Ten Tips for Choosing the Right Solar Installer in the United States (Part II)

Written by:

Last week, I discussed some of the top tips for choosing the right solar installer for your home or business project. The top reasons included making sure that your solar installer has been certified, that the solar installer (as well as it subcontractors – if any) maintains the proper insurance/licenses to  a solar installation, and checking for any references with the Better Business Bureau. Now, I’d like to finish off the top tips for hiring the best solar installer for your project:

5. Location, location, location: Where is the solar installer location in relation to the building you’re looking to put solar on?  This not only determines the cost of the solar installer but also how familiar they are with your area.  It is crucial for the solar installer to know your area so they are privy to applicable local codes and typical weather patterns and also so that they can help with the maintenance of your solar system down the road.  It’s also easier to review references and physically look at the solar installer’s prior work if they operate near where you are.

6. Payment Options:  Request multiple competitive bids for your solar system and that make sure that each bid explicitly indicates what the payback and the monthly savings on your electric bill will be.  Make sure that it is clear how much of your electricity needs will be coming from solar and that you factor this when comparing bids as a solar system that provides 50% of your power needs will be cheaper than one that provides 90%.  Also, ask whether on-going maintenance is included in the cost of your solar system or whether that is an additional charge.  Your solar installer (or the sales rep) should be fluent on the different financing options (ie. out right purchase, lease, power purchase agreement) available and they should explain how any financing costs with impact the monthly savings on your electric bills resulting from solar power.  You need to feel totally comfortable that economically it makes sense in the short term and long terms for you to investment in solar.

7. Brands Used: Make sure your installer is familiar with the brand of solar panel they are installing.  There is nothing more nerve-wracking than being a guinea pig so make sure you verify with your solar installer which brands they prefer using and why.  NABCEP can help you identify which models and brands your installer is certified to use.

8. Warranty: As with any product you buy, always check the warranty. Since solar panels take about 5 to 10 years to payback, the warranty should at least be 10 years. This includes the overall warranty of the system (which generally is 20 to 25 years) and the warranty that ensures that the solar installer will fix your panels should anything malfunction (typically for about 5 years).

9. Overall Impression: Do you feel confident with this solar installer?  Are you satisfied with their answers to your questions and how quickly they responded?  How responsive was their customer service representatives to your questions and were you comfortable with their responses?  You should harbor no doubts or confusion before committing to a solar installer.  This is particularly important as installing solar power is a big deal and the solar installer you pick needs to be more than just someone doing work on your home, they should be a partner to help make sure that your investment into solar is easy, long lasting and financially worthwhile.  In the end, beyond the assurances of experience and certification, only you can decide whether this solar installer “feels” like the right choice.

10. Get Help Finding Solar Installers: Solar Energy matching services can also take much of the guess work out of selecting a solar installer.  There are several free matching services that connect you with pre-selected and highly reputable solar installers based.  The process is simple: you provide basic information on your location and project type and within minutes or up to 1-2 business days the qualified solar installers will contact you to bid on your project.  These services have saved homeowners time and the headache of dealing with poor quality installers. For example, see www.solaramerica.com.