Why You Shouldn’t Use Google’s Solar Panel Calculator

Cost Of Solar Panels
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What Google's solar panel calculator actually does

Although a great idea, Google’s solar panel calculator is not a perfect guide for solar power. The impact residential solar can have on a home takes more than an impressive looking display.

Formulas and data specific to the state and utility in the area play a pivotal role in a quality solar calculator. However, this information on its own is not enough to give an accurate quote.

The variables that come with each installation make solar calculators best used as a starting point, not an exact price. Understanding how Google’s Project Sunroof works will help interested parties understand why this is the case.

How Google’s Solar Panel Calculator Works

Google’s Project Sunroof launched in 2015. This program has been a tool that allows people to see how affordable solar can be. It is made accessible via the search engine results pages. 

One of the reasons why this solar calculator is so successful at promoting solar panel installations is its user-friendly visual aids. These visual aids allow interested homeowners to see the savings solar can give them.

There are many features about this solar calculator that make it appealing. Some of these include Google home images, roof shading technology and solar investment savings.

Google’s Aerial Solar Roof Imagery

Google solar roof imagery technology from Google Maps is a base for its Solar calculator, allowing the calculator to tailor to individual homes. This program, paired with solar shading technology, gives homeowners an idea of what solar could save them.

Google’s Solar Shading Tech

Google’s project sunroof shading technology allows people to see if their home is a good fit for solar. If the home’s sun exposure is limited, the solar panels won’t get as much power.

This program shows people what their home’s sun exposure is. It also gives estimated hours of sunlight throughout the year and usable roof space.

Google uses a color gradient to represent areas of the home with higher sun exposure. Purple areas have shading, while yellow areas have greater sun exposure. Homeowners with minimal shading would be wise to investigate solar.

Basic Solar Savings of Google’s Calculator

Google’s solar cost calculation covers each of the three most common methods of payment. These include cash, leases and loans.

Although it can be adjusted, the solar calculator’s default setting assumes an average monthly utility bill. It then estimates available space to determine the max amount of energy offset a solar array could provide.

Each of these financing options takes into account incentives for the area and the up-front cost of the array. The purchasing option gives an estimated payback period, 20-year benefits, and 20-year savings.

The lease and loan both have an assumed term of 20 years and the same rate. They also have an estimated yearly and 20-year cost.
These google solar calculations are all based on a 2.2 percent yearly rate increases for the utility company in the area.

Possible Issues With This Solar Panel Calculator

As stated above, solar calculators are great for those that have a piqued interest in solar for their home. If, however, the customer wants to know for sure that solar is a viable option for them, they need to talk to a solar professional.

Solar calculators don’t account for all the factors necessary to give an accurate quote. Most solar calculators do not account for the customer’s monthly energy usage and exact roof measurements.

Another issue is that some of the tools provided in solar calculators aren’t representative of every situation. If solar calculators are considered an accurate estimate instead of a starting point, this could be detrimental to perceived savings and solar potential.

Google Shading Tools Compared to Solar Panel Mapping

Designing a solar panel system requires tools that Google’s calculator doesn’t use. Not taking into account these tools makes Google’s sunroof calculations less accurate than solar company solar calculators such as, Go Solar Group’s Utah solar savings calculator.

If a roof doesn’t have enough sun, Google Sunroof assumes the home isn’t a good fit for solar. However, this may not be the case. Homes without sufficient un-shaded roof space, however, might have the option to install a ground mount

A Solar Calculator Meant to Educate the Public

When Google first launched Project Sunroof, it was built to inform people of the profitable financial decision residential solar can be. Google later decided to use the tool to generate leads for paying solar companies. The Sunroof Project was then switched back to an educational tool in 2017.

Google’s solar calculator is better, now that it has stepped away from lead generation. However, this program still struggles to address all the factors that make solar panels a good fit for a home.    

Project Sunroof: A Good Place to Start

Project Sunroof is a great place for interested parties to start their search for solar. This program gives a good idea of whether trees shade the roof too much.

It, however, does not address every scenario, making it a subpar cost estimator. If a homeowner wants an estimate, it is best to acquire a solar quote. Receiving quotes from different solar installers helps the customer determine the best price and product for them.

One of the variables oversimplified in the Google solar calculator is solar financing. Each solar company has different financing options, offered products, and pricing, which makes generating return on investment hard for a calculator. 

Google’s Solar Calculator Savings Issues

Every loan and lease in Google’s solar calculator has a 20-year term. However, each solar company has different financing options. 

Using a one-option-fits-all can lead the customer to think that this is the price that they will pay no matter which solar company they choose. However, these estimated prices may not be realistic for a company with different financing options.

Another factor that makes a one-answer-fits-all hard is the variance in solar products. Even if two solar homes have the same energy usage, it may not cost the same. The type and brand of solar equipment used plays a large roll in price.

Solar company discounts and customer referral programs are also not taken into account in Google’s solar calculator. One discount that many solar companies provide is a cash financing discount. Go Solar Group gives a 10 percent discount for cash purchases. 

Cost of Power vs. Power Used

Google and many other solar savings calculators use customers’ average electric bills as a gauge for how much solar would cost. The problem is that solar system sizing with a utility bill isn’t always correct.

Each utility company has different rates, which makes sizing solar off of the average utility bill a messy process. If one utility charges 10 cents per watt while another charges 12 cents, the monthly bill for the same amount of electricity will be different. 

The best way to determine how much energy a home uses is with the home’s monthly electric usage over a year. Monthly usage is calculated the same everywhere, making it easier for a solar designer to match the energy needs of the home.   

Using Google’s Calculator and Solar Quotes

Using Google’s solar savings calculator is not a bad thing. It is a great place to determine if a home has solar potential. However, it doesn’t have all the answers.

We recommend looking at multiple solar companies, so you can better determine which is the best option for your home. If you would like a rough idea of what your savings could be with Go Solar Group, we have our own solar savings calculators. We also create free hand-delivered customized quotes for qualified homeowners.

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