How to choose a solar installer
How does one go about choosing a solar installation company? The first thing you have to do is find one. This is done through research on the Internet, a referral, or seeing a local advertisement. There is no succinct estimate on the total number of solar companies in the United States, however, SEIA estimates there are more than 8,000 total solar companies including installation companies, manufacturers, and supply chain distributors. The industry is growing rapidly and more companies will eventually be performing installation work and entering the field. What types of factors should a customer look at to choose one installer over another?
Licensing and Qualifications
Qualified solar installers should be licensed with the state to perform electrical work, first and foremost. Other aspects you should look for include certificates of liability, worker's compensation, registration for local departments of building and housing, and a contractor's bond.
A good solar installation company in Ohio will also have qualified staff who are NABCEP certified. NABCEP stands for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. They provide a credentialing program for solar designers, sales consultants, and installers. It is a way of setting voluntary national standards by which solar professionals with skills and experience can distinguish themselves from their competition. Having an NABCEP certified staff member is a sign that a company is serious about solar. A potential customer should ask if there are any NABCEP members on staff and in what capacity.
Customers care what type of online reputation their solar installation company has. These include reviews in the Better Business Bureau, Solarreviews.com, Angie's List, Yelp, and Facebook. Look for patterns and negative reviews. Do solar companies have a strong emphasis on customer service? Do they return phone calls promptly? Do they arrive on time and be where they are supposed to be? Quite simply, how do they treat the customer and what is the experience working with them like?
Online reviews, customer referrals, and professional organizations can assess a company and see if they are doing what they say they do. Reviews are invaluable resources to help guide a solar decision.
How many installations has a solar company performed? Do they have a track record over the course of years? This is not to say that a startup solar company is not qualified to perform installation work, but only to say that until they have proven themselves, a larger company which has proven themselves is the safer bet.
A solar company that has performed hundreds of installations has the seasoning and experience that a younger company has yet to accrue. In this case, showing examples of your work via pictures and having case studies can show that a company is performing professional grade work. Can the solar company show they can do what they say they can do? How are they to prove it?
Most potential solar consumers get 3-4 quotes from competing solar companies. Price is a major factor, if not the deciding factor in most cases. Is the solar company the lowest? If they aren't the lowest, what other factors are offered to create value for the customer?
- Does the solar installation company provide a turnkey solution? Do they handle the permits, interconnection, and inspection process? Or does the customer have to handle these things herself?
- At a certain point in time, a problem may occur and your solar energy system may need someone to come out and look at it. How are the company's engineers? Will they schedule a time they can come to your house in a timely manner? Can they diagnose the problem themselves or will you have to go to a third-party?
- Does the company offer an installation warranty? If something goes wrong with the installed components, is the customer protected?
Companies that offer a turnkey solution and handle all aspects of design, installation, permitting, interconnection, inspection, and maintenance of the system are superior options over companies that do not.
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing a solar installation company in Ohio. The factors are weighted according to personal value judgments. The most important factors seem to be price, reputation, experience, and quality work.