SolarChecker Review

Switching to solar power to run your appliances and lighting is one way to green your kitchen, but if you live in an area where the gray days often outnumber the sunny ones, you may wonder whether or not a solar system is a practical solution for your home. You could call a contractor that specializes in the sale of solar panels, but there's always a chance that the person may try to push you toward a system, even if it may not be effective.

SMA, a manufacturer of inverters for solar systems, has created an app intended to help people decide whether or not it's wise to go solar. As I've been considering a solar system for years, I decided to download the app and give it a test-drive.

The Basics

- Available for any iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad with iOS 4.3 or later, not available for Android phones

- Free purchase here

- Languages include English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish

The Features

- Uses GPS to measure your compass location and estimate the pitch of your roof 

- Takes the measurements and uses weather history for your location to calculate an estimated solar energy yield

- Provides detailed information about the annual yield and the yield over 20 years

- Rate of Return calculator allows you to plug in the price of a solar system to determine what your annual savings would be, if any 

- Built-in installer database allows you to find contractors near your home

The Takeaway

I'm not sure if the problem with this app was it or me, but I found it challenging to use. The app opens right to the measurement page, and there were no real instructions on that page about what I needed to do to get my measurement. I found an info page in the app, but I didn't see instructions there either. In the end, I wasn't sure if my measurement was accurate or not.

I did find the Yield and Return pages to be very easy to use and informative, but since I wasn't sure if my data was correct, I couldn't trust the numbers I saw. While the Contact page was a good idea, the contractors that came up from my area were rather far from my home. A Google search showed there were several closer to me. I suspect this list only provides contractors who work with SMA.

Since this app is free, you have nothing to lose by downloading it and giving it a try, but I would recommend conducting some additional research, particularly when it comes to selecting a contractor.

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