Ten Questions to Ask Before You Select a Solar Installer

What You Need to Know When Selecting a Solar Installer

With the summer fast approaching, now is the perfect time to start looking for a home solar energy system. Before you scroll through the phone book to find the number of a local solar professional, there are a number of important considerations that you have to take into account to find the right solar installer for your solar power system project. Knowing what questions to ask can make the difference between an exciting journey into renewable energy and an endless stream of problems with your new solar energy system.

  • How many solar energy systems have you installed?

Ask if the professional has experience with grid tie or off grid solar energy systems. Also, ask if the installer does mostly solar panel residential or commercial systems. This would indicate that the contractor has a history of involvement with the industry and is familiar with many different brands and components.

  • What do you recommend for my property?

As a potential solar client, keep your interests up front. If a solar contractor arrives at your door, communicate your interest in going solar, and find out what they recommend for a solar power system on your property. Chances are you already have a site selected – but find out what your contractor recommends before showing your hand. In this manner, you’ll confirm that the installer recognizes the importance of site selection. If they show up without a solar pathfinder or SunEye in hand – try someone else! The most important decision of a solar energy system is selection of a site.

  • Do you have any formal training in home solar energy installations?

A good installer will be one that has received extensive training. For instance, many solar panel manufacturers offer continuing education classes to solar contractors. These classes help familiarize the contractors with the intricacies of their unique solar energy systems. You might want to ask a potential installer whether they received formal training with the particular brand of solar equipment you hope to buy.

  • Do you have any certifications?

A number of national and state organizations, like the North America Board of Certified Energy Professionals (NABCEP), offer certification programs to help distinguish capable professionals. The NABCEP board in particular holds its installers to some of the highest standards, and many states now require homeowners to use a NABCEP-certified installer before they can participate in financial incentive programs. NABCEP’s on-line Installer Locator makes it easy to find a certified professional in your area.

  • Do you have references?

To really test the reputation of a solar installer, consider asking them for references from previous clients. Contacting past customers is a great way to determine whether a company’s claims of customer service ring true. Many installers will be happy to show you pictures of completed solar power installations – it’s a sign of a job well done!

  • Does your installation team include an experienced electrician?

Many solar energy systems require complex electrical components and unfamiliar hardware, so an electrician’s expertise is very important. However, not all licensed electricians are familiar with solar energy systems, so it’s important to ask whether the electrician working on your system has received solar-specific training and possesses experience installing photovoltaic energy systems.

  • Do you work with a licensed roofer?

If your solar photovoltaic system will be installed on your roof, contracting a licensed roofer to monitor the stress your new solar energy system will place on your home’s structure would be a prudent consideration.

  • Are you insured and bonded?

Be sure to verify that your installers have sufficient liability insurance by asking to see insurance papers. If the technicians encounter problems, you want to be confident that the installer can cover the cost of repairs and damages.

  • Do you warranty parts and components?

Some solar accessories may not come with warranties from the manufacturers. If this is the case with the specific brand that you’re looking to implement, you should ask the installer if they will warranty the equipment. Whether it comes from the maker or the installer, you should seek coverage for the greatest number of conditions and components over the longest period of time.

  • What is your long-term service policy?

Teasing out the long-term provisions of an installer’s service agreement can be tricky, especially if the agreement is full of legal and technical information. Here are a few points to consider: 1) How many years will service be provided on the unit? 2) What types of repairs and replacements does the service agreement cover? 3) What happens when the equipment doesn’t perform as efficiently as promised?

If you have more questions about home solar energy systems, please visit the SolarTown Learning Center.

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How to Choose a Solar Installation Team

When ready to switch to solar power, most begin with a quote. However, they shouldn’t choose based on price alone, there are a few other things to consider beforehand. Once the type of solar power panels has been chosen, and the buyer has figured how they’ll finance their purchase they are ready for the toughest decision ever, choosing the installation team. Here are some tips.

The team selected will be in and out of one’s home or business and on their roof basically building a custom solar power system.The way the company handles the job directly affects energy production, service and will basically determine if the panels will last as long as possible.

Since solar installers vary by reputation, size and experience as well as products offered, delivery and fees and their geographic focus it’s difficult to assess them using the standard methods of financing options, cost and general benefits. Happily, installation of solar equipment isn’t very complex. As long as the team in question is experienced the job should go off without a hitch.

Consider the following attributes and standards when looking for solar installers:

Expert Knowledge

Any solar installer should have a skill set that’s specific to the install of particular systems. There are specific types of training and several affiliations that the company should have depending on where they are located. By asking them to show their certifications one can see fi they are validated and considered experts in their field of solar power.

Checking certifications means quality assurance will be met for every system that is installed, and any crew that is affiliated with the company for the project at hand should carry at least one professional to oversee the work.

While there are plenty of talented solar installers without certifications, it’s much better to go with those who have been. This way one is guaranteed to be satisfied with the results, and they’ll know they are up to the latest standards.

Licensed and insured

In addition, all solar installers should be licensed and insured to the specifications of the area they are working in. These vary by jurisdiction. The best solar installer will provide their license number before a potential client even asks. At the very minimum they should have liability insurance.

Track record and experience

As an industry on the rise, solar power brings all types of people from professionals to homeowners and even caravan travelers. Many contractors now include solar options along with their regular electrical, plumbing, roofing and other construction jobs. This is a growing trend that hasn’t let up for years and is projected to continue to grow.

When it comes to one’s own system it’s smart to find solar installers that have a proven record for installing the specific system of interest. There is no shame in asking for stats on how many systems they’ve installed, and it’s always smart to get references.

Be Wary of Sub-Contracting

Solar installers are not immune from using sub-contractors. While having “some” is okay, be wary of any company that uses mostly sub-contractors. If they bring a specific expertise or has worked with the company for years, it can be a great arrangement. On the flip side there are tons of risks involved when too many sub-contractors are used.

Ask how the company chooses who to work with, and what the extra hands will be in charge of doing and why. It’s the property owner’s right to know all the details of the job they are paying for.

Finally, the best solar installers are also advisors, and should always be interested in the particular project at hand. They should lend advice at all times, and offer a lasting relationship should any new products be available that would benefit the set up.

Solar Installation Leads – Bridging The Gap Between Contractors And Consumers

The solar industry has become highly competitive worldwide. If you work within this industry, you will easily understand what we mean. Federal, state and local governments are encouraging businesses and households to invest in renewable energy by offering incredible financial incentives. In addition to government subsidies, the plummeting component costs have rendered solar power an increasingly cost-effective solution.

Given the benefits and reasonable cost, large numbers of consumers are considering solar power installations for their home and office spaces in varied forms such as heaters, vehicles, cookers, inverters and lighting systems. Though this sudden surge in the number of residents opting for this renewable source of energy is a healthy sign, it has given rise to certain situational problems. The most important being the demand outperforming the supply. In reality, there are enough contractors to fulfill customer requests however; there is no proper channel connecting the two.

This is where solar lead generation companies come in. They help bridge the gap between contractors and consumers by providing high-quality, responsive solar installation leads to businesses and helping customers locate dependable contractors to handle the task for them. One can call it a solar marketing strategy.

How are solar leads generated?

The service is paid one. Installers have to set up an account with the lead generation company to get leads. A lead is information about a potential sales contact. Leads are forwarded to contractors via email or text messages. Solar installation leads are collected in the same way potential customers are targeted for other businesses. Majority of them are generated online. They are sourced from search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, social media marketing such as Facebook and Twitter, banner ads and through Pay Per Click campaigns.

Types of Solar Leads

Companies offer several kinds of solar leads. The types common to most are explained below.

  • Exclusive: This information is sold only once or to one solar installer.
  • Multi-sell / Non Exclusive: In this type, information about potential sales contact is resold to customers. Most companies limit reselling to 3 contractors.
  • An appointment lead: This is an actual appointment between solar installers and potential clients.
  • Live transfer calls: These calls go straight from the company’s call center to the installer or his sales staff. This category includes consumers ready to buy solar systems.

The Benefits

  • Solar installation companies operate round the clock to provide necessary support to its members.
  • Leads are screened before they are distributed. They are required to meet strict standards.
  • They offer great flexibility. Potential sales contacts are generated keeping in mind contractors specific needs and concerns.
  • Most companies have a very competitive cost structure. This enables you to maintain a cheap yet highly effective business marketing strategy.
  • As a contractor, you have full control over your account. The most important advantage is the ability to control leads.

So, if you are a solar energy installer looking to grow your business by finding new customers, this is a good, cost-effective strategy. It enables you to increase profits with minimum investment of time and effort when it comes to marketing your solar installation business.

7 Exciting Reasons To Get Into the Solar Installation Business NOW

It Is the Perfect Time To Get Into the Solar Installation Business

The solar energy industry is absolutely booming. There’s never been a better time to get into this field. Customers who are ready to install solar PV systems at their homes are often put on long waiting lists because there simply aren’t enough installers to meet the current and growing demand. The initial equipment costs have come way down and there are more federal and state subsidies than ever before. This means the customer can get in for less but your service fees are not affected. It is also worth noting that PV systems are being designed now to be easier to install and maintain and there’s a flurry of research with amazing new products about to be launched.

There’s Enormous Potential For Growth

For the last 20 years, the demand for solar PV has grown at least 30% each year. In the United States, solar installations are expected to DOUBLE in 2011, according to IDC Energy Insights (the leading source for research-based analysis for the solar industry). – and if there were enough installers, it would likely more than double. According to several studies, electricity consumption is is expected to at least double by 2030 and the price is expected to continue to rapidly rise. The demand will surely get MUCH greater over the next two decades. This is one of the few under-saturated industries out there and a reputable solar installer should have all the work they would want and then some.

It’s Easy To Get Started In the Solar Business

The start-up costs are very low. You can become profitable within the first month or two. It’s easy to start part-time if you don’t want to quit your other job. The business isn’t that hard to learn if you can get someone who has already been in the business for a while to divulge what they know – no sense in reinventing the wheel here – just pattern yourself after someone who has already been successful in the solar business. You do NOT need a college degree but those who have one will find it rewarding work.

You Can Take Enormous Pride In What You Do

As the co-organizer of an annual public solar tour in my community, I personally know several solar consultants who just beam with pride when they show off their work. Each project is an accomplishment that lasts a long time (solar PV lasts 40 years on average) and each project is there in plain sight for the whole world to marvel at. Solar installers absolutely love to take us on a pre-tour to point out all their projects that could be included on the public solar tour. With an excited voice, they say things like “See those panels on that church, I installed those about 5 years ago….I also installed the panels at the middle school….want to see?!?” As we pass by a house and they point at the roof, “Look over there….that was one of my first projects and they still work fine…hardly any maintenance at all….they’ve already made their original investment back and now they’re selling electricity back to the utility company!” The pride solar installers show for their work is extremely infectious and spreads throughout the whole community. Local newspapers love to write about these projects. It’s one those rare jobs where everyone involved feels good – the installer and the customer.

It’s Really Easy To Attract New Customers

I also know from the solar tour that if you do a good job with each installation, customers will be more than happy to brag on you profusely and highly recommend you – and encourages other to get the same technology. Free seminars and energy audits are also good method to easily attract new customers. Often times, a seminar will include a field trip to a past project or two and I’ve found that solar PV customers are more than happy to host such a visit and talk very enthusiastically about the project. It’s like having a human billboard showing off your work which is very tangible and exciting to see.

It’s Incredibly Rewarding and You’ll Meet All Kinds of Interesting People

People who decide to install solar PV at their homes or businesses are some of the most fascinating people around. They’re often into all sorts of cool sustainability issues and love to share information and trade notes. They are people who genuinely care about the future of the planet and about what we leave future generations. It is quire rewarding to work with and help these kinds of people realize their solar energy dreams – and they are usually networked into many others who are also interested in your services.

Solar Installation Is Highly Profitable and It’s Only Going To Get Better

The solar business is VERY lucrative. According to large job sites, the average annual salary for a solar consultant ranges from about $75,000 to $150,000. The lower end of the salary range tends to be in states with a lower cost of living and the higher end corresponds to states with a higher cost of living. If you own your own solar consulting business, you can of course net MUCH more than this – and as your business grows you can create highly desirable jobs in your community.

Professional Solar Installation Vs DIY – Pros & Cons

Home solar panels are a great way to generate clean, renewable energy from the sun. If you have been considering going solar, you can choose between a professional solar installation and a do-it-yourself option. Both can be successful, but which one is right for you? Here are three major factors to consider:

1. Price

Watt for watt, a DIY solar project is almost certainly going to cost less money than a professional solar installation. Some kits include only the instructions to build and set up your home solar panels, where more expensive kits come with the panels, inverter, and instructions. If you go the DIY route, panels built by a reputable company with good warranties are a far better bet than ones you’ve assembled yourself.

On the other hand, the quote from a good solar installer will include site evaluation, system design, parts, labor, and interconnection. Some solar installers will also help you file for solar rebates. Many of the federal and local incentives are available only for professional solar installations.

2. Installation

Any project involving electricity requires you to know what you’re doing. If you think you have a good working knowledge of electricity, a small single panel solar kit is a good way to preview what you would be in for with a bigger project. If you do a lot of DIY projects, you are probably already aware of the hidden costs in time and frustration. However, if you’re handy and willing to do the research and labor, you may well be up for the challenge of installing your own home solar panels. Don’t forget about the building permits!

One of the major advantages of a professional solar installation is that every aspect is handled by experienced professionals, from applying for building permits, to determining the best location for your solar panels, to interconnecting with the grid and passing the final building and electrical inspections. Your solar installer will be able to deal with any issues that come up, and get your system up and running on schedule.

3. Solar Panel Quality & Efficiency

The quality of panels in kits can vary widely, so you’ll need to do your research. Efficiency and durability are important components of your solar panel system’s ability to reduce your energy bills. Efficiency is also affected by the location of your solar panels and the orientation of your roof. If you DIY, you will need to determine the optimal location for your panels.

While solar panels are generally reliable and low maintenance, warranties are still good things. If you build your home solar panels, you will clearly be on your own if anything goes wrong. Even solar panels with good warranties (20+ years) may have their warranties invalidated by unprofessional installation. Find out before you buy.

Professional solar installers tend to use higher quality, name brand solar panels with good warranties because customers will hold their solar installer responsible for anything that goes wrong. Ask the company who manufactures their panels and inverters before signing any paperwork.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a go-getter who is willing to do the research and has the skills to install your own home solar panels, you can enjoy considerable savings with DIY solar. However, if you don’t want to take any chances with your home and roof and want everything done right the first time, you’re better off with a professional solar installer.

5 Reasons You Should Hire a Solar Installer

Solar panel installation is undoubtedly a great decision to reduce your utility expenses and obtain safe, clean and reliable source of energy. When it comes to installing a solar electric system, getting the help of a professional solar installer is essential to get the right and quality panel type for your home. In this article, I am going to describe a few reasons as to why you should hire a solar installer.

1. Providing the Right Type of a Panel

There are a huge variety of solar electric systems available today in varied sizes and types. Therefore, hiring a professional installer will help you select the right type and size of a panel that best fits your electricity requirements and budget. He will determine the panel type by estimating your monthly electricity needs. Moreover, a professional installer will find out the proper place for installation for your solar electric system so that it gets direct sun exposure for generating optimum electricity.

2. Ensuring Your System is Energy-Efficient

Your solar installer efficiently connects each and every component of solar module including inverter, controller and other parts via electrical wiring. Electrical wiring can be dangerous, as it involves specialized connection terminals and wiring and you may not be able to on your own. A professional installer has the expertise to handle the voltages correctly thereby preventing any electric shock or fire hazard, ensuring an energy efficient panel is correctly installed for producing maximum efficiency.

3. Completing Your Project in Time

There are a variety of good reasons to hire a professional installer, but this is the most obvious one. Installing a solar electric system can be a quite difficult task as it involves working with electricity, lifting heavy objects, crawling on the roof and other risky tasks. Getting the help of an installer will provide you with the security that the project will be definitely be completed in time without any problems or mishaps.

4. Avoiding any Possibility of Home Damage

It is another important reason for hiring a professional solar panel installer that ensures your home is safe from any structural damage. There is a possibility of damaging your roof or a solar module while installing the panel yourself. As these solar electric systems are quite fragile and a small hit or drop while lifting can severely damage an expensive system. Choosing a professional to install the panels is one of the great ways to reduce the risk of damage to your panel or your roof.

5. Providing Quality and Affordable Material

A professional solar installer can save you money by providing quality and affordable mounting supplies and power systems. These professional do a large number of installations so they have a better knowledge about the rates of latest mounting equipments, saving you time and money by providing quality products in affordable rates.

If you want to reduce your costly electricity bills then, installing a solar panel is the best possible solution in this regard. Hiring a solar installer is a viable option that will provide a safe and secure installation on your home, giving you much better pace of mind.