Solar Installers – Why You Should Choose Only Professional Installers

Solar installers are the people who install solar panels and solar cells on the roofs of commercial and residential buildings. Even in this day and age of green energy it is difficult to find professionally trained solar installers or solar roofers as they are becoming increasingly known as. The reason for this is that they have to have a combination of two skills; that of the regular roofer, complimented with the knowledge of a solar electrician.

The market consists of basically two different types of solar installation being done today these are; retrofitting and integrated. Retrofitting is when a solar panel or panels are fitted to an existing roof. Integrated is when solar cells and panels are incorporated into the roof of new buildings.

When a solar panel is retrofitted the skills of the solar technician are not so important because it is not so difficult. Broken down to the basics this just means fitting one or more panels to the existing roof and feeding the wiring through the roof to the battery banks. This could easily be done by a regular roofer that just then leaves the wiring to an electrician.

A drawback for retrofitted solar panels is that because solar panels can be bulky and are more exposed to the elements such as; wind, rain and snow and, that a lot of people think they are unsightly and in some areas can actually bring down the value of a property. This is the reason that integrated solar roofing is growing very quickly in popularity. These types of panels are actually built into the roof, meaning that the sides are almost flush to the rest of the roofline. In this way the solar panels are less exposed to the more severe elements and obviously are more pleasing to the eye although it is still noticeable that you have solar panels on your roof.

In response to this problem solar cell manufacturers have come up with the ingenious solar shingles. These very clever, very sophisticated solar shingles have photovoltaic solar cells built into them. Because these solar shingles are the same in appearance, size, shape and color as regular asphalt shingles they will go virtually undetected. In this way the solar installer can turn an entire roof into one big solar panel and will give the look of a regular roof (well, from a distance anyway). With the increasing popularity of this type of roof it has also increased the demand for skilled solar installers/roofers.

Solar panels and solar shingles differ in as much as in the panel the cells are already wired together, whereas the shingles have to be wired together in an array as they are fitted to the roof. This means that the shingles must be fitted and wired together before the rest of the roof goes on. In this way the wires from the shingle can be run along the roofs ridge cap thus hiding and protecting them from bad weather.

Qualified, professional solar installers are usually made nowadays because there are not many people that have both the necessary skills needed. This is why reputable solar installation companies will take a regular roofer and train them to be solar technicians or take the technician and train them in the art of roof building.

Choosing the Right Solar Installer – More Frequently Asked Questions

Since choosing the right solar installer is probably the next most important decision to be made after deciding to invest in solar energy, you’ll need to do your homework and ask the right questions to get the answers you need to feel comfortable with this most important of decisions.

Here we’ll look at some more frequently asked questions and the answers to those questions that should help with your decision.

What should I look for in a good installer?

The first thing you should do is ask for the installer’s credentials. Since certification’s not required, the installer may not have anything concrete to show you. But, many serious installer’s these days often come from an electrical background, which means they usually are NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certified at least, and may also be certified in solar energy.

Failing that, find out what kind of training they’ve had and also how much installation experience. If they’ve been working in the solar energy business for a number of years and have a record of successful installations, that may be worth more in the long run than any number of degrees or certificates.

How can I verify an installer’s background?

One of the most important parts in the process of choosing the right solar installer is conducting an in-person interview with each candidate. For this reason, it’s best to choose an installer that operates locally, so that they can come to your home and conduct an on-site analysis of your needs, at which time you can ask whatever questions you have about the installer’s experience, background, how they propose to handle your project, time estimate, the type of experience his employees have, etc. You need to feel comfortable with the installer in order to make a decision, so make sure you’re armed with every question you need answers to.

Always ask for and check references. If an installer is as good as they may claim to be, they’ll have nothing to hide and should be happy to provide you with several references you can check. But, don’t just get the references and assume the people are happy with the work done. Make sure to contact these previous customers to find out what their results and experience were with the installer. If possible, ask one or two if you can visit their home to see and chat about the work done.

What else should I look for?

Ask the installer what products he uses, and check with local solar companies or online to make sure these are quality products.

The installer should be able to offer a warranty for the work done, and enquire as to what type of service contracts they offer for post-installation maintenance work.

The installer must at least provide liability insurance to cover potential property damage, and they should, ideally, be bonded, although this may cost more as it’s not required.

They should advise you on energy-saving tips and techniques you can follow to ensure you get the most benefit from your new system.

If you’ve reviewed all the frequently asked questions we’ve provided and got the answers you need to these questions and are comfortable with the person interested in doing the installation, then you should be in a position to make a decision and to choose the right solar installer for your project.

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.