Until recently, homeowners and businesses did not have a way of estimating how much solar energy they could generate, or how much it would cost them thanks to online solar tools that have helped to overcome this barrier and provide online users with an opportunity to determine how much they could save with solar.
Online solar tools provide a simplified and easy way to determine especially the solar potential for homes and businesses. All that is required from the end-user is typing their location on the online solar tool to generate graphs about your solar energy production, savings, carbon reduction potential, financing, solar panel cost etc.
So, have online solar tools (online solar panel cost calculator) simplified the decision-making process of going solar?
Absolutely yes! Online solar tools such as online solar panel calculators and online solar marketplaces are making it easier to decide about going solar because the information needed to make the decision is readily available and well presented to a potential solar buyer compared to a decade ago when solar buyers had to rely solely on the information provided to them by a solar energy provider. However, today these online solar tools is one step closer to deciding whether solar is right for you based on how much energy costs you can off-set with solar energy and potential savings. You will still consult a solar installer to verify the figures presented on these online tools as these are just estimates and actual figures will be given by the solar contractor of your choice.
How do online solar tools (solar power calculator, solar panel calculator, online solar marketplace) work?
The online solar tools such as the solar panel calculator from EnergySage can assist you in deciding about going solar. Online solar tools are known to apply high-resolution topographical data called LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging).
LIDAR is a technology that is mainly used to create three-dimensional data while obtaining site-specific weather data as well as shading from nearby structures and trees to map precisely the potential of solar energy of individual roofs at a specified time and space.
The LIDAR technology consists of a laser, a scanner and specialized GPS receiver and airplanes and helicopters are commonly used to acquire LIDAR data over broad areas.
However, all of these tools apply assumptions and data from known databases. For example, Google Project Sunroof utilizes weather data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and utility electricity rates information from Clean Power Research in order to deduce their solar energy profiles for potential solar buyers.
How online solar tools (solar power calculator) can help you decide to switch to solar
Online solar tools such as the solar panel cost calculator are currently been used to help determine whether switching to solar is worth it or not. In other words, most people are interested in answering the question: Are solar panels worth it? which is a common question many potential solar buyers ask in their decision-making process.
Online solar tools range from solar energy calculator, solar savings calculator, solar payback calculator, solar irradiance calculator, solar panel wattage calculator to online solar marketplaces. Online solar marketplaces such as the EnergySage apply high-resolution topographical data called LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to precisely determine the amount of sun hitting your roof while incorporating shading, the design of your roof as well as physical structures that may be blocking your roof from sunlight.
With the use of these online solar tools, users can determine various aspects to help them make a more informed decision and understand the specific details of their situation to switch to solar.
In many cases, a solar energy provider will confirm these details when they conduct the actual assessment at the user’s site. Some of the information provided in online solar tools include estimates for:
- The cost of going solar.
- Potential savings resulting from going solar (% utility bill reduction).
- The number of solar panels needed.
- Government incentives, including state rebates and federal tax credits.
- The payback period for going solar.
These tools are very interactive and can help users to explore different scenarios to help in comparing costs and potential savings. For example, a user can input different sizes of solar panels system or even different financing options to deduce what costs and savings would result.
This helps a solar buyer to further decide what solar energy plans are suitable for them based on their current situation. Also, users are provided with options of either free or register to download personalized solar reports or buy at a small fee, especially if the user is only interested to check their solar energy profile before deciding to switch to solar.
For example, Google Project Sunroof allows a user to view solar potential details for free. If a user wants additional information they are requested to register. Sunmetrix charges a small fee but provides comprehensive solar energy information and a user can answer the question: Are solar panels worth it? while analyzing key information such as costs and savings for switching to solar.
Review of online solar marketplaces, solar power calculators or solar panel calculators.
All online solar marketplaces, including EnergySage, Geostellar, and Pick My Solar have the capability for determining a potential buyer’s solar energy profile.
Potential solar buyers wanting to go solar will also be provided with extra information, including solar quotes at the best prices possible and connect potential solar buyers with pre-screened solar installers in their area. Learn more about online solar marketplaces to assist you with making a more informed decision about going solar.
A selected review of online solar tools/solar energy calculators
Online solar tools (online solar panel cost calculators) that are mostly used today include:
- Google Project Sunroof
- EnergySage & Geostellar
These tools provide online users mainly with the information necessary to help them in their decision-making process. A review of these tools is provided below:
- Google Project Sunroof:
- This tool utilizes weather data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and utility electricity rates information from Clean Power Research. When a user inputs their address into this tool, it generates solar production estimates while factoring in other aspects of solar generation such as shading, typical weather in a user’s area as well as the solar equipment to be used.
- The user is able to determine estimated solar panel costs and savings as well as solar installers in their area before they decide whether to switch to solar. However, this tool is currently being piloted and covers not all states in the USA.
- Data is still being collected to cover all States in the USA. Using this tool, a potential solar buyer can view some details such as the solar potential for free, but in order to get more information, a user is requested to register to obtain more detailed information. Learn more about Google Project Sunroof.
- EnergySage is online solar marketplaces that has an inbuilt solar panel calculator. Therefore in addition to providing with solar energy data through the use of LIDAR technology, these companies offer consumers with an opportunity to compare and contrast their solar energy plans in terms of costs, savings and solar energy potential. Consumers can compare solar quotes from different solar contractors from a pool of pre-screened solar installers.
- EnergySage is one of the major online solar marketplaces that will help you get a reasonable quote for your installation. It guides you closely through the process of finding a decent installer, and it will also screen the companies for you, analyzing their various certifications, so that you don’t have to bother with all of these details yourself.
- It’s very good at just giving you the bottom line, telling you if solar panels are worth it, and not overwhelming you with endless figures. After all, if you’re using one of these comparison sites, you’re probably looking to draw some sort of conclusion, not to be inundated with more information. Learn more about the EnergySage solar power calculator.
- Geostellar promises speed and quality above all. They have a guarantee that they will get some working solar panels installed for you within 90 days, which is comforting to know. They will also customize a design for your array to make sure that you have the best solar panel setup to suit your needs before choosing a contractor that will do the job well.
- Further down the line, they will take care of maintenance and other concerns during the lifetime of your solar panel installation. If you want to be guided throughout the process and guaranteed some level of success, Geostellar is probably a good choice for a solar panel marketplace site. They also claim that they will get you the best possible price.
- Sunmetrix gives you the option to test drive solar power for your home before spending a single dollar.
- Sunmetrix claim to provide unbiased, transparent information and homeowners can easily see and compare ratings of solar companies.
- Sunmetrix provides its users with three tools to help them determine whether solar is a better option. These tools are Sunmetrix GO; Sunmetrix Discover; and a Solar Report.
- Sunmetrix GO and Sunmetrix Discover allow users to test drive solar power for their home and both of these services are FREE.
- Sunmetrix Discover allows the user to preview or conduct a demo for their solar power test drive. However, for a user to test drive with Sunmetrix GO, a user will need to create an account.
- The Report provides the user with a summarized analysis for their specific solar panel system, including system-sizing information, a financial analysis comparing a user’s buy and lease options (where leasing is allowed), a list of incentive programs for their area, and a list of up to ten local installers with their consolidated Yelp and Google ratings, as well as any cashback offers.
- Users can also sign up to get multiple reports of this solar report that are home-specific based on the location and energy requirements of any home in the USA.
- This Sunmetrix solar report is useful to online users who may not want to register with any online solar tool, but are interested in obtaining a comprehensive solar report for their home. A sample report is also provided to give the user a taste of the information generated when you request your personalized report.