Six Must-Ask Questions When Choosing a Solar Contractor

  1. Are you certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP)? Photovoltaic systems are technically complex and NABCEP certified installers provide assurance that the system has been designed and installed properly. Many utility companies and incentive providers (including the Energy Smart rebates from CORE) require that systems are installed by NABCEP certified professionals in order to provide rebates. Additionally, they may not allow your system to be grid-connected if a NABCEP professional was not involved in the completion of the work.
  2. How long have you been in business? The solar market has been less than steady over the years and maintaining a profitable solar installation company requires business smarts and technical expertise. When moving forward with purchasing your solar system, you want to be confident that the company you choose will still be around in subsequent years to service your equipment.
  3. Can you provide references from previous customers? The best person to relay the strengths and weaknesses of a company is someone who has had first-hand experience. A reputable solar company should be able to provide references from happy customers. Additionally, if you want to be sure that there are no unhappy customers then it is best to check out a company on a third-party review site such as Solar Reviews
  4. Are there additional expenses related to maintenance over the life of the system? While most solar electric systems have no moving parts and are relatively low maintenance there may be a need for some service over the 20 to 30 year lifetime of the system. On completion of your system, be sure that your solar company provides at least a 5-year workmanship warranty and paperwork regarding the equipment warranties in your “owners manual.” Note that most inverters have a warranty period of 10 years and may need to be replaced sometime before year 15.
  5. Will you help me understand and secure rebates and incentives? A good solar company will be familiar with all of the financial incentives and rebates available to their customers and should facilitate all of the documentation and paperwork to ensure that you receive these incentives. However, when it comes to tax-filing time, and applying the 30% investment tax credit, then it is always best to consult your accountant or financial advisor.    
  6. What do you base your electricity production estimates on? Make sure you weigh contractor proposals for apples-to-apples comparisons, especially the production estimates, watts calculation “de-rates,” and utility escalators. Be on the lookout for different utility escalators between proposals, as these will have an impact on your payback analysis.

Are you prepped for your solar contractor interviews? Find a list of local professionals here.