How to Choose a Solar Installer: Part 2

Solar Installer at a Commercial PV Installation

Last week we wrote about how to choose a trusted solar contractor by checking professional credentials, customer references and online reviews. This week’s article will go over the importance of hiring a company that focuses on solar installation in addition to seeking out trained solar professionals and quality products.

Every few years, we see an influx of people trying to get into the solar business. For instance, your general contractor might add solar installation to their services or the local roofing company will start selling solar panels. One time a customer even told us that their real estate company was getting into the solar business! Beware of these types of companies; it’s very likely they will not have the proper training and experience. Since solar installation can be quite complicated and there are many different rules and regulations, it is best to find a firm who is solely focused on solar.

We also recommend going with a locally-based company. They are usually familiar with your city’s building codes and inspection procedures, so they will most likely provide you with a higher quality installation and better service in the future.

In nearly 40 years of business, we have seen a lot of solar installation companies come and go. If a company shuts down it can result in a variety of issues; it is possible the terms of your lease might change or you won’t be able to solicit them for any future maintenance. By choosing a company that’s been installing systems for at least 10 years, there is a better chance that they will stay in business for as long as your solar system is producing energy. You can look this up by going on the CSLB website.

Pay attention to any other contractor’s licenses they have opened in the past. Many people will claim that they have been in business for 20 years but it’s possible those years were spent as a roofer, burglar alarm company or other trade, and they just recently started installing solar panels last year.

Of course, it’s important to hire trained solar professionals to work on your solar system. First, if a company has C46 solar contractor’s license, then you know they have gone through special training. Second, make sure that they do not subcontract any part of the job. Ask them once, ask them twice, and get it in writing. You really want experienced, solar installers up on your roof instead of someone who was hired for just a few days of work.

Finally, there are some companies who have one or two pre-packaged solar deals that they offer to everyone. However, since energy usage, roof space and location vary so greatly from project to project, it’s better to choose a solar installer who offers a variety of products from reputable brands (like SunPower, Sharp, and Bosch/Aleo to name a few). Then, the company can tailor the solar system to your needs and, ultimately, provide you with a higher performing array that will better fulfill your expectations.

Deciding to invest in a solar system is a huge decision and long-term investment. Hopefully, this guide will help you avoid a fly-by-night operation and find a trusted solar installation company who will provide a smooth transition to using clean, renewable solar energy to power your home or business.

If you haven’t already, read Part 1 of our “How to Choose A Solar Installer” series. Also, check out Troy Wolverton’s article  at the Mercury News website. He provides some great information about how to shop for a solar system and solar installer.