How Hiring a Local Solar Contractor Can Save You Money on Your Solar Project

How Hiring a Local Solar Contractor Can Save You Money on Your Solar Project

Sharing is caring!

How To Save on Your Solar Project

By sourcing equipment from a distributor and hiring a local solar contractor to install your system, you can potentially save thousands on your solar project. This article explains how much you can expect to save by managing your own solar project and outlines the steps you need to take to get it done.

There’s no doubt that going solar is less expensive than buying power from the utility over the long run. But the upfront costs for solar equipment and labor is a hurdle that gives many Americans pause as they consider whether to make the switch to solar. 

National turnkey solar installers bid the cost of installation based on the total number of kilowatts the solar electric system will generate. A recent industry report estimates national installers charge right around $3/watt on average for a full-service solar installation.

That works out to a $20,700 bid for a 6.9 kW (6900-watt) system, which would be enough to cover the energy usage of the average American household.

Though many studies prove solar pays for itself, shelling out 20 grand up-front is still a tough decision to make. So naturally, people ask: “is there a way to get this done for less money?”

The simple answer is that you can save a significant chunk of money if you are willing to manage part or all of the project yourself. Hiring a local solar contractor to install your system can save around 20% compared to the average quote from a turnkey provider. If you’re comfortable installing the system yourself, it’s possible to go solar for half of what you’d spend with a large turnkey provider. 

In this article, we’re going to explain how you can save money on your solar project by sourcing the equipment directly from a supplier and present two approaches to installing your system: doing it yourself or hiring a local solar contractor to install it for you. 

In each case, we’ll outline a step-by-step overview of the project timeline and do the math to show you exactly how much money you stand to save by managing your project yourself.

Note: Before we go any further, we should point out that we are a solar equipment supplier. So naturally we’re not free from bias on this topic. We have made every attempt to present this information in a neutral way, providing sources where possible to back up the data presented in this article so you can make an informed decision.

How much can I save by hiring a local solar contractor?

It depends on your household energy usage, as well as how much effort and involvement you want to put into on your project. 

If you are willing to act as the project manager for your installation, including sourcing the equipment and soliciting bids from local contractors, you could stand to save thousands of dollars on a typical installation.

(For a detailed account of this process, check out our customer’s Reddit post about their experience working with us – complete with pictures, cost breakdowns and insider advice.) 

Here is a cost breakdown for three different approaches to going solar:

  1. Full-service installation from national installer (Turnkey): $3 per watt (source)
  2. Source equipment and manage the project yourself (Hire a Contractor): $2.10 to $2.65 per watt
  3. Source equipment and install the system yourself (DIY): $1.35 to $1.65 per watt (source)

Here’s how that would break out for an average-sized system:

  1. Turnkey: $20,700
  2. Hire a Contractor: $16,387
  3. DIY: $11,224

Don’t want to do any solar installation labor yourself?  No problem, you can still save some serious cash.

For the average American home, you can save more than $4,000 on your solar project if you are willing to source your own equipment and hire a local solar contractor.

Don’t forget the Federal Tax Credit and your state and Local rebates for additional savings.

Interested? Here’s the work you’ll have to take into your own hands if you want to take this approach.

What steps do I need to take to manage my own solar project?

Here’s a step-by-step list of project milestones you will need to complete to go solar. These tasks would typically be managed by a full-service solar provider, but you can easily take them into your own hands with a bit of research and planning.

1. Estimate your energy needs.

Use Wholesale Solar’s cost calculator to see what size system you need to offset your energy usage. The size will depend on unique factors like your energy consumption and sun exposure, so it’s important to get a recommendation that is tailored to your needs.

2. Work with Wholesale Solar to select the right system components for your unique needs.

Do you want American or imported panels? Ground or roof mount racking? String inverters or micro-inverters?

Spend some time looking through our buying guides and resources (like the video above) to pick out the products you like. We’ve put together pre-assembled grid-tied packages to take the guesswork out of sizing and compatibility. 

We recommend checking out our Crash Course to get acquainted with the basics, or take a deep dive into our extensive DIY Solar Workshop for a more extensive step-by-step guide to installing your own system.

Manage My Project

I want to manage the project myself by sourcing the best equipment and hiring a local contractor to install it. Take me to the 1-hour Crash Course.

  • Learn what questions to ask to ensure you get a great deal.
  • Watch videos on basic solar concepts and read our free Buying Guides to pick the best components.
  • Ideal for people who want to learn the fundamentals before hiring a local solar contractor.
Join Crash Course

DIY Install

I want to save even more by going the DIY route and installing my own system. Take me to the DIY Solar Workshop and teach me everything there is to know about going solar.

  • 10x more videos than the introductory Crash Course.
  • All the reading material needed to get your DIY project off the ground.
  • Ideal for people who want to install their own Grid-Tie or Off-Grid System.
Join Workshop

3. Contact a designer to finalize your plans.

Before you buy, it’s best to speak with a professional solar designer to check for compatibility issues and sizing errors. System sizing is a complex process, and the final design is based on a number of factors including:

  • Energy use
  • Local sun exposure
  • Site factors (shading, temperature, etc.)
  • Inefficiency factors (the system won’t always produce at peak output)
  • Future plans for expansion and backup

Enlist a solar professional to double-check your plans to make sure your design is sound. In our case, you can request a free design consultation with our solar techs, and every plan is checked for accuracy by our tech department before being cleared for shipment. We also provide a line-item quote that gives you the information you need to begin the permitting process.

4. Shop around for a solar installer.

Once you have a quote, seek out solar installers in your area to bid on the installation. 

As a benchmark, local solar installers typically charge 75 cents to $1 per watt for installation labor.

Depending on local regulations, your installer may not necessarily need to be someone who specializes in solar. Roofers, electricians, HVAC companies and general contractors should be capable enough to install your system. As you search Yelp or Google for the right installer, you don’t necessarily need to limit your search to a contractor with “solar” in their business name. 

We strongly recommend contacting multiple installers to shop for the best bid. For more direction on this step, read our article on how to find a solar installer you can trust.

5. File for a permit.

With an itemized quote in hand, you have enough information to fill out your permit applications. You will need two permits: one from your city planning department to approve new construction, and one from your utility company to connect to the grid.

The permit applications will ask for model numbers and technical information about the products you plan to use, which can be found on the specification sheets for the products that have been quoted. They will also ask for a line diagram showing how the system will be wired, a service which is included in the cost of Wholesale Solar’s packages.

If you need assistance sorting through the technical information in this step, services like Solar Permit Services and Gemini Solar Design offer full-service permitting plan sets for a modest fee.

Looking for a more in-depth overview of the permitting process? Check out our free solar permitting guide.

6. Place your order.

With approved permits in hand, you’re clear to order your system! Equipment delivery typically takes 1-2 weeks by freight.

7. Schedule your installation.

Contact your installer once your delivery date is solidified and schedule the installation. Most solar installers work in teams of 2-3, and it takes a few days to complete a standard installation. More complicated installations may take a bit more time. For example, if you go with a ground mount, you’ll need time to dig trenches, pour a concrete foundation, and let it set before completing the rest of the install.

What’s Next?

Fortunately, there’s no wrong way to go solar. Grid-tie customers stand to save money on their power bills no matter which approach they take—it’s a matter of deciding how much you want to save on the initial installation.

If you opt for a turnkey, full-service solar provider, you will have a quick and hassle-free project, but should expect to pay more for the convenience.

If you’re willing to spend a bit more time directly involved with the project, you can save a good chunk of money by becoming your own project manager and following the steps outlined above.

Ready to take the next step and save on your solar investment?  Choose the option that best suits you to get started.

Manage My Project

I want to manage the project myself by sourcing the best equipment and hiring a local contractor to install it. Take me to the 1-hour Crash Course.

  • Learn what questions to ask to ensure you get a great deal.
  • Watch videos on basic solar concepts and read our free Buying Guides to pick the best components.
  • Ideal for people who want to learn the fundamentals before hiring a local solar contractor.
Join Crash Course

DIY Install

I want to save even more by going the DIY route and installing my own system. Take me to the DIY Solar Workshop and teach me everything there is to know about going solar.

  • 10x more videos than the introductory Crash Course.
  • All the reading material needed to get your DIY project off the ground.
  • Ideal for people who want to install their own Grid-Tie or Off-Grid System.
Join Workshop

Sharing is caring!

Comments are closed.