As solar energy gains popularity among residential and commercial users, the number of of installation companies has also soared in response to the demand. However, not all solar installers are the same in terms of expertise level, workmanship, and customer service.
Here are suggestions to help you choose a reputable solar installation company:
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 many reviews, especially those found in marketing websites, that are fabricated and misleading. Reviews by actual customers – through references provided by the company – are another great way to see which companies have created satisfactory experiences for their clients, and which have received complaints.
Ask not just a single company but several companies in your area for a free quote. 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. On top of comparing prices, a quote request can give you peek into an installer’s responsiveness and how a project with them is likely to play out.
Brand and Design
The solar company must be able to tell you the different solar panel brands they install, and explain each one’s pros and cons. 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. As well, a workmanship or product warranty may be provided by the installer for laminate, glass and other panel components. Inverter warranties for central inverters can cover from five to ten years, while microinverters can have warranties lasting up to 25 years.
One of America’s most highly esteemed certification bodies for solar PV and solar heating companies is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Count the relatively new and consumer-powered Pre-Screened Solar Pro and good old Better Business Bureau (BBB).
Level of Commitment
The consultation process is your best chance to assess the installer’s expertise, sincerity, professionalism, responsiveness and ability to communicate with you in terms you understand. 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 example, one can enter into a power-purchase agreement (PPA) or a solar lease agreement, get a home equity loan or apply for Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing. In any case, a good solar installer will always be happy to present all options that are available to you.