In this article, we're going to give you a completely unbiased and transparent OpenSolar review. In case you didn't know what OpenSolar is, it is one of the leading solar design and sales software tools built for solar installers all over the world.
In this post we’re going to cover what OpenSolar is, its features and whether you should use it for your design process.
OpenSolar is one of the only free solar design applications on the market that allows solar professionals to do all the essential processes, like solar system design, sales, installation, service, financing and billing all in one place. OpenSolar has many useful features that enable solar retailers and installers to do their job easier.
One of OpenSolar’s most notable functionalities is the ability to determine roof geometry accurately, giving solar professionals the ability to produce precise designs without too much hassle.
Although OpenSolar positions itself as a ‘Solar design tool’, it’s more than just that. It comes with various sales and customer management tools that help salespeople communicate with prospects better. OpenSolar gives sales reps the ability to build custom PDF proposals and presentations on the go, enhancing their customer communications and delivering more persuasive proposals.
Since OpenSolar is free (for the most part) I’d say it’s worth opening an account, having it on hand and trying it out even if you’re not going to use it consistently.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the tool, let's dive into some of the advantages and disadvantages of using OpenSolar.
There are many advantages of using OpenSolar but unlike everyone, I’m just going to talk about the advantages that will actually benefit you as a solar installer. While there are numerous advantages of using OpenSolar, I'll focus on the specific benefits that are particularly advantageous for you as a solar installer:
OpenSolar offers a free license plan (it has some limitations which we’ll go into later). However, from a surface-level view, I think that the free plan is a great touch because it can significantly reduce your expenses while also allowing you to access essential features needed to take on new installations without breaking the bank.
As a solar professional, having the ability to draw and map out high-quality 3D images is crucial. OpenSolar provides you with the tools to create detailed visual representations, simplifying the process of designing and planning solar systems. This is a great feature, especially if you’re planning on selling solar remotely.
Another thing that I like about OpenSolar is that it includes an integrated sales tool designed to streamline your sales process. This feature empowers solar professionals to swiftly generate comprehensive solar proposals, even while on the move. It saves valuable time and ensures a more efficient workflow.
This capability enhances your customer service by providing prompt and personalised proposals tailored to each client's specific requirements. It contributes to a smoother and more satisfying sales experience.
By leveraging OpenSolar's free version, harnessing its 3D visualisation capabilities, utilising the in-built sales tool, and enabling instant proposal generation, you can optimise your solar installation business and offer an enhanced service to your customers.
Here are a few things I don’t like about OpenSolar:
Remember when I mentioned that OpenSolar is generally "free"? Well, there's a catch. If you opt for the free version of OpenSolar, you'll be limited to using Google Maps as your mapping service. At first, you might think, "That doesn't sound too bad." However, let me enlighten you on why it's actually a massive drawback.
When you're in the business of designing solar panels for your customer's homes, it's essential to have a clear view of their properties. You need accurate information about their roofs and the surrounding areas in order to provide the most precise quotes and design the best possible solar systems for their specific needs. In such cases, relying on Google Maps won't cut it. You require a map provider that excels at delivering up-to-date aerial views.
That's where Nearmap comes into play, albeit at a cost. Nearmap is a remarkable tool that offers incredibly high-quality aerial pictures and maps. They deploy planes to capture detailed aerial photos of various locations worldwide. What sets Nearmap apart is its dedication to updating its image database every year, ensuring that the information is always current. This makes it the perfect imaging solution for solar installers like yourself.
To illustrate the stark disparity between the two options, let's compare the aerial images produced by Google Maps and Nearmap. The image from Google Maps appears on the left side of the screen, while the Nearmap image is on the right.
When you compare these images, the difference is striking. It's like comparing night and day. The Google Maps image lacks clarity and appears pixelated, whereas the Nearmap-generated image is incredibly detailed and precise. This discrepancy can significantly impact how you present your proposals and designs to potential clients.
If you want to maximize the benefits of OpenSolar, you're going to have to invest in a Nearmap licence, which is approximately $250 at the time of writing this. Now, let's get back to discussing the drawbacks of OpenSolar.
While OpenSolar is undeniably a powerful tool for solar professionals, offering a wide range of features and capabilities. However, it's important to acknowledge that OpenSolar comes with a relatively steep learning curve. Here are some factors that contribute to this:
OpenSolar is packed with an extensive set of features and tools that cater to the complex needs of solar professionals. While this is advantageous in terms of functionality, it also means that mastering all the intricacies of the platform requires time and effort.
Now that you know the pros and cons of OpenSolar, you might be wondering what to do next. Should you stick with OpenSolar or try other solar design tools like Pylon or Aurora?
Well, it depends on your situation. If you're a new solar company or a startup trying to save money, I suggest using OpenSolar's free plan. Just keep in mind that the image quality might not be the best for presentations, so be cautious when using it for proposals.
However, if you have the funds available, I highly recommend using OpenSolar with the NearMap integration. This combination will give you the most benefits. You'll be able to take full advantage of OpenSolar's features while also benefiting from the high-quality imagery provided by NearMap. It'll make your solar designs and presentations much more impressive.