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So, you have done your research on the benefits of solar energy and decided to install a solar photovoltaic (PV) system to power your property, what now? The next important step is choosing a solar installer to set up the system for you. Picking the right installer is vital since poorly-done work can lead to issues like faulty wiring or a leaky roof.
Check the solar installer’s credentials
A good way to narrow down your choices is to check the company’s certifications and expertise. Find out more about their previous work and whether they are experienced in setting up systems on types of roofing similar to the one you have.
For accreditation, the “gold standard” program is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Getting a certification from this board requires training in solar installation and clearing a written test– so a certified installer will have a satisfactory amount of knowledge about the job. Do not hesitate to ask for proof of certifications and licenses from the companies you are considering.
Read up on the solar installer’s reviews and client testimonials
Going through online reviews can give you a good idea of the company’s track record. Take your time to read the experiences people had with the workers, and whether the company understood their precise needs and provided service accordingly.
Asking friends, family, and neighbors can also help you shortlist installers. There are over 1.9 million solar installations across the US. It is very likely that someone you know has used the services of an installation company and can refer you to a reliable one.
Find out about the warranties offered
Check what kind of warranties the company is offering, as this is a vital factor while choosing a solar installer. The service contract may include maintenance policies, performance guarantee of the system, and warranties on the workmanship.
If there are such warranty policies, go into the details of what exactly is covered and the duration of the warranty. Usually, a good installer is willing to give 5-10 years of warranty on their services. Make sure you read the fine print to avoid disappointment later.
Ask for the turnaround time
With the popularity of solar systems growing, installers often have a lot of jobs lined up. Ask the companies to give you an idea of their schedule and when they can start working on your installation.
In addition, get an estimate of how many days they will need to get the job done. On average, installing a standard 3-kilowatt system with approximately 20 solar panels takes between 1-3 days or around 75 labor hours. Of course, the exact turnaround time will depend on the type of solar system you want to be installed.
Look for customized solutions
When it comes to solar installations, avoid installers that try to sell you on a “one size fits all” system – because it does not work that way. Instead, find companies that offer customized solar solutions depending on your home and family’s specific requirements. Quality installers will visit your property, check the roof space, understand your budget, and evaluate your recent electricity bills to understand your power needs. They will then suggest the best-suited solar systems.
Ask questions like whether they will upgrade your property’s electric panel if needed. You can also check if the company is familiar with getting local permits for the installation and if they will do it for you.
Decide whether you want a national or local solar installation company
The best way to do this is to first create a list of all your available options – a simple Google search can help you here. Next, think about the pros and cons of getting the job done by a local installer or a large, nationalized company.
Often, bigger and well-established companies offer good warranties, maintenance services, and several payment options. Local service providers, on the other hand, tend to have more knowledge about the tax incentives, state rebates, and rules that apply to solar installation in your area. In addition, a local company will be aware of the area’s weather conditions and can suggest the best options for you. They would also be easier to reach in case of any issues after installation.
Calculate the costs and request for bids
Finally, compare the costs across all the bids from installers that you are considering. While solar installation prices have dropped considerably, it is still a substantial investment. Does the installer offer help with financing? What payment options does the installer offer? You can also find information on tax credit and solar incentives on the DSIRE website.
However, do not let cost be the only factor for choosing an installer for your home. If something sounds inexpensive and too good to be true, it probably is. Installers offering significantly cheaper options might be using low-quality products that will turn out to be costlier in the long run. You can also use online tools to compare solar installers. Try to compare the bids based on similar metrics to make the decision easier for yourself.
Finding out as much as you can about your shortlisted solar installers can help you make the right choice. Do not be afraid to ask all the questions you have, and follow these tips to make a well-informed decision before you sign on that dotted line.