4 Steps to Choosing the Right Solar Installer

You’ve had enough of over-priced utility bills and decided to take control of your own energy destiny by installing a solar electric system, so now comes the next major decision – choosing the right solar installer.

This can be an arduous, time-consuming process, but one that’s extremely necessary if you’re to reap the full benefits of your new system.

Following this 4 step process will hopefully make things go more smoothly for you.

1. Support Your Local Installer

One of the most important steps in choosing the right solar installer is to conduct an interview with each prospective candidate, preferably in person. An installer located nearby would generally be best. There are several reasons why this is so important.

First of all, thanks to their relative proximity, a local installer should be able to visit your home or site to perform a site inspection and analysis in order to provide a reliable estimate of exactly what equipment you’ll need and where that equipment should be installed, particularly the solar panels, since these will need to be placed where they will receive the maximum isolation possible.

Secondly, this will provide you with the ideal opportunity to conduct the all-important interview, where you can and should ask every conceivable question you may have regarding not only the system you need (asking these questions and the answers the candidate gives should give you a good feel for whether or not the person knows his stuff) but also the kind of training and background the candidate has, their experience, how many installations they’ve completed successfully, etc.

Thirdly, you’ll get the chance to know the person behind the company and whether or not you feel comfortable with them on a personal level. You may wonder why this is important. Well, the reason is that, since you and your installer should be working together as a team to get your project completed, you’ll want to feel that you’re able to communicate well and that the installer is open and honest in his dealings with you.

2. Check The Credentials

A prospective candidate may not carry any certification, since that is not a requirement for a person to become a qualified installer, so this may be a matter of checking more intangible qualifications such as what type of training the installer’s completed, along with any courses they may have attended. Any installer worth their salt should be open and above board about their background and experience, and any reticence or uncertainty in this area on the candidate’s behalf should be cause for concern. After all, you don’t want to find out you’re this installer’s guinea pig, otherwise known as their first installation!

It’s not unusual for installers to have had an electrical background, which probably means they carry a NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certification. If they’re also certified in solar energy, even better.

Be sure to ask for and check references. You should make a point to call each reference and ask about their experience, good or bad, with the installer, and, if possible, ask permission to visit the site of the installation to see the work done firsthand.

You should also make sure the candidate has liability insurance, uses top-quality products and can offer written guarantees, along with service contracts.

3. Find Out How Much The Labour Will Cost

What does a good installer cost? Ah, yes, the $64,000 question. Well, hopefully, not that much! Actually, this is hard to quantify, because it all depends on the size of the job, and most quotes given cover the entire job with the cost of installation being factored into the total cost.

But, as a rule of thumb, the amount that covers installation should be around 15% of the total cost. But, since the installation can make the difference between a PV system that performs at the peak of efficiency and one that causes you constant headaches, this is an item you should not skimp on, all other things being equal.

4. Get Several Bids

If you’ve managed to find a few installers you think might be suitable for your project, you should request bids from them, 3 or 4 at least would be good. Take a look at the various bids and make sure that everything you’ve requested and that the installer promised is included. Be sure to negotiate to get the best price possible. There’s plenty of competition out there these days, so don’t be afraid to make a counter-offer, provided that it’s reasonable, of course.

If you follow these steps, you should have done your due diligence and be in a position to make a decision and choose the right solar installer for your system. But, if you’re still not comfortable with any of the candidates, there’s sure to be one out there that can fill your needs, so repeat these steps until you’re successful.

Solar Installers Get The Job Done Right

Opting to hire solar installers will ensure high quality installation work for outfitting your house to utilize solar energy. The solar energy industry is a highly specialized field. There are few things to take into consideration before hiring an installation professional.

Renewable energy is catching on; however, it is not widespread yet. There are installation professionals that specialize in solar energy. You may need to search somewhat to find some in your area. It’s a good idea to consult online directories that list these professionals by location.

When you pay someone to work on your house for any reason, it is always important to hire reputable professionals. Verify their credentials. One of the best ways to help you decide whether or not to hire someone is to ask for references. Speaking with former customers will give you a better idea of the quality of the work they have performed in the past.

Solar energy installers are not as common as other specialists, such as plumbers, HVAC technicians or electricians. Finding an installation professional may prove to be slightly more challenging than hiring a plumber. You will likely want to do some research about the company in addition to speaking with their previous clients. Many homeowners are careful to check the company out and make sure there are no complaints with them to third parties, such as the Better Business Bureau.

Once you have some solar companies in mind, you may want to request free estimates from a couple of them. To provide you with an estimate, the installation professional will need to look over your home and your energy usage trends. This will give him or her some good information to begin the pre-installation inspection and estimate.

Most solar installers will offer you some sound energy conservation advice prior to beginning the installation process. Solar energy is not cheap. It makes sense to find ways to conserve energy prior to switching over to solar. You will save money by implementing energy saving techniques, whether or not you decide to go ahead and install equipment to use solar energy in your home.

There are many things that you can do to help reduce energy consumption in your home. Some of the most basic tactics include weather proofing your home. By eliminating drafts you will help to keep your heating and cooling costs substantially. Often, draft reduction only requires applying rubber weather stripping to your doors. Other strategies include adding better fireplace enclosures to reduce the amount of draft from the chimney.

Many professionals also recommend installing window coverings to help keep the desired temperature in your house. Certain window treatments, such as heavy drapes can reduce drafts from coming into your home. Adding adequate insulation to your home can drastically reduce heat loss in the winter and keep your house cooler in the summer.

When you hire a solar installation professional, take the time to do your research. Bring in a professional with expertise in the solar industry. Solar installers will help you find ways to conserve energy prior to installing solar energy equipment.

How to Choose a Professional Solar Installer

Solar photovoltaic (PV) installations are becoming more common due to the 30% federal tax incentives and government grants from States and other funding agencies. Unfortunately, this has also led to a number of new and inexperienced solar companies in the marketplace. Some of these companies may be out to deliberately take advantage of customers. When considering the addition of a solar system to your home, it is very important to choose a reputable, professionally-trained installer. You can decrease your chances of entering into a “bad deal” by doing a little research and asking a few simple questions. After all, you are considering spending and investing in a renewable system that can range from $10,000 on up for a solar photovoltaic array.

In choosing an installer, there are several key things to be aware of. Like most professional fields, the solar field has a national board that grants certification to those individuals who have passed a professional test. The North American Board of Energy Practitioners, also referred to as NABCEP, is responsible for certifying solar professionals. Ask the installer you are considering if they are NABCEP certified. Don’t just take his/her word for it, but go to the NABCEP website to confirm it. You can also ask the installer for references, but keep in mind that these can be false. It is better if you can visit a solar installation and ask the owner his/her experience in dealing with the renewable energy company you are considering. Google the company name and see what additional information, other than what the company has posted on their website, you can find.

What type of background does your installer have? Is previous work experience in a related industry or is their previous experience in an industry that is totally unrelated to solar, electrical, engineering, or roofing trades? For example, in a down economy, companies that might have been installing windows, siding, gutters, heating and air- conditioning systems or any other such home improvements might decide to become a “solar company” and jump on the “solar bandwagon”. In this case, you should wonder how such previous experience translates to a technical industry such as solar. A qualified solar company has the necessary skills to deal with high voltage DC electricity, roof waterproofing, structural integrity and safety of your home.

Is the potential installer making production claims without a proper site-visit or without appropriate information? One such local company is known to promise customers a 54% reduction in energy bills without even doing a proper site assessment or knowing the homeowner’s electric bills and level of energy efficiency. Is the installer pressuring you for a quick sale? These type of systems are not usually sold on a single interaction with a company. It usually takes time to perform the proper site assessment and to design a system that is efficient and optimized to your particular situation and needs.

Is the company playing price games with you? Have they reduced cost considerably on several occasions to make a quick sale when you indicate that you cannot afford it? This only indicates that the initial price was too high and they were trying to gouge you. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Finally, is the installer trying to sell you on unproven new technology? Standard solar panels are either mono-crystalline or poly-crystalline. These technologies have a history of proven track records with life expectancies of 40 or more years. The relatively newer technologies do not have enough time to have an established performance record. This may be reflected in a shorter warranty offered by the manufacturer of the technology. Most standard panels have a warranty of 20 or more years. You should be careful of newer technology and do your research before committing.

Asking these basic questions, may help keep you from being taken advantage of. Remember: solar photovoltaic systems have been around for a long time and have a proven history for performance in the proper circumstances as well as a long life expectancy. Don’t let unprofessional solar installers reduce the value of your solar investment.