Buy Local When Choosing a Solar Installer Or Contractor

I am sure you have heard the words, “buy local,” when referring to locally grown food.  This motto is transferable to all other goods and services.  A locally owned business is more likely to produce income, jobs and tax receipts for a given community over many generations. 

As adoption for solar energy systems grows, your options for choosing a solar panel installer are increasing.  I want to first describe the major types of solar installers and then talk about why it makes sense to contract from a local solar panel installer. 

1. Solar Panel Manufacturers – Their business is primarily manufacturing panels, but they also bid on utility-scale photovoltaic projects. Solar Panel Manufacturers are well suited for larger projects since they can supply the panels directly and eliminate the middleman, reducing overall system costs.

2. National Solar Installers – National players usually operate in multiple states across the country, with many having their national headquarters in California.  National Solar Installers tend to handle the largest volume of installations per year.

3. Regional or Locally-owned Solar Installers – This group specializes in only solar installations for a certain local area usually designated by state. 

4. Other Contractors – The largest group of solar contractors are those that offer solar panel installations as  part of their portfolio, but specialize in something else – many are electricians, roofers, door and window contractors, or general contractors.

Why Buy Local?

  • Local contractors are better acquainted with the local weather conditions and how to design a system to fit those requirements.
  • A PV installer that is based in your area will be more familiar with regional permitting rules and electric codes reducing design errors, speeding up time to installation, and providing the best overall service.
  • Statistics show that buying from independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned business,  will infuse three times as much money in your region’s economy, strengthening the economic foundation of your community.
  • Locally owned contractors tend to make more local purchases requiring less transportation.  This reduces congestion and transportation-related emissions.
  • Small businesses hire locally and will support green jobs where you live.
  • A local installer will help you maximize the incentives for your solar projects because they have a greater awareness of different rebates, tax credits and exemptions, loan programs, SRECs, etc.

Professional Solar Installation Vs DIY – Pros & Cons

Home solar panels are a great way to generate clean, renewable energy from the sun. If you have been considering going solar, you can choose between a professional solar installation and a do-it-yourself option. Both can be successful, but which one is right for you? Here are three major factors to consider:

1. Price

Watt for watt, a DIY solar project is almost certainly going to cost less money than a professional solar installation. Some kits include only the instructions to build and set up your home solar panels, where more expensive kits come with the panels, inverter, and instructions. If you go the DIY route, panels built by a reputable company with good warranties are a far better bet than ones you’ve assembled yourself.

On the other hand, the quote from a good solar installer will include site evaluation, system design, parts, labor, and interconnection. Some solar installers will also help you file for solar rebates. Many of the federal and local incentives are available only for professional solar installations.

2. Installation

Any project involving electricity requires you to know what you’re doing. If you think you have a good working knowledge of electricity, a small single panel solar kit is a good way to preview what you would be in for with a bigger project. If you do a lot of DIY projects, you are probably already aware of the hidden costs in time and frustration. However, if you’re handy and willing to do the research and labor, you may well be up for the challenge of installing your own home solar panels. Don’t forget about the building permits!

One of the major advantages of a professional solar installation is that every aspect is handled by experienced professionals, from applying for building permits, to determining the best location for your solar panels, to interconnecting with the grid and passing the final building and electrical inspections. Your solar installer will be able to deal with any issues that come up, and get your system up and running on schedule.

3. Solar Panel Quality & Efficiency

The quality of panels in kits can vary widely, so you’ll need to do your research. Efficiency and durability are important components of your solar panel system’s ability to reduce your energy bills. Efficiency is also affected by the location of your solar panels and the orientation of your roof. If you DIY, you will need to determine the optimal location for your panels.

While solar panels are generally reliable and low maintenance, warranties are still good things. If you build your home solar panels, you will clearly be on your own if anything goes wrong. Even solar panels with good warranties (20+ years) may have their warranties invalidated by unprofessional installation. Find out before you buy.

Professional solar installers tend to use higher quality, name brand solar panels with good warranties because customers will hold their solar installer responsible for anything that goes wrong. Ask the company who manufactures their panels and inverters before signing any paperwork.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a go-getter who is willing to do the research and has the skills to install your own home solar panels, you can enjoy considerable savings with DIY solar. However, if you don’t want to take any chances with your home and roof and want everything done right the first time, you’re better off with a professional solar installer.

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.