Questions You Should Ask a Solar Company Before Hiring

There are many advantages of installing solar panels on your home roof but it needs to be done right. Read about the questions to ask a solar contractor today.

Solar energy has become one of the top green energy choices for homeowners. You don’t need a giant installation to fully power your home, and you can connect it to the grid to keep drawing power if needed.

And to make things better, governments are making significant solar investments. That’s why it’s no surprise that the solar industry is expected to keep growing by 15.7% until 2030.

Once you’ve done your homework and concluded that solar power is the right choice for your home, the next step is to connect with one of the top solar companies in your vicinity. They’ll conduct a thorough assessment of your home and assess any potential obstructions in the surrounding area. Following this, they’ll provide you with an estimate that outlines crucial details such as the number of solar panels required, the associated costs, and the expected payback period.

At this juncture, you’re likely to have a multitude of questions swirling in your mind, and you may not even be certain about the right queries to pose. Fret not, because we’re here to help.

We’ve put together this article as a comprehensive guide to the questions you should pose to a solar installation company before allowing them to commence work on your roof.

If the solar company you’ve selected can address these questions to your satisfaction, you can rest easy knowing that you’re making the right choice—get ready to bask in the benefits of harnessing the power of the sun!

Getting multiple quotes from different solar contractors is a smart move. Not only does it allow you to compare offerings, but it also provides insight into which company is genuinely committed to earning your business. In this guide, we’ll explore the vital information that should be included in a comprehensive solar quote, ensuring that you have all the facts to make the right choice for your solar installation.

Table of Contents

You must look to have important information in the provided Quote

  • Solar Panel Make/Model and Quantity: The quote should specify the make and model of the solar panels that will be installed on your property. Additionally, it should include the number of panels required to meet your energy needs.
  • Total System Size in Kilowatts (kW): Understanding the size of your solar system in kilowatts is essential for assessing its capacity to generate electricity for your home.
  • Roof Layout Visualization: A solar quote should include a satellite photo or a 3-D representation of your roof. This visual representation should show how the solar panels will be laid out on your roof, giving you a clear idea of the installation plan.
  • Inverter or Microinverter Model: Inverters are critical components of a solar system. The quote should specify the type and model of the inverter or microinverter that will be used.
  • Expected Electricity Production (kWh per Year): You should know the anticipated annual electricity production of your solar system. This figure will help you understand how much energy your system will generate.
  • Anticipated Savings: A comprehensive solar quote should provide a clear estimate of your expected savings in dollars per year. It should also include a breakdown of the estimated annual increase in utility rates.
  • Solar Incentives Information: The quote should detail any solar incentives for which you qualify. These incentives can significantly impact the overall cost of your solar installation.
  • Total System Cost: The quote should clearly outline the total system cost both before and after incentives. This breakdown should be in dollars per watt, allowing you to see how the incentives affect your investment.
  • Solar Loan Details: If you are considering financing your solar installation through a solar loan, the quote should include information about upfront and monthly costs. It should also specify the price if you choose to pay in cash.
  • Warranty Information: Information about warranties on equipment and workmanship should be included in the quote. This ensures that you understand the coverage and protection for your solar system.

Bonus Information

While the must-haves cover the essential aspects of your solar quote, bonus information can provide further insight and options:

  • Multiple Panel/Inverter Options: Some quotes may offer multiple choices for panels and inverters at different price points. This allows you to tailor your solar system to your budget and preferences.
  • Solar Costs vs. Estimated Utility Costs: A comprehensive quote may include a comparison of solar costs versus estimated utility costs over time. This helps you gauge the long-term financial benefits of going solar.
  • Home Solar Battery Costs: If you’re interested in adding a home solar battery to your system, the quote should detail the additional costs and benefits of doing so.
  • Solar Production Monitoring: Information about a solar production monitoring app, such as those offered by Enphase, SolarEdge, or others, can be valuable. These apps allow you to track your system’s performance in real-time.

Once you’ve received a solar quote that contains these crucial details, you’ll have a clear understanding of the financial aspects of your potential solar installation. Evaluating these quotes will enable you to determine whether going solar is a smart financial move for your home.

Questions you should ask about the Solar Panel Installer

When it comes to making the smart choice for your solar panel installation, there are some crucial factors you need to consider. Let’s break down the key aspects you should keep in mind while choosing the right solar installer for your project.

1. Prioritize Experience

First and foremost, the experience of the solar installer matters significantly. Unless you’re inclined to support your sister-in-law’s new solar venture as she gains experience, it’s wise to opt for an installer with a substantial amount of hands-on experience. Experience brings with it a wealth of knowledge and expertise, making it more likely that your installation will go off without a hitch.

2. Check Licensing and Insurance

Next, you’ll want to ensure that the solar installer you choose is not only experienced but also licensed to work in your local area. Licensing requirements can vary, so it’s important to verify that they meet all the necessary legal standards. Additionally, make sure the installer carries adequate liability insurance. This coverage is essential in case of any unexpected accidents or property damage during the installation process.

3. Seek NABCEP Certification

In the United States, solar installers have the option to become certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This certification is highly respected in the solar industry, and it reflects a commitment to excellence and professionalism. We strongly recommend selecting an installer who guarantees that a NABCEP-certified professional will be on-site throughout the entire installation. This ensures that your project will be in the hands of a qualified expert who adheres to industry best practices.

Now that we’ve highlighted these essential considerations, let’s take a closer look at the specific questions you should ask a solar installer about themselves and their qualifications:

What questions should I ask a solar panel installer?

1. Do You Perform a Needs Assessment?

You may not always know the type of solar installation you need for your home. You have a general idea about what you want to accomplish, but when it comes to getting into the details, you don’t understand enough about solar panels to put together a plan.

A reliable solar panel contractor can help you with this process. Tell them your goal with solar and have them design a solar installation that meets those needs.

Doing this means you can see the benefits of solar panels and get the most value for your money.

Also Read: Electricity Usage  – On the Rise – Impact on Society

2. What Are Your Prices?

It’s important to get as much pricing information as possible before installing solar panels. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. This means your total cost will change based on your needs and the costs from your installer.

Ask this question to every contractor you speak to. You want to get quotes from all of them that detail your entire installation’s cost.

Once you understand your total cost of solar panels, you can compare costs between contractors and choose the one that offers the most value.

Also Read: How Do I Find Solar Power Contractors Near Me?

3. When Can You Start Work?

Not every contracting company can get to your job straight away. There is a backlog of work in the industry and not enough workers to get to each job quickly.

This means that some of your solar contractor options may not be able to get to your job on your timeline. If you want your job completed in the near future, you can’t afford to hire a company without asking this question.

Ensure you understand when a company can schedule your job, how long you’ll wait if delays happen, and if they have the resources to handle the job quickly once they start working.

Also Read: How Construction Companies Can Optimize Project Costs?

4. Are You Experienced in My Area?

Although there isn’t much variation in how solar panels are installed, there are construction standards builders must meet when building in an area. Local governments want to ensure that new construction projects are safe and won’t fail. To that end, they create building codes.

Those codes can change a lot based on where you live. That makes working with a local solar company that knows the rules is essential.

Take if you’re installing solar power here in Fayetteville, for instance. You want a company with a local presence and a history of success to work with.

5. What Does Your Warranty Cover?

Having a great warranty is a must when purchasing solar panels. You’re spending thousands on the purchase, so the last thing you want is for something to go wrong, and you not have help to fix the problem.

Most reputable installers offer warranties for their work. They will cover the labor that goes into installing panels and the equipment if your solar equipment doesn’t work.

Make sure to get a copy of the warranty offered and compare it to what’s standard in the industry.

Also Read: Basic Electrical Fittings – Wire Guide – (Types, Sizes, Installation)

6. Do You Offer Maintenance?

Although solar panels don’t require much maintenance, you’ll still need to keep them up over time. Most maintenance tasks you can handle yourself. You only need to clean your solar panels to remove the debris that reduces efficiency.

But as time passes, your panels will need additional maintenance outside of cleaning. You may not want to do this yourself and feel better working with the company you used to handle the installation.

Make sure the contractor you hire offers this service if it’s a consideration for you.

Also Read: Home outdoor lighting – Types – Maintenance – Importance

7. Do You Subcontract Work?

Not every solar contractor handles the job themselves. Some companies employ project managers and a partial installation crew and rely on subcontractors to handle the rest of the work.

This practice is common in the construction industry, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when it happens. However, it’s also something you should know about before committing to working with a company.

Ask a contractor if they subcontract work before you hire them. If so, try to learn about the subcontractors so you can also vet them for the job.

8. Can You Provide References?

You won’t have a problem with most solar installers. They will do the work they promised to do, and you’ll have an excellent solar installation.

But that won’t be the case for every company. Some contractors embellish their abilities, provide poor customer service, and leave problems unresolved.

Get references from a solar installer before you sign a contract with them. Reputable companies should have several people willing to back their service with positive reviews.

Hire the Best Solar Contractor

Deciding to invest in a rooftop solar installation is a big decision. You’re paying a lot of cash upfront, so you don’t want to make a mistake and get solar panels installed that don’t meet your needs.

Finding the right solar contractor can make or break the success of your installation. Be sure to ask the questions above to your solar company options to determine if they have the expertise to install solar panels on your home.

Did you find this guide useful and want to learn more about making home improvements? Check out more guides on the blog to learn everything you need to build a great home.

Questions about Solar Panel Equipments

When it comes to investing in solar equipment, ensuring that you make the right choices is crucial for a successful and long-lasting solar panel installation. Let’s explore some key considerations and questions you should ask when it comes to the solar equipment that will adorn your roof for the next several decades.

Solar Panel Selection

Most reputable solar installers opt for high-quality solar panel brands with robust warranty coverage and a proven track record of longevity. However, it’s always a good practice to double-check and understand why a particular equipment choice was made. After all, you want to be absolutely certain that what you’re placing on your roof is not only built to last but also compares favorably to other products on the market. Thankfully, there are resources like SolarReviews that offer real customer reviews of solar panels, inverters, batteries, and more.

Here are some essential questions to ask your installer regarding solar panels and other equipment:

  • Why did you choose the specific equipment for my installation?
  • Do you have a similar solar system on your own property or business?
  • What kind of warranty protection is available for the solar panels and inverter?
  • Have other homeowners encountered any issues with the solar equipment you recommend? If so, what were they?
  • In case of equipment malfunctions or issues, who should I contact for support or repairs?
  • I’m considering adding a solar battery to my system. Can you provide information about the cost and benefits of doing so?
  • Do my solar panels require any protection against potential damage from animals or pests?

Warranties: A Crucial Comparison

Comparing different brands of solar panels can be made easier by examining the warranties they offer. A solar panel warranty should provide a minimum of 25 years of coverage for power production and 10 years for workmanship. Some manufacturers, such as Sunpower, LG, and Panasonic, offer 25-year warranties for both power production and workmanship on their top panel models.

Inverters: A Vital Component

Solar string inverters typically come with a 10-year warranty, although some offer the option to extend it for additional years. This means that you may need to replace the inverter at least once during the lifespan of your solar system. On the other hand, microinverters, such as those from Enphase, are usually warranted for 25 years, aligning with the lifespan of the panels. Keep in mind that while microinverters may experience occasional failures, these incidents typically only affect a single panel’s power output while awaiting replacement.

How to negotiate with solar company?

Batteries: A Valuable Backup

While you may never anticipate needing a home solar battery, recent events in California and Texas have shown that blackouts can pose significant challenges. The peace of mind offered by a solar battery can be invaluable, even if it remains unused for most of its life.

Adding a battery to your solar system during the initial installation has several advantages. You can choose between DC or AC-coupled configurations, with the difference being worth exploring. Additionally, the installation labor cost may be reduced when adding a battery concurrently with solar panels, potentially making it a more cost-effective option. If you delay installing a battery, you’re more likely to be offered an AC-coupled variety, which stores electricity after it’s converted from DC to AC by your solar inverter. While this isn’t necessarily a drawback, it does result in a small additional power loss due to the conversion process.

Animal Interference: A Unique Concern

Although most areas in the USA don’t experience significant issues with animals interfering with solar panel installations, it’s wise to pay special attention to this question. It’s possible that local wildlife, like particularly ornery squirrels, might attempt to build nests under solar installations or chew exposed wires. There are products available to mitigate these issues, and your installer can provide insight into whether other customers in your area have faced similar challenges.

Question to ask about cost & savings

When it comes to making a sound financial decision about your solar panel installation, it’s crucial to dive into the details and ensure you’re making the best investment for your home. Let’s explore some important questions and considerations related to the financial aspects of your solar project.

Costs and Savings

Solar panels are a financial investment that can both cost you money upfront and save you money in the long run. When dealing with financial matters, it’s always wise to scrutinize the numbers carefully.

For most homeowners, the primary concern is the cost associated with going solar, closely followed by the anticipated savings. A reputable solar installer should provide you with a comprehensive quote that includes the total cost, estimated annual savings, and the payback period. Additionally, the quote should detail the incentives available to you, with a particular focus on the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC), which can give you a substantial tax credit amounting to 26% of the installation cost in the year following completion.

Here are some essential questions to ask about the financial aspects of your solar installation:

  • How can I ensure I’m eligible for the solar tax credit?
  • Are there other incentives available, and how do they impact the overall system cost?
  • What is the payment schedule for the solar system? Is the entire amount due upfront, or are there financing options available?
  • How long will it take for the solar panels to pay for themselves through energy savings?
  • What rate of increase in utility costs did the installer use for their savings estimates?
  • What financing options are offered, and how do they affect the final cost?
  • Will monthly payments for financed solar panels increase over time?
  • Can I expect an increase in my home’s value with the addition of solar panels?

Solar Tax Credit

It’s essential to understand the intricacies of the solar tax credit. To claim the 26% solar tax credit, you must have a tax liability of at least that amount. In simpler terms, you need to have a taxable income to take full advantage of this incentive. Unfortunately, some individuals, particularly retirees, have been misinformed about their eligibility by unscrupulous salespeople. Your installer should provide clarity on the requirements for claiming this tax credit.

Other incentives, such as solar rebates or Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs), don’t have income requirements for eligibility. Your solar installer should be well-versed in helping you qualify for and claim these incentives.

Savings Estimates

Estimating solar savings involves calculations based on factors like your panels’ annual energy production, the average annual increase in utility rates, and the availability of net metering in your area. Your installer should be transparent about the calculations used to determine your rooftop’s solar production. You can even use tools like the free PVWatts tool from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to get a ballpark estimate and verify their figures.

When it comes to utility rates, historical data shows that, in most parts of the United States, rates increase by approximately 2.5-3.5% annually. However, rates can vary significantly by location. You can obtain historical rate data from your utility company or by reviewing past electricity bills to check the rate you paid per kilowatt-hour (kWh). If your solar quote projects a higher rate increase than historical data suggests, ask the installer for proof or rerun the savings estimate with a more conservative rate.

Financing Options

Understanding financing options is vital to determine the final cost of your solar system. Most solar companies collaborate with financing companies to offer solar loans, allowing homeowners to make manageable monthly payments instead of a large upfront expense. Some companies also provide solar leasing or power purchase agreements (PPAs), where the solar company owns the panels, and you pay a monthly lease or per-kWh charge for the energy generated.

One important consideration is that solar installers offering loan financing may pass finance charges onto customers who opt for this financing method. To assess the impact of financing on the total cost, ask the installer for a comparison between the cash price and the financed price. If the difference seems substantial, consider obtaining a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) from your preferred bank for the cash price. HELOCs might be more challenging to obtain than other solar loans, but they don’t come with finance charges, potentially saving you money in the long run. Additionally, solar panels can increase your home’s value, which may mitigate the impact on your home equity compared to financing other types of home improvements.

Questions about what work will be done and the timeline

When it comes to the process of installing solar panels on your roof, it’s more than just the glamorous image of those sleek panels soaking up the sun. The installation process involves several crucial steps, and it’s essential to have a clear understanding of what to expect. Let’s explore the key questions to ask about the installation process:

1. What are the steps involved in the installation process?

Understanding the sequential steps of the installation process is vital. A reputable installer should be able to provide a detailed breakdown of how they will proceed, from the initial site visit to the final commissioning of your solar system.

2. How long will it take to complete the installation, and what is the estimated timeline?

Getting a sense of the timeframe for your solar installation is essential for planning. Installers should provide you with an estimated schedule, taking into account both factors within their control and those that may be subject to external influences, such as permitting and inspections.

3. What happens if the installation is not completed within the agreed-upon timeframe?

Delays can happen, but it’s crucial to have a plan in place if the installation takes longer than initially anticipated. Ask the installer about their policies and guarantees regarding project completion time.

4. What guarantees do you offer for your work?

Quality assurance is paramount. Ensure that the installer offers guarantees for the work performed. This should encompass protection against damage to your home and issues that may arise during or after installation.

5. How do you handle unexpected situations, such as roof leaks or damage to the roof, once the panels are installed?

Unforeseen issues can arise, and it’s essential to know how the installer will address them. Make sure there’s a clear plan for addressing any potential problems, including damage to your roof, broken tiles, or other issues.

The Installation Process

The installation process involves a series of carefully coordinated steps. A reputable installer should provide a timeline and commit to meeting it to the best of their ability. However, certain factors, such as permitting timelines and utility company inspections, may be beyond their control.

What should I look for in a solar energy company?

In general, the entire installation process can take anywhere from as little as two months to as many as six months. It includes a site visit, submission of a system design to local authorities, obtaining permits, scheduling the installation, conducting inspections, and securing final permission to connect your system to the grid. Your installer should be transparent about the process and how they have worked with your utility company in the past.

Guarantees

Guarantees are crucial to ensure your peace of mind and protect your investment. If the installer fails to complete the work within the agreed-upon timeframe, you may risk missing out on incentives that were available when you signed the contract. An illustrative example is the federal solar tax credit, which decreased from 30% to 26% in 2019. Homeowners who didn’t complete their solar installation by December 31st couldn’t claim the 30% credit.

Your installer should be willing to offer a guarantee or compensate for any incentives you might miss due to installation delays. Additionally, they should provide assurances that their work will not harm your home. This includes protection against roof leaks, damaged tiles, and other potential issues. Top-tier installers often offer workmanship warranties that extend for at least five years after installation, demonstrating their commitment to quality work. These warranties provide peace of mind, as any problems typically manifest soon after installation and are covered by the installer.

Questions about future expectations

Now that you’ve covered the essential aspects of your solar panel installation, it’s time to look ahead to the future and consider what might occur during the many years you’ll be harnessing energy from the sun. While solar panel systems are designed to last for at least 25 years, it’s always wise to be prepared for any unforeseen events. Here are the important questions to ask about the future of your solar journey:

1. How can I monitor the solar energy my system generates in real-time?

Once your panels are up and running, you’ll want to keep a close eye on their energy production and savings. Ask your installer about the solar monitoring software they use or how to utilize third-party solutions for tracking your solar production and consumption, such as the Sense energy monitor.

2. What if the solar panels underperform compared to the promised energy production?

In cases where you have a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) or lease, your installer may provide a production guarantee, ensuring a minimum amount of energy production. If the panels fall short, your contract should outline how the company will compensate you, often in the form of a monthly bill credit. However, if you’ve purchased panels outright with cash or a loan, you might not have a production guarantee. In such cases, it’s essential to inquire about after-sales service and support if you encounter performance issues.

3. What does my net metering contract entail, and for how long is it guaranteed?

Net metering agreements can vary by location, and it’s crucial to understand the terms of your contract. While some states used to allow homeowners to remain on net metering indefinitely, policies have evolved, and you may now have a limited duration during which you receive the full retail rate. Be sure to clarify this to avoid surprises down the line.

What is the biggest concern regarding solar energy?

4. What should I do if a solar panel fails due to a manufacturing defect or sustains damage from a natural disaster?

In the unfortunate event of a panel failure or damage, it’s essential to know how to proceed. Your installer should clarify whether you should contact them or the manufacturer for warranty repairs. The recommended course of action may differ depending on whether you own or lease the solar panels. Additionally, keep in mind that many homeowners’ insurance policies cover solar panels, which can be particularly useful if you own the system and need repairs due to physical damage.

What is the future of solar energy?

5. How will structural changes to my roof be handled?

Solar panels are built to last, but over time, you might need to address roof maintenance or replacements. Some top-notch installers may offer to handle this for you, often for a reasonable fee. It’s worth discussing this possibility and even including it in your contract.

6. What if I want to expand my solar panel installation or add a battery in the future?

Life changes, and so do energy needs. If you anticipate needing additional panels or a battery down the road, it’s crucial to discuss this with your installer early on. There may be limitations or specific considerations, such as available roof space. Your installer can help you plan for future expansions, potentially recommending more efficient panels or the right inverter setup to accommodate your evolving energy requirements.

Closing Remarks on asking a solar installer questions

Embarking on the journey to install solar panels on your home is indeed a significant decision, and like most people, you want to ensure it’s a smart and well-informed choice.

While you may not need to ask every single question we’ve covered in this guide, it’s essential to conduct thorough research and gather the information you need to make the best decision for your solar investment.

When interacting with solar installers, pay close attention to their willingness and openness in addressing your questions and concerns. A reputable installer should have logical and informative answers for your inquiries. The level of transparency and expertise they exhibit can be a clear indicator of their professionalism and commitment to providing the best service.

Solar panels are often regarded as low-maintenance products once they are installed and operational. However, it’s important to remember that you are entering into a long-term relationship with a company that spans at least 25 years. While you may not need frequent contact with your installer after installation, knowing that they are readily available and committed to supporting you throughout this journey is crucial for your peace of mind.

In summary, take the time to educate yourself about solar energy, ask the right questions, and evaluate potential installers based on their responsiveness and expertise. By doing so, you can make an informed decision and embark on your solar journey with confidence, knowing you’ve chosen a reliable partner for your renewable energy needs.

Saad Iqbal is a professional civil engineering and freelance write. He's passionate about structures, construction management, and home improvement topics. He's been working as a Senior Engineer in a consultant firm for over 8 years. Besides he loves writing informative and in-depth content focused on construction and home-related topics. You can catch him at his linkedin page or reach out via our contact us page.

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