Are install rates reasonable?

I'm a newbie just starting to do my research on a grid-tie PV system, and I'm getting estimates (from 2 places so far) for a 4.5 kW system at around $21,000 after a $3.20 per watt rebate from San Diego Gas and Electric.

Is this reasonable? How much can I save by doing the install by myself? How hard is it to do my own install? Or is it better to leave it to the pros?

Thanks!!

Samir

Comments

  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?

    i think i got 4.00 each watt. your number is good. doing by a pro will make it faster and easier to be legal, get the grid interconnection from the util and local electric inspections done, etc..
  • WindsunWindsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?

    We used to estimate around $7 per watt installed, but with the recent large increase in prices for panels I would guess it is now closer to $8 per watt for a fairly close estimate.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?

    Also to get the rebate you must have a licensed electrical contractor do the install.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?

    I have heard $1.50 to $2 a watt for installation from a contractor.

    Does the licensed electrician need to do the whole thing, or just the hookup to the utility?
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?

    no. no. no.

    You do not have to have a licensed electrical contractor do the install.
    You get 15% less rebate if the system is owner installed (in California). But that’s a lot better than $8/watt for install alone!

    I just finished installing my own grid tie 5kw system in San Diego. By installing it my self I was able to have the whole thing done for under $3.5/watt (that’s including tools, parts, panels, inverters, racks, everything)!! It did take me a several LONG weekends, and lots of research hours, but it is done, approved and generating 112% of my energy needs.

    One of the hardest things is following the codes that don’t seem to be well explained for all the different electric possibilities. I only wish that there was someone to ask for the frequent, little questions that popped up during the installation.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?

    The $8 a watt is install and material. Not just the labor.www.m8electric.com
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?

    Hmmmm. I am a little confused. Are these watt prices before or after the state rebates? I have heard of dealers offering $5.40 to $6.00 per watt for complete systems. If an installer or electrician charges $8 to $10(being generous) per watt for a 5kW system that comes out to $40,000 - $ 50,000. Now if you install yourself at a purchase price of let's say $6 per watt you come to $30,000. Quite a difference. It seems to me that some installers and electricians really add the $$$$ on top of that. Now I understand that the installers/electricians need to cover expenses, but I personally think it is a little too high what they charge for labor, etc. That job should only take 3 days, 4 at max. to install with 2-3 people.
    I had the opportunity to help install a 22 kW system which only took 4 1/2 days to install. See attached picture of project.
    So I got my two bits in and I will leave it at that.

    Sunny greetings,
    Al

  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?

    i would wonder if they were cutting corners or giving something subpar with really low $6/w prices as the pvs themselves are close to $5/w. you need mounts, wire, controllers, inverters, batteries, and whatever else in addition to the labor to instal it. that stuff's not free or getting any cheaper either. if they are quoting after rebates they should say so up front and shouldn't be counting chickens before they hatch. this would be good for the consumer to ask up front too just in case.
    to be honest i don't know any cheap electricians other than myself cause i'm not licensed. the hourly rates can be high and yes you can save some by doing it yourself, but it has to pass inspection just like the electricians would've done it.
  • RoderickRoderick Solar Expert Posts: 253 ✭✭
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?

    About 2 months ago (May 2006), I got quoted $27k for a 3 kW (mfr rating) system from one turnkey vendor, who is well-known and has an excellent reputation in our area. This vendor also offerred a $2k discount for signing on the spot. I had to forego that, because I don't do business that way, but I would take it that $25k was their real price. After the California rebate at the time and federal rebate, the bottom line was about $16k. The quote didn't include sales tax, of course.

    Another turnkey vendor, also with a good reputation, analyzed our home and specified a 2 kW system for about $19k, which would end up with a bottom line of $12k after rebates, but not counting sales tax.

    It was surprising that the two vendors specified systems that were 50% apart in power output.

    We live in San Jose, a metropolitan area of Northern California, so labor prices are probably high.

    I shopped around on the internet, and found a kit including inverter, wire, mounts, and DC disconnect from the internet. Depending on your location, NAWS or another place might be your best buy. The kit did not include the kind of mounts I wanted, but I was able to make substitutions for a price. The bottom line price was $13k, including taxes, and rebates, for a 3 kW system.

    In all, that's not very much savings for installation, like $1 per watt for doing it myself (because of the self-install rebate penalty for my state). However, the education was valuable to me, and I might have done DIY even if it were break even.

    Also, if you aren't comfortable wiring to the mains, you can hire an electrician to do just that part, and hook up the majority of the rest of the system yourself.

    My advice to the original poster, or anyone taking the DIY route, is to go to the internet and read, read, read. Even if you buy a kit, the assumption is that you already know what you're doing. There will be few, if any, instructions. And go to the library, and look through the National Electrical Code, especially Article 690. It's actually not that bad, if you have the time to read, and are somewhat familiar with electrical wiring.
  • WindsunWindsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
    Re: Are install rates reasonable?
    alana wrote:
    Hmmmm.  I am a little confused.  Are these watt prices before or after the state rebates?  I have heard of dealers offering $5.40 to $6.00 per watt for complete systems. 

    You can be sure that anyone offering or advertising under $6 per watt installed with materials is including the California rebate to paint things a little bit rosy.
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