As solar has become the new energy standard, homeowners want to buy it as quickly as possible, sometimes without anyone measuring the roof in person.

While technology has made solar energy systems easier to design and install than ever, solar is far from a one-size-fits-all product that you can pluck off the shelf like a gallon of milk at the grocery store. It’s not even a product you can simply choose in your size, Small, Medium or Large.

buying solar off the shelf

If a solar company makes it sound that easy, they’re fooling you. Don’t get me wrong – we make going solar as easy as possible. Our customers basically have to write a few checks, sign up for any incentive programs they are eligible for, and keep their systems connected to the Internet for online monitoring.

But accurate proposals and optimal system designs require a solid understanding of your needs, and trustworthy measurements.

What’s in a Quick Quote?

At New England Clean Energy, we pride ourselves on quality work, and that includes our proposals and designs. Some solar companies will provide you with a “quick quote” or estimate based on basic data you provide online and satellite images of your roof.

That kind of proposal is often a gimmick without much value for you, the homeowner. Frankly, it’s usually a lowball price to get them in the door and stop you from shopping. Is that kind of “proposal” really worth your time? And it’s not showing much commitment to personalized customer service, is it?

Think about it. Would you let someone re-design your kitchen and order new cabinets without coming to your house to make sure the cabinets will actually fit, and look right? Not even roofers take this approach, even though satellite images give a decent idea of your roof size.

Why not? Because potentially outdated, 2-dimensional online images just aren’t reliable enough for accurately measuring roof dimensions and – in the case of solar — current shade conditions.

I Want What He’s Got

And just because your neighbor got solar doesn’t mean his or her system is the right one for you. Maybe your roof faces a different direction or is steeper. Maybe you have the exact same house from the same developer, but your neighbor’s roof is shaded by a huge red maple. Maybe you have three kids and a hot tub and you use more electricity than your neighbor. Maybe you have important medical equipment in the home and you’re concerned about power outages, so you want a battery back-up system connected to your solar.

Then there are the differences you don’t normally see or think about. Does your electrical panel have room for the solar? Are your rafters strong enough to support the panels or do they need reinforcement?

That’s why solar is not a one-size-fits-all product, or something you can buy “off the shelf.” And that’s why, until some drastic technology improvement makes it viable, we won’t sell you a solar energy system based solely on rough estimates of your home’s potential to make clean energy.

So take my advice: Get the right quote first, rather than waste time with preliminary estimates that need to be refined later.

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