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How To: Solar Panel System Quotes

4 min read

The following is a very basic rundown of what any reputable company will need in order to give you a personal estimate for a solar panel system.

  1. Last 12 Months of Energy Bills
  2. Green Button Data
  3. Phone Number and Email


Last 12 Months of Energy Bills: Why?

  • The way you spend energy varies throughout the year. An Energy Consultant will need to see how much you're spending on energy in warm and cold seasons in order to understand your lows and highs (how many hours maximum/minimum do you use energy in a given day/month). 
  • There is an itemized list of discounts and 'taxes' that you pay, usually found on page 3. If you are already getting a huge discount for Medical Baseline or the CARE act for low-income households, perhaps getting solar panels won't actually be cheaper. On the other hand, if you're consistently getting into the higher tiers of energy usage, a good consultant will realize that very soon you're going to be charged even more for what energy companies call super user (excessive) rates. The consultant can show you that in X amount of months you'll be charged X amount more money for the same service. 
  • Your address and meter number is on the bill. The CAD designer will use Google Earth to get a fairly good look at the top of your roof and then use a software that shows the amount of sun exposure the panels will get. Companies should place the panels on the Southernmost sides of the house, with exception for taller buildings or trees casting shadows. The meter number will simply confirm the Green Button Data information.


Green Button Data: How Do I Get It? Why Do They Need It?

  • Green Button Data is data taken from your meter approximately every fifteen minutes, stored in an excel sort of file. It can be read by programs and made into a graph showing the actual, detailed energy usage of the household. Companies need this in order to give you the correct amount of panels. Panels differ in power (for example, some can produce 280 hours of energy while others can produce 300 hours of energy) and efficiency. If a company isn't using this information, they might easily round up and sell you more panels than you need because the companies numbers are wrong. You, the consumer, will hardly -if ever- check this and won't know that you've been oversold. Additionally, if a company sells more than one type of panel, they may try to fit different types of panels onto the roof for the best efficiency and use of roof-space.
  • In order to get your Green Button Data... you must sign into your account for your energy provider (ex: PG&E, Edison, LADWP...) and look for this symbol. It will ask you what timeframe you want, just click "All". It will also ask what format you want, try to click "excel" if possible or "csv". 

Download Green Button Data


Phone Number and Email: Why?

  • It's understandable that we may not want people having our email and phone number. However, in order to receive information we have to give at least one of them out. You can ask for the consultant's information and I'm certain she'll give it to you. But are you really going to follow up with her, or just forget? The one good thing about sharing your information is that this person will follow up with you when you've forgotten. They won't lose your info and they'll do all the hard work of finding out what kind of solar panel options are available to you. Let's face it; if you were going to do this work of researching solar options, you would have done it already. So, if you don't like the consultant, go out and find one that you do like, because that's the person you'll be speaking with the most. Additionally, make sure to ask lots of questions about what gaurantees they have about work, what timeframe you'll be looking at to get the solar installed (it's always longer than you think it would be) and what's the return on investment. Let them do the work for you. After all, that's their job. But it is going to require you giving them a way to contact you with updates and information.


I hope this was helpful. Happy new year and happy Solar shopping!