Questions to Ask a Potential Solar Installer
Below are a list of question to ask your solar installer to get a solid understanding about what you can expect from the relationship you are about to start with your solar installer. This goes beyond just the basic financial transaction that will inevitably occur in order to get your system installed, but the quality of customer service during and after the installation.
It’s just like buying a new car and ensuring that you are getting the right warranty package. You don’t want to be stuck 6 months later with a defective system and no one around to help you fix it.
Realize that in most cases you will be talking with the sales person and no the guy who will actually be installing the system on your property, so the questions are addressed to the company rather than the individual.
The questions are by no means exhaustive and should be used as more of a guideline. Follow on questions, depending on the installers answers, are highly recommended as they will only enable you to be come more familiar with the type and quality of workmanship and service you can expect.
So let’s get to those questions and get the gears turning in your head:
- How long have you been in the solar installation business? (The longer the better obviously, but experience in other areas like roofing, electrician are also good signs.)
- How many solar power systems have you installed? And how many of those are like the one you will install on my property? (Again the more systems the better, especially if they are similar to yours, no one likes to be the guinea pig.)
- How will you go about sizing my system to meet my specific energy needs?
- Will you be making recommendations on how I can make my home more efficient before installing my system? (Often an energy efficiency audit comes with the estimate to promote proper energy conservation before sizing your system.)
- Does your company carry liability and worker’s compensation insurance? What are the policy numbers and names of the insurance agents? (Liability insurance protects you against damage to your property while worker’s compensation ensures you are protected from injury claims by the installer’s works.)
- Is your company bonded? (Bonding provides you with a means to legally get back the money you paid the installer if an installer doesn’t meet his or her contractual obligations.)
- What additional training has your lead installer undergone? When? Are any of the crew NABCEP certified? (Manufactures will often offer training on new equipment to keep installer up to date with the improvements. NABCEP is a national certifying board that requires installers to pass a rigorous test and have a certain amount of experience.)
- What training has the crew had? How many systems has this specific crew installed? Will the lead installer be working with your crew or overseeing their work on the system? If the lead installer is overseeing the work, how often will he or she be checking up on the rest of the crew? (Be sure that the lead/qualified installer/owner of the company will be actively involved in the installation of your system or that they are sending and experienced crew to your site>)
- Who will be the point of contact in the event that I have a problem with any of your workers? Will they respond immediately? (You want to know who is in charge of keeping the crew in line.)
- Does the crew include a licensed electrician or will a licensed electrician be working with the crew? (Regulations vary from state to state on who can install your system. The important thing to realize is that your system must be up to code in order to be signed off by the building inspector as safe.)
- What brands of modules and inverters does your company typically install? Do you install UL listed components? (In order for your system to meet code all components need to be UL listed or an equivalent organization.)
- Do you guarantee your work? For how long? What does your guarantee cover? How quickly will you respond if troubles emerge? (Trust me you want an installer that will guarantee the installation for a reasonable amount of time and who will fix any problem that arise as quickly as possible.)
- Do you offer any type of service contract? How much will the service contract cost? What is covered under the contract? (A contract can be a good insurance policy against potentially defective components early on in your systems life time.)
- Can I have a list of the last five project you company completed with contact information for the customer? (You want to call these references because they will give you the best insight into the type and quality of service you will receive during and after the installation.)
- What type of payment schedules are available for my system? Can I withhold the final 10% of the payment for a week or two to be sure the system is operating correctly? (Never pay for the system all at once. This is a good insurance policy to ensure that the system is installed properly and on time.)
- Will you pull and pay for the permits or will I be required to do that?
- Will you work with my utility company to secure an interconnection agreement? Does the local utility company offer net-metering? Are there feed-in tariffs available in my area?
- What’s a realistic schedule for the project? When can you obtain the equipment and be ready to start? How long will the whole project take start to finish?
And there you have it; a good start to ensuring you get all the information you need about your potential solar installer so that you make the right decision about who installs you system.
Take your time. Remember, it’s your money that you are spending so don’t let them pressure you into making a decision quickly. You have plenty of time, and if they rush your decision they will probably rush your project and we all know how that will end up for you. Now let’s take a look at your financing options here.