Get the Solar Energy Facts – What Are You Really Paying For?

By Chris Blevins
October 17, 2014

The fall heat doesn’t seem to be subsiding, the air conditioner is still clicking on every day and you’ve decided that you’ve waited long enough. It’s time to install solar at your home.

After a quick web search, you get educated on the basic solar energy facts and make a couple of phone calls. Now there is a stack of bids sitting on the kitchen counter, and you don’t know what to do next. The bids are confusing, each one offers a different payment scheme, and you’re worried that you’ll make the wrong choice.

You’re not alone. A quick Google search for the term, “confusing solar bids,” reveals numerous guides to understanding solar bids, along with comments from frustrated homeowners. One reason for this confusion is that there are a variety of finance options available, including cash purchase, lease and power purchase agreements. But in addition to this, the bids are intentionally confusing because much of the purchase price is made up of what’s known in the industry as “soft costs.”

 While “hard costs” reflect the price of the actual panels and hardware, etc., and are actually decreasing year over year, soft costs refer to expenses associated with supply chain, labor, permitting and system design. While these soft costs are technically legitimate, not all are created equal. According to the most recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory report, the soft costs associated with customer acquisition average around 48 cents per watt. The report determined that customer acquisition was the surveyed solar installers’ third largest soft cost expense.

Now, customer acquisition is important, but that’s a lot of money. Let’s do some quick math:

According to, the average home solar installation system is four kilowatts, and there are 1,000 watts per kilowatt.

So take the 4,000 watts that are in an average-size system and multiply them by 48 cents per watt, and you’re looking at $1,920 in customer acquisition costs associated with the average installation.

Dang, right?

You’re on the hook for nearly $2,000 worth of costs generated by the solar company’s attempts at finding you as a customer and their subsequent marketing efforts.

And that’s where we come in. As a solar bidding marketplace, Pick My Solar reduces customer acquisition costs by bringing buyers to their area’s top quality installers instead of the other way around. As a result, solar installers save on marketing and lead generation, and this results in bids that are, on average, 25% less than what homeowners can get on their own.

For each job, we obtain seven to nine bids, analyze them, and then make recommendations based on our customers’ needs and their unique situations. Our advocacy takes the stress and worry out of the whole bidding process. Then, throughout the installation, we’re there to answer questions and provide support should any issues arise.

The Pick My Solar bidding service is free to homeowners. If you’d like to see how much you can save, head on over to our bid generator. If you’ve already obtained some bids on your own, we’ll include them in our analysis, and if they’re a good deal, we’ll let you know. 

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Chris Blevins

Written By

Chris Blevins

Chris is a founder of Pick My Solar, an online marketplace based in Los Angeles aimed at bringing transparency to the solar market. After creating several online consumer connection services, he journeyed through the Southern Hemisphere, and came back with a passion for renewable energy. He re-settled in Los Angeles, met his business partner, and launched a start-up fixated on changing the dynamic of the residential solar industry by educating consumers and developing a solar bidding platform. His expertise in the solar industry and his passion for bringing solar knowledge to the consumer, has lead him to be a featured speaker at Solar Workshops held throughout the country. Chris holds a Mechanical Engineering degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

More articles by Chris Blevins

What's Pick My Solar? We empower our customers to adopt clean energy through transparency and choice. Our free, no-obligation platform provides competing solutions from top providers.

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