There are over 2 million residential solar installations in the U.S. alone.
This is a figure that’s expected to double by 2023, such as the popularity growth of solar energy. The benefits of renewable energy speak for themselves, so it’s easy to see why you chose to go solar. But finding the right installer can be tricky, especially when you’re new to solar panels.
It doesn’t have to be though! Keep reading for our guide on how to find the best solar company for your needs.
Understand the Types of Solar Companies Out There
To get the best solar company, it’s important to understand the types of companies you’ll see. Here is a breakdown of the solar companies you might come across.
Manufacturers of Solar Equipment
Manufacturers are the companies that produce solar panel equipment. This includes the solar photovoltaic (PV) panels themselves.
They’re not the ones that will install it in your home or business. These companies are who installers buy the equipment from to be able to sell on.
The company you will have the most interaction with is a solar installation company. Companies like Blue Raven buy the equipment and install it into your home or business.
Their teams specialize in solar panel installation and working with complex technologies. They’ll also connect your solar energy system to the grid, and handle the inspections.
Before the installation, installers will do a site evaluation. This will look at your roof and do measurements to make sure it can handle the panels. This also helps determine the system that will meet your needs best.
Lead Generation Companies
Lead generation companies specialize in generating sales leads. They’ll work with all the other types, from solar manufacturers to finance providers.
They’re the ones who organize sales appointments or put together contact lists. These are then sold to dealers, installers, and other companies within the chain.
Solar dealers receive permission from manufacturers to sell their products. Their main focus is the creation, development, and sale of these products.
Some dealers though will have direct, in-house installation teams. It’s not unusual though for dealers to outsource the installation to third parties.
Solar financing companies only focus on giving financing options to customers. They’ll provide options for both residential and commercial use, though these options vary. Usually, they’ll partner with installation companies and dealers of their choice.
Including manufacturing, these companies will handle the process from start to finish. They sell products, provide financing and also install those solar panel systems.
Every aspect of the installation process gets taken care of. From the factory shop floor to the top of your roof, you’re covered.
Don’t Make a Choice on Price Alone
Saving money is something everyone likes to do but you should take care with solar energy. Solar photovoltaic systems aren’t the place to make savings if you want the best results.
There are real, fundamental differences between the equipment on the market. It is possible that the best installer in your local area could be the cheapest. But by skimping to save money and going for the cheapest you could end up with lower quality equipment. It won’t perform as well as other options you could have considered.
On the flip side of this, it’s not always wise to go for the most expensive installer either. You might be able to get the same, or similar equipment cheaper with fewer frills. Or you might be overpaying for a system that’s beyond what you actually need.
Research the companies you’re choosing from and ask them about their equipment. Once you know what they use, look it up online yourself to see how it’s performing on the market. This is even more important if you’re looking to reduce reliance on the grid and save on energy bills.
Shop Around for a Few Different Quotes
When shopping for solar panel installation companies look for 3-4 different quotes. Different companies will charge different rates and have different billing structures.
The most simple is cost-per-watt and that’s what you should look for. Your solar installer should also charge a flat rate, depending on how large your system will be.
By getting a few different quotes you’ll get a feel for the costs better and can find a baseline. This makes it easier to compare companies and find the best ones based on pricing.
Solar energy installers worth considering will schedule an appointment to see your home. This will be at a time that suits you and helps them provide a more accurate quote.
During the inspection, take the chance to ask any questions that you might have. These could include the following:
- Are they licensed and insured?
- Have the worked on local jobs before?
- Based on your energy usage, how many panels are right for you?
- Do they have a warranty and what does it cover?
- Will they handle permits and inspections?
By contacting a few different installers you’ll get a more competitive rate. Those savings won’t be insignificant either, it could save you a few thousand dollars.
Choosing solar power for your home is a great investment but a costly one. That’s why it’s important to have an open, strong relationship with your installer.
The work doesn’t stop after installation. You need a reliable, reputable installer that offers a great experience. Trust is key, so if anything feels off listen to your gut.
A good installer should provide accurate and thorough information. They should make you feel comfortable, communicate well and answer with open honesty.
The best installers will work with you to choose the right system. You should come away with an understanding of how your solar panel system works. You should also understand how it fits into the existing energy system of your home or business.
Choose a Solar Company With Experience
You should only choose an installer that is an expert in the systems they offer. The best way to determine the company standards is to see if they passed the NABCEP test. You should also pick companies that have at least 2 years of on-the-job experience in the solar field.
The NABCEP offers the best national certification standard right now. The best solar installers will hold their certification. But you can also quality check a company by checking out their online reviews from past clients.
It’s important to note that the sales consultant usually won’t be NABCEP certified. You want to ask if the technician installing your solar panels is. If there is no NABCEP certificate, then judge by experience. You’ll want to pick a company that has 5 or more years of installation experience.
Check Their Licensing and Insurance
Any solar installer you consider should have the needed business licenses. This includes local requirements as well as those required by the state. At the very least, they should hold a C-10 license which is for general electrical contractors.
Of course, for the best results, it’s better to choose someone who specializes in solar. Be certain that they’re licensed to deal with the electrical and wiring components. You’ll connect to the grid, and inspectors will need reassurance that it’s done safely.
You’ll also want to check that they have the right public liability and workers’ comp in place. This will cover you against any damage or accidents that happen on your property. If this isn’t in place, you could end up being the one to foot the repair or medical bills.
Check Out Their Past Work and Their Track Record
Solar energy is a growing industry and that’s a trend that’s set to continue next year and beyond. As such, it’s an industry that’s drawing in a lot of professionals with diverse backgrounds.
Because of this, it makes our previous tips on experience a little trickier. It’s not always easy to find a company with dedicated solar experience that spans years. A lot of the time, it might even be a service offered as part of wider electrical services.
But you need to be sure that who you’re hiring can complete the job to a high standard. This isn’t a small home project and a poor job could have big impacts on your home and your existing energy supply.
You don’t want a contractor who will finish the job halfway through. You need one who you can rely on to complete the job and provide ongoing maintenance support. In fact, it’s this post-installation care that matters most for any solar experience.
This is why you should ask to see previous work they’ve completed. Any good installer will have a portfolio of previous work that they can walk you through and explain. Even better, ask to see a property with a similar situation to yours.
There are also testimonials you should ask to see. You can even ask if there are any past clients that you can talk to yourself. Talking to someone will give you a better sense of what the company was like to work with and how good their work was.
Do A Background Check for Credibility and Reputation
Talking to previous customers is also a good way to understand how credible a company is. Did they live up to the promises they gave? Do they honor their warranties? How easy were they to deal with if a problem came up?
Those are all important things to take into consideration as anything could happen. Again, this is why it’s important to choose an established company. If you need to use that warranty, you don’t want to worry about the installer goes out of business in a few years.
Google, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, Solar Reviews, and Energy Sage can help. All these places give you a glimpse into a company’s reputation and how credible they are. They’ve also trusted industry review providers, so you know they aren’t bought and paid for.
Not only can you see what past customers thought, but you can also see any complaints against them. It’s not possible to please everyone, so most businesses will have a few bad reviews here and there. Especially the longer they’ve been trading.
Read these bad reviews and see what issues came up. How did the company respond and rectify the issue? Was the customer satisfied with this action? This will give you an idea of what they’re like should the worst happen.
What should cause red flags is if there are more bad reviews than there are good ones. You also want to be wary of complaints that reoccur over and over again.
That’s a sign that they’re not learning from past mistakes, and not taking care of their quality. If you notice a bad pattern of behavior walk away and look at working with a different installer. Your home and wallet will thank you for it.
Check Their Maintenance Promises and Warranties
Workmanship warranties cover any problems that come from a poor installation. If the panel comes loose and falls off, for example, then this will cover the replacement and repair.
When it comes to warranty duration, this can vary between installers. Contractors will over warranties between 1 and 25 years. You should check this detail before you commit to any installation.
Be wary of new companies with little experience that offer you extended warranties. Hundreds of residential solar businesses fail each year, even in a growing market. Most of the time, it’s the newer, smaller residential businesses that go under.
So, it’s all well and good these companies promising 10-25 year warranties. In most cases, there is no malice here and the business wants to give this support to their customers.
But there is no guarantee that these newer companies will make it and stick around long enough to fulfill it. The reality is, even if they want to offer this support they may well not be able to follow through.
When considering a company with an extended warranty, your background checks are vital. Only agree if you feel they’re big enough to make it. This established history in the industry is what helps give reassurance that they’ll be there in 20 years should you need them.
Choosing the Best Solar Company Near You
When choosing a solar company, doing your research is vital. While it takes time, you’ll need your own knowledge to know what you want, and what value you’re getting. Shop around, stay local, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
If you found this article helpful, check out our blog for more home and lifestyle tips and tricks.