Like any industry, solar has its own bad players - those companies that are out to make a quick buck with little regard for long-term customer experience and satisfaction. This is why we count education as a critical differentiator for our business. It's a critical core pillar of our company's long-term success.
We believe that being good stewards of the solar industry requires that we take the time to educate people - even when they don't buy from us. At least they will know what to ask about and look for when choosing a reputable and trustworthy installer down the road. Our ultimate hope is that they will avoid the pitfalls that unnecessarily sour the solar experience for others.
A solar array's lifetime is measured in decades, so it's of utmost importance that whatever company you choose as your solar partner is there for the duration of your solar investment. Doing your due diligence beforehand will help you avoid those shady companies altogether.
To help, we wanted to share some common questions that many solar customers wish they had asked before signing. Our service department frequently works with orphaned solar customers who have been abandoned by their original installer. Whether it's due to a business closure or an exit from the state, we've collected these questions through countless conversations with solar customers seeking a new partnership. Hopefully these will get your gears turning and help you avoid those bad actors all together.
1. Do I have an assigned contact to guide me through the solar process?
Having a dedicated project manager assigned to your solar project will help the process go more smoothly on both sides. If you have any questions about what stage your project is in, you'll know who to contact for answers. Conversely, to help your project go as quickly as possible, there will be one person dedicated to it and familiar with your project facts, instead of it going through multiple hands and risk losing important details.
Some solar companies without dedicated project managers are hard to get ahold of during your installation process. This usually doesn't bode well for addressing service and maintenance issues down the road. We're frequently contacted by solar customers who just can't reach someone for help when calling their original installer.
2. What are the name brands and efficiency of the panels?
Not all solar panels are created equal. Some are more durable with higher efficiencies and less degradation over the lifetime of the panel. Others are cheaper and will wear out quicker than investing in a nicer panel. Knowing this and what manufacturer warranties come with your specific solar panel will give you a good idea of what kind of quality solar energy system you'll be installing on your home.
This also gives you a good idea about the solar company installing them. A solar partner who cares about what they put on your roof will care more overall about your installation process and service needs down the road. A company that will put whatever cheap panel on your roof and moves on to the next customer is generally not a trustworthy solar partner you'll want to invest your time and money with.
3. Are their sales, installation, and service teams all in-house or are they outsourced?
Choosing a fully in-house solar team will give you peace of mind that you know who will be handling all aspects of your project - from initial call to installation and service. Find out if they do their own installs or if they work with a third party. A company that sells and does their own installation usually delivers a better quality product because they have to stand behind their work instead of handing it off to a different company without thinking twice about your project again.
Similarly to #1, when a solar company outsources its work, it can be hard to contact someone about your project. Whether you need information during your installation, or you need a system inspection years down the road, ensuring it's all under one umbrella will greatly simplify your whole solar journey.
4. Will my solar partner handle the processing, filing, and pickup of all permits, or will that be my responsibility?
Believe it or not, some solar operations will leave the entire permitting process on the shoulders of the customer. Not only is this typically a major headache for someone not intimately familiar with local AHJ's and HOAs, but it also leaves a wide margin of error for that same reason.
This can also extend into the customer handling communications with their utility and the commissioning process. A reputable and trustworthy solar partner will easily handle these intricate processes for you with the expertise and knowledge that comes from years of working in the industry.
5. If I have a performance issue, how will it be addressed and what is the estimated response time?
Researching a solar company's service department while looking for a reputable installer can help save you major headaches down the road. It can be tempting to only look at the installation piece of things when initially looking into solar, but like any technology, proper care and maintenance will help extend your solar array's lifetime and long-term energy production.
Some less-than-desirable solar companies will outsource their service needs, leaving you to guess what kind of quality you'll receive when you need it most. Time is money with solar, so when your system is down that's money that you could've had in your pocket instead of giving it to your utility. Knowing the company's estimated response time, and if it's within a reasonable range, will help you get the most out of your solar investment.
6. What are the reviews like for the solar company I'm partnering with?
Checking for online reviews is an easy way to get a gut check on how reputable your potential solar partner is. There are plenty of them online - both good and bad - to see where the companies you're looking at fall on the spectrum. We recommend looking at specific places like SolarReviews.com, Angi, and Google to start with.
In short, we strongly advise all of our potential customers to do their due diligence whether they choose to partner with us or not. We want the process of going solar to be as positive as possible to help create a sustainable future for decades to come.
If you're wondering whether or not solar is a good fit for you, we invite you to download our free guide, Is Solar Right for You? In it, you'll find the various factors that make up a solar purchase. If you're ready to speak to one of our solar integrators, click here.