Let’s face it, solar panels are an investment that you buy now and last for the next few decades. The hefty upfront cost makes you need to vet for the right solar company for your needs.
The solar industry grew by 53% between 2010 and 2014, with faster growth over the last 5 years. With this, you’ll see many companies trying to vie for your money. You need to be careful.
Picking the right local solar company is crucial. You’re stuck with them for a while, so you want to make sure they have your best interest in mind.
In this guide, we’ll help you pick the best solar companies for your solar panel installation.
1. Decide Between Choosing National or Local Solar Companies
The first move you need to do when vetting for solar companies is to find everyone within your locale. Local solar companies are better to work with than out of the city. Not only do they know the needs of the area but also can respond to your needs faster.
Local companies understand your local climate and how it affects your panels. Local solar companies have experience with different facets of your ordinances. This includes differences in building codes and electrical codes.
National solar companies can be a great option, they offer far fewer flex options. They will also have higher prices than local solar companies.
The easiest way to find solar panel installation companies is to create a list. Build a document that contains all the pertinent data about solar companies nearby. Use an excel or word document to list all of them, both big and small teams.
It’s best to work through solar providers within the state or even the city itself. Fill their company profile in your list with some pertinent information.
How close are they to your home? What is their claim of experience? What are the things they claim they can do on their website?
You want to make sure that you have all the contact details from the start.
2. Start Calling, Ask Questions
Once you have a good list of local solar companies, start calling them and ask questions. The best way to find out who the right solar company is for you is to start throwing out questions. This will save you time and effort from doing research on what they can do.
You want to be inquisitive and ask pointed questions.
What Are Their Expertise?
The first thing you ask is their expertise. Solar panel installation needs a specific set of skills and expertise. This is to make it last for a long time without any issue.
For one, you want them to have the Solar PV Installation Professional Certification. This certification comes from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners or NABCEP. All solar companies should have at least one NABCEP-certified professional for quality assurance work.
Every field team should have a NABCEP-certified professional overlooking the installations too. You will notice that not all companies will have such certifications. These are companies that existed before NABCEP’s founding in 2002.
Want a safe installation? It’s better to work with companies with certifications. Even then, the next best thing is to check for customer reviews.
Solar companies without certification can be an option if they have a good experience. While the NABCEP certification is not mandatory, it is a good thing to have.
Do They Have Licenses and Insurance Policies?
The next detail you would want to look for is their insurance and licenses. While certifications are not mandatory in solar installation, licenses are. Local solar companies should have all business licenses and insurance policies.
Licenses and insurance policies vary from state to state. Some states will have stricter policies than some. The typical local licenses will include:
- Home and commercial electricals
- General contracting license
- Home performance contracting
- Home and commercial improvement
You would want them to have liability insurance. This is to make sure you protect yourself when they work.
How Much Solar Experience Do They Have?
Solar is a growing industry. Many companies are trying to jump early and grow while the industry is young.
There are professional contractors that used to focus on specific kinds of trades. Many of them extended to solar to catch up with the trend. With this regard, you need to check for your solar company’s solar track record.
You want someone with a strong experience in solar installation. You want a solar company focused on the intricacies of the industry.
You want them to be passionate about the field and understand how it was and how it’s changing. You want a local solar company that can discuss the intricacies of the field and can apply them too.
The longer the solar company existed, the less the chance that it will fail in the upcoming decades. Why should that be a factor?
Solar panel installation will have around 25 years of warranty in it after the company adds it. If your solar company fails well before the two and a half decades, you have a problem. You will have a solar installation with a warranty that nobody could fulfill.
3. Do They Outsource Field Work?
One crucial detail in local solar companies is if they’re outsourcing the fieldwork. This stage is valuable, considering many companies will have management offices different from field teams. Why should you care if your solar company is outsourcing or not?
First, you need to consider that outsourced work will not have the same quality. During peak season, the quality of the installation will have significant drops. The sheer number of people ordering installations can overwhelm the sub-contracted team.
If the outsourced company is working on a per hour basis, you can expect them to look for shortcuts. Solar installation requires a set amount of time, so shortening it can make the process profitable.
This makes their output unreliable. These types of work are prone to potential breakdowns that can interrupt your work.
Many solar companies will blame their subcontractors for any issue. This results in, often, bad quality results for your home. The sub-contractors can do potential damage to your home.
- Leaky roofing work
- Bad electrical wiring
- Potential short circuits
What makes these potential shortcomings worse is they are discoverable during bad weather. Storm season or winter can unfold the flaws in the workmanship of your solar company. If they are doing sub-contracts to people with less skill, expect these to unravel in a worse time.
4. What Warranties And Maintenance Do They Provide?
Warranties and maintenance agreements are crucial in finding local solar companies. You will have your solar panel installation, together with other parts, for years on end. You want to have something written in black and white to make sure you only get the best out of them.
What are the performance warranties that your local solar companies can provide? Solar panels will have a panel performance degradation of around .5% to 1% every year. You want your solar companies to put it in writing, covering unit performance over 25 years.
Solar panel warranties should be at least 10 years for the product. Inverters should have somewhere between 5 to 10 years of lifespan for them to be viable in cost. Any inverter warranty that goes up to around 10 years is a good warranty since this part can fail.
As for the workmanship, you need to get at least 5 years from the solar company. You want to make sure that the product warranties have backing from any US entity.
Be wary of solar panel warranties from China. Many product warranties here states customers should send panels back. This happens at customers’ cost.
The Intricacies of Warranties and Maintenance
Going further down warranties and maintenance, you need to ask your solar company. First, you need to ask them how could you know if the solar panel is doing the proper performance. Some companies will have a systems monitoring app, while some provide maintenance schemes.
At the very least, you want your local solar companies to come back after the first month or two. This will be a performance check to confirm that everything is working fine. You want them to make sure that you can get the promised performance in your contract.
You would want them to give you a minimum performance guarantee at the very least.
5. Look For Solar Reviews
Once you ask all of these details from your solar companies, your next move is to look for reviews. You want to look for people talking about the company’s performance. Reviews for solar panel installation companies should show how they treat their customers.
No certifications and warranties in the world matter more than the way a solar company treats its users. Going solar has its many complications and it can be a headache to do.
Federal and state tax credits. Getting the right permits. Choosing the right solar array size for your home.
All these are details that a common customer will not have the ability to understand. Having local solar companies that can help you weave around these problems is crucial.
Search for the company on major review sites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau and Foursquare. If there isn’t anything online, call the company and ask for references you can call. Check back with them and you should get somewhere around three references upon request.
Write down the general impressions that reviews have about the company.
6. What Are Their Financing Options?
As we all know, solar panel installation is expensive. You would need some type of financing option to afford it without breaking the bank. There are a few ways to finance your solar panels apart from cash.
Common financing options include getting a loan, putting panels on lease or getting a PPA. It’s best to check with the company on what types of financing they do for their customers. If you have a general idea of what financing option sounds best for you, pick a solar company that does it.
If you’re unsure what’s best for you, focus on companies that provide different options. Financing a solar panel installation can be hefty. Cross off companies that don’t have the financing options that you want.
7. Ask For A Solar Estimate
Now that you have all the crucial information when choosing your local solar companies, ask for an estimate. Many quotations will be obligation-free, so you can schedule an appointment with them. This will allow them to calculate the prices needed to provide a solar panel installation.
During the quotation period, it’s best to ask them more questions that you have not checked with. Some of these include:
- Do you handle permits needed?
- How many panels do you need?
- What’s your intake process if you want to move forward?
After talking to each one of these companies, confirm if there is anyone who is standing out. You want someone with a strong market reputation within your local market. They should have a good price for the service that they will provide.
Consider the pros and cons of each one. Not everyone who has the lowest price will have the best service. You want to confirm the value of their services, how they treat customers, and what warranties they give.
Take a look at the hardware that they have. Do they use premium products or are they using cheap hardware on a budget? Do they install solar batteries that can help you go off-grid?
If there is one of them whose service and impression you like a lot, that’s it. They’re the solar company that you need.
Hire A Local Solar Company Now
When it comes to finding your local solar company, you need to be careful in finding one. Keep asking questions and be analytical during your entire vetting process. Don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions and be thorough with the best solar company for your needs.
Are you looking for the right solar company for you? You need someone who has decades of experience and understands the industry.
We have more than twenty years of solar experience under our belts. With a team of certified solar specialists, we’re sure you won’t regret working with us.
Talk to us at Solar Sun today.