Choosing the Right Solar Company/Installers For You!
Hiring the best solar energy contractor can be a bothersome process. As there are dozens of solar installers and solar contractors on the market, finding the right solar installer is difficult. Furthermore, as renewable energy is relatively new on the market, there are many solar companies out there, but getting verifiable reviews and ensuring the solar installation process goes smoothly is difficult. For that reason, we’ve decided to answer the question of how to find the best solar energy contractor.
What is a Solar Energy Contractor?
A solar energy contractor is a person or a legal entity that can install your PV system and make sure that all the necessary equipment is in place and is fully functional. A solar energy contractor is also known as a solar installer, a solar company, or a PV installer. A good solar installer will be certified and experienced and will have at least ten years of experience with solar energy – something that many companies today cannot boast of.
Things to Look for in A Solar Installer
Every solar energy contractor can install your solar system. However, as solar installations are very individual and no two are alike, you should know how to choose the best solar installers to do the work for you. Every solar system is expensive, so saving money on a solar installer can cost you both time and money, especially as damaging solar panels will render them useless, and a lot of this damage is not covered by the warranty.
Considering the careful handling of the equipment needed and how high the upfront investment is, you want to filter through solar contractors working in your area and ensure a smooth installation process that will not leave you with a headache. Here is a list of what you should pay attention to when choosing your solar installer:
- Ask for a contract sample and review it – if necessary, hire a solicitor to tell you what your rights are, what damage the warranty covers, and, most importantly, what kind of workmanship warranty you will be able to get;
- Check for the solar contractors’ reviews and experience online – ask about their previous solar installations in your area, and ask solar homeowners about their experience;
- Check whether they offer an extended warranty and what can be covered;
- Do they offer any maintenance plans? Yearly checkups of your solar system are not difficult, but not knowing anything about electronics can be a big headache;
- Do they provide full service? Do they subcontract? Full-service business models may cost a bit more, but knowing that a single company deals with the entire solar installation means more security and experience,
- Ask who will be handling your project and check them out online. Every serious solar installer company will have a dedicated project manager;
- Always ask multiple solar contractors for their quotes and consultation – check out their reputation, staffing, and any other factors you may deem important;
- Ask about paperwork and anything else you may need to know connected to legal practices and procedures in your state – which portion of the paperwork will they be dealing with, and which portion will you be handling?
- Do they offer financing options?
- When is the first payment to be made?
There are also other factors you may want to consider when choosing the right contractor. Running a check on Better Business Bureau (BBB) means more reviews and a better overview of their services. As purchasing power from the utility company is getting more expensive and less stable than it should be, you should consider a solar installation as a matter of necessity rather than a luxury. Here are additional things to look for in a solar installer:
Almost every solar installer is ready to put a few miles behind their wheels, as solar installations are not all focused on a single area. However, many certified installers will charge extra for your solar installation, especially if the site is off-grid and remote. The rule of thumb is to first check out contractors working in your area and then spread.
License & Certifications
Certification and licenses that are necessary for a solar contractor differ in each state and area. For this reason, you should consider contacting the local municipality office and checking which licenses solar contractors need. In some cases, they will need:
- Electrical contractor license – to be able to wire the solar panels correctly and connect them to the grid. In off-grid areas, you may also want a solar battery – in which case you should really hire someone with licenses and a good track record – to ensure no equipment is damaged due to improper wiring;
- General contracting license – for attaching the solar frame to the roof with no damage to the structural properties of the roof itself.
Additional licenses and certifications may be necessary, especially in multi-family homes and buildings higher than two stories. The next thing to pay attention to is the certifications your solar contractor has. In general, the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP certification) is the gold standard in the solar industry.
As a solar system per se is not cheap and is mounted on your roof (which costs considerably high), you should make sure that your solar installers have the proper insurance. Before even hiring a licensed contractor, check out your own insurance and see what kind of damage is covered. This will ensure that any damage that may happen is covered, leaving you with money in your pockets where it belongs.
When it comes to the insurance that every good solar installer should have, this insurance should cover any injuries to the contractor and their team of people. This insurance should also cover the property and equipment damage for both you and them. Professional liability insurance should also be able to cover issues related to the design and paperwork that is to be done before even starting with your solar installation.
On the other hand, your insurance should cover damage done by workers on both the equipment and your property. Even the best solar installers can make a mistake or two, which can end in high repair costs once the project is finished. Furthermore, the equipment you will be buying, especially for an off-grid installation, is really high, so insuring your investment is necessary.
The most common complaint after installing solar panels is water damage and mold, especially in the structural support beams of the roof. As installing solar panels requires drilling holes into your roof, you should check whether your insurance covers this type of damage or not. In case it does not, contact your insurance house and check whether it is possible to expand your insurance or pay for additional protection.
A workmanship warranty is something that you should ask for. Any serious solar installer will stand behind their work and ensure that the job you receive is done well and is done in such a way that it can withstand the wear and tear of time. A single screw not screwed properly can ruin a solar panel, so make sure to ask about this, and do not hesitate to look further if your solar installer does not have the workmanship warranty.
Beware of any particularly young solar companies issuing long workmanship warranty – nobody knows if they will be in business for long enough to ensure that they follow through with their promises. The fact is that the solar industry is a very competitive field, with many companies seeking quick solar certification and ways to make money. Many companies, as the market is still very young, will not be able to stay around for too long as only the most competitive companies with the best business models will stay around.
Furthermore, when checking the company and their workmanship warranty, you should also check the details around their establishment year, and any business success reports you may find. You should do this in any case, but particularly if the company offers an extended warranty – having the peace of mind in knowing that your renewable system is protected is priceless.
Reputation & Longevity
Check out how long the solar installers have been in the business. You should also check out their reputation and find any online reviews you can get your hands on. The best place for this type of aggregate data is the BBB. You can check out business history, management details, and much more.
Hiring only the best contractors to install your solar energy system also means checking their longevity – the first three years with any company are the most critical years during which a company may fail. The first large milestone in creating a successful solar contractor, therefore, is after this period. The next best period is ten years after the establishment date. Any company after ten years in existence is sure to have had enough experience and is very likely to stay around for another decade at least.
There are many online tools and testimonials that can help you determine how much it will cost you to install your solar system. However, this is not enough, as these quotes change on a regular basis and should only be considered as a guide rather than an actual price tag. To learn more about the pricing of your installation, you should contact many different solar companies and get their free quotes.
Always remember that you should choose neither the most expensive nor the cheapest solution on the market. The cheapest solutions are usually cheap for a reason, and you do not want someone with no certification to handle your renewable energy system. Solar certification costs money and is a mark of a good solar installer. Choosing the most expensive contractor, on the other hand, is not the best option either, as you may be overpaying and increasing the payback period of your panels.
Time Duration of Installing Solar Panels
Understand that installing a renewable energy system may take a long time since this process covers multiple steps. Steps that should be done to actually start with installing solar panels include:
- Understanding your energy needs,
- Getting a rough idea of what kind of a solar array you may want,
- Finding the best deals on solar equipment on the local market,
- Finding the right solar contractor with proper solar certification,
- Checking out their track record, previous experience, and services offered,
- Designing the solar energy system,
- Checking out your solar financing options (some contractors offer help with this, in other cases, you should consult with your back and ask what solar financing options they offer),
- Performing roof inspection,
- Obtaining necessary permits,
- Solar array installation, and
- Test running it and deploying your solar array.
There are many steps that you should do before even hiring your contractors. Your system will provide free electricity, but the road is complex, although not that long. You should always ask for rough estimates or a timetable. Although it may seem a long process, many companies compete with one another who will provide the best possible and the fastest service. Some companies will even include help with the paperwork and getting the necessary permits.
Other companies will help with solar panel choice and purchase. It is up to you to find the best solar companies in your area, especially if you are a business owner. This way, your company will not stall for too long, and you may even keep working during the installation process. Do not forget to check out the online reviews for any comments concerning the length of the system installation, as not all installers will be 100% truthful in their estimates.
In general, the installation part takes no longer than 1-4 days. With a team of 2-3 people, this is the average time it takes to place a roof-mounted system on your property. It may take a bit longer for ground-mounted systems, as the foundation needs to be poured and has to be given time to solidify. However, some issues may prolong the installation time:
- A structurally unsound roof will need time to be fixed,
- Bad roofing shingles will need to be replaced, as they risk water damage to the bearing structure below,
- Hitting the bedrock can mean significant delays when the rock has to be broken first in ground-mounted PV systems,
- Bad wiring has to be replaced, as it risks catching on fire – solar panels are strong power producers, especially when multiple panels are placed on the roof, etc.
How to Find the Best Solar Panel Contractor?
To ensure your installation is quick and painless and that you can enjoy the benefits of your renewable system sooner rather than later, look for the best solar panel contractor. The benefits of choosing a certified service include fast service, professional installation with as little roof drilling as possible, and being able to enjoy free energy for years to come – with not too much hassle and no damage to the panels. When wondering how to find the best solar panel contractor, you should take into consideration the following factors:
- The longevity of the company – any company with over ten years of experience should be good enough,
- The reviews the company has received – the better the reviews, the likelier is that your installation will be done professionally,
- Multi-state operation is usually a sign of a strong company,
- Certification – NABCEP certification is the gold standard in the US,
- Having a dedicated project manager – having a single person to work with means less miscommunication and a better understanding of both parties,
- Full-service installation – full service includes mounting the solar frame on your roof, attaching the solar panels, as well as wiring them. Additionally, the full service also means attaching your panels to the battery and the grid so that the excess solar energy can be sent to the grid in on-grid operations. Always check with your utility company. They should be able to provide a net meter (smart meter) and start dual reading on the shortest notice.
How often do solar panels need maintenance?
Solar panels need very little maintenance. Usually, once a year, you should clean your solar panels and inspect them for any signs of damage. In most cases, however, you will not need to do any kind of maintenance yourself. For as long as the system produces electricity, you should know that it is functioning properly. The cleaning of your solar array is done to ensure that your system can convert as much sunlight into energy as possible. It is usually done after dust or sand storms or once a year, usually after winter.
Is solar power a waste of money?
Solar power is not a waste of money. Your installation will provide you with clean, green energy for around 25 years from the installation date. As installers can tell you, all solar homeowners see a significant reduction in their power bills and many other benefits, such as saving money and reducing their carbon footprint. Once installed, your residential panels will keep producing power for as long as there is the sun.
How long does it take for a solar panel to pay for itself?
Solar panels take between 8-12 years to pay off, depending on where you live in the US. In some states where electricity is even more expensive, it takes even shorter. An average installed solar array, therefore, takes only around four years to pay off in Hawaii, with the average Hawaii electric rate of around $0.30. The efficiency of the panels also plays a significant role, so avoid purchasing the cheapest panels you can – their efficiency is usually very low.
How long do solar panels last?
Solar panels generally last for about 25 years. During this time, they will have produced enough electrical current to pay themselves off around twice, with the average US electric rate of around $0.13 per kWh. Solar panels are designed to withstand long service periods with little damage and can withstand more than 3 feet of snow, strong hail, wind, and rain with no damage.
There are many installers who can help you with solar array placement and getting free energy for your household. However, before you choose who will install your pricey equipment, you should understand what to look for in certified installers. Our handy guide is here for this reason – to expand your knowledge on solar contractors and ensure you know what to expect during the equipment installation.