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

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

Although a wonderful idea, Google’s solar panel calculator is not a perfect guide. 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. This, however, isn’t 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 was launched in 2015. This program has been a tool that allows people to see how affordable solar can be. It is made reasonably accessible via the search engine results pages. 

One of the reasons why this calculator is so successful at promoting solar is its user-friendly visual aids. These aids allow interested homeowners to quickly see the potential of their home.

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.

Aerial Solar Imagery

Google uses technology from Google Maps as a base for its Solr calculator. It allows the calculator to be tailored to individual homes. This program paired with shading tech gives homeowners an idea of what solar could save them.  

Shading Tech for Solar

Google’s shading tech allows people to see if their home is a good candidate for solar. If the home doesn’t have good sun exposure, solar panels won’t get as much power from the sun.

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

Google uses a color gradient to represent areas of the home that are exposed to more sun. Areas with purple have shading, while areas with yellow have greater sun exposure. Homeowners with minimal shading would be wise to investigate solar. 

Basic Solar Savings

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 calculator’s default setting assumes an average monthly utility bill. It then accounts for the estimated available space to determine the max amount of energy that can be offset with a solar array.

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 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. Some factors not found in solar calculators include the customer’s energy usage each month and the exact measurements of the roof.

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. This makes Google’s savings calculations less accurate than solar company solar calculators such as, Go Solar Group’s Utah solar savings calculator.

If a home’s roof doesn’t have enough sun exposure, Google will tell interested parties that their home isn’t a good candidate for solar. However, this may not be the case.

If a customer doesn’t have enough un-shaded roof, un-shaded space in the yard could be a good option for installing a ground mount. Back yard solar, however, isn’t a solar option addressed by Google’s calculator. 

Meant to Educate the Public, Not Guide You to the Best Solar Installer

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 program was then changed back to an introductory tool in 2017.

Google’s solar calculator is better, now that it has stepped away from lead generation. The calculator’s focus on helping customers determine if their home is a possible candidate for solar, without getting bombarded with phone calls, makes it a valuable tool. 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 and, therefore, is not an accurate cost estimate. If the homeowner wants an estimate, it is best to acquire a solar quote. Receiving quotes from different solar installers will help the customer determine the best price and product for them.

One of the variables oversimplified in the Google 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 is set for 20 years, and every solar company has different rates for these financing options. This presents a problem because not every solar loan and lease has the same term and rates.

Using a one-option-fits-all can lead the customer to think that this is the price that they will pay. However, these estimated prices may not be realistic.

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 a 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.  

Why the Cost of Power Is Different Than 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. Depending on the rate of the utility company, the average bill may mean a different amount of electricity.

The best way to determine how much energy a home uses is with the home’s monthly electric usage over a year. Monthly usage provides accurate information so the solar array can be sized to match the energy needs of the home.

Google’s Solar Calculator With Solar Quotes

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

We recommend looking at multiple solar companies to see which is the best option. If you would like a rough idea of what your savings could be with Go Solar Group, we have our own solar savings calculators for homes in Utah;  Reno, Nevada; and San Antonio, Texas. We also create free hand-delivered customized quotes for qualified homeowners.


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