Choosing a Solar Installation Company: A comprehensive 2024 Guide

With numerous solar firms available, sifting through them can seem overwhelming. Various factors make researching solar installation companies complex, thus we've crafted this list to assist you in getting started.

Here are the main factors to consider:

  • Accreditation
  • Financing Options
  • Availability
  • Leased vs Owned
  • Services Offered
  • Consumer ratings
  • Warranties
  • Available Equipment

Credible Accreditation

A reputable company known for its quality and service should hold accreditation with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). 

With the solar energy sector experiencing rapid growth, you'll probably come across newer companies lacking an established reputation. While these companies might offer lower prices, opting for them means sacrificing confidence in the quality of work and service.

Financing and Promotional Options

Most solar companies allow homeowners to buy all the equipment for a solar setup outright if they choose to do so. While this requires a significant upfront investment, it allows consumers to start saving money on reduced utility bills immediately.

Many companies listed among the top solar panel installation providers offer financing options for solar setups. Additionally, some companies offer referral incentives or equipment packages to help customers save money when transitioning to solar energy.

Availability and Location

Some solar panel installation companies provide wide coverage, serving customers across most U.S. states. In contrast, others focus on a smaller geographic area, offering services within a specific radius or region. Evaluating the service area of your preferred company is an important first step in narrowing down your options.

Services offered

It's becoming increasingly common for solar companies to broaden their services beyond solar installations. Additional services may include battery installation, electric vehicle charger installations, home energy efficiency audits, and roof replacements.

If you're interested in these supplementary services, look for an installer that offers them. Even if you don't need them right away, selecting a company with these offerings ensures you can easily incorporate them into your home in the future.

Many solar companies offer free estimates for both materials and labor involved in a solar installation. 

If you're uncertain about the products or services you require, consider choosing a company that values its customers by providing a free consultation along with an estimate. Having an expert walk you through the various options and installation procedures can be incredibly beneficial.

Leased vs. Owned Equipment

Certain solar panel installation companies offer the option to purchase the solar equipment outright, allowing homeowners to immediately retain all the savings from reduced utility bills. 

Alternatively, other companies make the transition to green, renewable energy more accessible by offering leasing options for solar setups. This enables homeowners to save money upfront and utilize the utility savings to gradually offset the cost of the equipment over time.

Consumer Ratings and Reviews

Solar installation necessitates the company's employees to work both inside and on top of your home, underscoring the importance of hiring a trustworthy company. Customer ratings and reviews offer valuable insight into the company's operations and the conduct of its employees, so prioritize seeking out highly rated companies to ensure a positive experience.

Solar Warranties

While solar panels typically function trouble-free for decades, it's prudent to secure a comprehensive warranty in case issues arise. Before finalizing your choice of solar installer, ensure you receive the company's warranty details in writing.

Solar companies typically provide several types of warranties, each covering different aspects of the solar system:

  • Product warranty: This covers solar equipment like panels and inverters against defects and premature failure, usually lasting from 10 to 25 years.
  • Performance warranty: Guarantees a certain level of energy production over a specified period, typically ensuring a percentage of the initial power output over 10 to 25 years.

While most companies offer these primary warranties, some may include additional ones such as:

  • Installation or workmanship warranty: Covers the quality of the installation, typically lasting from 1 to 10 years.
  • Inverter warranty: Specific to the inverter and may span from 5 to 25 years.
  • Roof penetration warranty: Covers damage to the roof caused by installation, though not widely offered and may be included in other warranties.

Understanding these warranties is crucial as going solar is a significant investment. Longer warranty periods, often up to 25 years, provide greater protection and may reflect the company's confidence in its products.

When comparing warranties among solar companies, consider the length and ensure it aligns with your investment protection needs. A lengthier warranty not only safeguards your investment for a prolonged period but also signifies the company's belief in its product reliability.

Solar Equipment

Many companies provide a range of equipment sourced from various manufacturers. Some may even mix and match panels, inverters, and other components from different manufacturers to either reduce costs or leverage their technicians' expertise in optimizing combinations for efficiency.

Solar companies also offer panels in various styles and designs, including options that are low-profile or engineered for extreme weather conditions. Notably, companies like Tesla offer innovative solar roofing tiles as part of their product lineup.

Understanding the key components of a solar setup is essential when discussing options with a solar company. This basic knowledge will empower you to make informed decisions that align with your needs and preferences.

Cables and Hardware

Solar panels require secure attachment to the chosen surface, typically the roof of a home. The hardware encompasses the support structure and mounting equipment to which the panels are affixed.

Cables play a vital role by connecting the panels and subsequently to the other electrical components of the system. They transmit the electric current generated by the panels throughout the setup, allowing it to be utilized in your home.

Power Inverter

An inverter is necessary to convert the type of electricity generated by the panels, which is direct current (DC), into the type of electricity required by your home, which is alternating current (AC). Since these two types of currents are not compatible, the inverter plays a crucial role in facilitating this essential switch.

Solar Batteries

Solar batteries serve as an optional addition to a solar system, enabling you to store surplus energy for future consumption. This stored energy becomes invaluable when the power generated by the panels is insufficient to meet your home's needs, such as during nighttime, grid outages, or cloudy days.

These batteries are particularly crucial for homes operating entirely off-the-grid. The majority of residential systems utilize either lead-acid or lithium-ion solar batteries to store and discharge energy as needed.

Charge Controller

If your solar panels generate more electricity than your home requires during the day, a charge controller becomes instrumental in directing this surplus energy to where it's most beneficial. For instance, if excess energy is produced, the controller will channel the extra power to charge any available solar batteries or redirect it back to the local power grid.

Choosing a Solar Panel Installer: Verdict

Comparing quotes from multiple installers is crucial because different installers often have varying rates for the same job. Experienced installers typically assess your home's size, energy usage, and other factors before providing a price proposal. To estimate costs, you can refer to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Tracking the Sun report, which offers installation prices across the United States.

To facilitate comparison, convert your quotes to cost per watt. You can calculate this by dividing the system's cost by its capacity in watts. Since capacity is typically measured in kilowatts (kW), multiply the number of kW in the system by 1,000, then divide the system's cost by that number.

For further information on transitioning to solar energy, explore the resources provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.