16.64 year payback
Clearly, System A from a Las Vegas Solar Company is the better value in this example.