Solar Estimator Shows How AI Will Transform Residential Photovoltaic Installations

December 16, 2019 by Paul Shepard

SolarReviews has released a solar estimator using artificial intelligence (AI) on its website. Also referred to as a 'solar calculator,' the cutting-edge software completely changes the way homeowners buy solar power. According to SolarReviews there have been many startups founded in recent years that have aimed to use AI in hopes to revolutionize various sectors of the home improvement industry, but this is the first polished output that truly achieves that goal.

The image above represents how Solar-Estimate's artificial intelligence interprets a typical roof. This interpretation shows how the AI can differentiate between the different segments of a roof as well as the direction each segment faces.

This product has emerged in a sector that is arguably the most difficult to generate online estimates for. Solar panel power output varies due to the specific characteristics of each roof, which include direction, angle, and available roof space. Once the panel layout is created for a specific roof, there is still the issue of several-thousand electric utility companies with even more rate plans to take into consideration.

Accounting for all of these factors is extremely complex and has meant that, to date, a consumer could not find the solar savings potential of their home unless they spoke to a solar company. This is no longer necessary, as a consumer using Solar-Estimate can generate an accurate estimate simply by entering their address and the dollar amount of their most recent power bill. It is amazingly simple, given the complexity of the factors that need to be measured.

With the new home solar estimator, machine-learned artificial intelligence has been utilized to measure each individual roof and determine roof plane direction. An in-house-developed algorithm was then used to fill the appropriate parts of each roof with solar panels in a particular order, favoring areas that offered the most energy output potential with the least amount of shading.

The tool is groundbreaking not only for what it does for the solar industry, but the way in which it shows other AI developers how they should be bringing their technology to market. However, it's near-impossible for an AI to deliver a perfect result 100% of the time.

Presenting faulty automated results to prospective customers brings down conversion rates and ultimately results in financial loss. Because of this, the integration of AI into home improvement calls to action has been nearly non-existent. Solar-Estimate has addressed this concern by putting a backup plan into place.

In the event that the calculator detects a faulty automated result, the user is presented with a manual solar panel layout option - instead of being given incorrect information. Nothing fails from the user's point of view, and they can seamlessly continue through the rest of the estimation process.

Meanwhile, the faulty result is then passed back to to further train the machine learning "brain" via supervised learning. This continuously improves the calculator's AI opening the door for greater accuracy and the possibility of additional use cases.

"Solar-Estimate's new Solar Panel Layout Tool is trailblazing on several fronts. It's the first online roof layout tool that incorporates machine learning. It requires less knowledge than any professional tool to use. It's also the first free tool available to consumers that takes into account roof direction and angle, determines how many panels can fit on their roof, and then generates an accurate financial estimate," Andrew Sendy, President, Solar-Estimate