Honest and Updated Helioscope Review 2024- Worth it or Not?

Here's my honest review of Helioscope - a popular PV solar system design tool

Are you looking for an honest and unbiased review of Helioscope from someone who isn’t just trying to sell it to you? 

Well, look no further because I've got the inside scoop on HelioScope, and I’m going to give you an upfront and honest review of this tool developed by Folsom Labs. 

In case you didn’t know what Helioscope is, it’s a software that claims to speed up the way PV solar systems are designed, making the design, proposal and installation processes easier, faster and cheaper for solar installers.

Now, you might be wondering, who exactly is Helioscope for?

Helioscope review

Well, let me tell you, it's not just for the tech-savvy installers. This user-friendly tool is designed for anyone involved in the solar industry, from installers to project managers. Whether you're a seasoned pro or just starting out, HelioScope is here to make your life easier.

In this article, we'll delve into the features and benefits of HelioScope, exploring everything from project creation to design options. We'll take a deep dive into its streamlined layout tools and electrical section, and we'll even touch on the availability of free trials and the ability to share reports for analysis.

So, if you're looking to improve your design speeds and take your solar installations to the next level, join me as we uncover whether HelioScope is truly worth the investment in this review.

What is Heliopscope?

HelioScope is an advanced solar software developed by Folsom Labs that simplifies the process of designing PV Solar Systems, improving engineering properties, and reducing installation costs significantly. It offers a user-friendly interface with options for 3D design, mechanical layout, and electrical schemes.

What is Helioscope?
What Helioscope can do in 2 seconds

I found Helioscope to be a very robust solar design software that's especially effective in designing PV solar systems for the following customer categories:

1. Big commercial structures

2. Industrial enterprises

3. Solar farms

4.Large Residential homes

Helioscope's interface

Who is Helioscope For?

If your company primarily deals with residential solar installations up to 15kW, there are alternative software options available that may better suit your needs. While Helioscope remains a powerful tool, other software options may offer more streamlined and user-friendly features specifically designed for residential projects.

With its 3D design engine and energy yield simulation, HelioScope offers a comprehensive solution for designing and simulating large-scale solar arrays. The software's detailed financial calculator and drag-and-drop proposal editor further enhance its capabilities. They allow users to create accurate and professional proposals for their clients.

Helioscope is more suited for designing solar systems for large commercial buildings, industrial businesses, and solar farms. For residential solar installations, especially those up to 15kW, exploring other software options may be more beneficial. It is crucial to select software that aligns with the specific needs and requirements of your customer base to ensure optimal results.


My Opinion of Helioscope

For the most part, HelioScope proves to be a reliable and easy-to-use software for designing solar installations. Its high-level accuracy and user-friendliness make it an efficient tool for solar professionals.

Overall, I’d give this tool a rating of 4 out of 5. It’s a very useful tool and it’s constantly being improved and updated, which is always a good sign.

Helioscope Rating

By streamlining the design process, HelioScope allows for soft-cost savings and reduces installation expenses significantly. Additionally, its fast and easy product search feature further enhances its usability for solar designers. 

However, at the end of the day Helioscope is simply another solar design tool, and  just like any other tool on the market, Helioscope also has flaws, which we’ll discuss later in the article. But for now let’s talk about the advantages of Helioscope. 

Advantages of Helioscope

Helioscope is a Reliable Solar Tool

Helioscope has proven to be a dependable and trustworthy solar energy simulation software, offering reliable production estimates based on industry-standard calculations and trusted mathematical models. The software incorporates bankable maths, including PAN files, transposition models, and IAM adjustments, to accurately calculate the production of a solar array. 

This ensures that users can have confidence in the estimated energy output of their solar installations. By utilising Helioscope's advanced algorithms and modelling techniques, solar installers can make informed decisions regarding system size and configuration.

In addition to its accurate production estimates, HelioScope also provides a user-friendly interface that makes it easy for designers to create solar layouts. With three different designing options - 3D design, mechanical layout, and electrical design - users have the flexibility to choose the most suitable approach for their projects. 

The 3D design option allows for precise specification of physical dimensions and setback settings by tracing rooftops and selecting modules from a list of available types.

The mechanical layout feature includes field segment settings and keep-outs to ensure optimal placement of components. And finally, the electrical design section includes features such as recombining boxes and combiner poles to streamline electrical connections.

By combining reliable production estimates with easy-to-use designing options, HelioScope empowers users with the tools necessary to efficiently plan and optimise their solar installations.

Helioscope's Design Options are Easy to use

One notable feature of HelioScope is its user-friendly interface, which offers a range of easy-to-use designing options that allow for precise planning and optimisation of solar installations, ultimately empowering users to create accurate and efficient designs.

The software provides three main designing options: 3D design, mechanical layout, and electrical design. Starting with the 3D design option, users can specify physical dimensions and setback settings by tracing the rooftop and selecting solar modules from a list of available module types. 

Automated calculations are then performed to determine the area for PV solar panels. Additionally, users have the ability to view the 3D design from different angles and zoom in on specific elements for closer inspection.

Helioscope lets you choose the imagery they would like to use from a drop-down menu in the Designer or upload your own image from an external source or from a drone as an overlay.

Moving on to the mechanical layout option, HelioScope allows users to define field segment settings and keep-outs. This feature ensures that installation components are properly placed in relation to each other while taking into account any potential obstructions or shading issues.

Lastly, the electrical design section includes features such as recombining box, combiner poles, and conductors. Users can generate reports within this section that provide detailed information on the electrical aspects of their solar installation.

Overall, HelioScope's easy-to-use designing options make it accessible for both beginners and experienced professionals in the renewable energy industry. With its intuitive menu system and convenient tools for visualising designs in three dimensions, HelioScope assists users in creating accurate layouts while streamlining their workflow process towards high-level accuracy and user-friendliness.

Helioscope for the Most Part is Accurate

The accuracy of PV systems designed using Helioscope contribute to its effectiveness in creating precise and efficient solar installations.

The software's simplified design interface allows users to easily model a solar system by outlining the roof or area for the array with just a few clicks. This automated calculation feature not only saves time but also ensures accurate results, eliminating the risk of human error.

Additionally, Helioscope provides various specifications for selecting solar modules, such as azimuth, racking type, module height, and row spacing. By offering a comprehensive list of available module types and facilitating easy adjustments to physical dimensions and setback settings, Helioscope enables users to create layouts that are tailored to their specific project requirements.

It's User Friendly

The user-friendly menu in each designing section further enhances the software's usability. Whether it is the 3D design section for specifying physical dimensions or the mechanical and electrical schemes for field segment settings and conductors respectively, Helioscope streamlines the process by providing intuitive tools and features. 

Users can view their 3D designs from different angles and zoom in on elements for better visualisation. The availability of metrics and reports also aids in evaluating system performance and identifying potential areas for improvement.

With its high level of accuracy and user-friendliness in designing solar systems, Helioscope not only simplifies the process but also gives solar professionals soft-cost savings by reducing installation costs significantly.

It Gives Solar Professionals Soft-Cost Savings

By significantly reducing installation costs, Helioscope provides solar professionals with substantial soft-cost savings, enabling them to allocate resources more efficiently and maximise their business productivity.

The software's remote shade modelling feature allows solar professionals to accurately estimate the energy potential of a site without the need for costly visits. This means that they can quickly qualify prospective customers and avoid investing resources into low-probability projects in the early stages of the sales process.

By eliminating the need for on-site assessments before proposal, Helioscope reduces the cost of analysing site data and conducting assessments, which is estimated to constitute 55% of customer acquisition and engineering design costs for residential solar PV installations. This significant reduction in soft costs translates into tangible savings for solar professionals.

With the ability to save time on site visits, solar professionals can now redirect their efforts towards other aspects of their business, increasing overall productivity. Instead of spending valuable time driving to different locations, they can focus on tasks such as customer engagement, marketing strategies, and expanding their client base.

The soft-cost savings provided by Helioscope not only improve efficiency but also contribute to a more streamlined workflow.

In addition to its cost-saving benefits, Helioscope offers solar professionals a user-friendly experience when searching for products.

Searching for Products in Helioscope is Fast and Easy

Searching for products in Helioscope is a seamless and efficient process, allowing solar professionals to quickly find the necessary modules and inverters for their projects, saving them valuable time and effort. 

Product search is simple

With over 40,000 solar modules and over 10,000 inverters in their database, Helioscope provides a wide range of options to choose from. The search function is fast and easy to use, making it convenient for users to find specific products based on their requirements.

The search page in Helioscope provides results based on search terms that are inside product codes. This ensures accurate and relevant results for the user. For example, if a user searches for a specific module like 'Longi LR4-72HBD-425M,' the search page will display all relevant information about this module. This feature enables solar professionals to quickly identify the modules or inverters they need for their projects without wasting time scrolling through irrelevant options.

The fast and easy-to-use search function in Helioscope enhances the efficiency of solar professionals by eliminating unnecessary manual searching. 

By providing a comprehensive database of solar modules and inverters, Helioscope simplifies the product selection process and allows users to focus more on designing renewable energy facilities rather than spending excessive time on finding suitable components.

The Disadvantages of Using Helioscope

This section will discuss the disadvantages of using Helioscope.

The Proposal Designs Generated are pretty Basic

The proposal designs generated by Helioscope exhibit a basic level of sophistication, lacking in elements such as attachment of product datasheets and electronic signing of contracts.

The Designs are Pretty Basic

While the designs adequately present important information such as modules, inverters, system size, pricing, and estimated return on investment, they appear to prioritise content placement over visual appeal. This results in proposals that are functional but lack the aesthetic polish that is often expected in professional design.

Additionally, the absence of product datasheets as attachments limits the ability for potential clients to thoroughly review and evaluate the specifications and performance of the proposed products.

Furthermore, the lack of electronic signing capability in Helioscope's proposal designs hinders the efficiency and convenience of contract management. In today's digital age where electronic signatures have become commonplace in various industries, not having this feature can be seen as a drawback.

It requires additional steps for both parties involved to print out physical copies of contracts, sign them manually, and then scan or mail them back. This process can be time-consuming and may introduce unnecessary delays or potential errors.

The Accuracy of Helioscope's Calculations is Questionable

Helioscope's accuracy in estimation has been a subject of debate among solar installers, with concerns raised regarding the reliability of its calculations compared to other tools.

 Many installers emphasise the importance of accurate estimations to avoid over-promising customers while still presenting a favourable return on investment. However, there is conflicting information about Helioscope's accuracy.

Fortunately, a  study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in partnership with Helioscope presented contrasting results. 

The study assessed Helioscope's estimates on 85 roof locations, considering various factors such as slopes, rooftop obstructions, and surrounding trees that affect rooftop solar access values (SAVs).

According to the NREL study, Helioscope's estimated SAVs were compared with readings taken from Solmetric SunEye devices at physical roof locations. Statistical tests were used to evaluate the differences between Helioscope and SunEye readings. 

The results showed that Helioscope's calculated SAVs were statistically equivalent within certain ranges for different locations. In Los Angeles, they were statistically equivalent within ±3.12 SAVs, while in Denver they were within ±2.35 SAVs. Over the entire dataset for the 85 roof locations across three cities, including Camden, New Jersey sites, the SAV measurements calculated by Helioscope were statistically equivalent within ±1.3 SAVs

The Default Imagery isn't Great

One common issue faced by many solar design apps, like OpenSolar, is the poor quality of default imagery provided, which hinders accurate solar system designs. 

It has been observed that when using apps like Helioscope, users may not have access to clear and high-resolution views of their customers' properties due to the low-quality default imagery sourced from Google and Bing Maps. 

This limitation can significantly impact the precision and reliability of solar system designs.

As a solar installer, having crystal clear, high-definition images of prospects' properties is crucial for creating accurate designs. Unfortunately, Helioscope does not provide this feature in its package.

To overcome this challenge and obtain clearer and more detailed imagery for solar system designs in Helioscope, one option is to integrate Nearmap into the software.

What is Nearmap?

Nearmap is a visual imagery tool known for offering high-resolution photos of each house in most locations. By paying Nearmap directly for their services (which costs approximately $400 to $50,000 per year), solar installers can access the latest and best resolution photos available. 

Despite the additional cost involved, many solar installers consider this expense worthwhile as it allows them to create more accurate designs based on clearer and detailed property images.

The integration of Nearmap into Helioscope offers a solution to the problem of poor default imagery but does come at an extra cost. However, considering the importance of precise solar system designs in ensuring optimal performance and customer satisfaction, many solar installers find it beneficial to invest in Nearmap's services.

With clearer and higher-quality images available through Nearmap's integration with Helioscope, installers can enhance their design accuracy and meet customer expectations effectively.

Is Nearmap Worth the Investment?

Considering the potential for improved precision and customer satisfaction, the integration of Nearmap into solar design software offers a compelling solution to the challenge of poor default imagery. 

Nearmap provides high-resolution aerial visuals that allow solar designers to accurately assess rooftops and their surroundings. This level of detail enables more precise shading analysis and better understanding of potential obstructions, such as trees or nearby buildings.

By incorporating Nearmap's imagery into Helioscope, solar designers can make more informed decisions during the design process, resulting in higher quality system designs and increased customer satisfaction.

Furthermore, Nearmap's up-to-date imagery ensures that solar designers are working with current information when designing systems. This is particularly important as new construction projects arise or existing structures undergo changes over time. 

Nearmap vs Default images

With Nearmap, designers can access recent images that reflect any modifications made to rooftops or surrounding areas, avoiding inaccuracies caused by outdated default imagery. The detailed and current visuals provided by Nearmap offer a valuable resource for solar designers looking to maximise accuracy and efficiency in their workflow.

How Much Does Helioscope Cost?

Pricing for HelioScope's basic plan is $159 per month ($1,620 annually), providing users with unlimited project design capabilities. This plan offers a comprehensive range of features that make it a valuable tool for solar design professionals. With the basic plan, users have access to unlimited projects, allowing them to efficiently manage and design multiple solar installations.

The cost of the plan may seem relatively high at first glance, but when considering the benefits and capabilities it provides, it is a worthwhile investment. HelioScope's basic plan offers an array of tools and functionalities that enable users to optimise their solar designs. 

From easy-to-use interface to advanced shading analysis and energy production estimates, this software equips professionals with everything they need to create accurate and efficient solar system designs.

With unlimited projects included in the plan, users have the flexibility to work on multiple installations simultaneously without any additional costs or limitations. HelioScope's basic plan offers significant value for its price point of $159 per month ($1,620 annually). 

It provides users with unlimited project design capabilities and a wealth of features that streamline the solar design process. For professionals in the industry looking for an efficient and comprehensive software solution, HelioScope's basic plan is definitely worth considering.

My Conclusion

To conclude, while Helioscope offers useful tools for solar professionals, it does come with some limitations and may not be suitable for everyone. Its complex interface may pose challenges to beginners, and some advanced features are missing compared to other software options in the market. 

However, considering its customisable pricing plans and valuable analysis capabilities, Helioscope remains a viable choice for those seeking reliable solar design software solutions.

Shift from Website Woes to Solar Wins

At 99 Solutions Marketing, we specialise in helping solar companies overcome challenges in today's competitive market. Our tailored services include SEO and website development to drive business through your website.

Get a free comprehensive website audit to identify areas of improvement and untapped potential. With our proven strategies, we'll optimise your website for maximum visibility on search engines, attracting more potential customers. 

Enhance your online presence with a visually stunning and user-friendly website. Don't let your website hinder your solar company's growth. Contact our team for a free audit and unlock your solar business's true potential.

Claim Your Free E-book Today
(Limited Copies)
Groundbreaking Free E-book Reveals 4 Profit-Killing Online Marketing Mistakes that 99% of Solar Companies Make.

Transform these lessons into opportunities for your business. Grab your free Ebook now, correct these online marketing mistakes to potentially skyrocket your company's revenue by 50 to 80%. Seize success—download your guide today!
Send me my free Ebook now!

About Author

Bekani, founder of 99Solutions Marketing, seamlessly combines solar energy expertise with digital marketing acumen. Through compelling content, he simplifies concepts, motivates action, and communicates the tangible benefits of solar power.