How to Choose a Solar Company You Can Trust
10 Important Things to Look for when Choosing a Solar Company
You’re convinced. You know that solar saves money, makes a positive environmental impact, is reliable, and you’re ready to go solar!
But….how do you get started? Start by choosing a solar company that delivers long-term value.
Solar is a big purchase. You should settle for nothing less than a trustworthy installer that performs a high-quality solar installation of reliable, equipment, and who will provide long-term customer care, with a rock-solid warranty.
If you follow these tips when evaluating a solar company, you can be confident that your solar installation is a long-term, headache-free, profitable investment.
Not all solar equipment is created equal. As with many other things in life, you get what you pay for. Higher quality equipment may cost more up front, but the difference will be better power-production, leading to higher, longer-lasting savings.
Look for tier-1 equipment, and evaluate the pros and cons of installing older technology such as a string inverter vs. using newer, more reliable micro-inverters. Your system will last longer, and experience less degradation and down time in the long run, meaning less cost and headache for you!
Solar System Warranty & Service
Look for a Strong Warranty
A strong warranty is a good sign that the company is selling trustworthy products. You need a warranty for more than just the solar panels! Make sure you’re getting long-term warranties for the 3 components of your installation including:
- The panels
- The inverter or microinverters
- Labor and workmanship
A 25-YEAR WARRANTY covering SOLAR PANELS, MICROINVERTERS (or inverters) and LABOR means you can expect worry-free power production for 25 years. If a warranty only covers the panels, you may face expensive inverter replacement and labor costs down the line!
Evaluate the Company’s Service
As what happens if your system under performs. Does the company offer remote monitoring? You’ll feel confident with a company that remotely monitors and proactively troubleshoots anything that compromises your power production. (Tip: The best way to find out if a company handles issues well is to ask to speak with a customer who has had issues.)
An Honest Company that’s Willing to Say “No”
Solar is not viable in every situation. Under some conditions, solar panels can not produce the amount of power needed. Solar experts should inspect the area around your home for trees and other obstructions. You should never feel pressured into making a decision that is not financially sound. The company should be able to prove that they’ve provided verifiable data that will demonstrate that solar is a financially sound decision for your situation.
Your solar salesperson should be able to answer all your questions, and spend the time to explain the details of your quote. In order to make a good decision, you should understand what you should expect to spend in any given month, how much that amount might vary (due to weather, time of year and other factors) and this data should be verifiable through third-party sources. PV Watts is a common third-party tool a company can use to demonstrate independently verifiable data about your proposed system.
Scope of Services Offered
Oftentimes, a solar installation is only part of the upgrades you’re making to your home. For instance, you may find your roof space is not adequate to provide enough electricity for your home. Some solar companies also offer architecture and construction. A company with such resources can help creatively problem-solve, creating solutions such as pergolas, garages, long-lasting ground mounts and more.
Contractors vs. In-House Expertise
Look for a company with in-house expertise to manage your solar installation. A team that works together can better manage quality control, scheduling, and will able to react more quickly and efficiently to situations that arise. Ask if the company you are speaking with has a structural engineer, electrician, architect, and long-term customer care team in-house. If they do, it’s a good sign that your installation will be managed efficiently and professionally.
Structural Integrity of the Installation – Don’t put yourself at risk
One common difference between solar companies is the integrity of the structural analysis and reinforcement offered. Some solar companies will pass a project to meet minimum structural standards, while others take extra measures to adhere to high safety and structural standards. You’ll want to be sure the roof is safe over your family’s head during high-winds and other major events. Ground mounts also require solid piers to stand up to weather and settling soil.
Beware the company that asks you to sign a waiver about the structural integrity. Unfortunately, some installers cut corners by using outdated codes to pass an installation. Paying a little bit up front can save you money, your property, and even the risk of injury or worse, should your roof collapse on top of your family because the structure was not properly reinforced.
Ask if the structural engineer works locally or in another state. Will the structural engineer actually visit the home to make their own observations and measurements? Does the structural engineer design for current code requirements, or do they use grandfathered codes to get the project passed? If your installation was a new build, would your roof still be allowed? In other words, is the contractor designing a minimally accepted system or one that fits the highest standards?
A solar installation should be as beautiful as it is beneficial! Ask to see photos of installations, and pay attention to the layout of the panels, and if you see unsightly exposed wiring or conduit. Also, look at how high above the roof the installation extends. Some solar companies use lower-profile railing systems, adding to an attractive installation.
Evaluate the Company
How long has the company been around? What are its’ BBB ratings? How many employees does the company have? Will the company be around to honor its promised warranties? Does the company rent or own their building? A company that owns its building means they are making a long term investment in our city…it is a good reflection of their future plans.
Also, don’t forget to make sure the company has the expertise to perform a good installation. Here are some questions to ask:
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you local to my area?
- Can you tell me about local incentives? Will your company help me through the application process?
- Do you hire sub-contractors, or do you have an in-house team to handle all aspects of my installation?
Trust a Solar Company that Walks the Walk
A solar company with a solar-powered building demonstrates that the company is dedicated to sustainable energy. Look for hybrid or electric company cars and a physical location you can visit. Extra bonus points if the business runs on solar!
Referrals and Reviews
Of course, a solar company will tell you they’re great, but customer reviews can often paint the true story. Visit the company’s Facebook page and Google profile to see what actual customers have to say about their experiences.
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More Solar 101 Articles:
- Solar 101: Can I Afford to Go Solar? – Learn about financing options and your expected return on investment.
- Solar 101: Solar Savings: Find out how much solar can save, and how that savings is calculated!
- Solar 101: How to Choose a Solar Company You Can Trust
- Solar 101: Missouri Solar Rebates
- Is My Power Company’s Solar Subscription Right for Me?