Mail Order Solar Kits – Half the Price – Half the Story

natOccasionally we get inquiries for solar installation where the customer has a “little” knowledge (I use that term loosely) on solar equipment, and not much else.  For this example I’ll call the customer “Nat”.  Nat contacted us for a price for solar installed on her home.  After a look at her roof and utility usage we gave a preliminary estimate of $25,000 for a 6kw system.  This was to be confirmed with a site analysis including shade analysis of her roof.  Nat’s response to the very competitive quote was:

“way too high… i can buy 30 panels (7,950 w) with hardware for under $15,000… ur installation cost or profit margin is not acceptable”

We responded with an explanation of what is included which I think many people would be interested in:

“I find our prices to be reasonable. The total installation cost not only includes the solar panels, but the inverters, racking, labor, mileage, and permitting fees. If you feel best at installing your own system, we can possibly assist you in buying materials only, but I would like to caution you in that approach. All systems require for them to be installed by a contractor with an electrical license. Once the system is installed, it must be inspected in order to even be considered for the net metering process with the utility company. Without the net meter, the production of your system may not be reflected on your bills properly. Please let me know if you have any further questions.”

Then Nat tried again.  She wanted to buy the “solar kit” on the internet for $15k and see what we would charge to install it!

Our response:

“Your Internet kit includes the start of a solar power system.  For one thing, your house has not been determined to be suited for solar nor has the complete system been designed for your application.  Shading analysis must be performed along with other mounting and structural considerations.  By purchasing the kit you will most probably not be able to find anyone qualified to install it and because nobody will want to take responsibility for materials they did not supply.  I know we wouldn’t.  What if something didn’t work and it was installed?  Who pays for that?

For your information, we would sell you the same “kit” for the same price if you would like.  Here are a few more things you will need to complete the install and their approximate prices:

Your kit of 30 modules and 2 inverters – $15,000 (We do not sell that brand inverter in your kit due to their bad customer service)

Racking/rail kit – additional $2000 (not included in kit price)

Roof Flashings (metal, with stainless steel lag bolts) – $1000

Electrical balance of system, approximate – $2000 (DC cables, AC wiring, AC subpanel, conduit, DC roof combiner box, DC fuses, fittings, grounding clips, clamps, ground wire, etc)

Freight – $800

Tax – $2000 (you must show proof of all taxes paid in order to get your LA tax credit, even on internet purchases)

Labor @ $1/watt – $8000 (roof pitch, condition, access, additional equipment can add to this)

Permits – $700

Total = $31,500 It appears your kit is about half of your total cost installed.


Again, these are estimations of some of the things needed to complete the installation which is impossible without seeing your situation.  You may need additional electrical work in order to handle the solar power system.  Louisiana has strict requirements for getting your tax credit and one is it must be sold and installed by a licensed solar contractor.  You will have to have everything permitted in order to get “net metered” or otherwise you will not be able to turn the system on.


By the time you consider all what we do and supply as solar professionals, including service after the sale, and the fact that you get 80% back in credits, it’s really not worth it to try the “internet” approach.”

I welcome your comments.

Jeff Shaw – owner