How to Choose a Solar Company: A Comprehensive, Step-by-Step Guide

Choosing the right solar company is crucial to harvesting the benefits of clean energy; read on to learn how to make an informed decision because choosing wisely can save you money, time, and stress.

Key takeaways:

  • Identify Company Type
  • Obtain Multiple Quotes
  • Evaluate Company Expertise
  • Confirm Licensing and Insurance
  • Examine Track Record and Experience

Identify Company Type

identify company type

Solar power solutions come in various forms, and companies often specialize in different market segments. Distinctions commonly found include residential, commercial, and utility-scale providers. While some companies might serve multiple sectors, their proficiency may be concentrated in one.

It’s advisable to choose a provider adept in the specific type of project you’re planning. For instance, if you’re looking to install solar panels on your home, a company with a robust portfolio of residential projects can offer valuable insights tailored to your needs. On the other hand, businesses should seek commercial providers who are conversant with larger systems and possibly more complex financing and permitting processes.

Some companies also focus on certain services: installation, manufacturing of equipment, solar financing or full-service outfits that cover all aspects of a solar project from consultation to maintenance. Understanding these distinctions can guide you toward a suitable match for your solar venture.

Obtain Multiple Quotes

obtain multiple quotes

Securing quotes from several providers affords you a comprehensive view of the market rates and services on offer. When collecting these estimates, focus on the following:

  • Ensure that all quotes are based on the same electricity usage to facilitate accurate comparisons.
  • Look for a clear breakdown of costs, including hardware, installation, and any additional fees.
  • Determine whether the quote is a fixed price or an estimate subject to change.
  • Consider the duration for which the quote is valid, allowing for informed decision-making without pressure.
  • Request itemized quotes to understand the value and quality of each system component.

By analyzing these factors, you can effectively gauge the competitiveness and fairness of pricing among different solar companies.

Evaluate Company Expertise

When assessing a potential solar installer’s expertise, consider their qualifications such as certifications from recognized industry organizations like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). This ensures they adhere to high standards of installation and electrical work. Also, take into account whether they have a team of in-house solar professionals, which can indicate a robust understanding of current solar technologies and practices.

Inquire about their experience with installations similar to your own, whether residential or commercial, as this specificity can affect the complexity of the project. Gauge their proficiency with different types of solar systems, including grid-tied, off-grid, and hybrid models. An experienced company should provide a portfolio of previous installations or case studies.

Furthermore, ensure the company stays current with the evolving solar industry by engaging in continued education and adopting the latest technologies. This commitment to learning is critical for optimizing system efficiency and can impact long-term performance.

Lastly, assess if they are knowledgeable about local regulations and permitting processes which can vary significantly between jurisdictions. This will ensure your installation complies with all local codes and utility requirements, thereby avoiding costly and time-consuming issues down the line.

Confirm Licensing and Insurance

A reputable solar company should hold all necessary business licenses and professional certifications required by your local and state jurisdictions. Before proceeding, request proof of the company’s contractor’s license, ensuring it is current and valid. This license demonstrates adherence to industry standards and legal requirements.

Insurance coverage is equally important. Ensure the company has liability insurance to protect your property from accidental damage during installation. Additionally, workers’ compensation insurance is crucial to shield you from potential liability should a worker sustain injury on your property.

For added reassurance, you might check if the company is bonded. This provides financial protection against incomplete work or failure to meet contractual obligations. Confirm these details directly with the issuing authorities to validate the information provided by the solar company.

Examine Track Record and Experience

Evaluating a solar company’s history can provide valuable insight into their ability to deliver quality service and installations. Look for a company with several years in the industry, as it often indicates both experience and stability. Review their portfolio to see the scale and type of projects they have completed, which can also showcase their proficiency in handling installations like yours.

Check if they have a strong presence in your market; a local company might be more familiar with regional installation codes and permit requirements. Don’t hesitate to ask for references. Speaking directly with past customers can offer a glimpse into their satisfaction and the company’s follow-through. Also, gauge their innovation and adaptation to new technologies, which is crucial in the fast-evolving solar industry.

Research Reputation and Credibility

Before finalizing a solar company, thorough vetting of its reputation is essential. Start by looking up customer testimonials and reviews on platforms such as the Better Business Bureau (BBB), Google, and Yelp. Positive feedback often indicates satisfied customers and reliable service.

Additionally, consider the company’s credibility within the industry. Check for any partnerships, certifications, or awards from reputable organizations like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). These accolades suggest a commitment to high standards and can be a benchmark for professionalism.

Investigate any complaints or legal issues the company might have faced historically, as these can give insights into potential future risks. Peer feedback from online forums and professional references can also shade in areas that direct reviews might miss.

Remember, consistent performance over a variety of platforms and recognition by industry authorities can provide a strong indication of a company’s standing and reliability.

Compare Financing Options

When scrutinizing various financing options, it’s crucial to understand the costs and benefits associated with each. Solar companies often offer loans, leases, and Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). With loans, you’ll own the system and may qualify for tax credits, adding to long-term savings. However, upfront payment or a down payment is typically required.

Leases and PPAs, alternatively, offer the advantage of no or low upfront costs and fixed payments. These options could be more suitable if immediate cash flow is a concern, but they usually do not provide the tax incentives of ownership and may have less favorable terms over time.

Remember to thoroughly evaluate the interest rates, term lengths, and any escalator clauses, which could increase your payments over time. It’s also wise to calculate the total cost over the life of each financing arrangement to understand the full financial impact. Lastly, consider how each choice could influence the value of your property, as some arrangements may complicate a future sale.

Compare Equipment Quality

When evaluating the quality of solar equipment, it is important to consider the efficiency and durability of solar panels from various manufacturers. Efficiency indicates how much sunlight the panels convert into electricity, which affects the size of the system you’ll need. Higher efficiency typically means fewer panels and less space required.

Durability ensures that the system will withstand environmental conditions over time. Look for panels with strong warranties that cover performance and potential manufacturing defects for a significant period, usually around 25 years.

Inverter quality is also crucial; this device converts solar energy into usable electricity for your home. Opt for reputable brands known for high performance and reliability. Some companies may also offer microinverters or power optimizers, which can further boost system efficiency.

Consider the production of the panels; panels that exceed industry standards for carbon footprint or use innovative manufacturing techniques may be more appealing for their environmental impact.

Lastly, check third-party certifications and testing results, such as those from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), to ensure that the equipment meets global quality and safety standards.

Analyze Installation Schedule

A timely and efficient installation is critical to begin reaping the benefits of solar power. Solar companies should provide a clear timeline for the project’s completion, from initial assessment to final connection. Delays can occur due to permitting processes or weather conditions, so ensure the company’s schedule accounts for such variables.

Check if the installer has a backlog of projects, which may extend the start date and influence your decision. Companies that can start quickly aren’t always the best choice if they sacrifice quality for speed. Aim for a balance between a reasonable start time and a reputation for quality work.

Assess the seasonality; solar installations can be slower during peak seasons. Plan accordingly if you’re aiming for a specific deadline, like a tax credit qualification date. Lastly, ask about the on-site time required for installation to prepare for the presence of technicians and equipment at your home.

Understand Workmanship Warranty

A workmanship warranty protects against installation-related defects. Typical durations range from 1 to 25 years, indicating the installer’s confidence in their work.

It’s important to ask about the specifics, such as what exactly is covered. Some may cover all aspects of the installation, while others might exclude certain components.

Check for transferability, which could enhance the home’s value if you sell it. Also, inquire about the process for filing a warranty claim to ensure it’s straightforward and customer-friendly.

Contrast the workmanship warranty with manufacturer warranties, which cover the solar equipment but not the installation quality. Ensure that any issues caused by poor installation don’t void equipment warranties.

Always have a clear understanding of the warranty terms to avoid surprises later on.

Review Contract Terms Carefully

Before signing any agreement, it’s crucial to thoroughly analyze the contract’s details. Look for clear descriptions of system performance, timelines, and costs. Establish what happens in the event of unforeseen delays or changes to the project’s scope.

Pay attention to clauses regarding the ownership of the system, especially if you choose a leasing option. Make sure the contract outlines the responsibility for obtaining permits and ensures all warranties (both manufacturer and installer) are documented. Clarify the terms regarding system monitoring and maintenance responsibilities, and verify any guarantees on energy production.

Understanding these contractual components helps protect your investment and ensures a clear expectation between you and the solar company.

Explore Local Incentives and Rebates

Solar incentives and rebates can significantly reduce installation costs. These financial incentives vary by location and often include federal tax credits, state tax rebates, Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), and net metering policies.

Before selecting a solar company, research the specifics of these programs in your area. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) is a valuable resource for such information. Additionally, ask solar providers about their experience with local incentives and their ability to file necessary paperwork on your behalf.

Note that some incentives have eligibility criteria such as system size or energy efficiency requirements. Also, be aware that incentive programs may have expiration dates or be available for a limited time due to funding caps. It’s crucial to understand these factors to optimize the financial benefits of switching to solar energy.

Verify Post-Installation Support

Effective post-installation support ensures that any issues arising after your solar panels are installed are addressed promptly and professionally. When choosing a solar company, it’s crucial to understand the level of service provided once the system is operating.

Key Points to Examine:

  • Availability of Maintenance Services: Check if the company offers ongoing maintenance to keep the system functioning optimally.
  • Responsiveness: Inquire about response times for customer service inquiries and technical support. A good benchmark is within 24-48 hours.
  • Warranty Service: Understand the process for claiming warranty services. A reliable company will handle warranty claims swiftly and efficiently.
  • Monitoring Services: Some companies provide system monitoring that alerts them to performance issues, which can be included as part of their service agreement.
  • Documentation: Ensure you receive a comprehensive manual detailing how to operate and maintain your system, as well as who to contact for support.

By confirming these support elements, you can safeguard your investment and enjoy peace of mind over the lifespan of your solar power system.

Assess Communication and Customer Service

Effective communication is pivotal throughout the solar installation process. It shapes your overall experience and can flag potential issues before they arise. Here are key points to consider:

1. Responsiveness: Note the time it takes for a company to respond to your inquiries. Prompt replies often indicate good customer service practices.

2. Clarity: Information should be presented in an understandable manner. Companies that provide transparent and thorough explanations showcase their commitment to customer education.

3. Accessibility: Assess whether the company offers multiple channels for communication—phone, email, and in-person meetings. Flexibility in communication caters to your convenience.

4. Support: Inquire about ongoing support and the availability of a dedicated contact person after installation. This ensures you have assistance for future questions or concerns.

5. Problem-solving: Determine the company’s approach to resolving issues. A collaborative and proactive stance is beneficial for smooth resolution of any challenges.

By vetting these aspects, you can gauge the company’s dedication to a satisfactory customer journey.

Assess Company’s Commitment to Industry Standards

A solar company’s adherence to industry standards is a strong indicator of their professionalism and the quality of their work. When assessing this aspect, consider the following points:

  • Certifications: Look for certifications from recognized industry organizations such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Certified professionals have undergone rigorous training and are up-to-date with the latest solar technologies.
  • Code Compliance: Ensure the company follows all relevant electrical and building codes, which can vary by location. This ensures safe installation and operation of your solar system.
  • Partnership with Manufacturers: Companies that maintain strong relationships with solar equipment manufacturers often have in-depth training on specific products, which can translate to a higher level of expertise and more reliable installations.
  • Commitment to Continuing Education: The solar industry is rapidly evolving. A company that invests in ongoing training for its employees is likely to be knowledgeable about the latest solar advancements and techniques.

Taking these factors into account will help you gauge the level of quality and reliability you can expect from a solar company.


Can you bargain with solar companies?

Yes, you can negotiate with solar companies as solar quotes are typically initial offers that can potentially be adjusted to better fit your specific requirements.

What factors should be considered when comparing quotes from different solar companies?

When comparing quotes from different solar companies, consider factors such as equipment quality, installation costs, warranty terms, and expected savings.

How important is the track-record of a solar company when making a decision?

The track-record of a solar company is critically important in decision making as it demonstrates the company’s technical expertise, financial stability, and customer satisfaction.

Should warranty coverage play a vital role in choosing a solar company?

Yes, warranty coverage should play a significant role in choosing a solar company as it provides assurance for long-term system performance and protection against unforeseen complications or defects.

Also Read: