Step One: Decide you're going to move forward with installing solar panels on your home. That decision was easy (hooray!)
Step Two: Decide which installer is the best one to buy your solar panels from. That's not so easy. With so many solar installation companies to choose from, it can feel overwhelming.
How do you prioritize? Is the lowest price trustworthy? What qualities or certifications should you look for?
The good news is that when you commit to working with a local, licensed installer - you've already narrowed the field of "best companies to buy solar from." Licensed installers based in your area are typically more concerned about customer satisfaction, use higher-quality equipment, and often have the best prices.
Why Should I Choose a Local Solar Panel Installer?
There are several reasons it makes more sense to work with a local solar contractor rather than their national solar installer counterparts.
You'll save money.
While quality of product and workmanship are a priority, it's also true that most homeowners pay attention to the bottom line. The good news is that, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), local solar installers' pricing is an average of 10% lower than the national residential solar installers.
Use the Solar-Estimate Calculator to get an accurate idea of your home's system size needs, total system cost, and payback benefits.
Local installers have better customer ratings
Simply put, local solar installers care more about the work they do, their reputation, and your ratings. In fact, studies show over and over again that local solar panel installers consistently get higher ratings than the nation's largest, and most recognized solar installers.
They also often use higher-quality brands of solar panels and inverters products because they feel a personal responsibility for the systems they install.
National installers are known for using cheaper products to lower in-house costs, maximizing their profits. While local installers certainly care about their profit margin, they take a different approach to pricing.
Since local solar contractors care more about the work they do and their overall customer satisfaction, they use higher-quality products, materials, and workmanship - but still prioritize customer-centric pricing tables. This results in reduced long-term solar maintenance requirements and repair costs for their buyers, and it also increases the life expectancy of the solar panels and related equipment.
This approach saves thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a residential solar system.
A dedicated crew of full-time employees
When you work with a local contractor, the crew who installs the system are full-time workers who report directly back to their boss - the company's owner.
This creates a level of accountability that is simply not present with bigger, national companies who subcontract work out to crews who are not only out-of-towners, but who may only work part-time or seasonally. These crews have a less vested interest to give each project their best effort.
Overall customer satisfaction matters more
When you work with a local solar contractor, odds are you're working with a family-owned business that cares about their customer's satisfaction in a more personal way. Local companies rely heavily on word-of-mouth referrals, and those only happen when customers are happy with their work.
Plus, if company owners and employees live and work in the same community as the client base, they're apt to run into you in the grocery store, the soccer fields, or at the local pool - and they want to be able to wave and say hello with open hearts and clear consciences.
Are There Different Types of Solar System Installment Companies?
This is by no means a "one-size-fits-all" industry. There are reputable companies at every level, national and local. There are also fly-by-night companies at every level. Some specialize in the residential market, others in the commercial. Some only use a particular product line, others are more open to their clients' well-informed research and preferred options.
That's why it's so important to research the different types of solar installment companies in your area so you make the best choice for your project's needs.
What Are Good Ways to Select a Local Solar Installer?
First, make sure prospective companies are licensed and insured. Obtain at least three to five quotes and compare them line-by-line.
Finally, take time to research:
- Online reviews
- References from recent homeowners who've have a similar size/type system installed.
- Solar panel brands/designs
- Parts/equipment warranty info
- Certifications and professional affiliations
- In-house (or not) financing options
Read, Tips for Finding the Right Solar Installer, for more detailed recommendations.
Tips for Getting the Best Solar Panel Costs
You're not at the mercy of the installer when it comes to your final solar installation costs. There are things you can do to ensure you get the best-priced system.
- Request multiple quotes from a range of contractors, and know the "going rate" for solar panels in your area. Many contractors match a competitor's lower prices to get your business.
- Research basic info about top-brand solar inverters. A slightly higher quote may be worth higher-quality equipment.
- Understand the financing options. Currently, low-interest rates may mean your bank's home equity line of credit is cheaper than financing options with higher interest rates.
Read, Top 10 Solar Quote Tips to Get the Best Deal on Panels, to learn more.
What Are the Top Things Consumers Look for In a Solar Panel Installer?
A recent study of nearly 3000 residential solar customers indicated the top things consumers look for in a solar installer are:
- Family-owned companies
- Fewer than 100 total employees
- Companies that are deeply vested in their communities
Those three things came ahead of lower prices, which says something about the value of locally-owned and run solar installation companies.
What are Common Characteristics of Excellent Solar Panel Installers?
These same findings are revealed by the highest, consumer-rated solar installers in the nation, all of which are family-owned and not publicly listed or traded. Consumer ratings are considered carefully by prospective customers, and small to mid-sized companies consistently have the highest overall ratings.
Are Solar Panels Worth it?
As of 2018, the combination of low solar installation costs and the fact that the calculable investment return on solar installations rival that of most conventional investments, such as property or shares, there has never been a better time to pursue residential solar panels. The key, however, to lifetime satisfaction with your solar installation investment is to choose a reputable, local solar panel installer so you benefit from high-quality products and workmanship, lower prices, and superior customer service.