Our Process – Frequently Asked Questions

We are not your typical solar company and we know our process is very different from the traditional way that someone would go about evaluating their home solar and clean energy options. We listed some frequently asked questions below – they may help answer additional questions that you have about our business.

Solar contractors are happy to give you free quotes. However, you are at a disadvantage in evaluating those quotes. They’ll all be different in terms of system design, equipment, financial models, energy models and financing options.

How will you know whether the system they designed is right for you? How will you know whether they used accurate assumptions for how your system will perform and how much you’ll save? How will you be able to compare your options when they’re all different?

Having an independent and objective expert who works for you to design and spec a system so that all contractors are quoting the same thing is a significant improvement. Not having to do the legwork of finding, researching and getting contractors to provide a quotes is a nice bonus. Having a dedicated energy advisor who’s available to answer your questions and provide guidance along the way is even better. And knowing that you’re not going to pay more for solar that you don’t need or that isn’t going to perform efficiently makes working with Sentinel your best option.

Home solar is very different in different states – different prices, regulations, incentives….just different. We’re just getting started, and to serve our customers with high levels of local expertise and service, we couldn’t be spread out over multiple states. 

We’d love to help homeowners all over the country.  We’ll get there, but for now, our focus is New Jersey. If your home is in New Jersey, check out New Jersey-specific information here . If not, please feel free to let us know that you’d like us to come to your state next!

We want you to understand how we’re compensated so that you can decide for yourself whether we’re aligned with you and objectively working in your best interests.

Sentinel makes money by charging modest flat fees to both the homeowner and the contractor.  These fees are all fixed amounts, not percentages. We don’t get paid any more to design a larger system which comes with a higher price tag, to recommend one manufacturer’s solar panels over another’s or contractor x over contractor y.  There’s no connection whatsoever between our recommendations and our compensation. Our advice to you is purely objective and based on what’s in your best interest. These fees cover our costs and provide some profit so that we can grow and help more homeowners.

The fee for our Home Solar Design Service is $149 and includes all of the process steps outlined in the Our Process page. Call us at any time if you have questions. It’s all included. 

NOTE: Our fee should be considered part of home solar “design and engineering” and eligible for the federal tax credit. Save your receipt, consult your tax professional and submit it with your taxes – you should get $39 back from Uncle Sam making your net cost around $110.  When the price tag of a typical home solar system is $20,000 to $30,000 or more, a net investment of about $110 to ensure you’re getting the right home solar for you is well worth it.

We don’t use robots or “artificial intelligence” to perform our services – just real live solar experts  focused on your best interests. So we take more time than a software algorithm in a “solar calculator”, but you get expert advice as well as a carefully crafted and expertly designed home solar system. 

We’ll deliver our Home Solar Assessment and Home Solar Design Service in two business days and, we ask that contractors return quotes within three business days. The rest is up to you – we work on your schedule.  You’re free to move at your own pace, taking additional steps when you’re comfortable.

Solar leases and PPAs are generally not in the best interest of homeowners, so we do not support them. The only situation in which a solar lease or PPA may be a better option for a homeowner is if they do not have enough tax liability to fully utilize the Federal Investment Tax Credit and will change with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.  Solar loans have many of the same benefits as solar leases and PPAs ($0 down, fixed monthly payments), but the homeowner owns all rebates and incentives. Once the loan is paid off, the homeowner owns the system and all of the energy it produces for its remaining lifetime.  See our article on solar leases and PPAs here

An “optimal” system is so much more than just making sure all the components fit together and are compatible. First, you’ll want to figure out your solar energy goals. For example, do you want to totally eliminate your electric bill? Maximize the positive impact your solar purchase makes on the environment?  We already know you’ll want to maximize the return on your investment and of course you’ll want to keep it affordable.  

We use aerial imagery to evaluate your roof or property to determine how much space you have and where the most efficient (sunny) locations are. We review your electricity needs to determine how many solar panels you’ll need.  Based on your electricity needs and available space, we determine whether standard or premium (higher performance, but more expensive) solar panels would serve you better.  Finally, we combine all of this with your goals and budget to come up with the best home solar design for you.

Ultimately we give you just the right amount of solar with panels placed in the sunniest locations so you can maximize the amount of clean energy they produce and minimize your cost.  You’ll never have to worry about us recommending more solar than you need.  Remember, we work for you.

We’re with you all the way.  Once we’ve delivered your quotes and provided guidance on those quotes, we strongly recommend that you schedule meetings with any contractors who you’re still considering for your project.  We’ll provide introductions to facilitate those discussions if you’d like.  From there, you can work directly with your contractor to agree to contract terms and schedule your installation, knowing that we’re always available to answer questions.

Once your home solar system has been installed, we offer two free consultations in order to review how your home solar system is performing and update you on any changes to solar policies or incentive programs which may affect you as the owner of a home solar system.

Once we’ve created your system design for the location and quantity of solar panels, we use sun and weather data to model energy production on a monthly basis for the 25-year lifetime of the system. Then, we match up this data with your energy consumption and current electricity rates from your utility provider to determine your monthly energy savings and income generated from the renewable energy credits. We also use the estimated energy generation to calculate the environmental benefit of your system, like how much CO2 your system will offset over its lifetime.  

Using average cost data, we estimate the cost of your home solar system and provide an estimate for monthly loan payments should you prefer to finance your purchase with a loan.  

By the end of this process, you will have a good idea of how many solar panels you need, where they will be located, what the system will cost, how much clean energy it will produce, and how much you will save each month. 

This is why we designed our process to start with a free home solar assessment. If your home or property is not suitable for home solar, we will help you evaluate other ways to access clean energy. We do not charge anything for this.

One great way to access the environmental and financial benefits of solar without having a home solar system is through community solar. We have a great partner who supplies community solar in New Jersey. You can subscribe directly to a local community solar project, helping support local jobs, purchasing clean, renewable energy and saving money instantly. Learn more about community solar here.

Remember that we work for you so we would never recommend home solar if it’s not in your best interests.  

Since we only focus on New Jersey, we know the economics of home solar intimately and that, with the right space, going solar will be profitable. We show you a detailed cost estimate, what rebates and incentives you’re eligible for and what the resulting savings from home solar will be in our Home Solar Design Service. We always use accurate and honest energy and financial models.  

The core of Sentinel’s home solar design process is to match your energy and financial goals with your budget and provide a home solar solution which is affordable for you. We will never recommend a home solar purchase which is outside of your budget. We also include financing options in our Home Solar Design Service and our contractors all have access to financing. As long as you have good credit, you’ll be able to finance the purchase of home solar with a loan. In almost all loans, you won’t need to make a down payment and your incentives and energy savings will effectively pay for your home solar purchase.

We take pride in our work and make every effort to ensure that you’re satisfied with our service. If you’re not satisfied with our home solar design, we’ll work with you to adjust the design to your satisfaction.  If we can’t get a design which you’re satisfied with, we’ll give you a full refund.  While we pre-screen contractors and work with you to make an informed decision on your contractor selection, we’re unable to offer a refund once you approve your home solar design.

An important part of the way that we deliver better home solar is by working with high-quality contractors. First, we only work with local contractors who are active in their communities.  Before accepting them into our program, we start by reviewing their fundamental business, ensuring that they have a valid contractor’s license, appropriate insurance, and are in good standing with the state. From there, we review their professional credentials and certifications, number of years in business, number of installations, Better Business Bureau rating, and online reviews. You’ll find much of this information in the contractor profiles in our bid platform. The final step is to have contractors sign our Code of Ethics and Conduct. Learn more about our contractor screening process here.

We can!  If you’re interested in batteries, we’ll include them in your project design at no extra cost.  Using your goals, your home solar production, and your energy consumption data, we’ll specify the right battery capacity for you and include that cost as a separate line item on the estimate.  

A typical asphalt shingle roof has a lifetime of 20-30 years.  Home solar systems have useful lifetimes of 25+ years. If your roof’s lifetime is significantly less than the 25 year home solar system lifetime, you should consider replacing your roof before or in conjunction with the installation of a home solar system. This way you’ll avoid the significant expense of removing your home solar system to replace your roof. Loans to finance both projects are readily available and the savings that your home solar system generates will pay for some or all of your roof cost. If a new roof is recommended, we’ll include that as a separate line item in your estimate.

Electrical panels are only rated for a certain amount of electrical current. The primary source of current is from your power company. If you add a home solar system, electric current from that system also needs to be accounted for. If total current input from both the utility and home solar exceeds your electrical panel’s rating, you may need to upgrade your electrical panel.

Most homes have a 200 amp electrical panel and are able to accommodate the additional current from a typical home solar system. However, some older homes have 100 amp electrical panels that will either limit your home solar capacity, or require an upgrade of the electrical panel to a larger capacity. If we determine that you are likely to need to upgrade to your electrical panel, we will include that cost in your home solar system estimate.

Nearly all contractors who install home solar also upgrade electrical panels and install batteries.  Some can also install a new roof themselves or work with a roofing partner who can do it.  

We tell you what services each contractor is able to perform so you can factor that into who you pick to quote.  We require our contractors to quote batteries and new roofs separately so that you can see how much each will add to your project cost.  

Absolutely!  A home solar system is a significant investment. It’s physically attached to your home and connected to your home’s electrical system by the contractor. You should be sure that they are reliable, responsive, and perform quality work.  We strongly encourage homeowners to meet with prospective contractors before signing a contract and will facilitate introductions after contractor bids are received (but only if you ask us to).

Quotes that you receive from each contractor include the date that they are available to start your project and how many days it will take to complete the project so that you can factor this into your decision.  It is important to note that there are a few factors which are outside of a contractor’s control such as permit approval which may delay the start date.  We expect contractors to maintain excellent communication with you throughout the process so that you are immediately aware of needed schedule changes.

Good to go?  Get started with a free Solar Assessment.

Get A Free Solar Assessment

Still have questions? Send us a message and we’ll respond ASAP. 

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