All About Solar


Key Differences Between Residential and Commercial Rooftop Solar

What are the core differences in serving residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) solar markets as a solar contractor? If you’ve ever thought about expanding your residential solar contracting work to serve commercial customers as well, you might find it helpful to understand what these sectors have in common and where they diverge.

  1. C&I solar projects take longer

Comparing to commercial solar, residential solar project is a quicker process. As far as determining the size of the system, calculating the financial benefits, and actually getting it installed, it typically takes from 4 weeks to 12 weeks.

For the commercial solar, it is typically a longer process for people to involve with. It could take from 6 moths to a year to complete a project. One main reason is the permitting complexity, which is different and usually more than residential solar.

  1. Commercial projects are more technical

Increased technical complexity is another important factor that differentiates commercial solar contracting. In terms of designing a residential and commercial solar project, residential is fairly more straightforward due to the smaller scale. It is also easier to identify the technical issues and suggest a cost-effective solution for residential solar project in shorter period.

However, when it comes to commercial project, there are much more technical concepts involved. For example, you may require a different type of inverter to carry on a larger scale of solar project. Basically, all technical considerations get more complex when you transit from residential to commercial.

  1. Commercial projects have higher costs, but lower cost per watt

Another key difference between residential and commercial solar projects is in the costs. While it’s intuitive that the price tag of a large C&I project will be greater than for a small residential solar system, some particular aspects of C&I projects typically come with much higher costs.

Despite the high cost, a developer can end up saving money on a cost per watt basis for a commercial solar project installation due to some of the set costs for both residential and commercial solar.

  1. Financing for commercial solar projects is less accessible

A final important difference between residential and C&I solar relates to financing. It is usually easier to access financing for the residential solar project.

For residential solar, financing options have been developed maturely whereas the C&I sector is not as developed. Despite that, there are more and more ways to start financing your commercial projects by joint venture, engage in relationship with banks, and seek for solar loan.

  1. Operation and maintenance

Commercial and residential solar panel systems vary in size and in the specifics of the installation. As a result, the logistics behind your O&M plan depend on whether your system is a small-scale rooftop system or large commercial project.

Plans for larger commercial projects tend to focus more on preventative strategies, while rooftop installations are typically more “reactive.” This is due in part to commercial properties being able to handle regular truck visits from solar maintenance crews. Additionally, residential systems are typically much smaller, and in the event of a problem, a small crew can be easily dispatched by an O&M company to repair that system. Conversely, an issue with a commercial system can take up more resources on the service company’s end.


Reference: Aurora Solar, Energy Sage