Our Honest and Unsponsored Helioscope Review 2024

If you're considering HelioScope for your solar design needs in 2024? If you are, you've come to the right place. I've used HelioScope a lot and read countless user reviews. I'm here to give you an honest and detailed Helioscope review. Stay with me, and I'll cover everything you need to know to make an informed decision.
Our Rating Out of 5 =


June 12, 2024

An overview of Helioscope Software

Disclaimer: We are not affiliated with Helioscope in any way or are we getting compensated to write this review. 

This Helioscope review is our unbiased opinion of the software. We'll discuss its key features, benefits, and limitations. Helping you make an informed decision about using Helioscope into your solar design processes.

Helioscope is a web-based sales and design tool for solar professionals. It offers a blend of 3D design capabilities and energy yield simulation, providing holistic solar system planning and analysis. 

Developed by Folsom Labs, and now under the ownership of Aurora Solar. Helioscope combines the visual ease of solar design tools like SolarEdge with the technical precision of PV Sol. 

The software aims to simplify the design of PV Solar Systems and reduce installation costs. 

Praised for its user-friendly interface and accurate production estimates. Helioscope still raises some concerns with solar installers, which we’ll cover later.

What Kind of Solar Designs is Helioscope best suited for?

Helioscope excels in designing solar systems for :

  • large commercial buildings
  • industrial businesses
  • small utility systems
  •  solar farms

It's a great option for medium-sized companies that need quick and efficient production and shading reports.

Helioscope has a user-friendly interface and efficient features that cater to these needs. 

If you need designs for large buildings or solar farms, Helioscope has the tools. It makes the design process easier. It creates precise plans for your solar installations.

Pros of Helioscope

Helioscope offers many advantages to enhance your solar design experience. Let's discuss them now.

Helioscope Generates Fast Solar Designs

Helioscope integrates site layout and energy yield estimates. Allowing for the rapid generation of system designs and production models within minutes.

It enables users to rapidly create solar arrays of all sizes, especially large ones.

Helioscope quickly produces system sizes, module counts, bills of materials, and detailed production models. This efficiency streamlines your workflow and saves valuable time.

It's a great solar design tool for optimising your solar installations efficiently.

Helioscope is Easy to Use

Helioscope has a layout and wide range of tools that simplify the solar array design process. Making solar array designing more straightforward.

The software offers auto-layout modules, and electrical components. As well as Sketchup integration for advanced shade calculations.

Helioscope's simple layout enables users with limited experience in solar design to navigate the software.

The ease of use is highlighted by the ability to import 3D models from Google Sketchup into Helioscope.

Excellent Advanced Shade Modelling

Helioscope excels in advanced shade modelling, accurate energy yield predictions and design optimisation.

I found that Helioscope is great at :

  • row-to-row shading
  • obstruction shading
  • horizon shading
  • calculating shading impact on solar modules

These advanced modelling techniques enable users to make informed decisions to maximise the efficiency and productivity of solar arrays.

The detailed simulation of shading effects enhances the accuracy of energy yield predictions, ensuring that designs achieve peak performance.

Helioscope offer new users a 14-day free trial

Another handy advantage to highlight is that Helioscope offers a 14-day free trial for new users. Providing you with the opportunity to explore its capabilities hassle-free.

During this trial period, you can access the software's tools, support resources, and educational materials to gauge its effectiveness in streamlining solar project workflows.

To start your trial, sign up on HelioScope's website. Then, you'll gain immediate access to the platform.

This trial gives you hands-on experience with the software. As well as the quality of user support HelioScope offers. So you understand its benefits before buying.

Helioscope is easily accessible

Accessing Helioscope is easy because it's cloud-based. Meaning it's reachable using any modern internet browser. Allowing you to create solar PV designs from any device with an internet connection.

I think this is really handy because it  eliminates the need for installing software.

Unlike some other software options that are restricted to a single workstation. Helioscope's web app enables you to work on your designs from different devices.

Helioscope's Estimates are accurate

Helioscope's accurate estimations have become a significant advantage for users seeking reliable solar design solutions.

A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) provided some eye-opening insights about Helioscope’s estimates.

The NREL study evaluated Helioscope's estimates on 85 roof locations, comparing them with readings from Solmetric SunEye devices.

Statistical tests revealed that Helioscope's calculated Solar Access Values (SAVs) were equal within specific ranges across different locations. For instance, in Los Angeles, the estimates were within ±3.12 SAVs and ±2.35 SAVs in Denver.

Across the dataset, including sites in Camden, New Jersey, Helioscope's SAV 

Searching for products in Helioscope and using Helioscope is simple

Finding products in Helioscope is easy.

This is due to its extensive database and interface. With over 40,000 solar modules and 10,000 inverters in its database. Helioscope offers a wide selection for quick product identification.

The fast and easy-to-use search function makes finding specific components easy.

While the menu in each designing section improves usability, providing intuitive tools for specifying physical dimensions and field segment settings.

Viewing 3D designs from various angles aids in visualising projects. The availability of metrics and reports allows for system performance evaluation.

Helioscope's ease of use not only streamlines the design process but also contributes to significant soft-cost savings by reducing installation expenses.

Disadvantages of Helioscope

Now that we've talked about the benefits of using Helioscope for your solar design needs.  Let's look at some downsides to ensure you have a complete picture before moving forward.

The promised training webinars are not available 

Another significant drawback of HelioScope is the outdated training resources they offer.

On HelioScope's website they promise that 'several training webinars are coming up' to help new users learn to use the tool.

But, on the training page, there are no live or recently recorded webinars available. The most recent training videos available are four years ago.

This is a major issue because training videos from four years ago are likely outdated. Missing important updates and features that it had since then.

So you might find that these old training videos may not entirely be applicable to the current version of Helioscope. 

Which can be frustrating - especially after investing in a paid licence.

The lack of live training sessions also raises other concerns. 

It suggests a lack of ongoing support and engagement offered by HelioScope. 

In the solar industry having precise and up-to-date knowledge is crucial. 

So this drawback can be a significant because you’ need reliable and relevant training to get the most use out of the tool.

Helioscope's Default Images aren't Great

One drawback of Helioscope is the subpar quality of default imagery provided. Which can negatively impact the accuracy of solar system designs.

This is because Helioscope sources low-resolution images from Google and Bing maps by default. 

Here’s an image that I got from Helioscope:

As you can see, it’s not great. 

This limitation can hinder your ability to create precise and reliable designs. As clear visuals of your clients' roofs are essential to designing accurate solar systems.

Here's a way to overcome this limitation:

Use Nearmap (a high-res visual imagery tool) with Helioscope for clearer images of your client’s roofs. 

Look at the image below(from nearmap) and compare it to the image taken from Helioscope that's above

Can you notice the difference?

By using higher-quality images, you can improve the quality and accuracy of your solar system designs. Ensuring better outcomes for your projects.

If you want to learn more about Nearmap click here to skip to the section discussing Nearmap

You'll need to use other design tools with Helioscope to get the most use out of it

To maximise Helioscope, you'll probably need to use extra design tools alongside it

But why is this the case?

This ie because Helioscope provides basic and intermediate solar design features. But, it falls short in advanced functionalities available in other software.

For detailed engineering analyses and optimisation, you may need supplementary tools like PVSyst for complex shading analysis and temperature effect modelling.

Helioscope's limitations in areas such as spectral analysis can hinder the depth of your solar designs.

Integrating it with more specialised software can enhance the accuracy of your projects. Ensuring thorough planning and optimisation for solar installations.

Helioscope vs. Its Competitors

Let's explore some of the alternative solar design tools to Helioscope and what features they bring to the table:

What are the Top Rated Alternatives to Helioscope

Here are the 4 top-rated solar design tools as alternatives to Helioscope:

Now, let's discuss the key features offered by these tools:


Pylon stands out as an intuitive solar design software.

Here's a list of some of the key features that Pylon offers users:

  • Quick proposal creation
  • High-resolution imagery viewing capabilities. 
  • Pylon's 3D Solar Shading toolkit that tracks shading impacts year-round. 
  • load profile and interval data analysis features to help understand customer consumption patterns. 
  • Interactive proposals and eSignatures
  • Pylon integrates with solar CRMs for organised lead management.


OpenSolar is also a versatile alternative solar design software. Here are some key features that OpenSolar offers users:

  • Fast, simple, and accurate 3D design tool for reliable and bankable proposals
  • Interactive proposals
  • Real-time finance approvals
  • CRM integration
  • Comprehensive hardware catalogue

OpenSolar provides a complete solution for streamlined solar project management.

Lyra Solar

Lyra Solar is also another alternative to Helioscope. Here are some key features that Lyra Solar offers users:

  • Quick and cost-effective creation of permit-ready residential solar designs
  • Easy export of ready-to-submit permit packages with a click
  • Affordable starting price of $49
  • Intuitive interface suitable for both novices and experienced professionals
  • Free usage option

4. PVsyst

PVsyst offers engineers, architects, and researchers a comprehensive solar design software. Here are some key features that PVsyst offers its users:

  • Contextual Help menu explaining models and procedures
  • Ability to import data from various sources
  • Tools for complex grid system storage
  • Versatility for different strategies and configurations for PV systems

Which Solar design software is Better, PVsyst or HelioScope?

When considering solar design software options, Helioscope stands out in the market due to its user-friendly interface and efficiency in planning and optimising solar installations. 

On the other hand, PVsyst is favoured for bankability analyses and acceptance testing, with stakeholder confidence in its results. 

While Helioscope offers accurate production estimates and easy-to-use software, PVsyst has gained industry trust over its long history, providing reliable energy models for financial assessments. 

The experience and institutional learning associated with PVsyst contribute to its widespread adoption in the solar project investment community. 

Ultimately, the choice between Helioscope and PVsyst may depend on specific project requirements, user familiarity, and the need for precise energy modelling for efficient solar system design and performance.

What is the difference between Helioscope and PVWatts?

Helioscope and PVWatts differ significantly in their approach to solar system performance estimation and the level of detail in their calculations. 

Helioscope utilises a bottoms-up simulation. 

Considering module-level calculations of sunlight and module physics. 

As well as, specific modules and inverters with unique efficiency and thermal behaviour. 

In addition to adjustments for low-light performance, row-to-row spacing, and obstruction shading. 

In contrast, PVWatts offers a top-down estimate. This is based on a system nameplate without specific module or inverter components. With most loss factors defined by user-input derates. 

PVWatts includes additional loss parameters for light-induced degradation and system availability. 

Helioscope's detailed calculations provide a more thorough and tailored approach to solar system performance estimation compared to the more generalised approach of PVWatts.

Key Features and Capabilities of Helioscope

Let's talk about the key features that make Helioscope stand out. 

 Helioscope has Comprehensive and Accurate Estimation Tools

With its detailed and precise estimation tools, Helioscope gives users the necessary features to design accurate and efficient solar installations.

The software's simplified functionality enables you to outline your desired solar system area and automate calculations.

Helioscope offers various specifications for selecting solar modules, such as azimuth, racking type, module height, and row spacing.

Custom Layouts

For easy adjustments to physical dimensions and setback settings, users can create custom layouts tailored to their project requirements.

This level of detail and accuracy in estimation tools improves the solar system design process.

Helioscope has advanced mapping and layout tools

Helioscope's advanced mapping and layout tools, such as the keepout areas feature, offer precise control over where solar panels can be placed on a structure. 

Helioscope’s Keepout Feature is Great

The keepout feature allows you to strategically restrict module placement within your layouts.

By defining zones where modules cannot be placed. You can ensure that you avoid including obstructions like A/C units, skylights, shaded areas, or inverter pads in your solar design.

You can easily create these areas on the map, adjust setbacks or heights if necessary, and observe the impact on module layout with a simple key command.

Accurate Report and Simulation Generation

An essential aspect of Helioscope is its capability to generate precise reports and simulations for solar panel installations.

This provides installers with valuable insights and data for project evaluation and planning.

These reports include 3D design, electric, and mechanical schemes, offering a thorough view of the planned solar system.

By simulating design schemes and shading scenarios, Helioscope enables users to assess monthly production estimates and sources of system loss effectively.

Through these detailed reports, users can make informed decisions, optimise system performance, and guarantee the efficiency of their solar installations.

This feature is a pivotal tool in the evaluation and planning stages. It enhances the overall success and reliability of solar projects.

Helioscope has An Easy-to-Use User Interface

Helioscope has a simple user interface.

This empowers users to create detailed solar installations with just a few clicks, enhancing workflow efficiency.

Even beginners can use Helioscope's basic features with ease. I think that this makes it a useful design tool. This is especially true if you aren't tech-savvy.

HelioScope's Pricing in 2024

You're in for a pricing update with HelioScope in 2024.

There are three pricing plans you need to know about to make an informed decision.

Let's break them down to see what suits your needs best.

HelioScope's Basic Plan

  • Cost: $159 per month per licence
  • Designed For: Small teams
  • User Limit: 1 user
  • Project Limit: Up to 10 projects monthly
  • Key Features:some text
    • Site Modelling
    • Bankable Simulations
    • CAD Export
    • 50,000-component library

Ideal For: Those seeking efficient solar project design at an affordable price.

HelioScope's Pro Plan

  • Cost: $259 per month per licence
  • Designed For: Growing teams
  • User Limit: 1 user per licence
  • Project Limit: Up to 10 projects monthly
  • Key Features:some text
    • LIDAR-assisted Modelling
    • Utility Rate Editor
    • Financial Analysis Tools
    • Customisable Reports & Sales Proposals

Ideal For: Enhancing productivity and project management capabilities.

 Helioscope's Custom Plan

  • Cost: Custom pricing
  • Designed For: Unique solar project requirements
  • User Limit: Varies based on customisation
  • Project Limit: Varies based on customisation

Key Features:

  • Personalised solutions for specific solar projects
  • Flexibility and customisation to meet individual needs
  • Optimisation for maximum efficiency and performance

Ideal For: Achieving tailored solar system design to project specifications.

Additional costs needed 

To overcome the limitations of the low-quality default imagery offered in Helioscope, consider using Nearmap with Helioscope.

By combining Helioscope with Nearmap, you gain access to high-resolution aerial imagery, enabling you to create more accurate and visually appealing solar system designs.

This will improve your design process, providing clearer views of your customers' properties and improving the overall precision of your solar installations.

How much does Nearmap cost and is it worth it?

Nearmaps services range from $400 to $50,000 per year. 

The advantage of investing in a Nearmap licence is access to the latest and highest resolution imagery for your solar designs.

Integrating Nearmap with HelioScope allows for seamless incorporation of high-resolution images into your designs, ensuring clearer visuals and improved accuracy. 

Although this integration incurs additional costs, the benefits of creating more precise solar layouts based on detailed property images often justify the expense.

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About Author

Bekani Thulani

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.