Did you know that solar panel installations in the US have skyrocketed 35 times since 2008? That’s the equivalent of 62.5 gigawatts (GW). Or, translated another way, that’s enough solar-derived energy to power 12 million American households.
What has spurred the solar industry over the past decade? Certainly concern over the environment. What’s more, since 2014, the cost for solar photovoltaic (PV) panels has been cut in half.
For residents of sunny places like Tampa, investing in solar panels comes with even more incentives. On average, Tampa sees 264 sunny days per year.
This begs the two questions. First, why not use these sunny days to your advantage while lowering your energy bill? Second, where do you find a great solar installer?
When it comes to installing solar panels at your residence, keep in mind that they represent a long-term investment. So, you must find the right company to install them.
Not sure where to start? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Read on for tips to help you find the right solar energy installer in Tampa.
Make a List of Your Options
It’s hard to make a decision if you don’t fully know what your options are. When it comes to solar panel systems, start by creating a list of all of the installers in your area. Compile this information in a Word document or Excel spreadsheet.
Be sure to list companies at each tier, from local businesses to national companies. Getting started is as easy as searching online using keywords such as “solar installer” or “solar provider near me.”
Your search will pull up a variety of company names. You’ll use these company names to develop a comprehensive listing of the best companies out there for your specific project. Of course, this requires digging a little deeper.
Determine Which Companies Have the Most Experience
Once you’ve identified a list of companies that you might potentially work with, it’s time to see how they check out. Where should you start?
Take a look at each company’s website to get a feeling for how long they’ve been in the business. Remember, experience always trumps company size when it comes to finding good solar providers to work with.
Look for information on how many solar panel roofing systems they’ve installed over their company’s lifetime. As you research, jot down notes in your Word document or Excel spreadsheet about each company’s experience.
Make Sure Each Company Has the Right Licenses and Insurance
Don’t take this step for granted. Make sure that each installer you’re considering has all of the proper business licenses. They should have solid insurance policies in place, too.
These requirements vary by state and sometimes even county or city. So, do a little research to know what the minimum requirements are in Florida.
What’s typical for companies in this industry? At a minimum, they should have general liability insurance.
Beyond this, they should also have licenses for general contracting, electricians, home improvement, and solar installers.
Verify Each Company’s Credentials
You should also check out each company on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to ensure that their business practices are exemplary.
The BBB also lets you see when complaints have been filed against a company. You’ll be able to see exactly what the complaint entails so that you avoid working with businesses that don’t meet the highest standards.
Besides checking in with the Better Business Bureau to see each company’s rating, you’ll want to work with a company that’s certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).
What does the NABCEP do? They set the standard for solar panel sales and installation. So, look for companies who have a PV Installation Professional credential from the NABCEP.
That way, you’ll be sure to choose a company known for its quality standards and high levels of employee training. Make sure that you add this information to the list you’re forming.
That said, some of the companies who’ve been a member of the NABCEP since it was founded in 2002 may not have these certifications. If that’s the case, they should still demonstrate a high level of expertise to win your patronage.
What if you’re not sure how to evaluate this? Check their solar reviews carefully.
Check Out Customer Reviews for Each Company
But don’t stop at company experience and credentials alone! While these factors tell you invaluable things about the product that each company delivers, they don’t delve deeply into the customer experience.
And the last thing you want is to work with a highly skilled company that lacks when it comes to basic customer service. There are plenty of solar electric service providers out there, so don’t settle for less than a great customer experience.
Get online and see what customers are saying about the companies you’re considering working with. Search Google and Yelp to see what internet chatter has to say about each company.
After all, going solar is a complicated business. You’ll have to do a variety of things from attaining the right permits to choosing the best solar array size for your needs. There are also state and federal taxes that you’ll need to apply for.
In other words, you need to work with a company that’s known for its helpfulness and approachability. You also need to find one that’ll go above and beyond when it comes to making customers happy.
What if you don’t find much in the way of reviews? Then, contact each company that you’re considering and ask for references. They should be able to provide you with a minimum of two to three.
In your Word doc or Excel spreadsheet, make a few notes on the general impression you’ve got about each company based on their internet reviews and references. Also, note any concerns or questions that may arise.
Understand the Differences Between Going with a Local Installer Versus a National Installer
One of the most important decisions you’ll make during the process of going solar is between a local and a national installer. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each type of company?
Certainly, national companies come with the advantage of being large organizations. As such, they generally provide comprehensive warranties. They may also offer more when it comes to maintenance and payment options.
But for the inside scoop on local issues such as state rebates and county permitting requirements, nobody beats a local company. And because they have fewer service locations, expect faster service throughout the process.
There’s also less wait time when it comes to having a local company come out to inspect your home and provide an estimate. This means getting the pricing quotes and installation done much sooner.
On the list that you’re compiling, make note of whether or not each company is local or national. Based on your timeline and main concerns, you’ll be able to make a sound decision about which type of company to go with.
Find Out Which Financing Options Are Available and Right for You
Did you know that there’s more than one way to finance solar panels? Besides paying for them outright in cash, you can take out a loan or lease them. Under some circumstances, you can even enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA).
As you continue your investigation into the best company for your solar panel installation, jot down notes about the various financing that they offer. This will help you narrow the playing field when it comes to who you want to work with.
Not sure which financing option is best for you? Then, look for companies who provide a variety of different options.
Cross any companies off your list who don’t offer the right financing options for you.
Know What Sets the Best Installers Apart from the Pack
As you compile your list, you should take relevant notes about each company. That way, you’ll establish a clear list of potential companies early on. You’ll also be able to cross out less desirable companies.
Of course, this requires understanding what sets the best companies apart from the competition. Look for these three qualities as you begin whittling down your list:
- Trusted knowledge of energy system design and installation
- Effective oversight and selective use of sub-contractors
- Workmanship warranties
You need to have a solid, trusting relationship with the installer that you choose. After all, going solar is a major enterprise with plenty of expenses.
Understanding What to Look for in a Company
Look for a company that’ll help you to better understand how solar energy fits within your household’s system.
Your installer should be able to advise you about solar energy and the best way to utilize it at your home. This starts with a solid website and informative blog where you can read up on solar energy.
While it’s not unusual for a solar energy company to rely on sub-contractors for some aspects of their installation, they should be transparent about how, where, and why they use sub-contractors.
If they’re not willing to divulge this information, then it’s time to move on.
A great installer should also provide effective oversight when it comes to what each sub-contractor does. These sub-contractors should come with specific expertise. They should also have a longstanding relationship with the solar installer.
Remain cautious about working with a company that sub-contracts out all of its work. After all, who will stand behind the work if something goes wrong?
Narrow Your Solar Installer List Down to Five Options
At this point, you’ll have a much better idea of which companies you’d like to work with. From the most experienced, qualified companies to the ones providing the best financing options, narrow down your top picks.
These should also be the best companies to work with from a customer service perspective. Finally, it’s time to make a decision based on whether you’d prefer to work with a local or national company.
Once you’ve narrowed your list down, it’s time to request some quotes.
Request Complimentary Consultations and Quotes
Call each company or schedule an appointment online at their website. Most companies will send out an employee to survey your residence and accurately calculate a price.
When they come out for a consultation, this is an excellent time to ask a few crucial questions. They include:
- How many panels will I need based on my monthly energy consumption?
- Will you handle the permits required by my city, county, and state?
- If so, how much experience do you have circumnavigating the permitting system in my location?
- Do you offer any kind of warranty?
- If so, what’s included with that warranty?
- What would the process look like should I choose to proceed with your company as my installer?
As you speak with the installer, you’ll immediately get a sense of which company appears most experienced in your area. You should also be able to pick up on just how important customer service is based on the employee’s attitude.
Make Your Choice with Confidence
Congrats! You’ve compiled an impressive list of local and national solar energy installers. At this point, you should have some quotes to review as well as potential financing options to consider.
Make sure you analyze each one carefully. Resist simply choosing the lowest bid. You need to understand all of the services provided with the contract.
For example, what will solar panels maintenance look like? This proves particularly important when it comes to how to clean solar panels.
Another important thing to consider is how helpful the company will be when it comes to dealing with local rebates, permits, and more. If you don’t mind spending lots of your own time on these concerns, then go with a national installer.
But if you need help navigating the complicated waters of going solar, then your best bet will be going with a local company. Just make sure it’s one with plenty of experience and demonstrated expertise.
You should also have a clear timeline in place for your installation. This will also impact whether or not you want to work with a local or national installer.
Find Out More About the Benefits of Solar Energy for Your Home
Are you ready to take the plunge when it comes to going solar? Great! We’re here to help.
As Tampa’s top solar installer, we’ve been in business since 1999. What does this mean for you? Not only do we have the experience and expertise that you need, but we understand local regulations and rebates inside and out.
What’s more, we offer a 25-year manufacture’s warranty. Contact us today for a free estimate and to learn more about the solar credit of 30 percent that you could receive before the end of the year.