How to Pick a Solar Panel Installation Company
Choosing a solar electric system is difficult enough, however even more critical than choosing the right system, is choosing a skilled solar installer. Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to find a local installer in the phonebook; however there are other resources available.
The American Solar Energy Society formed a joint project with the Solar Electric Power Association, Energy Matters LLC and the U.S. Department of Energy, to form FindSolar.com - a valuable resource for consumers to conveniently learn about the benefits of switching to solar energy, and to find qualified installers.
Once you locate a list of local installers who have experience with solar panel installations, you will then take the following items into account when evaluating each one.
Solar Panel Installation: Credentials and Experience
Most states have Solar Energy Industry Associations, and many of the experienced installers will be members. Since there is currently no standard national accreditation, the best way to evaluate their credentials is to make sure to call their customer references. Ask those customers if they would hire the contractor again and what the contractor's limitations and strengths are.
There are some installers who have electrical licenses and additional have experience installing PV systems. However some installers do not have an electrical license, and subcontract out the work to do the final AC work and to pull the permit. Make sure you know which contractors have an electrical license or not, and decide whether or not this is a concern for you. Either way, if the contractor has completed enough successful installations, which you will learn from other customers - it shouldn't matter either way.
Additionally, manufacturers of solar energy products offer training. Many installers will also have this training on their list of credentials.
Type of Solar Panel Installation Experience
There are a wide range of PV installations, covering a variety of systems. You will need to ask the installer how many systems similar to the one you are asking to install that the installer has experience with. While both solar electric and hot water systems require similar expertise, they vary substantially in installation and functionality. Make sure to ask your installer how many installations similar to your particular system they have completed before. Additionally, the field of solar technology is evolving constantly, and it's important that installers hare familiar with the latest technology, products, and codes.
Solar Panel Products Offered
Ask each potential installer what brands that they carry. A good variety of brands with high quality products is a good sign that the installer will have a product that fits your project. Make sure that you research all components that the installer suggests installing for your application to make sure that the products are UL (Underwriters Laboratory) approved to ensure that the product is reliable and safe.
Solar Panel Warranty and Maintenance
Make sure that you educate yourself on the warranties for the products that the installer wants to use for your application. Additionally, installers should offer a service agreement. Ask whether their plan includes general maintenance of the system or only repairs. Discuss in detail with them what services they will offer and how long they offer them should your system have any problems. Ask what their percentage of their current workload consists of such service work and if they generally are able to make themselves available for such work. Determine, under their maintenance plan, how much of the repair costs they will cover.
Overall, if you evaluate each potential installer carefully based on the criteria above, you will end up with a successful solar panel installation that will serve your energy needs well, and will provide you with financial benefits for years to come.