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Checked an independent installer

While I’m waiting for Tesla to redo my design based on all the equipment being in the wrong place I called a local installer. There very highly reviewed, Sea Bright Solar, and they are a Tesla certified installer. The guy was immediately honest that they could compare in the cost per watt with Tesla and they aren’t but had other virtues. They are a local company with great customer service. They are a Sun Power dealer and the panels they install are 350W per panel and have micro-inverters in the panel. Their design has all 30 panels on the main roof not requiring the trenching an will install the 3 PW in my basement. The price was 15,000 more than Tesla but yield is higher and with the tax credit it’s really just under $11,000. The panels are black and a bit more “decorative” than Tesla and have a longer warranty on all of their components.

The total cost is 64,800 versus 49,464

cost after tax credit 47,952 vs 36,306.36. The value of the energy credits over the 15 years is a touch more too. So I have to decide if these virtues are worth the 11k.

As usual what are everyone’s thoughts and what questions should I ask myself or what additional information would be helpful here?

the solar company website. New Jersey Solar Panel Installation Company | SunPower by Sea Bright Solar
 

ra88it

Member
May 2, 2014
356
127
Southland
Seems like the answer is clear.

tesla is cheaper. You own NEW Tesla cars.
IMO It would be silly to spend 11k on a "local company" that could fold just as fast if not faster than a vertically integrated company.

Also, I'm going through this same thing right now, with a disparity of almost double the price.
 
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Seems like the answer is clear.

tesla is cheaper. You own NEW Tesla cars.
IMO It would be silly to spend 11k on a "local company" that could fold just as fast if not faster than a vertically integrated company.

Also, I'm going through this same thing right now, with a disparity of almost double the price.

To be fair they’ve been around for quite some time. I’m trying to figure out if the better equipment, slightly increased production, integrated inverters, and a better gateway are worth the money. It’s 11k in cost this year but the energy credits save some additional money.

I’m leaning towards Tesla but have an opportunity to see if this is worth the extra money.
 

cwied

Member
Jan 13, 2015
887
643
San Mateo, CA
It sounds like this company would be a great Plan B if Tesla can't (won't) do your installation, but I'm not sure there's a compelling reason to spend $11,000 more for them unless you're really concerned about Tesla's customer service. Given my experiences with Tesla, I think it's likely you'll have a much smoother experience with the third party, but $11,000 is a lot of money to pay for that.
 
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It sounds like this company would be a great Plan B if Tesla can't (won't) do your installation, but I'm not sure there's a compelling reason to spend $11,000 more for them unless you're really concerned about Tesla's customer service. Given my experiences with Tesla, I think it's likely you'll have a much smoother experience with the third party, but $11,000 is a lot of money to pay for that.
I’ve found the experience to be better than the automotive side. Have you had any substantial issues?
 

cwied

Member
Jan 13, 2015
887
643
San Mateo, CA
I’ve found the experience to be better than the automotive side. Have you had any substantial issues?
I was a fairly early adopter of Powerwalls. I got my Powerwalls installed in July 2018. It took over a year with almost no communication before they finally said that they were ready to install. They were very disorganized in filing for the California SGIP incentive. First, they told me I would get it, then they told me I would not get it, but they finally managed to get it for me anyway. I ended up having to fill out the same form several times because they changed who was working on it and lost the old one.

I called into Powerwall support a couple of times early on because I wanted to understand the time-based control algorithm and in particular why it did things I thought didn't make sense. The customer support person was defensive and told me I was changing my settings too much (I switch from TBC to self-consumption from time to time to participate in a demand reduction program) and I felt they told me things that were obviously untrue to get off the call. I've given up trying to talk to Powerwall support as a result. I'm just living with the obvious inefficiencies with the cost-saving algorithm.

Overall, I think Tesla has a good product, and they do by and large do the right thing in the end. However, I feel like they like to fly by the seat of their pants and I feel they aren't working on their customer-facing organization to streamline it and provide more consistent and helpful communication to end users. I also think they love whiz-bang algorithms to the detriment of the end result. It is not clear to me that whatever the system is "learning" is helping it to make optimal decisions on when to charge and discharge. When the system charges and discharges in the same partial-peak period, for example, it would be better to just charge to a lower state of charge and then sit idle at that level.
 

bkp_duke

Well-Known Member
May 15, 2016
5,596
19,749
San Diego, CA
I'm going to be in the minority here, but I LOVE my SunPower system. Over 25 years, for the same kW size system, you will get more production out of the SunPower panels, but you will pay a premium.

EDIT - SunPower quotes have a lot of padding in them. Best bet would be to split out the Solar and the Powerwalls into separate quotes, and then get competitive bids. When we did SunPower we were able to shave off 20% of the quote just by having authorized SunPower installers bid against one another.
 
I'm going to be in the minority here, but I LOVE my SunPower system. Over 25 years, for the same kW size system, you will get more production out of the SunPower panels, but you will pay a premium.

EDIT - SunPower quotes have a lot of padding in them. Best bet would be to split out the Solar and the Powerwalls into separate quotes, and then get competitive bids. When we did SunPower we were able to shave off 20% of the quote just by having authorized SunPower installers bid against one another.
Thanks I’ll do that. Do you have a backup system?
 
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Vines

Active Member
Jul 20, 2018
2,078
2,495
Silicon Valley, CA
Its the difference between fine dining and drive through. Both will serve your energy needs. There are more things than the energy to consider in your home.

In the case of the Powerwalls, the third party may apply for your SGIP if you are in PGE territory. This can be worth near $10k for a 3 Powerwall system. Others have gotten the Powerwalls nearly free through the SGIP resiliency program.

If you prefer to customize your system, support local economies and have someone who's reputation depends on making you happy go with smaller installer. You will pay more, get better service and maybe better equipment, you'll pay more too.

If you are fine with your 3 sizes fits your house approach then go with Tesla. Tesla reduce prices by using cheaper modules, in MASSIVE quantities, by reducing sales and design staff, same as the drive through restaurant has less staff, and cheaper ingredients.

Most smaller companies cannot compete on price with Tesla, but Tesla also has no reason to treat you special. Their reputation does not depend on it. Also, Tesla can install at cost or even buy the market and install below cost for a couple years.
 

sleevemedia

Member
Jul 1, 2020
57
41
Orlando
For $11k, I could hire a project manager to deal with Tesla for me if I was frustrated with their service and wanted someone to lean on them.

Personally, I've needed 2 redesigns and they've been responsive both to my calls and by providing updated designs within a business day. I don't have backup, so my system is simple. I know I'm going to need at least a panel upgrade, maybe more. I know this won't go smoothly and I know the advisors are trained to help you spend your money but once you press for anything technical, oh, there's a department for that and they are not customer-facing because the lawyers won't let the front line say anything they're not licensed, certified, or educated to say.

Micros? Meh, to each their own. I'm not a buyer for that caliber of electronics on my roof. Black panels? I'm not sure how panels could be more black. And for decorative, I think the skirt around the panels looks better than any installs I've seen. When I see an install that doesn't have them, it looks incomplete. Plus, hurricanes and anything that reduces wind lift under the panels, sign me up.
 

bkp_duke

Well-Known Member
May 15, 2016
5,596
19,749
San Diego, CA
solar panels are a commodity at this point. I wouldn't pay extra for "premium" panels. Once they are on your roof, you won't care how good they look because honestly, they all look bad all things considered.

for 11k, it's a no brainer. Cheaper wins.

Unless you have money to burn.

It has nothing to do about "looks" but about how much power they will produce over their lifetime. I believe this was covered in a different thread in this sub-forum, but premium panels have much lower rates of degradation over their lifetime than commodity panels. For something like the Sunpower X series, we are talking about 0.2% per year, compared with 1-1.5% per year for commodity panels. That may not seem like much, until you remember that is compounded annually and by the end of 25 years those commodity panels could be producing 20% less than comparable Sunpower panels.


And no, I don't work for Sunpower or own their stock. I just like their product.

Sunpower promotes this, but the research was actually done by NREL (independent Gov lab):
X-Series Solar Panels
 
So my first bid from Sea Bright solar is 26 400 watt panels for $39,520 and $25,000 for three PW. For an after tax 47,744.80 total. Tesla was a combined 50,800 with the discounts for doing solar and PW for an after tax total of $37,592.00. Nearly half of the difference is in the discount of combined solar and PW

After tax difference is 10,152.80. The equipment looks a bit cleaner with the micro inverters, I won’t need to trench because I won’t have panels on the small detached garage and the PW will be in my basement utility room.

Energy credit sales are virtually the same over the 15 years.
 
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astrorob

stealth performance M3
Aug 27, 2014
491
121
oakland, ca
Black panels? I'm not sure how panels could be more black

it's the difference between these two panels. if the panels can be seen from the street, the truly black ones look a LOT better.

withsolartablelabeled.jpg
 

astrorob

stealth performance M3
Aug 27, 2014
491
121
oakland, ca
I have the ones of the left, and they really do look MUCH better than the ones on the right.

yeah, i wanted the ones on the left but it turns out it is so hard to see my panels from the street that i opted for the slightly higher output of the 345. but i do hate how they look when i see them.
 

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