16 Tips for Hiring Solar Panel Installers

Solar Panel Installers

Are you looking to install solar panels?

In 2020, the number of solar panel installations in the US grew by over 43%. With the savings they bring and their clean, renewable energy it’s easy to see why they’re so popular. But installing them isn’t a DIY job, you need to call in the professionals. This can sometimes be easier said than done, and you might not know how to hire a good installer.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help! Keep reading for these 11 tips for hiring solar panel installers you can trust.

1. Are They Local?

When it comes to location, local is best. We say to go local because they will work in the place they live too. This means they will have greater concern about their reputation.

It also means they know the local laws, permit rules, and city design guides. Not to mention it’ll be easier for them to get to you and that’ll reflect in the labor cost part of the quote.

2. Reviews

With knoweledge of local installers, look online at their reviews and ratings. You should also look them up on the Better Business Bureau.

Google will also provide some useful ratings to consider. Take the time to read up on your choices. Other homeowners’ experiences will help tell you the quality of their work. It’ll also tell you how well they fixed issues and what they’re like to work with.

3. Do They Have the Right Licenses?

Depending on local laws, a contractor needs certain licenses to install solar panels. This may be for installing electrical components, general buildinges or something else, depending on your location.

Contact your local officials for what they need. Then, ask any contractor you consider for proof they have these licenses. If they can’t show you, this is a red flag and you should move on to someone else.

4. Are They Certified?

While checking licenses, also check their certifications too. Look into the certifications installers should have. The industry standard is the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

While not a requirement, it does prove they took the time to get the training and knowledge to pass the exams. It’s a good sign that they will care about each solar panel installation and the quality of their work.

5. How Much Experience Do They Have?

The longer an installer has been in business, the more reliable they tend to be. Compare this against their reviews to get an idea of their experience levels. Check their previous jobs for local homes so you can see what the end result should be.

6. What Options Are There?

There are many products on the market now for a solar panel system. Better panels and inverters often have a longer lifespans and  warranties.

Ask contractors about options and what the max generating capacity is of each system. You want to compare the cost per watt to work out the cost to benefit ratio you’re looking for.

7. What Warranties Do They Offer?

The efficiency of solar panels will go down over time. Quality systems usually have warranties that detail what to expect from this. The standard lifespan of a solar energy system is 20 years for panels and 10 years of inverters.

Damages, such as weathering are covered in some warranties. Because of this, it’s worth considering spending a little more if you can to get good coverage. Sit down and think of the benefits that quality systems can bring.

8. Do They Have the Right Insurance?

Before hiring anyone, make sure they have the right insurance in place. This should include:

  • General liability to protect against property damage and injury
  • Professional Liability for the design and paperwork
  • Workers’ compensation to pay for wages and medical bills
  • Equipment floater for damage (fire, wind, vandalism) and theft
  • Extra damage covers like water damage and mold

On top of this insurance, your homeowner’s insurance should have some cover too. Talk to your insurer to let them know if you want solar panels.

They can tell you if your existing policy offers coverage, or help you upgrade if needed. It should cover the panels, mountings, and inverters. Also, check what it covers for roof damage too.

9. What Are the Final Costs?

Green living with solar panels isn’t for everyone, so sit down and work out the final cost with each company. On average, for a 10 kW system, you’d expect to pay around $20,474. This includes the 26% federal tax credit incentive.

If there are local and state incentives, this could be even lower. This is where choosing a local installer comes in handy, as they will have experience with this. Talk to them and find out what incentives you can use and how this affects the cost.

10. Do They Offer Financing Options?

Homeowners can use a variety of options to finance their solar panels from leasing to buying. You can buy a solar energy system outright from your contractor, take out a lease or you could get a loan from the bank.

The benefit of a lease or Power Purchase Agreement though is the third party installs and maintains the unit negligible cost. You’re only paying for the rate of electricity.

If you live in an apartment, you could consider a community-sourced solar unit. This lets many homeowners club together and buy a unit for their building, or several homes.

11. Will the Installer Maintain the Solar Energy System?

Some solar installers will maintain the solar panels too for some time. Their rates are often affordable too. You should keep your unit clean well-maintained otherwise it won’t work as it should. You could even lower its life expectancy. Choosing an installer who will maintain the unit is good, as they will know the parts and what care they need.

12. What is the Timeline?

Ask the installer how long the installation will take. They should be able to give you a rough timeline, as well as dates for key milestones. Inspections will happen before you can turn the unit on, so getting dates for those is key.

Once you choose a contractor, you want to ensure the timeline is in the contract. Make sure it fits your needs and that the installer has answered all your questions. If you choose to use a project manager, let them review the bids and help you decide.

13. What Inspections and Permits Will There Be?

Each city and state will have different regulations for solar installations. You’ll need to schedule them in, so make sure you plan for them.

Also, check what would happen if a unit misses an inspection or it fails to pass it. Sometimes, Homeowner Associations (HOA) will ban solar power systems in the neighborhood. Check with yours to see what their regulations are, and get the right permissions. But, note that in some cases, the state legislature can override HOA regulations so check that as well.

14. Who Will Handle the Paperwork?

For all these permits you’ll need there will be paperwork to fill out. Figure out which forms you need to file and who will be responsible for this. Many installers will handle the permits and forms for you, but not all do.

Make sure this is a service they offer before you hire them. And bear in mind, mistakes can happen so don’t expect to sit back and have it handled. You need to stay in communication and make sure paperwork has gone over when it should.

If not, you could be facing complications later which means you can’t use your new solar panels. There will be certain deadlines to file paperwork by. So, this is another reason an experienced local contractor is the best choice.

15. When Will You Need to Make the First Payment?

Some finance models don’t require an upfront fee. If you haven’t chosen an option with this, then check with the installer when the first payment is due. You should ask for a cost breakdown and a full payback schedule to help you plan.

16. Check the Contract

You’re making a long-term investment here that isn’t cheap. Make sure you’ve considered that solar panels are right for you and you go over the contract before signing. It’ll be easier to spot and deal with issues at this stage of the process.

Finding Solar Panel Installers Made Easy

So, there you have it! It’s not always easy to find solar panel installers but with these tips, you’ll be sure to find one you can trust.

It’s always best to go local and make sure they have the certifications and licenses they need. Check out reviews online and vet any installers you choose. Find out who will maintain them and who will get the permits sorted. And ultimately, choose someone you feel comfortable working with.

If you’re looking for a Florida solar installer, get a quote today. At West Bay Energy, we’ve got the knowledge, skill, and experience to suit all your solar needs.