With the earth heating up and climate scientists foretelling our impending doom, many of us are looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint. One of the best ways you can do that is to put solar panels on your house. Not only are these a great investment, but they will also provide a sustainable source of energy for years to come.
Trying to find a company to install your solar panels can be a complex process. You want to find someone who can answer all your questions and will do solid work from performing your energy audit to panel maintenance. Read on to learn how to find the best solar company to work on your home.
Local vs. National
The first big decision when you’re choosing a solar contractor is whether you want to use a local company or a major national corporation. Larger companies often have more resources and may offer longer warranties or expanded services. They may be able to help with financing and offer a larger selection of panels.
But these larger companies may also lack a personal touch in service or familiarity with your area’s permits. Getting a response from them might be harder since they are dealing with thousands of customers, not just a few dozen. Think about the last time you tried to get in touch with AT&T and how well that went.
A local company can offer more personalized service that meets your needs and follows your regional guidelines. They’ll be familiar with rebates in your area and can help you save money on your panels. They can also respond to you more quickly since they’re not juggling service technicians all over the country.
The biggest downside to working with a local company is their lack of options. They may not be able to offer as many services or the same variety of solar panel options. But shop around; you may be able to find a local company that offers just what you need and provides that personal touch.
Solar Panel Options
Many people think that once they’ve found a solar panel company they like, their research is done with. But solar panels are very different, and you do your homework before you choose a company.
There are three types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels are made up of grids of silicon wafer cells. Thin-film panels place a layer of cadmium telluride between layers of transparent material that help capture sunlight.
Monocrystalline panels have the highest efficiency and performance of all the solar panels. They also look a little nicer than polycrystalline. However, you’ll pay for that efficiency and beauty; these panels tend to be the most expensive.
Polycrystalline panels are the middle of the road option. They don’t work at the high level of efficiency that monocrystalline panels do, but they get the job done. They also tend to be a little bit cheaper than the monocrystalline panels.
Thin-film panels have the distinct advantage of being lightweight, flexible, and portable. This makes them ideal for people who want their panels with a low profile. However, they have the lowest efficiency of all the solar panel types.
But the options for solar panels don’t stop with the different varieties available. Some brands are better than others, and you need to know which ones you can trust. Do your research, read solar panel product reviews, and decide what you’re looking for.
Once you’ve settled on a specific solar panel you want to use, find companies in your area who offer that panel option. If you can’t find one, talk to the companies in your area and see if they’re willing to work with that company. If they aren’t, they should be able to provide viable alternatives.
Solar panels are a fantastic investment to make in your home, but there’s no denying that they are expensive. An average solar panel system in the U.S. will run about $12,000 after tax credits. Since most of us don’t have that kind of cash laying around, you’re going to need some sort of financing or payment plan.
You have several options available to you for how to pay for your solar panels. You can take out a home improvement loan, lease your panels, get a lease to own option, or finance your panels through the solar company. Which one you choose will depend on your needs and your situation.
Talk to your solar panel company about the financing options they offer. If you’re considering doing a loan through them, be sure to ask about the interest rates; average solar panel loan rates are between 3 and 13 percent. Depending on your situation and the rate they offer you, you may be able to get a better deal through your personal bank.
One of the big questions you’ll need to ask your solar panel company is what sort of warranty they offer. While solar panels don’t usually require much maintenance, you never know when a tree might fall on your house or a freak accident might occur. You want to make sure there’s a solid warranty in place so you don’t lose all the money you’re still paying back.
Your solar panel warranty will consist of two pieces: the equipment warranty and the performance warranty. Your equipment warranty will cover things like the panels themselves, the inverters, the cables, the mounts, and other such hardware. In general, this equipment should come with a warranty for about ten to twelve years.
Your performance warranty will cover the overall performance of the entire system. So if there isn’t an obvious problem, but your panels still aren’t working or are working at a diminished rate, you can call your company and they’ll fix it. Most companies will guarantee a 90 percent performance warranty for the first ten years and an 80 percent performance warranty for the first twenty-five years.
At first glance, a solar panel company may seem wonderful. But before you sign anything, be sure you read reviews from other customers of this company. A beautiful web design can hide a multitude of sins.
Try to find customer reviews of your company from websites other than theirs. These will likely be more honest and will reveal where the real strengths or weaknesses of the company lie. Try to see if they have a Better Business Bureau listing, or look them up on Angie’s List.
If there are any negative reviews, look for common threads in those postings. It’s true that one disgruntled customer may say things that aren’t true about a company. But if five or six customers are all saying the same thing, there may be a ring of truth there.
Likewise, listen to what all the good reviews have in common. You should hear people talking about excellent ongoing service, effective and well-designed systems, and easy, reliable financing. If all you hear is how nice the office staff is, there may not be the kind of substantive service you’re looking for underneath.
It’s also not a bad idea to talk to other professionals in the industry in your area. If you know roofing companies, electric contractors, or general contractors who have worked with this company in the past, ask them what their impressions were. If the company has a bad rap in the professional industry, it’s a good sign that there are problems lurking under the surface.
It takes a village to get a solar panel system installed on your house, and most solar panel companies will work with subcontractors. They may have a builder to help them mount the panels, an electrician to oversee the wiring installation, or other such professionals. You want to make sure that the company you work with hires reliable people for these roles.
If your solar company is hiring sub-par subcontractors to work on your house, there isn’t much you can do about it. You don’t have control over who they hire, and those people will have their hands on your system every bit as much as the solar company will. You want to make sure the company has a screening system for its subcontractors, including requirements of licensing and insurance.
You should also make sure the company isn’t subcontracting every part of the installation process. It’s normal for a company to work with a couple of subcontractors, but they should be doing some of the work themselves. Make sure you aren’t hiring a company that will contract out every bit of work, upcharge you, and then take all the money for themselves.
Another red flag is if your company won’t give you any details about how many and which subcontractors they use. They should be open about that information, given what we’ve already discussed. If they refuse to give you an answer, find a different company.
Energy System Design
There’s a lot more that goes into designing and assembling a solar panel system than just screwing some panels onto a roof. Your contractor will need to figure out how much energy your system will need to generate, how many panels will be required to do that, how they’ll fit on your roof, and how to tie everything into your electrical system. You need to be able to trust that your company is handling that part of your job well.
Talk to your solar company about the specifics of how they plan to design your energy system. Do your research, have a list of questions, and make sure they have good answers to all of them. They should be able to answer all of your questions with confidence and explain any complicated pieces of the design to you.
License and Insurance
Whichever solar company you choose to work with should be properly licensed and insured by all parties. Many states will have their own licensing requirements, so be sure you look into those, and ask if your company holds that license. In addition, they should have a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners certification, the gold standard in the industry.
You get a few benefits working with a company that’s properly licensed and insured. For one thing, you’ll know they are a legitimate company following all the required guidelines. But for another, you’ll know they have the training and experience needed to handle your job well.
Once you’ve gone through this whole list so far, ideally you should have two or three companies on your shortlist. The next step is to get quotes from all of them. In many cases, the company will set up a time to come look at your house and perform an energy audit in order to get you your quote.
This house visit is a good time to ask any additional questions you may have about the solar panel installation process. You should feel like the people you’re working with are competent professionals who you can trust to do good work for a fair price. When you get the quotes back, compare prices, look at which company will be the best overall fit, and make your choice!
Find the Best Solar Company for You
Finding the best solar company is a long process with a lot of things to consider. You’re going to be paying these people a significant amount of money, so you want to make sure the work they do is up to scratch. Do your homework, make a list of questions, be diligent in your review process, and you’ll wind up with a great company.
If you’d like to work with the best solar company in Florida, check out the rest of our site at Solar Sun. We offer expert installation for sustainable and reliable energy for your home. Call us now to get started on your solar panel project today.