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.