Man installing solar panels

SolarReviews exists to make the solar panel installation process easier for homeowners. We do this by providing solar reviews and access to current solar offers in each city. Everything we publish is designed to stop you signing up with one of the bad solar companies and to steer you towards companies that will do a good job. Solar installation can offer homeowners 20 years of free power after the panels have paid themselves off. This and the obvious benefits of renewable energy to our environment are why we are so passionate about consumer advocacy and why we have partnered with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP), the governing body for the accreditation of solar contractors in America to better improve consumer visibility into the solar installation process.

What you need to know before you start the solar panel installation process?

The first thing you need to do is to understand how much power you use and when exactly you use this power (time of use electricity pricing effects solar system design)

You can retrieve this data from your utility company. It is possible to proceed without collecting the data from your electricity bills but your solar electricity system that the solar company designs and the system costs may be a bit out. There are many online solar calculators that will give you a fairly accurate estimate of what solar will save you based on you simply entering an average monthly electric spend. These estimates are usually around 70-80% accurate and are a good place to start if your busy.

How much will a solar power system installation cost for your house?

The solar panel cost pages on this site will show you the average cost of residential solar energy installations in your city. Knowing some basic information about the average cost of solar and the difference in cost between premium and entry-level products will make sure you don’t get charged a premium price from low-quality solar panels.

Solar panel installation Step 1: Selecting the best solar manufacturer

The first thing you need to do is decide what brands of solar equipment you want to buy. Familiarize yourself with the different manufacturers by visiting websites like www.solarreviews.com to get consumer reviews of the manufacturers you're considering. Don’t leave yourself open to being exploited by companies who sell low-quality brands at high prices. Researching on the internet can give you the most complete case-study information provided through consumer solar panel reviews.

We have provided expert reviews on the top 5 brands of solar panels used in residential solar installations in America. These reviews also take into account the corporate and financial structure of the solar panel manufacturer which is something that is very important when buying solar panels because of the long-term solar warranties that come with solar panels.

Perhaps the biggest decision you have to make is not the brand of solar panel but the brand of solar inverter and the type of solar inverter you wish to use. This information will help you compare the best type and brand of solar inverter..

Solar Panel installation Step 2: Finding the best local solar contractor to install it

Now that you have an idea of the brand of system you would like to install, your next step is to find local solar installation contractors that work with the brand you desire. Local installers can be researched on the internet, be sure to check out consumer reviews on the installers as well.

Step 3: Getting the solar panel installation you want at the best price

Once you know the brand and type of solar equipment you want, have found local solar contractors who sell those brands and have good reputations, then all that is left to do is get the best deal you can.

Fortunately, many solar quoting marketplaces have popped up that can allow you to get a number of quotes from local solar companies. Of these solar quoting marketplaces www.solar-estimate.org is considered the leading website. It is the only solar-quoting website that allows you to choose how many solar companies you share your details with.

More than 300,000 consumers have used www.solar-estimate.org to estimate their solar savings and how many solar panels are needed to achieve the results desired.

What percentage of the purchase price should I pay to the solar installer as a deposit?

A deposit is required before the work takes place so that the installer may order the equipment appropriate for your specific installation, after figuring out the engineering and paperwork necessary to get your system approved.

The exact percentage of deposit that you pay on signing to the solar company will vary but is usually between 20-30%. Generally speaking, it is not advised to pay a higher deposit than 30%; and, if the solar company is small, less down may be more appropriate.

Is your solar deposit refundable?

Solar contracts are typically expressed as being subject to building and planning approval of the city, approval of the utility and the offering of a net metering agreement by the utility. Sometimes these contracts are also expressed as being subject to a site inspection if the solar company has not already done a physical inspection of your roof before offering you an estimate.

Given there might sometimes be problems obtaining these approvals and that things may have to change, it is important to know in what circumstances your deposit is refundable and in which circumstances it is not.

Some solar companies allow consumers to cancel their solar contract without penalty or reason.

What clauses should I look out for in a solar panel installation contract?

Make sure that your solar contract specifically details terms of financing, ownership, and capacity of your system after it’s been installed.

Make sure it also specifies the models of equipment that will be installed. You will be amazed how many solar proposals I have seen that don’t specify specific models of panels. If any additional electrical work is required, such as upgrading your electric distribution board this should also be listed.

It is also important that the solar company provides you an estimate of what your actual; solar production will be given your roof will have characteristics that will affect the production when compared to a perfect south facing, unshaded roof with a perfect pitch. Few roofs are like that and so you should ask your installers to guarantee a real world production for your site.

Other things to be aware of include warranties - are there separate ones for parts and labor and what do they cover? How long do the warranties last? Don't’ be afraid to ask questions and have specific concerns spelled out and agreed upon.

It is important that the contract does no give the solar installer a right to swap brands of equipment if the brands of equipment you agreed upon are not available. Shortages of panels and inverters happen from time to time in the solar industry, but you want a right to cancel and get a full refund if the contractor cannot install the brand of equipment specified.

It is also worth having a discussion about the likelihood of the contractor being in business in the future should the warranties need to be relied upon.

For an explanation of what happens in the solar install process after you sign with a solar contractor read part II in our solar installation series.