You’ve decided that you’re ready to start looking at solar for your home and want to compare installers. But, you’ll quickly realize that choosing a qualified local solar installer can be a challenge. The solar industry is growing rapidly, but is still a nascent industry. This makes it challenging to identify the real pros. The good news is that we have evaluated many solar installers for our marketplace and have learned how to choose the best installers. Here is our guide for finding the best solar installation company for your home.
Step 1: Receive quotes from multiple solar installation companies
This should see obvious to anyone who has made a big purchase or hired a contractor, but it’s important to shop around and see multiple offers from many different installers. Home solar is a major household purchase that requires some thought and can be expensive. That is why it is valuable to talk to multiple installers in your area. Different installers may carry different types of panels, or suggest different solar panels designs. By comparing multiple installation companies, you can see which design and financing option is best for your home. Most companies will want to talk to you over the phone, but you can also compare installers online at the PowerScout marketplace. We encourage you to do both.
Comparing multiple installers also ensures that you are getting the best deal possible. Not only can you compare prices across installers, but you will have installers bidding against each other to get you the best deal. We suggest talking to at least three installers in your area to compare equipment and pricing. It’s important to ask questions about the differences between the solar quotes you receive from different installers. This will help you decide which solar proposal is the best and which installer you trust to be there to answer questions you have leading up to the actual installation.
Bottom Line: Getting multiple quotes from local installation companies makes you better informed and leads to lower pricing. We make it easy to compare multiple quotes from a curated list of the best local installers in your area, but shop around!
Step 2: Evaluate your solar quotes
Solar is not an easy purchase; there are a lot of factors that go into installing the perfect system for your house and your lifestyle.You can think about solar like a kitchen remodel. You have to work with a contractor to decide the best design, cabinets, appliances, sink, countertops, tiling, etc. While solar is not as complicated as a kitchen remodel, there are still many variables. Not every contractor can build every type of kitchen and not every solar installer can install every type of system or provide every type of financing.
You should research the equipment that each installer is offering, especially which solar panel and solar inverter. There are over 100 different solar panel brands each with several models. Don’t worry; most installers will know which panels and inverters should work best for your house. However, you should ask about the quality of the panels and inverters. You should ask about panel capacity, solar system efficiency, and panel and inverter durability and warranty. These qualities will all affect your financial savings.
Solar System Design
Similarly, you should compare solar system designs. The number of panels and placement of panels will affect the amount of energy your system produces and your solar savings. Every installation company should be able to explain why they designed your solar system the way they did. Remember to keep in mind the aesthetics of the solar system when evaluating designs. Your system is going to be producing energy for the next 25+ years so you better like they way it looks!
There are three main ways to pay for your solar panel system: cash, loan, and lease. Choosing financing is possibly the most difficult part of the solar buying process. We cover this topic in more detail here, but generally, here are our suggestions. If you can afford to pay for your solar system upfront, congratulations! Solar is a safe investment with a typical return on investment (ROI) of approximately 20%. However, most people cannot afford to pay for a system upfront. (After all, it can cost more than a new car!) In our experience, most customers who qualify buy solar with a $0 down loan or a lease, called a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). There are many different loan and lease options, and not every installer carries every financial product available. Talk to multiple solar installation companies to decide which solar financing option is best for you and your family. Make sure to ask about the terms of the financing option and returns associated with each.
Bottom Line: Every installer carries different equipment, designs systems differently, and offers different financial products. Make sure you can see all options by comparing multiple installation companies and asking questions.
Step 3: Evaluate several local installation companies
There are many great solar installation companies out there. The trick is separate the best installers from the mediocre ones. At PowerScout, we’ve created a 30-point checklist to evaluate all installers that want to come onto our marketplace. We turn away many installers because the customer’s experience is extremely important to us, and there are many bad solar installers out there. However, there are also several rockstar installers. These are the gals and guys we partner with. We look at four basic categories when evaluating installation companies: license and insurance, certification and experience, workmanship warranty, and reputation with customers.
License and Insurance
At a minimum, solar installers should have the relevant state and local business licenses and insurance. Licenses include electrician, general contracting, home improvement, and/or home performance contracting licenses. Installation companies should also have the requisite business insurance for their service territory. Ask each installer if they have the appropriate business licenses and insurance.
Certification and Experience
The highest standard of solar installation certification is the Solar PV Installation Professional Certification administered by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Each installation company needs to have a NABCEP-certified professional review every installation, but each solar installer should ideally have a NABCEP-certified professional on each crew.
The number of jobs in solar has grown dramatically over the last decade, attracting professionals from many different backgrounds. Many high quality contractors have added solar installation to their practice, but may not focus on installing solar. It’s critical to choose an installer than is both qualified and experienced in solar installation. Question each installation company about their experience, and ask to see solar systems they installed for other clients.
A workmanship warranty provides coverage against installation errors, and is generally a good indicator of the quality of an installation company. Does the installer stand by the quality of their work? Workmanship warranties range from 1 to 10+ years. We’ve noticed that the solar installers offering 10 year warranties are generally the best installers. A solar panel system will be on your roof for 25+ years, and you don’t want to have to worry that the system was installed incorrectly. While you can sometimes buy an operation and maintenance contract with an installer, it is usually better to go with a qualified installed offering longer workmanship warranties.
Reputation with Customers
Solar reviews from previous customers can tell you a lot about working with a solar installation company. What do the installer’s customers have to say about their experience with the installer? Beware of a pattern of poor customer service. Solar energy is a large investment, and you should feel confident that your installer is going to provide you with top notch customer experience. The best installers don’t just design the best solar systems with the best equipment and carry the best financial products; they also serve as an energy adviser who will answer every question you have throughout the whole buying and installation process.
Bottom Line: Evaluating solar installers is just as important as evaluating the quotes they provide. If you’re not positive an installation company will provide you with the highest quality service, you can use our solar quote comparison tool. We’ve qualified all the installers in our marketplace and verified their licenses and insurance policies.
Comparing solar installation companies is challenging, but we’re here to help! Compare multiple quotes from a curated list of installers using our installer comparison tool.