As a solar installer, your customers will require you to be knowledgeable of all the factors that determine the cost of solar power, from upfront costs to total amount of savings. In addition, there are a number of different overhead costs for you depending on the equipment, insurance, and staff you maintain.
Transparency is key for creating a sustainable, profitable business. This is especially true as unforeseen costs can be detrimental to a client relationship. As the popularity of solar-power systems continue to rise, so does its pool of installers and providers. In order to distinguish your business from competitors, you must capitalize on word of mouth and brand image. Allow yourself to be known as an honest, reliable solution by covering the often overlooked expenses in solar installations with your clients. To help you prepare, we have compiled some items to expect in solar installation costs and the ways you can minimize them.
Key elements in solar installation costs
1. The system
Typically the cost of PV-system installations are calculated by dividing the cost of the panels by the size of the system—for example: a 5-kilowatt system that costs $10,000 would be $2/watt. Additional costs can also be added if the installer has to find parts to put the system together. One common question that your customer may have concerning installation is how difficult it will be to expand his or her system down the road. While the construction of additional racking, for example, can occur at the time of installation, know that this is only cost-effective if your customer is certain of his or her plans for expansion.
To alleviate the upfront cost and labor, you can save time and your customers can save money by using a solution that ships everything you need in one pallet. That way you don't have to spend any additional time seeking missing parts or waiting for additional shipments.
Obviously the fewer days spent on-site, the lower the cost is to both you and your customers. At the same time, the more time your workers spend at one site, the less they could spend at an additional customer's site. Thus finding a solution that can be installed in one day can alleviate the cost of solar installation. In order to accomplish this, however, you need to come prepared with the knowledge of how to do so in the most efficient means possible. To prepare yourself for installation success, partner with a manufacturer that will train you for free and can walk you through your first installation to make sure you're prepared and understand the process. Consider attending a solar training course to maximize your time on-site.
3. Location considerations
If at all possible, scout out the location before providing your potential customer with an estimate or sales proposal, or at least request some information about it. Costs due to unforeseen locational difficulties can come as a surprise to the consumer and are often harmful to the client relationship. If you're looking at rooftop systems, keep in mind that this requires a significant amount of stress testing. Rooftop systems are especially tricky in this respect, since it can take a great deal of time and labor to set up and tear down staging, plus it requires someone to bring supplies back and forth from the ground up to the installation location.
There are different strategies to choosing inverters based on your type of location, system and energy needs. You also may want to consider the environment: Where will the inverter be used? Will it require a utility grid? Also, keep in mind the quality of the inverters you purchase, as replacing them can be a frustrating (and costly) process down the line for you and your customers. Be sure to select an inverter with a warranty, as this will give you a sense of security and peace of mind in your decision. Finally, choose a solar system that can work with a variety of inverter types so that you can make an informed decision about what is best for your customers.
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