Seth and Nancy Portner and their daughter Lettie visit with a neighbor in front of their Boulder home that has a 3.7 kW solar array on the roof. | Photo Courtesy: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

When attracting new solar customers, a savings forecast is at the heart of every solar installer’s pitch. A savings forecast helps potential customers understand the energy savings a solar system will yield, enabling solar customers  to feel more confident in their investment. 

Realizing that savings forecasts are crucial to fueling U.S. solar adoption, San Francisco-based startup Genability sought to create a quick and reliable third-party savings calculator that doesn’t require a customer’s utility bill. Seed funding from the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative Incubator program enabled Genability to identify and aggregate data relevant to local electric rate structures, such as solar photovoltaic generation. Genability then used the data to develop new algorithms to discover how much money energy consumers can save by switching to solar. They then validated the algorithm at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory to ensure the calculator could consistently produce accurate savings quotes.

The resulting calculator—called Switch—is able to instantly generate savings estimates that are more than 99.5% accurate, earning them a spot in the proposals of nine out of ten of the top U.S. residential solar installers. Generating accurate proposals for thousands of customers across varying and ever-changing rate structures is difficult, but Genability has kept pace with the growing demand for its product in real-time. Since 2014, the company’s analytics have been used in more than four million solar proposals and the company now plans to expand its reach beyond North America.

Overcoming misperceptions about solar costs remains a persistent challenge when converting solar considerers into solar adopters, and Genability’s tool is helping set the record straight on solar savings. Savings reports increase transparency in the marketplace and mirror future savings, allowing them to improve customer satisfaction and reassure customers that they made the right decision. 

When customers have a great experience going solar and their savings match their expectations, it increases the likelihood they’ll encourage friends and neighbors to do the same, providing installers with a pipeline of interested customers. This results in solar installers spending less on costly marketing practices that are tacked on to the overall cost of going solar. Driving down these transaction and customer acquisition costs—soft costs—reduces the overall price tag of going solar for both current and future solar customers.

Learn more about the SunShot Initiative’s soft costs program