To hire or NOT to hire; Energy Consultants save you more than money; but is it worth their price tag?

Shopping for solar equipment; the REAL cost of doing it yourself vs. hiring an energy consultant.

A lot of small business property owners may convince themselves that they haven’t a need for hiring an energy consultant to take lead of their renewable energy project.  Some believe the price of entering into a paid contract will not outweigh the benefits they will re-coup on their energy investment.  However, unless you’re an avid “do it yourself-er”, then one must ask… what is the price of my time, aggravation and uncertainty?  What does my business lose as a result of my time away from it in order to independently shop for a solar or other renewable energy purchase?  And just what is your time worth… literally?  $50, $100, per hour, or more?  Remember, if you don’t pay an energy consultant to do the job, then you’re going to have to pay yourself to accomplish the task.

Let’s do a little math to calculate what it may cost you, (in time) to do the shopping yourself.  We’ll begin by using a price quote example; say an energy consulting contract for a small to medium business comes in at a price tag of $5,000.  Now, let’s take that $5,000 contract price and divide your hourly wage into that:  Let’s use the hourly pay scale from above:

  • $5,000 divided by $50 (hourly wage) = 100 hours of your time, or twelve & 1/2 days.
  • $5,000 divided by $100 (hourly wage) = 50 hours of your time, or eight days.

As you can see from above, we have just figured how many hours it takes to pay yourself to fulfill a $5,000 contract. Not bad to do it yourself… so far. But wait, this estimate does not include the cost of time AWAY from your business; that is, what’s lost in productivity, administration and lost earning potential?  What will this cost you; $400 a day, $800 a day? For example:

  • $50 hourly wage times 8 hours a day = $400 lost earning potential per day
  • $100 hourly wage times 8 hours a day = $800 lost earning potential per day

Now we have some figures to estimate the cost of doing it yourself vs. hiring an energy consultant.

  • $400 daily lost earning potential times 8 work days = $3,200
  • $800 daily lost earning potential times 12.5 work days = $10,000

Remember, this is just the SUB-TOTAL of what is lost in productivity, and it doesn’t yet include what you must pay yourself to research shopping for your energy project, which is $5000.  For a grand total, simply add this $5,000 in addition to the $3,200 or $10,000 figures I just cited.  Now we’re looking at $8,200 and $15,000 respectively of what it may cost you to become a “do it yourselfer”.  Not so cheap anymore is it?

If you still want to do it yourself, then great.  But what will you save besides money?  Energy consultants save you more than money; energy consultants have:

  • Long-standing and reputable contacts on the “inside track” to which you have no immediate access.
  • Years of expertise in their industry distinguishing between quality and grade of materials, equipment, services and warranties.
  • Years of experience gathering data and feasibility analysis to make sure your project is financially feasible and maximally productive.
  • The ability to locate appropriate financing and negotiate the terms of your contract and equipment pricing to SAVE you money.
  • Leadership that safe-ports your project so you enjoy the ride stress free and without gambling your project to unknown risks.

But you ask… what if my project is elementary in nature?  What if I’ve already implemented energy efficiency measures?  What if my business doesn’t utilize a lot of complicated or inter-connected energy systems that merit an in depth analysis and feasibility study?

It’s true, some business may not require the “due diligence” that other business must consider; it is the nature of your business that will truly justify whether in depth analysis is necessary.  If you’ve done your homework and feel confident about what you’re doing, then perhaps your money is better spent elsewhere other than energy consulting.  However, there’s no harm in inquiring with a reputable energy consultant.  Pickup the phone… usually they’ll give you a complimentary amount of consultation time free of charge, or for a small fee.   Another way to locate advice is to contact your local utility company.  Most utility companies have a customer service representative assigned to your area, including your specific industry.  Give them a call and explain your circumstance; they’ll give you an unbiased opinion as to whether or not your business could benefit from the services of an energy consultant.

So now, when you approach your energy project with both feet forward, you might ask yourself… “What have I gained by doing it myself, and what have I lost by doing it myself?


Article by Jennifer Coleman of Sun Source Solar Brokers, a solar brokerage and energy consulting business serving Sonoma Marin and Napa counties, including the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Sun Source Solar Brokers
525 East Cotati Avenue, #220
Cotati, California 94931