The process of going solar can seem complex, so you’ll want to hire the right professionals to make it easier. So how do you choose a qualified, certified, and experienced professional solar installer who uses high-quality solar panels?
The quick answer is by researching and interviewing multiple installers. Here are some of the most important factors to consider as you embark on your residential solar journey:
- Credentials – Industry-standard certifications are awarded through organizations like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)—widely recognized as the gold standard among renewable energy system installers. Make sure the installer you choose is licensed, bonded, and insured to install residential solar projects in your area. Ask if they will be using subcontractors on your project and verify the subcontractors’ credentials as well.
- Credibility and Expertise – Seek out installers who have experience installing solar equipment and are knowledgeable about all aspects of the process. A good rule of thumb is to work with installers who have at least three years of experience. Ask them how long they’ve been in business and how many solar energy systems they’ve installed. In fact, ask a lot of questions, including: What modules do they use and why? Can they clearly explain which solar incentives you are eligible for and how they work? What can they tell you about coverage under warranties if there’s a problem with a component or the energy system after installation?
- Transparency – There shouldn’t be any mystery about the work being done on your home; your installer should be upfront with you about the process and be willing to answer all your questions at any time. Further, if your installer uses subcontractors, make sure you know which portions of the project they will handle and what oversight your installer will provide.
- Addressing Roof Conditions – When you hire an installer, one of the first things they should assess is your roof’s condition. Ask your installer if they recommend roof repair prior to installation. Also, make sure you are clear about who is responsible for roof damage that may occur or a roof leak if one develops.
Most roofs have protruding vent pipes. Some installers will place the panels to fit around these vents, but you may not like how that looks. If you’re getting your roof repaired prior to installation and you have protruding vents, you can ask if the vents can be moved to a spot where there won’t be solar panels. If they can’t, ask your roofer about replacing protruding vent pipes with low-profile vent openings, which can fit underneath solar panels. Ask your installer to include any roof repairs and vent relocation in their proposal.
- Reputation and Testimonials – Do your due diligence by reading online reviews from installers’ past customers. The installers you’re considering should be able to point you to previous clients who will share their installation experience. As you comparison-shop, the installers should demonstrate their ability to communicate clearly and help you understand how your system will work.
- Talk to Friends and Neighbors – When in doubt about whom to trust in a crowded marketplace, reach out to people you know who have gone solar to find out what they learned from the experience. You may find that you have more confidence with direct feedback from a neighbor than scrolling through online reviews.
- Pricing – Installers are likely to have different rates for the same job, so comparing quotes from multiple installers is important. Most experienced installers will come look at your home and then give you a price proposal based on your home’s size, energy usage, and other factors. For an idea of what you might pay, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Tracking the Sun report contains installation prices across the United States. To compare, convert your quote to cost per watt. You can calculate this by dividing the cost of the system by the system’s capacity in watts. Since capacity is measured in kilowatts(kW), multiply the number of kW in the system by 1,000, then divide the system’s cost by that number.
For more information on going solar, check out the resources available from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, including the Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar, which demystifies the installation process.
This blog post is part of DOE’s Summer of Solar campaign, which lifts up stories of Americans who use solar energy and the communities that are making it easier to go solar.