Innovative solutions for creating healthy, efficient, eco-friendly homes

Home solar by satellite


The process of installing solar panels on a home often involves several preliminary visits by an installer, who will take elaborate measurements of your roof, possibly resulting in added costs and delays caused by scheduling conflicts. However, a California company has reduced this preliminary stage of the process to just a few short hours, thanks to a simplified online system that uses satellite imagery.

Homeowners in the San Francisco Bay area can initiate the process by logging onto the Sungevity website (www.sungevity.com). Upon providing a home address, you can view a satellite image of your neighborhood so you can pinpoint your home. The only additional details Sungevity requires are your contact information and your home’s total electric usage (in kilowatt-hours) from the previous month’s utility bill.

Within 24 hours, Sungevity will contact you with an interactive iQuote, which will provide you with several solar options. The company’s proprietary software will show you the configurations of five different systems, so you can get an aesthetic sense of how each installation will look on your roof.

You will also see how much you can save on your monthly bills with each option, what percentage of the electricity will be solar-powered, how much electricity will be provided by the grid and the total project cost.

Depending on your budget and the return on investment you would like to see over the life of the system, you can choose an eight-panel system — the smallest available and the least expensive — or go with a larger option.

“We configure our systems to maximize ROI, based on optimizing economy rather than roof space, because we don’t add all the marginal costs [involved] in fitting the system close to the roof pattern,” says Danny Kennedy, founder and CEO of Sungevity, based in Berkeley, Calif. “So our installations and systems cost less than others.”

Sungevity has also shortened the quote-to-installation time frame. Having chosen their ideal option, some homeowners have “gone solar” in as little as four to six weeks. “We have truncated the typical time frame of three weeks for a quote and three months for installation,” Kennedy says.

The goal of his company, he explains, is to make solar systems affordable and accessible for the average homeowner, while removing some of the major hurdles that turn people away, such as prolonged assessments, complicated paperwork and limited system options. Sungevity simplifies the process further by taking care of permits, rebates and interconnection applications.

Mark Butler, a Richmond, Calif.-based general contractor who remodels homes, chose Sungevity for his own home after considerable research. “They were 10 percent less expensive and the economics convinced my wife,” he says. “It took them four weeks from the quote to installation, and they took care of all the headaches like permits.” After he had a 24-panel system installed on his roof, Butler says his monthly electricity bills dropped from a high of $260 to zero.