Solar panels are cheaper, more efficient, and more accessible to homeowners than ever before. Going solar is a major decision for a homeowner to make, and as such, they should perform due diligence to safeguard their investment.
Below, we’ve compiled six topics every homeowner should discuss with their solar installer.
This list is by no means exhaustive but rather serves to provide prospective solar customers with a starting point.
1. Licences and Insurance Policies
The majority of solar companies are trustworthy and professional, but no industry is without its bad apples.
Homeowners should ask their solar company for proof of the required business licenses and insurance coverage for their municipality. It’s also important to clarify who specifically will be installing the solar panels. Check if your solar company uses subcontractors, which is common practice, but do require their own separate licensing and insurance.
2. Company Experience
It goes without saying that experienced solar companies are typically more trustworthy. Of course, this doesn’t mean that cleantech startups should be avoided; rather, they require a little more due diligence.
Homeowners should always ask for the number of years a company has operated, along with the number of solar installations they’ve completed. Trustworthy companies will have business references, relevant and up to date customer reviews, reputable business partners, and pictures of their completed projects.
If a solar installer cannot provide any of the above information, it’s best to steer clear. Depending on the number of solar companies in your area, it may also be advantageous to ask about relevant experience with your utility company.
3. Panel Warranties
Generally speaking, rooftop solar energy is very reliable and low-maintenance. However, solar installations are still expensive, so it’s best to understand a solar company’s warranty policy before signing with them.
Some of the critical questions to ask include: How many years the panel warranty will last? Who is the point of contact if you need to utilize the warranty? What ensures accountability for timely repairs? And does the warranty also cover your roof?
Homeowners should also inquire about performance guarantees, which add another layer of protection to solar investments.
4. System Size
Choosing a solar installation size may seem like a relatively arbitrary process to some homeowners, but it’s highly methodical. Reputable solar companies will design an optimal system based on home energy patterns, roof orientation and angle, the homeowner’s utility company, plus local net metering and electricity rates.
Homeowners should ask their chosen solar company to go through their data and explain their choices. Any company or professional claiming a solar panels system’s optimal size is easy or straightforward to calculate is being dishonest.
5. Roof Condition
Having solar panels installed on an old roof is the biggest mistake a homeowner can make.
The installation process requires drilling into the roof foundation, further undermining the integrity of a damaged roof. Replacing a roof with solar panels on it can be expensive, as the homeowner has to pay their company to take the panels down, then put them back up once the roof remodel is complete.
Homeowners should always ask for a roof assessment and request paper documentation if one isn’t immediately offered to them. The overwhelming majority of solar companies provide thorough roof inspections and act ethically when advising prospective customers, but homeowners should always be cautious.
6. Financing Options
Homeowners are usually able to choose between leasing or purchasing their solar installation.
In most scenarios, leasing solar panels is not recommended. A lease agreement means the solar company can take advantage of government incentives, such as tax credits or rebates, rather than the homeowner. Leasing also drastically reduces the savings from solar energy.
We recommend homeowners use a cash purchase or a loan. Homeowners should request their solar companies walk them through financing specifics. Reputable companies will be more than willing to help you find the solar panel system and financial plan that best suits your needs.