18 Important Questions To Ask Solar Companies
6 - Minute Read
Dec 18, 2022
If you’re interested in getting solar panels on your home, there are many questions to ask solar companies competing for your business. If you’re not familiar with solar panels and how they work, though, you might not know how to determine an installer’s quality or commitment to helping customers go green.
Get familiar with these questions to ask so that you can become a solar power insider.
Questions About Solar Panel Companies
The questions below should help you assess whether a solar company has the training and experience to do a first-class job designing and installing a solar energy system.
1. What’s Your Company Background?
A good solar installation company should have a strong track record of renewable energy installations and be willing to discuss their record in the solar industry. It can also be wise to get a business license number and verify whether the company has a history of changing its name. Frequent name changes can be a red flag indicating past issues with customers or suppliers.
2. What Licensing Or Certifications Do Your Technicians Have?
Working with a company that has North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEPⓇ) certification can give you some peace of mind. You can also ask about PV Installation Professional (PVIP), PV Installer Specialist (PVIS) and PV Technical Sales (PVTS) board certifications. Each requires 10 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training along with up to 58 hours of related training and tests. You can also ask whether a master electrician will be part of the installation process.
3. What’s Your Experience Working With My Utility Company?
Disconnects between solar installers and utility companies can be a vector for solar project delays. Ask for proof that a potential solar installer has a good track record with your local utility company. Verify any claims with the utility company.
4. Do You Use Subcontractors?
Many solar companies use subcontractors. It’s a good idea to know who your solar installer might work with so you can perform an extra layer of due diligence. Be sure to research the reputation of any subcontractors.
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Questions About The Solar Panel System
The questions below focus on the hardware and software your solar company might use.
5. What Components Will You Use?
Inquire about brand names, being sure to verify that the installer uses equipment from reputable brands like Qcells and SolarEdge. You can take these questions a few steps further by asking about:
- Whether the panels they use are monocrystalline, polycrystalline, PERC or other types of technology
- Whether they recommend string inverters or microinverters
- Whether they recommend using conventional panels or solar roof shingles if offered)
6. What If I Need More Solar Panels In The Future?
Your energy needs may change over time. Your family might grow, you might get an electric vehicle or you might change your appliances from gas to electric. Ask the installer how easy it would be to increase your system’s capacity, if needed.
7. How Much Of My Energy Consumption Will The Solar Energy System Offset?
Do some homework by carefully reading your electric bill so you know how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity you use each month and year. Ask the installer to show you how much of your electricity consumption your solar panels will offset in a year.
8. How Can I Monitor My Solar Production?
The installer likely has solutions for monitoring solar system production. Find out about their web-based and smartphone app options. Every solar monitoring system has different capabilities – for example, the Palmetto app provides real-time and historic production data, along with the ability to schedule maintenance.
9. How Much Can This Reduce My Carbon Footprint?
The answer to this question will shed light on two matters: How much you can reduce your emissions and how your installer views the benefits of solar.
10. What Are The Warranties?
Solar panel warranties often last beyond 15 years, while many inverters have warranties of 10 years or more. Ask about the warranties on the equipment they use, both for performance and product quality. It’s also wise to inquire about the installer’s workmanship warranties and whether labor is covered in the performance and product warranties. And be sure to ask about warranties for the racking, which is the hardware for mounting the solar panels.
11. Can You Break The Price Down For Me?
An itemized breakdown of the installation costs can be helpful. It’s also wise to verify whether the installer’s salesperson quote provides an upfront price or accounts for federal, state or local incentives such as tax credits or rebates. The solar quote should also include information about the system size.
12. How Long Will It Take For The Solar Panels To Go Live?
Many homeowners want to know how long it takes to install solar panels, not realizing that installation and energy production don’t usually happen on day one. Typically, experienced technicians can install solar panels within days. But the design, permitting and review processes can make a complete solar installation project last months. The installer should be able to provide a realistic estimate of project duration.
13. How Will Solar Panels Affect My Roof?
Most solar installers are prepared to work on roofs and with roofing companies, as needed. Find out how they determine whether your roof will need work before installing panels. You can also see if they offer warranty protections for roof damage caused by the installation. Flat and irregularly shaped roofs can also provide challenges, so you might consider asking the installer about their experience dealing with these issues.
14. How Much Will Solar Panels Reduce My Energy Bills?
A solar contractor should be able to estimate how much installing a photovoltaic (PV) system will lower your energy bills. Their answer may depend on whether you’re buying the system outright, using financing options such as a loan, signing a solar lease or entering into a power purchase agreement (PPA). Some companies may also offer services, such as upgrades to your insulation or sealing ducts, to reduce your energy usage.
15. What Maintenance Will I Need To Do?
Solar panel systems have no moving parts and are made to withstand the elements. Still, you may have to consider cleaning your solar panels occasionally. Ask the solar company what sort of maintenance is typical for other customers in your area.
Questions About Solar Incentives
Cutting back on your carbon footprint and reducing your electric bill are their own rewards. But there are also federal and sometimes state and local incentives for going solar. These can help improve your return on investment (ROI) with solar panels. Here are some helpful questions you can ask about incentives.
16. What Incentives Are Available In My Area?
Solar incentives can vary by state or city. They range from the federal solar investment tax credit to breaks on sales tax and protection from your solar panels increasing your home’s value and property tax. And it’s not just sunny states like Arizona that offer solar incentives – Illinois has some of the nation’s most generous incentives. Your installer should have comprehensive knowledge of the available incentives.
17. Who Does All The Paperwork?
Solar incentives are great, but they often involve paperwork. In some cases, solar installers might handle this for you. It’s likely they deal with it regularly, which can save you some time and frustration. Ask how they help homeowners take advantage of incentives that involve paperwork.
18. What Are My Utility Company’s Solar Policies?
Your utility solar company’s policies can have a huge impact on your savings from installing solar panels. Here are a few details a solar installer should know about your local utility company:
Other Questions To Ask About Solar Panels
If you have friends or neighbors with solar panels, consider asking them about their experience. Here are a few good conversation starters:
- What do you wish you’d known about solar panels before having them installed?
- How much are you saving on electricity bills?
- What would you do differently if you moved and wanted solar panels on your new home?
- How was your experience with your installer?
- What sort of maintenance do you do on your solar panels?
- Has any of your solar hardware failed? What was the repair process like?
The Bottom Line: Knowing What To Ask About Solar Can Help
When you start meeting with solar companies, it’s best to have some questions ready to go. The questions we’ve suggested will also allow you to get familiar with the technology and utility companies. This will help you fully understand the answers from your prospective solar panel installation company.
Rocket Solar does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.