When you are considering installing a solar energy system on your home, this is quite possibly the most important question you can ask. There are a number of factors that can help guide you in hiring a trustworthy solar installer; let’s go through some of the most important.
Seek Recommendations and Consumer Reviews
Word of mouth is, by far, the best way to be sure that you are hiring a reputable, quality company. Ask your friends, put up a post on Facebook, ask any associates who work in related industries if they’ve heard anything about your prospective companies. There’s a reason peer referrals are the most sought-after form of marketing for businesses these days – people trust them!
There are also a number of online review sites – make a point of reading consumer reviews on Google My Business, Yelp and Yahoo, to name just a few. And don’t forget to check potential solar installers on the Better Business Bureau site to make sure you’re not considering a company with a long list of consumer complaints – that almost never bodes well.
Request Multiple Quotes
Many companies make it easy to request a quote, with online forms requesting minimal information. They may ask for your monthly energy usage, how much energy you’d like to offset, your address, and other bits of information. The speed and thoughtfulness of the response will offer you an important first impression.
Many companies – like Brilliant Harvest – will prefer to come to your home after receiving your inquiry so that they can be confident of preparing the most accurate estimate. They’ll be able to determine the number of solar panels your roof can accommodate, the right kinds of fasteners, what level of energy your system might be expected to generate, and any challenges that may exist for installation.
Understanding Your Estimate
At this point, you’ll have pricing information at your fingertips. The solar installers should be happy to go over with you the kinds of equipment they would use on your home, particularly the brands of solar panels available. They should be able to explain the pros and cons for each brand, and tell you how the price differs for each. The warranty available on the solar panels is of crucial importance: ideally, solar panels should be guaranteed for at least 25 years. Anything significantly less should raise warning flags as to quality and durability.
Another question you’ll want to ask is whether or not the contractor employs the workers who will install your system or if the installation will be subcontracted out. You simply can’t count on the level of training, experience or skill of installers if they are subcontractors.
A qualified installer should be able to craft a proposal that is fairly accurate in reflecting the actual power output after flipping the switch. You should ask what your options are if the system doesn’t perform as promised. It’s worth finding out whether or not your prospects offer workmanship warranties – they can range from 1-10 years and offer a guarantee the quality of the solar energy system design and construction.
Finally, it’s good to find out whether or not the information you’ve received is a firm quote or estimate. Nobody likes to sign a contract, budget for the project, and then get hit with additional costs. You may want to be wary of a company that employs high-pressure sales tactics, such as offering pricing that’s only available if you sign a contract immediately or a proposal that is less than transparent.
At the bare minimum, any company under consideration should be licensed and insured. If not, run away! They should also have at least a few years’ experience in the field: you don’t want your home to be anyone’s warm-up exercise.
Licensed solar contractors bring a wealth of experience to each project they encounter. They know the best products to use in each situation and have access to equipment, materials, and techniques that homeowners simply do not. A professional, licensed contractor knows that their reputation is what keeps him or her in business, so they will stand behind their work and make sure that the job is done correctly.
Proper certifications ensure that your solar power system will be installed correctly and carefully. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is one of the most reputable certification programs for solar PV – our president, Bill Johnson, is NABCEP certified.
It is also a good sign if your solar installer is a member of various industry associations, such as the U.S. Green Building Council, Florida Solar Energy Industries Association, Florida Alliance for Renewable Energy, and others. It shows they care about industry best practices and trends, and care about wider issues (such as the environment) rather than just money.
Commitment to Customer Service
The consultation process should tell you a lot about your future installer. Are they courteous? Are they patient about explaining features, options and pricing? Are they willing and able to explain things in language you can understand? Is the pricing transparent?
Sometimes your gut can be your best advisor when making these types of decisions. If someone puts undue pressure on you, if they seem patronizing when you don’t understand certain terms or esoteric concepts, or if you simply don’t like being in the room with them, then you may want to consider someone else.
We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to ask the installer for references. Be firm about collecting references and call them!
Is your installer able to explain payment options in a way that’s transparent and easy to understand? Even better, has your installer done some of the front end work for his or her clients by securing a favorable rate for financing? (Brilliant Harvest has.) It is entirely possible to secure loans with monthly payments that are lower than the monthly savings you’ll enjoy after going solar, meaning you make money when purchasing your solar energy system. It’s definitely worth looking into.
Solar is more affordable than ever and one of the best investments you can make, certainly better than the stock market in terms of return on investment. However, if you want that investment to perform, make sure to hire a competent contractor, preferably one who is based in your community, has been in business more than a couple years, and is properly licensed by the state in which he/she does business. And make sure to check references: a good quality local solar installer is going to want their reputation to be spotless, and should go the extra mile to make sure their clients are happy with the work they do.
Please give us a call at (941) 359-3700 if you have any questions about the process of researching and installing solar on your home. And when you call, let us know if you found this post to be helpful!