Solar installation "brokers" versus choosing installer yourself

We are considering getting solar panels on our home (and replacing the roof so that it will last as long as the solar panels do).  Asking acquaintances for recommendations, I ended up talking to two companies (Pace Avenue and Straight Talk Solar) that seem to act as brokers for these services:  they advise you about designing the improvements you want, and then THEY find the contractors to provide the services.  Normally I would just do my own footwork and find the best combination of reputable/local/affordable contractors on my own, but the broker approach seems a lot cheaper AND possibly easier.  Still, it makes me nervous!  Does anyone have any experience with this, pro or con?

I am also continuing my own research, so:  Does anyone have updated recommendations for a great solar-panel installation company?

Thanks!

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My sister who is an excellent analyst and researcher found Solar Technologies in San Ramon to be the best company in the Bay Area. Both she and my parents installed panels in their Berkeley homes. We are currently in the queue to have panels installed on our roof. 
Contact Nick Bahrenburg at 510-417-0460 or nick [at] solartechnologies.com He is the absolute best consultant. No pressure tactics and all about educating the consumer.  
 

it’s been two years for my sister and no problems at all. 
 

Good luck!

I recently installed solar and would be glad to share what I found in my research.  Before you have the roof done, make sure they run the wiring for solar before the panels go on.  With everyone selling solar I looked at about 15 proposals.  To offset 100% of my PG&E bill I was quoted $22,000 to $62,000.  If you go with a broker they will hire the cheapest installer and tack on another $3,000 to $8,000 for fees.  

The other issue you have using a broker is they aren't liable or responsible for any problems.  Read the reviews and horror stores from posters.  The broker promises one thing and the installer does something else.  You call the broker who then has to try and deal with the installer to make it "right".  

I was referred to "Steve, the Solar Guy".  Steve was great and did a wonderful job.  I just had one person to deal with from start to finish.  From permit to getting permission to operate took less than a month with Steve.  (I've read reviews where people are saying it took them 60 or 90 days to get permission to operate.)

I would highly recommend Steve.  He's been installing solar of 30 years and has installed over 3,000 solar systems in the Bay Area.  He's tells you what you need, and doesn't try to up-sell you.  If you are willing to work with him to get the plans and building permit you can save another $5,000.  (For me this involved two trips to the city offices to get the building permit.)  Total cost for my system was just under $14,000.  (And this is before the federal tax credit).  This is for 6 additional panels Steve said I didn't really need.  I just looked and since January I have $616.32 in energy credit dollars with PG&E to "buy" electricity in the winter months.

If you are a PG&E customer and an iPhone/iPad user I would strongly encourage you to get the "PG&E Toolkit" app.  You will want this app to figure out solar.  This is crazy, but PG&E has 12 different rate plans for residential customers.  Just by changing rate plans we saved $600 per year on our PG&E bill before going solar. Used the app for my MIL and just by changing rate plans, (no solar) she's saving $140 off her yearly bill.

This is something the Solar Companies will not tell you.  They will show you a "before solar" quote with you being on the highest cost rate plan with PG&E.  Then for the "after going solar" they will put you on a lower cost rate plan which makes it look like installing solar will save you a lot of money.  The majority of the savings is the rate plan change and not going solar.  The app will show you this.

Going with Steve my system will have paid for itself in just under 5 years.  (The solar companies were telling it would take 8-13 years to break even.)

Bottom line.  I would NOT go with a broker.
Give "Steve the Sola Guy" a try.  I gave him 5 stars.
One more thing, PG&E is changing the amount of money they will credit you for electricity.  Right now I'm getting as much as $0.52 for a kWhr.  Then later in the day when PG&E is charging just $0.12 kWhr PG&E will give me 4.3 back later in the day.

Feel free to message me if  you would like more info.

I used Silverline Solar twice! For the home we sold summer in 2018 we had both a roof and solar panels installed. Was very happy with price, quality of work and efficiency of having solar. When I moved I used solar brokers and spoke to various solar vendors--hated the sales tactics of most, finally received a decent bid from a small but decent family run company out of Petaluma, took that quote to Silverline Solar (they told me they'd beat any price and they did). There were some glitches with the City of Oakland Building Permits (hopefully you don't live in Oakland) but Steven Biden the owner of Silverline Solar is top notch and took care of everything, put us up at the Claremont because the Oakland Building Permit fiasco resulted in the power being cut to my home for a week! Silverline Solar's Bay Area rep used to work for Tesla and Shawn is very knowledgeable about all aspects of solar. They were offering to cover 12 months of payments for new referrals but I'm unsure if that's still available (tell them Ana B. relayed that information to you). If interested please email info [at] silverlinebuilder.com

Good Luck!