The only independent, unbiased source of solar-shopping information dedicated to California homeowners
What You Can Do Here
1. Calculate how much you can save with solar & how much it will cost, using our free Solar Panel Cost Calculator. The only online solar calculator. No contact information required. Immediate results on page.
2. Shop for solar wisely with confidence, following our 4 free Solar Buying Guides through an exclusive, four-step shopping process. Solar shopping is not easy. Get clear, sound guidance from insider-experts. Everything needed for efficient, successful shopping. No need to rely on vendors for all solar information. Neither too technical nor too simplistic.
3. One-stop solar-research for accurate, up-to-date facts from our exhaustive research. Dispel widespread myths.
Benefits to You
Find out if solar makes sense for you. It doesn't for everybody. If it doesn't, save yourself a lot of time & trouble shopping.
Choose the right system: size, brands, models, and warranties. Reliable, long-lasting, good looking, and economical.
Minimize your solar costs & maximize solar savings, from short-term to long-term.
Add maximum value to your home.
Find a top-notch installer providing excellent site inspection, shade study, sales process, and installation. Avoid sales pressure and roof leaks.
Acquire and finance your system in the way that's best for you: cash, loan, lease, or PPA.
If you already are an SCE solar owner, our article on SCE Rates and our sections on SCE Website Help has information that may be very useful to you to clarify, expand, and update SCE's solar information.(1) (2) (3)
What Kind of Site Is This?
This is a unique website for California homeowners who are shopping for solar.
Our purpose is to help homeowners shop for solar efficiently and get the best results. It's the only website providing accurate calculations, estimates, and solar-shopping guidance specifically for CA homeowners.
Much of the information on the site and in our Solar Buying Guides is relevant for all solar shoppers, but the examples and figures apply most accurately to SCE customers.
We differ from most (if not all) other solar websites in that we do not sell, rent, or otherwise intentionally provide your personal information to third parties for marketing purposes.
A solar, photo-voltaic (PV) system is a major investment that should last for decades. So it really pays to get the one that's right for you.
But shopping for a PV system is difficult. Most shoppers have never owned a PV system before. That's why they need good advice and shopping guidance. The ordinary ways of shopping for home improvements, like a new garage door, don't work for solar. Doing it that way usually results in the wrong size of the wrong brand from the wrong dealer with the wrong financing, losing much of the savings that could be had.
You can't rely on solar vendors, online "solar-marketplaces," or other solar websites for accurate information or advice. They are often full of errors, out of date, or misleading. And despite what you may have read, solar prices per kilowatt (kW) are completely misleading figures. Solar Consumer Advisor is the only source we know of for accurate information, figures, and advice specifically for California residential solar-shoppers.
The highly respected National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) describes the solar-shopping problem for consumers in this way:
"One barrier is the complexity of PV system purchases. Potential PV consumers must weigh many payment and ownership options, as well as physical attributes, including the percentage of electricity load to offset and the use of premium versus standard equipment ... but also to be able to evaluate the tradeoffs associated with different system parameters."
A Fast, Easy Way to Shop Successfully for Solar
Our unique, 4-step shopping-process gives you the help you need to solve these problems. The four Solar Buying Guides guide you through the steps as briefly as possible. Additional, in-depth information can be found on pages on this website. Checklists let you track your progress and record your decisions as you read. Here's the process:
The 4-Step Solar-Shopping Process
Our Focus & Specialization
We focus on helping California homeowners who are shopping for solar or who already have solar.
One result is the only online Solar Panel Cost Calculator that analyzes & projects actual solar production & consumption of electricity by the hour throughout the year and optimizes system size to produce a $0 SCE bill. This enables it to show the most accurate costs and savings for SCE customers available.(4)
The other result is a website and Buying Guides that are exactly what California homeowners who are interested in solar need. Much of our information will be helpful to everyone, but the calculations & examples are specifically for SCE customers.
Our expertise in accounting, tax, and finance (although we are not CPAs or attorneys and you should not rely on us as if we were) was used to analyze utility rate increases, inflation, rebates, income-tax credits and deductions, changes in home values, and potential costs of risks and repairs.
We also drew on our mathematics background to develop unique, sophisticated mathematical models and algorithms that estimate costs, savings, and the right system size to eliminate utility bills.
Our work in the past seven years has included consulting for the solar industry, giving us an insider's perspective. The full four-step shopping process described above was used when acquiring two solar PV systems ourselves, so we know what it is like to shop for solar. Our experience of living with them, taking careful readings and measurements, has yielded a good deal of real-world data.
We have also advocated before the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) on behalf of present and future owners of PV systems. This work included many discussions with most of the main solar advocacy groups and utilities, leading to an in-depth understanding of rates, rate-making, and Net Energy Metering. It resulted in CPUC decisions that lowered future costs for solar owners.
Solar Consumer Advisor is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, public charity organization under Internal Revenue Code section 170(b)(1)(A)(vi). It is precluded from receiving any remuneration from any industry or market regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission, including the solar industry. It's purpose is to help solar consumers and protect them against abuses. Our website accepts no ads. We are unbiased.
In-depth research over the past two years has involved a thorough study of solar manufacturers, dealers, and all sources of financing. Other data resources used include a wide range of independent solar studies by testing labs, nonprofits, and federal and state governments, all cited with full references on our web pages and in the Solar Buying Guides. In-depth analyses were performed on the complete database of California solar installations maintained by the California Solar Initiative.
In the course of this research, many fallacies, myths, errors, out-of-date information, and misleading advice were uncovered. (See Solar Websites.) Unfortunately, much of this has become "conventional wisdom" in this field. It is spread quickly from its source (soon forgotten) and taken up by solar websites, so-called "solar experts," and salespeople as gospel. Few seem to do the surprisingly hard work of digging to the bottom of these issues. The solar industry, being in its infancy, doesn't make this easy.
Part of our aim in offering this website and Buying Guides to solar shoppers has been to point out these fallacies, show why they are in error, back our statements up with solid evidence, and give what our research has shown are the real facts instead. We have gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure our information is accurate and fully up to date, but of course we can make mistakes too.
We've also investigated many solar websites & researched other solar information available to the public and have tested their estimators and calculators thoroughly using SCE customer examples. None of them turned out to be accurate, and many were way off. We think this is partly because they do not take nearly all factors into account in their calculations, and probably can't, since they try to be applicable to everyone.
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Solar Consumer Advisor