Selecting the right solar company for your solar needs is a crucial step in ensuring a successful solar installation. The last thing you want is for your installation company to make significant delays or even worse, go out of business after you’ve already put money down. By following these nine easy steps, you’ll be able to pick the right company that will help ensure your system is working properly decades after the installation.
- Determine your solar needs. Assess how much energy you’re currently consuming month-to-month. Do you notice your bill goes up in the summer and drops in the winter or is it consistent all year round? Once you’ve assessed your current usage, consider where you expect your energy usage to be in the future. Will kids be moving out of the house or do you have a couple of little ones that will soon be using more electronics? Do you expect to get an EV in the next five years? Those are just a few internal factors to consider, now let’s think about external factors.
Do you expect the rate your utility company charges to go up or down in the next five years? If you live in a city or even a state that continues to see a high increase in population growth like San Antonio, Texas, there’s a good chance the cost for the same amount of electricity will continue to increase; assuming a consistent supply, an increase in demand for electricity will increase the price for it.
- Research local solar companies. Start by researching solar companies in your area as they will be more familiar with local regulations and conditions. Reach out to your energy provider and ask for recommendations. Many of them, like CPS Energy, have a list of registered solar companies to help homeowners like you avoid dealing with solar bros (scammy sales people). While you’re researching, be sure to check online review platforms like Google and Yelp to see what customers have to say about their experience.
- Check Qualifications and Credentials. Ensure that the company and its technicians are licensed and certified to install solar panels in your area. The most trusted certification in solar is called NABCEP. You’ll definitely want to check on their website for their NABCEP licensing number. Additionally, consider how long the solar company has been in business and how many installations they’ve completed. Choosing a company that’s relatively younger – 3 to 5 years – can be a huge risk if you’re not confident they’ll stay in business long enough to make good on their warranties.
- Understand Financing Options. Do some research on the different types of solar financing. Are you interested in paying for your system with cash? Leasing? Or a power purchase agreement (PPA)? If cash, how much of the cost do you want to pay upfront and how much after install? If leasing, are you okay going with a higher interest rate if it brings down the overall cost of the system? I know it sounds like I misspoke, but it’s true. There are situations where it makes the best sense for the installer and you the homeowner to choose a higher interest rate in order to have a lower cost.
Okay, by this point you should have narrowed down your list of solar companies to 3 to 5. It’s a good idea to get multiple quotes just to know what’s available to you. Remember, you’re avoiding a lot of headaches down the road by following these steps. It may seem like a lot do, but believe me, you’ll be glad you did!
Once you’ve met with each of them, they should have given you spec sheets on solar panels and inverters. Learn more about specification sheets here if no one has explained them to you yet.
- Evaluate Equipment and Technology. Not all solar panels are the same. Not all inverters are the same. You’ll need to do some research on the proposed equipment each installer wants to put on your property. Check out reviews and research their performance and reliability. If one quote is significantly cheaper than the others WATCH OUT this could be a huge red flag. It’s not uncommon for solar bros to show specs for great panels or inverters only to then install a completely different one assuming that the homeowners won’t know the difference. Yikes. So if you see a quote that seems abnormally low, it may not be a good sign.
- Review contracts and warranties. Carefully read through the contracts from each company. Ensure you understand all the terms and conditions, including payment schedules, warranties, and maintenance agreements. What will happen if they go out of business tomorrow? Will you be left with a bunch of voided warranties? Speaking of warranties, verify their length and coverage for equipment and installation workmanship are comparable. Remember equipment warranties and workmanship warranties are not the same warranty.
- Ask Questions. Don’t hesitate to ask questions even after the appointment. Clarify any doubts or concerns you may have about the installation process, maintenance or system performance. Ask for references from past customers to speak with about their experiences.
- Verify Permits and Insurances. Double check the company you’re hiring to do the job will be the one obtaining permits and approvals. Companies that subcontract out the work typically have the subcontractor obtain permits and approvals. This can make it difficult to uphold promises or any agreements made with the solar company, since by law, they did not get the permits and did not do the work.
- Make your decision. Consider all the information you’ve gathered, including cost, equipment, warranties, and customer reviews, then choose the one solar company that best aligns with your needs and budget.
Remember, going solar is a long-term investment, so take your time to make an informed decision. As more utility companies increase their rates and charge homeowners more money, going solar because the best solution to rising energy bills. Once you’ve selected the right solar company for you, the future will look a whole lot brighter.