10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Solar Panel Contractor
If you are thinking about having your home go solar, you need the right installer to make it happen. Ask these questions before hiring a solar panel contractor.
The average American homeowner spends more than $1,200 per year on electricity costs alone. Depending on the seasons and your personal habits, that number may be even higher.
Installing solar panels on your home is the best way to keep your electric costs low as long as you’re in the home. However, you need to find the right solar panel contractor to handle your installation.
Finding someone you trust to work on your home can feel overwhelming. Here are a few key questions to ask each company so you’ll know you’re working with the best professionals in the industry.
1. Have You Worked on Homes Like Mine?
Ideally, every contractor you consider working with should have many years of experience in the industry. They should be able to explain the types of homes they’ve worked on, the systems they’ve installed, and discuss how long they’ve been working with solar.
However, it’s equally important that your installation expert has experience working on roofs and homes like yours. If they haven’t, you may want to work with a different contractor.
When a company has experience working on similar properties, they’re better equipped to make sure the system is the right size for your home’s energy needs. They’ll understand how to work with the slope of your roof and can anticipate potential problems before they become major issues.
It’s also a good idea to ask for pictures of their past installations. This will give you an idea of the types of homes they work on most frequently.
If the company you’re interviewing has worked on properties like yours in the past, you’ll be in good hands.
2. Are You Licensed and Insured?
Anyone that works on your home should always have a valid business license and insurance. Your solar panel contractor is no exception. So, make sure you ask.
Find out if they have a current license to install panels in your area. Get their license number and check with your local government to make sure the license is active. If it’s not or they’re not willing to give you the information, choose a different contractor.
You’ll also want to ask about their insurance policy. At a bare minimum, the contractor should have business insurance to protect you from liability and workers’ compensation coverage to protect their employees. If they don’t have either policy, you could be financially responsible for any injuries their team suffers or damage they do to your property.
Ask for proof of insurance before you agree to work with them. If the insurance policy is current, you’re set. However, if the policy is old or expired, look for a different contractor.
3. Who Will Be Working on My Installation?
It’s important that you know who will be working on your property at any given time. Most solar panel contractors work with a dedicated team of employees, but some contract out portions of the project.
Find out who will handle each part of your installation. If the company contracts out parts of the project, find out who they hire.
You’ll want to do research on every contractor that will have a hand in the project. Ask them about their experience and find out if they have a valid license and insurance before you agree to work with the company.
It takes a bit more work, but it’s well worth the effort.
4. Do You Have References I Can Speak With?
The best way to find out whether a solar panel contractor is your best choice is to look at their references and reviews. Reputable companies always have previous clients that are willing to discuss their experience with you. Don’t hesitate to ask for those references.
Once you get them, call each one and ask about their experience with the company. If most of the references are still satisfied with their residential solar equipment and the work performed, you’ll be in good shape.
It’s also a good idea to check the installation team’s reputation online. See what others have to say about the company to get a general idea of the quality of their workmanship.
If the reviews are mostly positive, the company will likely be a great choice. However, if the reviews all share similar pain points or concerns, you may want to look elsewhere.
5. How Will I Be Able to Pay for the Installation?
Buying and installing residential solar equipment costs the average homeowner between $15,000 and $25,000. For most homeowners, figuring out how to pay for the installation and the solar setup is one of the most difficult parts of the process.
Don’t hesitate to ask for advice from your installation expert.
Many companies provide financing to help break up the cost over several years. This makes it easier for you to get panels installed and allows you to enjoy the energy savings without draining your bank account.
Reputable contractors will also be able to discuss current tax credits and discounts to make installation even more affordable.
6. What Type of Warranty Do You Offer?
Reputable companies stand behind the work they perform. This means they’re willing to offer a warranty on the products they use and guarantee your installation against defects and damage. However, the details of those guarantees will vary from contractor to contractor.
Take the time to find out what each contractor offers as part of their guarantee. Ask about the warranties on the equipment they’re installing and make sure you understand how those warranties work.
It’s up to you to make sure they stay intact over the years. If you end up voiding a warranty, you’ll be responsible for the full cost of repairs or replacement even if the damage came from a manufacturer error.
Similarly, if you think the warranty is too short or you’re not satisfied with the terms, it may be best to look for a different company that works with different equipment.
7. What Equipment, Panels, and Inverters Do You Use?
Different installation companies use different types of equipment. It’s up to you to do your due diligence and make sure the equipment they’ll install is worth your money.
Ask for a detailed list of the types and brands of panels, inverters, fasteners, and any other equipment they use. Then, research those products online and find out what others think about the equipment.
If the companies have frequent complaints or warranty claims filed, it may be best to work with a contractor that uses different products.
8. Where Should I Place the Panels?
Every contractor you speak with should be able to outline exactly where the panels will go and how they’ll get installed before you schedule the installation appointment. This gives you a chance to make sure you’re comfortable with the way your roof will look before you commit to the system.
If you’re not comfortable with the placement or worry that your HOA will have problems with the location, ask for alternatives. Your solar panel installation professional may be able to find a solution so you can still see the benefits of solar installations without changing your home’s appearance.
Keep in mind that if your HOA doesn’t allow panels on your roof, you may not be able to get them installed. Always ask your HOA before scheduling an estimate with your contractor.
In addition, if you’re not looking to install solar on your roof, you can look into solar pergolas. Solar pergolas are a good solution for homeowners that understand the benefits of solar and decided they want a system, but are limited by sunlight and roof factors.
9. How Will You Protect My Roof?
Ultimately, installing solar panels on your roof means altering your roof slightly. While most installations won’t damage your roof, it’s always important that you understand how your solar contractor will protect the materials.
Ask them what you can expect and find out what steps they’ll take to protect your building. They should be able to explain the process in detail.
If they can’t or won’t, keep looking. The last thing you want to deal with is a contractor that doesn’t take the proper precautions.
10. What Should I Do to Get My Home Ready?
There’s always a bit of prep work you’ll need to take care of before you get your panels installed. This helps your contractor get the job done quickly and reduces the risk of damage to your property.
However, since every home is different, you’ll need to ask before the appointment.
Your contractor will likely want you to move your cars out of the driveway and clear a path to your home’s exterior. If you have pets and small children, keep them indoors during the appointment. You may also want to cover fragile landscaping to protect your plants from falling debris.
Ask Your Solar Panel Contractor These Questions
Choosing the right solar panel contractor doesn’t have to be a huge challenge. Make sure you ask each company these questions before you agree to work with them. If they don’t answer them to your satisfaction, keep looking.
Remember, your home is your biggest investment. Choosing the right contractor is the best way to protect it.
If you’re ready to find out how much solar can save you on your home’s energy bills, don’t wait. Reach out today and request a free quote. Our fully licensed and insured contractors will do everything they can to protect your home while making sure your system gets installed properly.