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by: Sullivan Solar Power

How to Choose a Solar Company in Today’s Competitive Market

November 15, 2012

Considering eliminating your electric bill by going solar? Much thought and consideration should go into your process of picking a solar contractor for your property. While a solar installation is a simple task for seasoned electrical contractors, some companies cut corners which can be disastrous in the short-term and long-term for the new solar producer.

There are various questions a property owner should think about when deciding to go solar, ranging from budget to location of the solar system to where the solar panels are made. Here are some tips to ensure your contractor is qualified, using the best materials and will guarantee the production promised to you.

Here are a few useful tips when choosing a solar contractor:

  1. Compare apples-to-apples. Make sure when you receive a proposal for your solar project that you are looking at the solar power system size, and that all pricing are measured in AC (alternating current) Watts. This is the power that your home appliances are running on. Some contractors will try to “inflate” system sizes by talking in DC (direct current) watts.
  2. What type of training does the solar contracting firm have? You should be selecting a contractor with a C-10 license, this guarantees that state licensed electricians performing the work on your project. It is important to note that you are putting a small power plant on your roof, the installation crew should be qualified to do this work.
  3. Look at the level of experience when selecting a solar company. There have many fly-by-night firms that are trying to make a quick buck on the “green economy.” Select a company that has been around at least before the California Solar Initiative state rebate program was launched (2007) to know that the company you are using has been around.
  4. Know where your solar panels are coming from. American-made products support the local and national economy. It does not make very much sense to declare energy independence but to be outsourcing your dollar to cheap, Chinese manufactured solar panels. You want to have a company with a reputable name, with a proven track record to know that they will be able to honor your warranty.
  5. Does the solar contractor outsource their crew? If so, there is likely to be disconnect between your project engineering and installation. It is best to have a turnkey operation that delivers your project from concept to completion so the company you are working with is accountable.
  6. What are the warranty specifics? Make sure that you are receiving warranties for both the materials (solar modules and inverter) for your project and on the service itself. On your manufacturer warranty, has that solar panel company been in business long enough for you to be confident they’ll still be there when it’s time to honor those warranties?
  7. Ask for the specifics of the service agreements and performance. What happens if your system doesn’t produce what they say you’re going to produce? A few companies will provide production guarantee, this is crucial for you to see that your investment is paying for itself. Select a company that will pay you if your system has not produced what it says it will. Be wary of firms that can “change” your production promise after the system has been installed.
  8. Review the solar company’s portfolio. A reputable company will have a combination of projects that are not only residential, but also high-profile institutional jobs. By seeing a large variety of different applications and types of projects, you can have more assurance that the firm is qualified to do excellent work on your project as well.
  9. Check the contractor’s rating with the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, Yelp and Google. Reading reviews from current clients can provide insight about the company’s quality and service.
  10. Finally, ask for references from the company you are looking to work with. Their clients will give insight into working with the firm and the process of going solar on a personal level.

What are you going to do with this information?

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