Solar Panel Installation with socket

How to Find a Solar Installer

Installing Solar PV is an Important Financial Decision

Always get three quotes from state licensed contractors and completely review all documentation before signing a contract. We recommend using Energysage to find solar installers in your area.

What Should I look for in a Solar Installation Company?

Always look for a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) accredited installer to mount your solar panels, as they are duly qualified to take care of the whole process. Be advised that a business may promote certification while frontline workers have not completed theoretical training or examinations. Consumer due diligence would be to request copies of certification documents before signing any contract to initiate work.  As this company will be working on your property it would also be prudent that they carry the appropriate insurance to protect against errors and omissions along with protection of their workers. This will absolve the consumer of any liability should things go wrong.

The solar sales industry as a whole is known for dishonesty including, false claims.   A nefarious sales person may tell you they can give you free solar energy at no cost.   While the truth is that solar from the sun's rays is free but there are costs for the panels and other system equipment, not to mention the installation.  Some states offer free solar PV systems for low to moderate income households but only by approved organizations like the U.S. Department of Energy.

Another false claim that is often used is that you'll never pay an electric bill for the time you own or live in the home! With net metering, your energy generation and consumption is tracked down to a decimal point with today's smart meter technology. Smart meters enable tracking of your daily electrical usages and contribution. Based on this your household will receive a monthly bill from your utility provider which is on top of any costs to finance or lease equipment.

The last tactic we'll warn readers of is time sensitive offers. These are common in any type of sale and are also known as high pressure sales techniques. Don't fall victim to this and if anything the longer you wait the more improve the solar PV technology and efficiency will be. Waiting could allow you to save money. Always remember that some utility providers have programs that offer renewable energy to customers in lieu of net metering with their own commercial, renewable power generation equipment. In any case it's advised to own your renewable power generation equipment.

Questions to ask a solar provider:

Are you approved, licensed and insured to operate in my state/county/city?  Ask for their license and policy number and verify that it’s in good standing with the appropriate licensing board and insurance providers.

Is my roof a good fit for a solar PV array? Realistically, most solar panels can be arranged to capture the greatest amount of energy with adjustable racking technology and other assessment tools.  In the end, some homes will have better solar coverage of their roof over others.  Using a tool like Project Sunroof can help you assess on your own and without a salesperson.  If your roof is covered in shade by large trees or a nearby building, north facing or in poor condition it may be not suitable for solar installation.  Installing a new roof and solar system at the same time can be a cost effective way to combat climate change and lower your carbon footprint. 

What happens if I want to sell my property or move out? Look for specifics in your contract and ask for them to be explicitly noted.   If there are any penalties or fees you’ll see them here.  Another important point is the ability to move out of the property and rent it to tenants.  In this case, the options should be stated as applicable.  Perhaps you wish to have your tenant pay the electric bill but you wish to continue with the financing payments for the PV system.  Learn all of these details up front and from the contract’s top to bottom.

Do you use contractors to install the equipment? Using a third party contractor can bring opportunity for uncertified or unlicensed/uninsured workers on your property. 

What type of warranty does the system and install come with?  Warranties and guarantees can vary greatly.  They can exclude certain components and not provide a point of contact should something go wrong.  Get as many details in writing as possible before signing a contract.

What is your estimated timeline for project completion?  Timelines can vary greatly and can influence total cost.  Watch out for the estimated timeline and that it works with your schedule.

Can you provide the total cost of the system to me in digital or paper format? If you are looking to finance or lease your system ask about any required down payment and how much monthly payments will be.  Any state/federal/provincial tax credits/benefits should also be detailed here. We strongly advise readers to own their equipment outright to avoid any additional hidden costs or penalties/fees should they want to exit the contract or sell their property.

How much time is required to install solar panels?

For homes, the installation of the photovoltaic panels requires independent estimation on a case-by-case basis. Installation might take up to three to five days for panels that are somewhat larger, but as PV construction continues to trim down, many residential projects for the average home can be completed in a day or two.

A savvy consumer would always ask for at least three quotes from NABCEP accredited installers; included in these quotes should be the length of time for the installation explicitly stated with a guarantee and/or disclosure for bad weather. If an accredited business quotes that the job will take more than one or two days, it is a sign that they might be overcharging for work, please do consider contacting another installer. This online directory of installers may be helpful:

https://www.nabcep.org/nabcep-professionals/

 

Can I install solar panels myself?

Can you install photovoltaic panels yourself? The cordial response is yes; however, there are some significant downsides to going it alone. Installing solar panels isn’t as simple as swapping or installing a component out of your water filtration system.  We live in an age of YouTube and DIY videos as well as aiming to conserve a few bucks, but there are some jobs that should be left to the specialists. Solar panel installment is most definitely one of those circumstances. 

Poorly installed solar panels can wind up costing you in the long run, which is actually counterproductive to the principle of solar paneling to begin with. There are federal, state, and local guidelines that require compliance to the letter as well as the angling requirements from sunlight exposure studies for you to optimize savings as well as capability. Also, only an electrician could safely implement advanced wiring strategies as well as making certain that the engineering and design of your roof is suitable to hold the weight of the solar panels. 

This isn’t to state that you can’t mount solar panels on your own; there is technology available made by a company called SnapNrack, which promises to make solar panel mounting easy. They even have a team of applications engineers to assist anyone who purchases their product. SnapNrack is used by certified PV installers and DIYers alike.

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