Apples to Apples: Choosing the Right Solar Installer

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You have decided to GO SOLAR but now are tasked with comparing quotes from competing solar companies.  This can be daunting especially when not all quotes (or companies) are created equal.  Here are some things to look for when separating the apples from the oranges:

NABCEP Certified Installers

There is little oversight to protect a homeowner from a fly-by-night solar installer, so make sure your installer has done their homework!  The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners is the most widely recognized and well respected certification organization in the industry and has been accredited to the ISO/IEC 17924 standard by ANSI.  It is considered the “gold standard” and should be a requirement for the solar installer you choose.

American Made Panels/High Quality Panels

A solar installation is an investment.  Make certain that your investment is not wasted on poor quality panels.  American-made panels, like those from SunPower and Solar World, far exceed cheaper foreign-manufactured panels in efficiency, durability, and quality control.  The same can be said for string and micro-inverters.  Choose a solar installer that uses products in which you can be confident.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

The Nickel and Dime Factor

Some solar installers will charge extra for things other companies include.  Be sure that online monitoring and management of SREC’s (Solar Renewable Energy Credits) are included in the quote.  A company’s warranty is wasted if they are not also monitoring the system for any changes in performance. Things like permitting, inspections, and interconnection with the utility company all require fees that can stand between you and turning your system on. Make certain the quote you receive is final and that you will not be upsold later for something that should have been included from the beginning.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line on a solar quote does not necessarily indicate the best value.  Be aware when comparing quotes that they may not be apples to apples.  Find out why that one quote is cheaper before you sign the dotted line and make certain you are comfortable with the products and people performing the work as well as the price.  After all, with a 25+ year investment you can’t afford to choose the wrong company!