Let’s face some facts, shall we? We’re living in a world of increasing environmental consciousness. From the dinner table to your local pub, everyone wants to know what you’re doing to save the tiny blue marble we call home.
But you don’t need picket signs and a megaphone. You don’t need to chant, “Save the planet!” All you need is to be an example for the rest of the populace to follow. All you need is to adopt renewable energy.
And unless you know something I don’t, solar is the greenest source of renewable energy. The point is; to go green and adopt solar.
But therein lies our problem: how do you find the right solar company to hold your hand during this time of transition? Well, we have the low-down, essential tips that will help you choose the right solar company.
So pack your lunch box and grab an apple for your teacher; we’re going to school.
Understanding Your Solar Needs
Yes, I know you’re excited. And yes, I’m sure you can’t wait to start interviewing your local solar power contractors. But before we get into the interviewing and the consulting, you need to know your energy needs.
Solar isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair. You need to find a system that provides enough energy to light up your home or business. You also need to settle on a budget and state your financial goals.
Assessing Your Energy Requirements
Picture your home (or business) as a beast with a large appetite for energy. But for us to feed this beast, we need to know how much juice your home needs to satisfy its big appetite.
And for that, you need to list down all the electronics you use in your home. You also need to work out the power consumption of each electronic appliance and the number of hours in a day you run these electrical appliances.
For context, these are the electrics I use in my home:
|Number of appliances
|Grand Total Power Consumption
My total energy needs for a single day is 2,520 Wh or 2.52 kWh. To feed these hungry electronics, I need, at the very least, a 2.52 kWh system.
Identifying Your Budget and Financial Goals
In the long term, solar is cheaper than traditional electricity. But you’ll need some money to install it on your property. There are multiple ways of acquiring a solar system. Depending on your budget and financial goals, you can decide on the best solar acquisition option for you.
You can buy the solar system outright if your pockets are deep enough. And while you’re at it, you can rake in all the incentives that come with owning a solar system.
If you would like to own a solar panel system but you only have part of the money, you can opt for a solar loan and make a deposit.
Maybe you cannot afford a deposit. In that case, leasing the solar panel system is the best option. With this route, you get to enjoy day-one savings with $0 down. But you’ll have to contend with monthly payments (usually lower than your regular utility bills). And you can’t claim any of the solar tax incentives because you don’t own the solar panels.
Leasing solar may be attractive to some, but it may not be consistent with your financial goals. State your financial goals before we start hunting for solar companies.
Here’s a write-up that will help you understand how leased solar works.
Researching Solar Companies
When hunting for a solar company, don’t settle on the first one you find. Sometimes it’s good to play the field to know what’s what and who’s who. And it all starts by gathering recommendations and referrals.
Step 1: Gathering Recommendations and Referrals
How convenient has the internet become? Because you don’t have to know people personally to get some good referrals and recommendations. But therein lies another problem; how do you tell apart phony referrals from genuine user recommendations?
Stay with us, and I’ll tell you. We still have more steps to cover.
Where do you find genuine referrals and recommendations? On solar blogs such as this and related forums on social media. Reddit is an excellent source of genuine referrals.
Make a list of the solar companies with the most mentions and proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Check Online Reviews and Ratings
Now go through your list of companies, Googling each and every one of them. Pay attention to the reviews and ratings. Read both the positive and the bad reviews. Do not fall for the premature rating. What do I mean by premature rating?
It’s easier to get a five-star rating from 10 reviews than it is to get 4.7 stars from 130 reviews. From the reviews, you can start to make a shortlist of the better options.
Step 3: Examine the Companies’ Experience and Track Record
For this step, you may have to visit each company’s website for a little digging. Most solar companies outline their experience and track records on their website. If they worked with government institutions, they state it at the bottom of their website pages as part of their social proofing strategy.
Step 4: Verify Licenses, Certifications, and Warranties
Many solar companies like to brag about how they are accreted by Better Business Bureau (BBB), Tesla, or other institutions. Take this opportunity to verify these certifications. And while you’re at it, check whether their solar installers are licensed.
Depending on your findings, you can begin to thin your list down to five or three solar companies. And from here, we can request proposals based on your energy requirements.
Evaluating Solar Company Proposals
Once you’ve thinned your shortlist to three or five solar companies, you can start requesting quotes. Some solar companies will let you request quotes directly from their websites. In some cases, you’ll have to send an email to get your quote.
Request multiple quotes, stating your energy requirements and asking for a complete breakdown of all the costs that may be involved.
After a few days, your quotes will start rolling in. Compare all quotes against each other. Pay attention to aspects like system design and costs. Explore your options in terms of warranties and maintenance services.
Assessing the Company’s Expertise and Support
You want experts in solar panel installation. But how can you verify a company’s expertise? Check whether the solar company is certified by the NABCEP. And if they are certified, ensure that the company has at least two years of hands-on experience post the NABCEP certification.
The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (or NABCEP) is a good litmus test because it applies nationally.
Assessing the Company’s After-Sales Support
A good solar company must have excellent customer support. You’ll want to know whether the company will support you after the sale (or, in our case, after the installation). The life expectancy of solar panels is 20-25 years. That’s a long time to consider, especially when opting for a leased solar agreement.
Lack of customer support is the number one reason for frustration among homeowners. And when the kitchen gets too hot, you may want out of your contract. Trust me, you don’t want to find yourself in this unfortunate situation. But if you do, here’s how you get out of a solar contract.
Considering Environmental and Ethical Factors
The whole point of going green and installing solar panels is environmental consciousness; and, of course, saving some dinero. It kind of feels pointless investing in a company that does not cherish the environment.
Whichever companies are on your shortlist, ensure that you check their commitment to sustainability. What are these companies doing in terms of social responsibility? Are they working with solar charities? Can they help you find a new home for your solar panels (or possibly recycle them) once they start wearing down?
Finalizing Your Decision
Once you check all the boxes above, you should have enough information to start conducting interviews and consultations. One-on-one meetings give you an opportunity to ask hard questions and clarify any doubts that you may have. A good solar panel company will be straightforward and transparent with you.
After taking all these steps, you should be able to make an informed decision.
In the end, installing solar panels is an awesome way to do your part in saving the planet while saving some money on your utility bills. Solar panels are long-lasting appliances (25-year lifespan), and you want to partner with the right people. You want a company that will hold your hand beyond the last check.
Solar panels are also an expensive investment. If you choose the wrong company, your solar energy experience might be punctuated by power interruptions and misery. But depressing you was not the goal of this article. The objective was to educate. And with the tips discussed above, you’re empowered to make the right decisions.