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How to Choose a Solar Panel Installer

June 17, 2021

Homeowners become nervous when picking solar installers since solar technology and panels are vast. These situations do not come automatically since almost every homeowner has called a plumber at some point. Still, a solar installer is not the kind of everyday technician that you are familiar with. Since this is a situation that most people haven't dealt with, you should learn how you'd tell a good solar installer from a bad one. Read this article and learn relevant insight on how to choose a solar panel installer.  

Put Yourself into the Right Mindset

Most people indeed have experience hiring electricians or plumbers to handle the small jobs around the house. Some have even hired general contractors to do a major renovation on their homes. However, most of them have no experience with solar and don't know where to start. Well, hiring a solar installer is more than finding a plumber to fix your leaky faucet but less than finding a general contractor to do a kitchen remodel. So, you should be prepared for a little bit of legwork, but it's not that bad.  

The process of hiring your solar installer involves several aspects like doing background checks on the company, understanding their product, and reading their contracts. These are decisions you have to make all along if you want to narrow down to a solar installer who suits you best.

While running a background check on the installers at your disposal, there are several things that you must take into consideration. These aspects are as follows:

Search for Potential Litigations

Hiring a solar installation company with prior lawsuits can significantly affect your relationship. The best way to do this is by using electronic legal databases that can help you review cases and perform case name searches. You might have to pay to access these online electronic databases. You can also use the databases to search civil suits on the company.

Use the Better Business Bureau

The Better Business Bureau gives information about companies and grades them from A to F. The core aspects that this service looks into include dispute resolutions between clients and the business, consumer education, fraud prevention, and business ethics. Learning about these aspects will help you choose a reliable solar installer.  

Avoid Solar Comparison Sites

Buying a solar and having one installed are two different things. Therefore, there are slim chances of finding a reliable installer through solar sales sites. Choosing an installer based on solar prices oversimplifies your approach and can have you emphasize a reasonable price rather than having a reliable installation.

A home solar system is an array of sophisticated systems with different components meant to work together seamlessly. The installation process also requires coordinating with the local authorities, signing paperwork, and coordinating with your utility companies.

A good solar installation company will coordinate all the processes needed in your solar installation process more than you could do. It also provides a suitable opportunity to make follow-ups when something does not go as per your expectation. Imagine if you have bought a solar system from an online store and have a different solar company install it for you. If anything has to happen to the system's performance, it would be more challenging to trace the seller than to find a local installation company.  

Another disadvantage of relying on online sellers is that you might buy a solar system without clarifying its essential details. Therefore, there are chances of ending up with a system that doesn't work as expected.  

Look for Several Quotes

Similar to other home projects, you should look for several quotes while finding a solar installer. This does not necessarily aim to settle on the fairest price but to compare different proposals and credentials of the installers at your disposal.

Having several quotes at your disposal will help you avoid unethical companies that make everything optimistic while ignoring the shady problems that lower their solar systems' production.

A reliable company would not shy off from telling you that your roof needs fixing before the installation or your house doesn't receive enough sunlight to make sense in using solar systems. They would rather walk away without a deal rather than install a system that won't work correctly. 

Unfortunately, a less scrupulous company only wants to make a sale. Therefore, having three quotes from different companies would tell you whether the solar will work or not and help you make the right decision.  

Multiple quotes also let you compare several equipment choices and installation approaches. For instance, you will avoid cases where the racking ends up causing a leaky roof. You will also have a better chance to choose an installer whose experience in installing solar systems in your particular type of roof. Failure to rely on an experienced installer would compromise your roof's waterproof integrity, causing thousands of dollars in damage repair that you would have avoided.

Ask your installer what methods they would use to ensure that your living room doesn't start raining once the installation is complete. If you find a dismissive contractor without any explicit action and another one that answers your questions, this would be a suitable way to distinguish between a good and a subpar contractor. 

The best way to narrow it down to a reliable installer is by having a checklist to evaluate your potential companies. Typically, your checklist should include the following:

  • Types of incentives available
  • Net metering
  • System cost breakdown
  • Site plans
  • Production estimation
  • Warranties
  • Component selection
  • System monitoring
  • Warranty claim processes

Review their Accreditation

If a particular solar installation company is accredited, it means they have met all the required standards needed in professional solar installation. The North American Board Certified Practitioners certifies energy installers in the U.S, and relying on an installer with their accreditation would be a suitable option. 

This agency’s accreditation requirement requires the installation company to pass a written test and have a particular solar installation field experience. Although their certification does not mean quality craft automatically, it does ensure that the installers have a certain level of expertise and knowledge. It also guarantees professional supervision by a NABCEP-certified professional or a crew member on the job, ensuring better results.   

Look for a Company with a Good Reputation  

When looking for a solar installer, you should find one with a successful track record. Friends and acquaintances familiar with solar systems would be the best choice for learning about local installation companies. 

You can also rely on online consumer reviews. Most companies are active on social media, meaning that it won't be challenging to read about former customer experiences. You should also learn about their labor source to determine if they have reliable technicians at their disposal.   

Avoid Making Your Choice Based Only on Price

Everyone wants to save their money, but saving your money on your solar system would not automatically guarantee quality output. There is a significant difference between the price of equipment and the quality of the installation. Probably, your best installer is the cheapest you can find, but comparing their proposal would be the best way to determine whether you will end up with good results. 

This leaves you with the duty to research the quality of equipment used by the installation company of your choice and check whether it meets the best standards.

Rely on Local Companies that Have Been in Business for Long

Be careful with some of the new solar brand companies that have been in business only for a few years and settle on a more experienced company. Some of the more recent companies come with promising quality solar equipment, but you might end up with a low-quality solar system unless you have solid proof showing its quality.  

Experienced companies are better choices since they are more likely familiar with every brand of solar’s technical competency more than a newly established company. Their familiarity with the local ordinances is also a practical reason you should pick a local and experienced company. In California, it's normal to find a company with more than ten years of experience or more.   

Ask About their Warranties

A solar system has different components, and each has different warranties from its manufacturers. Your installer must explain every warranty to you. To start with, they should provide warranties of their quality and components of their system. This means that they should confirm whether they offer warranties to labor and replacement costs due to their failed components. 

In most cases, solar systems have two warranties, covering the material and artistry, while the other covers the power output. Typically, solar panels degrade at a rate of less than 1% per year. This means that your panel warranty should specify the amount of power it can produce as it degrades. Most panel warranties last for twenty-five years, meaning that yours should be covered at least for twenty years.   

Another crucial part of the system that you need to know about is the inverter's warranty. A quality inverter system should last for about ten to twenty-five years. The racking system should also have a warrant of at least twenty years to ensure that yours can hold up potentially extreme weathers for long. Finally, check the batteries' warranty and confirm whether it guarantees at least a ten-year cover.   

Assess the Installer's Customer Service

The level of customer service offered by your preferred solar installation company has a lot to do with the services' satisfaction. Good customer services should meet a few aspects, as explained below.   

Responds Quickly

One of the most significant factors in good customer service is the speed at which a company can respond to your calls. Nowadays, you would expect a company to respond to you at an average time of 12 hours, depending on its size. Therefore, avoid any company with the reputation of spending more than 12 hours to respond to your queries.   

Knows its Customer

There's nothing more disappointing than having to explain yourself to a solar installation company every time you call for their assistance. A good company should have the means to know its customer no matter how extensive their customer base is. Otherwise, you will end up explaining your name, location, and probably the time they installed your solar system every time you experience a problem.   

Fixes Your Mistake

Failure to take responsibility for your mistake is a sure way of creating a bad reputation. Transparency in the solar installation business can go a long way in building a solid reputation for a company. Sometimes a good company would go beyond sticking to their installation policies and choose to do good to maintain a good reputation. This should be reflected by the installation company you are about to choose.   

Confirm About their Aftercare Services

Your solar system should be warranted or guaranteed for a period, but the level of aftercare service provided by the installer might differ. That's why you should ask your installer about the services offered after installing the system. It's recommendable to be clear with this aspect since you might be expected to cater for some labor costs when your system experiences specific problems.   

Avoid High-Pressure Sales Installers

Most solar installation companies incentivize their sales staff with commissions once they make a certain amount of sales. Therefore, you shouldn't be surprised when the sales representative works hard to make a sale. However, this can be a potential red flag if the company does not focus on quality but on selling high solar volumes. 

The best way to maintain a high-quality installation is by staying local and choosing a company that emphasizes quality work. Big solar installation companies might seem to be the better option, but they can end up disappointing you with low-quality based on their high-pressure sales tactics.   

Go Solar with a Trusted Solar Panel Installer Near Me

Solar installation might seem complex, but Sun Solar Electric is here to make it bliss. If you are interested in having solar panels in your Northern California or Bay area home, contact us at 707-658-2157 and let us help you.

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