A solar array is an important investment. You want to make sure the company you work with is qualified, experienced, and actually cares about helping you meet your energy goals. But how do you choose the right company?
It’s a lot easier than you might think. In this post, I’ll teach you about a few important factors that can tell you a lot about a company. Once you know what to look for, you’ll have no trouble figuring out which company is the right fit for you.
How Experienced Are They?
First, you’ll want to make sure the solar company you work with has the experience to build a resilient array and that they’ll be around to support it for decades.
Your array is going to spend every day of its life exposed to the elements. That’s 25-40 years of wind, precipitation, and temperature shifts to endure.
You can usually get a feel for how experienced a company is by scoping out their website. Try to answer:
- How long has the company been in business?
- How long have they worked in your area?
- Do they have experience installing the size array you need?
Solar is a young industry. New installers pop up all the time, and many of them go out of business not long after opening. A new installer might overlook important design parameters, which results in an array that isn’t optimized for your property and doesn’t maximize your savings.
It’s also critical that your array performs for decades to get the best return. If your installer doesn’t have the experience to construct a sturdy array with trustworthy materials, it could have a shorter-than-average lifespan, leading to a smaller return on your investment.
On a similar note, it’s best to work with a company that’s financially strong. The last thing you want is to call your installer about a warranty issue ten years down the road, only to find that the business went under, or they no longer operate in your state.
Are They Experts in Solar?
Next, you’ll want to make sure they have the expertise required to engineer an array that meets your energy goals. You can do this by asking a handful of questions about a company’s warranties and their solar engineering department.
Try to answer:
- Do you specialize in solar?
- Do you engineer your arrays in-house?
- What type of warranties come with an installation?
- Do you provide a workmanship guarantee?
Early on in your research, you want to make sure you’re working with a company that’s dedicated to solar. Designing an array, installing it properly, and working with your power utility to ensure everything is up to code takes a considerable amount of expertise.
Solar isn’t something that should be offered on the side. A neighborhood contractor or electrician is probably terrific in their field, but likely will not possess the skills to properly design and install your array. And it’s rather unlikely they’ll have the resources to support it for decades.
At Simpleray, for example, one of the ways we support our customers is by remotely monitoring their arrays for 25 years, free of charge.
What About Their Engineering?
Another huge factor that will influence the success of your array is a company’s engineering practices.
It’s wise to work with a company that engineers their arrays in-house. Solar engineers have to account for a lot of factors, like available mounting space, your property’s electricity consumption, your geographic relation to the sun, local weather, and tree shading. And those are just a few of the many elements they have to consider.
One of the ways you can gauge the expertise of a company’s engineering staff is by asking about certifications they hold. The most widely recognized and respected certifications are awarded by NABCEP. If your installer maintains multiple NABCEP solar engineers on staff, they probably have a solid engineering department.
Part of the reason that solar is such a reliable investment is because great installers offer workmanship guarantees and choose products with ironclad manufacturer’s warranties.
Most solar panels are guaranteed by their manufacturer to retain a certain level of efficiency for 25 years. This has set an industry benchmark: your solar company should be constructing your system with the expectation that it will stay productive for at least a quarter of a century.
Do They Stay Informed on Everything Solar?
Trying to keep tabs on every angle of the solar landscape is like trying to herd cats, and it’s all the more reason you want to work with a resourceful industry mainstay.
Public policy, electricity pricing, and solar technology are just a few of the moving parts of solar. Staying current with these factors is the only way a company can guarantee your array is optimized for your unique situation.
Try to answer:
- Is harnessing the latest technology one of their selling points?
- Do they publish resources to keep the community up-to-date on solar issues?
- Can they generate a quote for you on site?
In a lot of industries, companies can rely on age-old practices to deliver great results. But in solar, letting any aspect of your business become outdated is cause for concern.
To state things plainly: it’s difficult to stay relevant in the solar game without having a tech-driven staff that actually cares about the solar industry. Staying up to the minute with technology and incentives allows an installer to ensure they’re building arrays that save the customer the most money possible over their lifetime.
Equally as important is staying current with public policy. A company that follows recent governmental changes understands financial incentives and how to maximize their value for the customer.
The Good News About Solar
You might be thinking “Thanks for the advice, but it sounds like a great solar company will be a lot more expensive.” It’s an understandable assumption, but not often correct. Typically, the cheapest solar installations are the most costly in the long-run.
Great installers use the most efficient equipment and constantly improve their design practices, which means more solar production, more savings, and a lower total cost of ownership. A great installer will offer you multiple quotes if requested, so you can choose the right amount of production, the right payback period, and the right upfront cost to meet your energy goals.
For a more comprehensive look at the qualities you should expect from a great solar installer, check out our webinar on How to Choose a Solar Company. It’s hosted by solar expert Lewis Butler, and is a must see before you pick a company to partner with.