Now what? How do you find a solar installer to turn this plan into a reality?
It can seem like a daunting task to wade through the many national and local companies that are vying for your business. But you can find the right installer by following the same process you would for any other type of contractor: screening potential service providers, asking friends for recommendations and getting multiple quotes to land on the best price.
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Here’s a step-by-step guide to finding, vetting and signing with the right solar installer for your home.
7 Tips to finding local solar installer near me
“Finding an installer to go solar isn’t such a different process from other kinds of home improvement projects,” said Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the US Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.
You can start simple with a Google search. That will give you a broad overview of the companies that operate in your area. You’ll likely find some national installers, like Sunrun, as well as some smaller outfits specific to your city. “Every area will have different companies that work in that business,” Jones-Albertus said.
You can also consult directories that allow you to compare multiple providers (and sometimes even quotes) all at once.
If a local installer approaches you, feel free to consider them, but vet them just the same as you would any other contractor. “There are a lot of good companies in many industries that do proactive customer engagement, and of course there are also scams that come that way as well,” Jones-Albertus said.
1. Understand your local incentives
You’ll also want to have a good handle on the potential discounts available in your state, which an installer should help you take advantage of.
For example, the federal government now offers a tax credit worth up to 30% of the total cost of your solar system. On top of that, each state offers its own incentive programs, such as sales tax and property tax exemptions.
You can learn about the incentives in your state by consulting your local energy utility’s website or checking out CNET’s state-by-state guides.
2. Read reviews and complaints
Like any service, solar installers are subject to public reviews and complaints.
“It’s similar to looking at reviews for your favorite restaurant. It can be valuable. It can also be swayed a lot by who has chosen to write those reviews. So it’s just one piece of information along with other pieces of information,” Jones-Albertus said.
Start by checking out the Better Business Bureau and plug in a specific installer to see their reviews. As Jones-Albertus advises, take any specific instance with a grain of salt and focus instead on broader trends you notice.
3. Talk to your neighbors who have solar panels
The people you know who’ve already installed solar panels can be a great resource. Seek them out to learn more about their first-hand experience with an installer.
Jones-Albertus recommends you ask them some questions like:
- How communicative and responsive was the installer to your questions?
- Did the project go as expected, or were there some hiccups?
- How responsive was the installer to any issues that arose?
- Were you happy with the process?
- How did you make your decision to use this installer?
4. Check licenses and certifications
There are a number of licenses and certifications that can also help give you confidence that you’re choosing a reputable solar installer.
Jones-Albertus said the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners certification is one common license to look for. Each state has its own licensing requirements as well, but ultimately if an installer has a license, “it means that they have met certain requirements to demonstrate a certain level of proficiency,” Jones-Albertus said.
If you’re not sure which licenses apply to a certain installer, ask the company which licensing framework they follow, and they can point you to the state requirements that they abide by.
5. Get multiple quotes and compare
Once you’ve got a list of potential solar installers you’re considering, you’ll want to seek out a few quotes to compare prices. This will ensure you’re not getting ripped off by one installer who’s charging significantly more than market rates.
You can get quotes in a few different ways. Some installers will offer quotes online or over the phone — without a home visit — by looking at satellite imagery of your roof. (Be warned: If you choose this method, make sure the satellite images show the current state of your roof and how much shade it gets.) Other companies will want to visit your house in person.
Either way, seek out at least a few different quotes to compare not only the overall sticker price, but also the warranties offered and the different financing options.
6. Ask the installer some questions
Comparing quotes isn’t the last step before you settle on an installer. Jones-Albertus also recommends you have a conversation with each contractor and ask them any questions you might have. Those might include:
- Does this solar system design use the entire roof or just a south-facing portion?
- Should I replace the shingles on my roof before installing solar panels?
- What is the expected timeline for completion of the project?
- What does the permitting process look like, and how long will it take?
You can also use this process to get a sense for the installer’s communication style and how comfortable you feel working with them.
7. Assess potential cost savings
The solar installers you seek quotes from should also help you understand the potential energy cost savings of a solar system.
This largely depends on how you finance the solar panels — with cash, a loan or by leasing the panels from the installer. But the company should be able to estimate how much money you’ll save by reducing your energy bill.