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.

Solar Installation Leads – Bridging The Gap Between Contractors And Consumers

The solar industry has become highly competitive worldwide. If you work within this industry, you will easily understand what we mean. Federal, state and local governments are encouraging businesses and households to invest in renewable energy by offering incredible financial incentives. In addition to government subsidies, the plummeting component costs have rendered solar power an increasingly cost-effective solution.

Given the benefits and reasonable cost, large numbers of consumers are considering solar power installations for their home and office spaces in varied forms such as heaters, vehicles, cookers, inverters and lighting systems. Though this sudden surge in the number of residents opting for this renewable source of energy is a healthy sign, it has given rise to certain situational problems. The most important being the demand outperforming the supply. In reality, there are enough contractors to fulfill customer requests however; there is no proper channel connecting the two.

This is where solar lead generation companies come in. They help bridge the gap between contractors and consumers by providing high-quality, responsive solar installation leads to businesses and helping customers locate dependable contractors to handle the task for them. One can call it a solar marketing strategy.

How are solar leads generated?

The service is paid one. Installers have to set up an account with the lead generation company to get leads. A lead is information about a potential sales contact. Leads are forwarded to contractors via email or text messages. Solar installation leads are collected in the same way potential customers are targeted for other businesses. Majority of them are generated online. They are sourced from search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, social media marketing such as Facebook and Twitter, banner ads and through Pay Per Click campaigns.

Types of Solar Leads

Companies offer several kinds of solar leads. The types common to most are explained below.

  • Exclusive: This information is sold only once or to one solar installer.
  • Multi-sell / Non Exclusive: In this type, information about potential sales contact is resold to customers. Most companies limit reselling to 3 contractors.
  • An appointment lead: This is an actual appointment between solar installers and potential clients.
  • Live transfer calls: These calls go straight from the company’s call center to the installer or his sales staff. This category includes consumers ready to buy solar systems.

The Benefits

  • Solar installation companies operate round the clock to provide necessary support to its members.
  • Leads are screened before they are distributed. They are required to meet strict standards.
  • They offer great flexibility. Potential sales contacts are generated keeping in mind contractors specific needs and concerns.
  • Most companies have a very competitive cost structure. This enables you to maintain a cheap yet highly effective business marketing strategy.
  • As a contractor, you have full control over your account. The most important advantage is the ability to control leads.

So, if you are a solar energy installer looking to grow your business by finding new customers, this is a good, cost-effective strategy. It enables you to increase profits with minimum investment of time and effort when it comes to marketing your solar installation business.

The Beginners’ Guide to DIY Home Solar Installation

You may think that DIY home solar installation is too hard for you.

Perhaps you think it’s too technical or too big of a job for a do-it-yourselfer. The truth is that a DIY solar kit installation is possible for almost anyone. Besides, the long-term financial benefits and energy independence a photovoltaic system provides is more than worth the effort.

Why Switch to Solar Energy?

Homeowners have much to consider when evaluating the potential benefits of installing a solar system.

The biggest reason to adopt PV energy is the exceptional level of cost savings. Once your system is up and running, you will save on energy costs throughout the life of the system. And you can expect your PV panels to function at or near full capacity for 30 years or more!

But the benefits don’t just stop at the savings. Adding a solar panel array also:

  • Increases property values
  • Creates energy independence
  • Protects the environment
  • Sets a good example for your friends and neighbors

So, are you ready to get started?

Where to Begin with DIY Solar

A DIY solar installation requires a bit of planning. Find out:

  • Is there enough room on your roof or elsewhere on your property for an array?
  • Where is the most convenient place for you to place the array?
  • Does your roof or property have sun for most of the daylight hours?
  • Are there any obstructions such as trees or buildings that would block the sun?
  • Is your roof structurally sound? Can it handle the added weight of panels?

Once you’ve answered these questions and decided that solar energy will work for you, you’re ready to keep going. And don’t give up if you can’t unequivocally answer yes to every question. You can find any number of ways to work around shade or even a small roof.

Look at Your Electric Bills

Now, gather up your electric bills from the last 12 months to determine how much electricity you use during your highest months of usage.

Look for the kWh (kilowatt-hours) consumption numbers, and total them up for the year. Keep this number in mind so that you can refer back to it during the rest of your planning.

The size of the system you need will be determined by your highest monthly level of power use.

Select Your DIY Solar Kit Components

To build your own system you will need, at minimum:

  • Solar panels
  • A mounting system
  • An inverter

It’s important to note that an off-grid system requires a battery backup. This adds a level of complexity to the DIY process that most experts don’t recommend you attempt, unless you have direct experience.

The DIY Solar Installation Process

Professional installation is a large portion of the cost of a solar panel system, so doing the work yourself saves you big bucks.

It is extremely important, however, that you bring in a licensed electrician for the electrical connections. This costs more than doing the wiring yourself, but it isn’t an option in most states, unless you’re an electrician.

When it’s time to mount the panels, you must first prepare the mounting and racking system. These systems, especially SnapNrack products, are plug-and-play systems and are very easy to assemple.

The panels themselves are quite easy to mount, once the racking is attached to the roof. You simply need to lay the panels in play, connect together as you go, and ratchet them into place.

Now, have the electrician wire in the panel and voila! You should be ready to go!

Be sure that you purchase your DIY solar kit from a reputable and established source. This is the only way to ensure that your components come with a full warranty. Plus, a solar kit provider can be an invaluable resource for helping you design your system and for answering any questions you have throughout the DIY home solar installation process.