Ten Questions to Ask a Solar Installer
For the City-Times
Installing a solar system is a big investment, and you want to make sure that the installation company you work with is a good one. Finding a quality installer to work with will make the installation process of your solar system smooth and easy. You need to know what to look for in an installer to ensure you have chosen a great company to make your solar dreams a reality, and this article outlines ten basic questions to ask before you install a solar system.
What questions should I ask my solar installer?
Below is a list of questions one should ask a Solar Energy Contractor BEFORE committing to buying a solar electric system. The reason for these questions is to protect you from potential hazards and liabilities associated with having a Solar Energy system installed on your building or home.
1. What qualifications do you or employees have that ensures a quality install?
- Nationally recognized Installer Certifications (i.e. NABCEP, UL)
- Prior documenting experience with system(s) desired
- Contracting License, Liability Insurance
- How long have they been in the Renewable Energy Business
2. For Solar Electric, does your company hold an Electrical Contracting License or do you hire out?
- Provide name of Licensee and type of license
- Will installing this system void any roof warranties associated with my building?
- List of precautions taken, products used and statements from manufacturer’s compliance with roofing standards
3. What is the expected output and who is responsible if expectations are not met?
- Output predictions based on site conditions and statement regarding liability
4. What is the warranty period of this install?
- Product warranty information and construction and statement regarding liability
- The MREA Power Pack program requires a 5-year warranty from installers on all residential installations
5. Who is responsible for the Interconnection and Incentive documents for this system?
- Name of staff person who will prepare these and other incentive paperwork
6. For a Solar Electric System, what is the Dollar per Watt on this proposal?
- Some incentive programs have caps based on Dollars per Installed Watt
7. Can you provide references from previous customers with similar systems?
- Look for 3 references and contact them to find out their experience with the Installer.
8. When will you be able to perform the work? How long will it take to finish?
- Work with installer to set realistic goals for installation of your solar system
9. Have you worked with local building officials and utility reps when installing similar systems in the past?
- Permitting and interconnection of solar systems can be a significant cost to the customer. Look for companies that have experience navigating the permitting and interconnection in your area
10. What kind of training will you provide me with so that I can better operate and maintain my system?
- When you know how your system works and how to maintain it you understand when your system is working correctly and when it might need maintenance. You also become a solar resource for your friends and neighbors.
After these questions are answered to your satisfaction, be sure to mention that no work shall begin until the permit is on site and all documentation has been delivered and reviewed. If pre-payment is requested, hold the final amount until all expectations have been met.
How do I select and find a solar installer for my home or business?
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) maintains an approved list of trained and certified solar installers. Check out the list on their locator map at this link: http://www.nabcep.org/installer-locator
A number of installers are also members of the MREA, and many have participated or even taught courses for MREA. To find an installer near you, visit the MREA Business Member Directory at www.midwestrenew.org/businessdirectory.
How do I know my installer is qualified?
There are national certifications that show an advanced level of knowledge for solar installers such as:
• NABCEP certified (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners). This national certification requires coursework through accredited training programs, designing and installing a specified number of solar installs, and passing a professional technical exam. You can search for NABCEP certified installers on NABCEP website.
• UL Photovoltaic (PV) System Installation Certification. Installers receive the PV System Installer Certification by passing an exam that is intended to measure the necessary competencies, safety training and several years of hands-on experience in the field.
• Electronics Technicians Association Photovoltaic Installer Certification. This certification involves an in-depth program with apprenticeship and exam requirements.
What details should an estimate include?
It is best to get more than one installation estimate. A good estimate should include
the cost of hardware, shipping, installation, connection to the utility grid, travel, and sales tax. As is true for many things, remember that the lowest price may not always be the best price.
Enjoy the Process
We hope this information helps to make the research and interviewing phase of installing a renewable energy system seem less daunting and more attainable. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to call the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. We are here to help!
The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) educational organization. Founded in 1990, the MREA promotes renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration. To learn more, call 715-592-6595 or visit www.midwestrenew.org.