How to Find a Good Solar Installer
As solar energy becomes increasingly popular among residential and business consumers, about and about installation companies have also cropped up to satisfy the demand. However, not all solar installers are the same in terms of expertise level, workmanship, and customer service.
Here are some tips to help you find a competent and reliable solar installer:
Personal Referrals and Reviews
A smart way to begin looking is by asking for personal recommendations from relatives and friends, neighbors and colleagues who can tell you about their experiences with local installers. Online reviews are also good to read, but make sure your sources are credible. There are now so many reviews that are fake and meant to deceive readers, especially those that are published in marketing websites. Reviews written by actual customers – via references given by the company itself – are another good way of knowing which companies are worth a look or not.
Ask for a free quote not only from one company but from many in your area. Such quotes will usually be based on your present electricity usage and local electricity rates, which help you decide how much energy you should offset. Besides comparing prices, a quote request can tell you how responsive an installer is, and may give you a hint of how hiring them will likely proceed Apart from comparing prices, a quote request can show you how responsive a solar company is, and may provide indicators of how a project with them will probably turn out.
Brand and Design
The solar company should be able to tell you the various brands of solar panels they install, and explain the advantages and disadvantages of each. They should listen carefully as you tell them your solar needs and concerns, before recommending the solution that best suits your taste, budget, lifestyle, and target electric output.
A typical power output or performance warranty for solar panels is good for 25 to 35 years. A solar company may also offer a product or workmanship warranty for other components of the panel, such as laminate and backing. Inverter warranties can be good for 25 years for microinverters and 5-10 years for central inverters.
In the U.S., the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is among the most esteemed certification programs for solar PV and solar heating companies. Two others are the relatively new and consumer-driven Pre-Screened Solar Pro, and of course, The Better Business Bureau (BBB).
During the consultation process, gauge the company’s knowledge, helpfulness, ability to speak in layman’s terms, professionalism and responsiveness. All of these give you a picture of the quality of treatment you will receive from them after you have signed the contract.
As the upfront cost of a solar installation is usually too high for the average consumer, different financing options have been introduced. For instance, one can obtain a home equity loan or apply for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing, the rules of which vary from state to state. In any case, you can expect a good solar installer to explain each option, depending on what are available to you.