What are the 8 crucial questions to ask solar energy companies?
The following questions could potentially make or break your solar installation project. Let's take a look at the most important questions to ask your installer.
1. “What type of solar energy system is installed on your own roof?”
This is a good question to ask because any credible solar installer understands the value of solar energy, inside and out.
If they don't have a system themselves, it could be a red flag. Not having solar installed on their own home or business is a sign that they might not be the best resource when it comes to showing you the benefits of one and installing it for you.
After all, if they truly believe in the benefits of solar power, it would make sense for them to reap the benefits.
2. “What system size should I choose for the most savings?”
Note that sizing a solar system is much more complex than simply taking a look at your electric bills and picking one that will produce enough electricity to match your usage.
The solar company rep first needs to collect the following information:
- Your home energy usage patterns;
- The orientation and angle of your roof;
- The surplus amount of energy you’ll export to the grid; and
- Which utility you use, how much they charge for electricity, and their net metering rate.
This data is necessary when it comes to first determining the ideal system size for your home, and then creating a financial forecast based on that. We recommend steering clear of installers who claim that sizing your system is just a simple calculation. If you want to know more, find out what return you can get on your solar investment.
3. “Are you licensed as a solar panel installer, and how much industry experience do you have?”
It’s critical that the solar installation company you hire has received a license from the county/city and state in which they are working. The contractor should be insured and bonded, as well.
Be sure to also find out how long the company has been in business. You don't want to be their guinea pig!
Also, it’s a good idea to ask who will actually be working on your home. Will it be a contractor with the solar company, or do they subcontract the work? If a subcontractor will be handling your job, you'll need to do the extra legwork to make sure that they're licensed, insured, and experienced, too.
This guinea pig is terrified of being experimented on by a new installer who doesn’t know what they’re doing!
4. "Will you take a detailed look at my roof?"
Not only will the solar contractor have to make a recommendation for your system size, they will also need to physically inspect your roof. After all, it needs to be suited to have solar panels safely installed.
Depending on your roof’s overall condition and age, you might have to replace it prior to installing your solar system.
It is also important to keep in mind that when the contractor installs racks on your roof (to support the panels), they will be drilling holes. Make sure you ask what type of materials and equipment will be used to ensure you won’t have a leaky roof when it rains.
5. “What if my solar system doesn't generate as much energy as anticipated?”
If the contractor promises that your system will produce a specific amount of energy each year, be sure to ask what will happen if the system or panel efficiency doesn't meet your expectations.
There are several possible scenarios. For instance, maybe the company will add extra panels, free of charge. Or perhaps they'll reimburse you for your system's underperformance.
Find out upfront what you can expect in this situation.
6. “What if my situation changes over the next few years?”
Life happens, and as a result, your solar needs may change over time.
For example, your family might end up expanding, or you may add additional rooms to your home. In these instances, what will happen if your installed system design ends up not being big enough?
The best thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to purchase a solar system that is large enough to cover potential future usage.
7. “What will happen if I decide to relocate while leasing a solar system?”
Not to worry. As a general rule, you can transfer your lease to a new homeowner after they've been approved for the home (based on a credit check). In the event that they don't qualify, the leasing company has the power to remove the system, and you will no longer be bound to the contract.
Despite this, it could be helpful to ask if any fee is associated with transferring a lease or removing a system.
8. “How are solar warranties handled?”
Solar systems come with both warranties and production quality guarantees. Note that these are not the same as the workmanship warranty that a contractor offers. Therefore, it's a good idea to ask about both of these types of warranties, as well as what each covers.
In addition, be wary of solar installers who require you to hire them to service your system regularly — for example, every couple of years — to keep your installation warranty from becoming void.
The reality is that you generally only need to service your system every five years in order to maximize its performance. You should also plan to clean it just once a year. In order to save time and money, stick with solar companies that don't compel you to get your solar system serviced more often than you need to.