How to Calculate Solar Output Like the Pro’s

So, you’ve got a few quotes from solar installers and want to know which solar power system will give you more energy / output / electricity. Let me teach you how to calculate solar output like the pro’s. This way you can double-check their quotes to know you’re getting a good deal.

  1. Get your quotes ready
  2. Visit the CSI online calculator
  3. Plug in the data
  4. Calculate!

Step 1: Grab your solar quotes and look for the specific solar module name and how many solar modules will be installed. Make sure you know the exact panel. Circle the panels and how many. Ex. 20 x SunPower SPR-200-BLK-U.

Then find the exact solar inverter in the estimate. This might be SMA SunnyBoy, Xantrax, Fronius, or Enphase. Circle this too. Ex. SMA SB4000US (240V).

Solar panel quote example

How to Choose the Best Solar PV System

Occasionally, people ask me how to choose the best solar pv system, or the best panels. Choosing the best solar system depends mainly on your energy needs, roof space, and budget. Most people really want to know how to choose the best solar value. For example, I was asked the following question on my “Help me help you” survey:

I got bid from 2 different installers. One was SunPower panels; the other Canadian Solar. The SunPower bid (for a 5.2 kw DC system) was $21,000 and the Canadian Solar bid was $14,000 – why so far apart?

Solar Roof PosterizedGreat question. There could be many explanations why there is such a gap in the price. Generally, SunPower’s superior efficiency allows for it/ necessitates that it price its solar panels higher. (They have to pay for the best engineers to get the best efficiency, right?) Each installer may be giving you the best deal he can with both brands of panels. What you should check on both proposals is not the DC system size (in this case 5.2 kw DC), but the kilowatt-hours output. Ask your installer(s) how much energy (in kwh) each system expects to produce in the first year.