Questions to Ask When Choosing A Solar Contractor
Originally published on Modernize.com
How many solar installations have you done?
The U.S. solar industry has boomed in recent years, growing to more than 7.4 gigawatts at the end of 2015. Finding the right contractor for your installation is similar to the process of finding any other home improvement or industrial contractor. The wise consumer will read reviews and ask for local references. Ideally, the company you choose to hire will have successfully installed multiple rooftop and/or ground-mount residential photovoltaic systems.
What certification do your contractors have?
Contractors should be certified or should be working towards North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) accreditation. If a contractor does not yet have the certification, you should inquire if they have the credentials required for certification: equivalent experience, education, and/or technical expertise to apply for and ultimately sit for the qualifying exam. Many utility companies and incentive providers mandate that a system be installed by a NABCEP professional in order to fulfill their rebate requirements. Similarly, you may run the risk of not being allowed to interconnect your home to the grid if a NABCEP contractor wasn’t involved in the installation.
Do you have references I can contact?
No one understands the pros and cons of a business better than someone who has worked with the business before. Any company you interview should have references that you can contact to ask about their overall experience. To ensure you really are getting the whole picture, research the company through sites like Solar Reviews to check for any negative encounters.
What size system will my home require?
In general, one square foot solar panel that has access to direct sunlight should produce about 10 watts of power a day. By knowing your family’s daily wattage requirements, you can calculate roughly how many photovoltaic cells you will need. A trustworthy salesperson should offer a quote that is fairly compatible to your calculations. Ultimately the size of your system will depend on your budget, available roof or ground space, electricity needs and availability of local incentives.
What warranties does your company provide?
Although most solar systems should last for 25 years or more, they may need to be serviced along the way. A standard warranty for high-quality solar panels should guarantee at least 90 percent of power output after 10 years and 80 percent after 25 years. Your installer will provide you with the manufacturer’s warranty. Also, in order to qualify for some state incentives, it is usually required that the company’s workmanship be guaranteed. Be sure that any equipment and labor used falls within these parameters.
Does my city have solar regulations?
Most cities will require a building permit in order to ensure that the installation is completed safely and to code. Usually your contractor will take care of acquiring all necessary permits and scheduling any mandatory inspections, but that isn’t always the case. If you are going to be responsible for this part of the process, visit your municipality’s webpage to determine what information you will need to provide in order to be issued all proper permits.
Will you assist me in understanding all the rebates and incentives that will be available to me?
Choosing to move forward with any major home renovation comes down to the bottom line, solar is no different. Your potential contractor should be willing to help you understand any rebates or incentives for which you will qualify. You should still do your own research as well, though, and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency can help you do just that.
Once you have interviewed multiple contractors and decided on a contractor who makes you confident in their abilities, all that’s left is getting your project started!
In California, Contractor Classifications Authorized to Perform Solar Projects:
1. In addition, there are other credential options also for PV Installers as found here?
Martin, thank you for the helpful links you provided.