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.