EERE Success Story—Minnesota Offers Residents a Tip Sheet for Hiring Solar Installers

January 16, 2019

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When considering installing solar in your home, it can be difficult to decide who to trust. There are many companies who offer solar installation services and finding a credible installer will ensure proper and safe installation. The Minnesota Department of Commerce Division of Energy Resources (DER), which receives funding from the Energy Department’s State Energy Program, sought to assist solar customers. In order to assure quality installation and protect residents from poorly performing companies, DER created a tip sheet for hiring qualified solar installers. The tip sheet contains advice to aid consumers in choosing the best installer and sources to help navigate the installation process.

First, DER recommends verifying the installer. Ask the installer about their credentials. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners requires training and certification before installers can practice. When consumers are educated on the necessary credentials, they can avoid being scammed. Consumers should also request references from installers so they can hear from real customers who can provide honest feedback on performance. DER also recommends checking the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any complaints or actions filed against the company. Verifying an installer avoids contracting with a problematic company and gives the consumer peace of mind that they have an installer who has the proper credentials and experience.

After verifying the installer, DER laid out a list of contract terms and installer expectations to help consumers understand what they should look for in a contract. The terms of the contract and installer expectations should include:

  • Site assessments – maximize sunlight striking the panels and minimize shading
  • Permits and agreements – check that installers apply for appropriate permits
  • Manufacturer and installation warranties – verify that costs of repair and replacement are covered for a minimum of two years
  • Costs, payments, and completion timeline – obtain a detailed bid contract that lists all work, who is doing the work, equipment and materials, timeframes, payment terms, and the process for change orders
  • Down payment – pay with a credit card when possible and don’t feel pressured to put additional money down
  • Rebates and incentives – research all incentives available
  • Inspections – make sure all inspections are arranged by the installer

DER provides additional recommendations including joining a solar co-op and looking at community solar as an option for households where on-site solar is not an option. The tip sheet also contains a list of sources that may help consumers select and navigate the solar installation process. Instead of leaving this complicated process to residents, DER took an active role in protecting their consumers by providing advice and resources.

The Energy Department's State Energy Program  provides funding and technical assistance to states, territories, and the District of Columbia to enhance energy security, advance state-led energy initiatives, and maximize the benefits of decreasing energy waste. The State Energy Program emphasizes the state’s role as the decision-maker and administrator for program activities tailored to their unique resources, delivery capacity, and energy goals.