Does anyone actually enjoy paying for electricity? I certainly don’t. What if I told you there’s a way you could not only stop paying for electricity but actually earn from it? That’s right; with a home solar system, you can generate your own power and even sell the excess back to the grid! Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that not all solar systems are created equal. Some solar panels and solar inverters are more efficient at converting solar energy into electricity than others. Furthermore, there are several factors to consider when choosing a solar company, such as the initial cost, your geographical location, and any government rebates or tax incentives for solar and renewable energy. It’s certainly a lot to think about, but the potential benefits are vast.
Just recently, I upgraded to solar and figured I share with you my insights in this “15 Tips for Choosing a Reliable Solar Company” guide. I will also share the comparative analysis I’ve done of the world’s top 15 solar companies in another post. But it’s in an Excel spreadsheet, and I’m still trying to figure out the best way to structure that blog article. Meanwhile, if you want this spreadsheet, shoot me an email, and I will send one over.
Before we Jump into it, let’s Examine the Main Components of a Home Solar System
Solar panels are the receptors that absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. They are the most visible part of a solar system.
Visually speaking, there are two types of solar panel systems for homes. Solar Roof Tiles and Roof-Mounted Solar Panels.
|Feature||Solar Roof Tiles||Roof-Mounted Solar Panels|
|Aesthetics||More aesthetically pleasing||Less aesthetically pleasing|
|Efficiency||Less efficient||More efficient|
|Warranty (Can Vary)||25 years||20 years|
|Cost (Old Roof)||Less Expensive||More Expensive|
|Cost (New Roof)||More Expensive||Less Expensive|
Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages; it’s up to you to decide which one will work best for you.
The solar inverter is another extremely important component of a solar system, as it is partially responsible for the efficiency of your system. It converts the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is the type of electricity used in homes.
The best way of thinking about it is like losing money on currency exchange. When I travel to other countries, I usually take some of my local currency and exchange it for the currency of the country I’m traveling to. Then, at the end of my traveling, I exchange back whatever I have left. Although it’s very convenient, I lose a percentage of my money on each transaction, and I’d usually shop around to find the exchange with the best rate.
The same thing happens here, as some inverters are superior to others and, surprisingly, by quite a lot.
Energy Storage (Battery)
A battery can store excess electricity generated by the solar panels for use at night or for selling the electricity back to the grid during times of peak demand.
Some homeowners opt out of getting a battery. I decided to get one, as it just made sense to me.
When choosing your battery, you have to consider longevity, warranty, and cost. It is important to make sure that in case the battery performance and charge retention drop below what the company promised, they will replace it with a new one under warranty.
For full disclosure, I think that the Tesla battery and, honestly, most of their products visually are much more appealing than the competition. With this said, I ended up choosing a different company due to its technological advantages and price.
Choosing the Right Solar Company for Your Needs
Alright, now that we got everything out of the way, let’s jump into it.
- Check if the company has certified installers in your area: As your first step, confirm if the solar company employs certified installers who service your specific location. This is crucial as it not only assures the quality of the installation but also confirms that the company has the logistical capacity to handle your project efficiently.
- Understand all the Incentives, Tax Credits, and Rebates the Government has to Offer: Federal, state, and local incentives can significantly reduce the cost of solar panel installation. Make sure you understand the available rebates and tax credits and that the solar company can assist you in applying for these incentives. For example:
- The US federal government offers a 30% tax credit for the cost of solar panels installed on a home.
- The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) offers a solar incentive program that provides rebates of up to $20,000 for solar panels installed on homes.
- The Seattle City Light Green Power program offers a rebate of up to 10% on the cost of solar panels installed on homes and businesses, with a maximum rebate amount of $10,000.
- Check the company’s reputation: Researching a company’s track record can reveal its level of professionalism, customer satisfaction, and success in the field. This can be done by reading online reviews, checking their rating on the Better Business Bureau (BBB), or asking for referrals from friends and family who have recently switched to solar. Look for companies with a history of timely installations, quality service, and positive customer feedback.
- Look for a solid track record: Companies that have been in business for a while are generally a safer bet. They’re more likely to honor warranties and service agreements than newer companies that may still need to prove their long-term viability.
- Make sure the company is licensed and insured: Verifying that a solar company is licensed and insured will protect you from liability in case something goes wrong during the installation process. Ask to see proof of their license and insurance to ensure they are up to date. The specific licensing requirements can vary from state to state, so it’s important to check your local regulations.
- Get multiple quotes: Gathering quotes from different solar companies allows you to compare prices and negotiate a better deal. It also provides a broader understanding of what services and equipment are included in the cost, ensuring you don’t pay for unnecessary extras or miss out on crucial components. This step could significantly impact the financial feasibility and return on investment of your solar installation.
- Ensure that permits are included: Solar installations typically require various municipal building and electrical permits. Securing these can be time-consuming and complicated, so it’s beneficial if the solar company manages this for you. Ensure that permit acquisition is included in your contract. However, it’s still wise to confirm with local authorities that all necessary permits have been obtained to avoid potential legal issues.
- Ask about the company’s financing options: Solar panels can be a significant investment. Many solar companies offer financing options or lease agreements, which can make solar panels more affordable. Always consider the long-term implications of these financing deals, including interest rates, duration of payment, and what happens in case of early repayment or if you decide to sell your house.
- I find that solar power purchase agreements (PPAs) are a great financing option for anyone who may be tight on cash or just doesn’t want to spend money. Solar PPAs are similar to solar leases, but under a PPA, you will purchase the electricity generated by the solar panels on your home rather than paying a monthly fee to the solar company.
- Get everything in writing: From the initial price quote to the contract and warranty terms, it’s important to have all agreements in writing. This protects both parties and ensures there’s a clear record of what was agreed upon. Be cautious of verbal promises made by salespeople that don’t appear in the contract.
- Read the contract carefully: Before signing the contract, make sure you understand all its terms, including the scope of the project, timeline, payment schedule, equipment to be used, and maintenance responsibilities. If something isn’t clear, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification or seek legal counsel.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions: The solar energy industry can be complex, and it’s crucial that you fully understand what you’re signing up for. From understanding the technical specifications of the equipment to the details of your financing agreement, asking questions can help you make an informed decision and avoid potential issues down the line.
- Make sure you understand the warranty: Warranties cover the performance and production of the solar panels, as well as the workmanship of the installation. Make sure you know what’s covered, for how long, and what the process is for filing a warranty claim.
- Ask for a sample of a post-installation inspection report: After installation, an inspection report confirms the quality and safety of the work. Request a sample report to understand what to expect from your installation and the company’s thoroughness.
- Request references from clients with comparable projects in your area: When considering a solar company, it’s beneficial to connect with clients who have similar systems to the one you’re considering. By seeking a nonbiased opinion, you can gain valuable insights into the actual performance of the product and how the company handles its projects. Reach out to these references to inquire about their experience, the company’s communication and professionalism, the quality of work, and their overall satisfaction. This will give you a realistic expectation of the company’s capabilities and service.
- Schedule the installation for a time when you’ll be home: Observing the installation process first-hand allows you to monitor the work, ensure it aligns with the agreed-upon plans, and ask any questions about the process. By being home during this critical phase, you can ensure that the workmanship meets your standards and the installation is done to your satisfaction.
Bonus: Post Installation Tips
- Hire an independent third-party inspector: Even with a reputable solar company, it can be beneficial to hire an independent inspector to review the work. A third-party inspector brings an unbiased perspective and ensures the installation is up to code, the system is functioning as it should, and safety standards are adhered to. This added layer of oversight can give you extra peace of mind about the quality and safety of your new solar installation.
- Make sure you’re happy with the work before you sign off on it: If anything seems out of place, don’t be afraid to bring it up with the company. A reliable solar company will address any concerns you have and ensure you’re satisfied before finalizing the installation.
- Follow up with the company after the installation: Keep track of your energy savings and make sure they align with the estimates provided by the company. If there are discrepancies, reach out to the company for clarification and correction ASAP.
Remember, switching to solar energy is not just about saving money on your utility bills. It’s also about making a positive impact on the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. It’s an investment in a sustainable future for you, your community, and the planet.
In conclusion, choosing the right solar company is a critical step in your transition to renewable energy. As we’ve discussed, the decision should be based on multiple factors, including the company’s reputation, experience, certifications, warranties, quality of equipment, customer service, and financial options, among other things. It might seem like a lot to consider, but taking the time to evaluate your options thoroughly will pay off in the long run, ensuring you have a high-quality, efficient solar system that meets your needs and will last for decades.
Learn everything there’s to know about solar energy.
- If you’re interested in solar energy, you’d probably want to also learn about other renewable energy sources.
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