How to Choose the Right Solar Panel Installer

Writing for the Voice of San Diego, Lisa Halverstadt has launched a multi-part investigation into the opportunities and challenges of going solar in Southern California. We’ve already touched on some of her work in earlier articles. But this past Monday, she wrote a great follow-up on what homeowners should consider before hiring a solar PV installation company.

Her analysis is remarkably similar to our own posts about this very topic. San Diego is a hotbed of solar activity, and there is no shortage of contractors who are “willing” to do the job. But in order to optimize the ROI of your investment, it’s critical that you know how to choose the right solar panel installer for your home or business.

Let’s see what Lisa has to say.

What Makes the Right Solar Panel Installer the Right Installer?

Teaming up with NBC 7’s Consumer Bob, Lisa explored some of the common pitfalls homeowners face when looking at their solar contractor options. They got a lot of their information from the Center for Sustainable Energy (CES), and they also solicited feedback from ordinary homeowners throughout the greater San Diego area.

Here’s what they found:

1. Request Multiple Bids

Most project proposals are free. In fact, you should avoid any contractors who try to charge you for a solar inspection. So you have nothing to lose by requesting multiple quotes (3 is the recommended minimum).

However, many prospective customers have a hard time comparing bids – especially when they’re presented using different measurements and numbers. For example, some installers use alternating current (AC) in their calculations. Others use direct current (DC).

Make sure all contractors quote their projects using AC. This tends to be the more conservative (and realistic) power output. CES has published a great worksheet to help make comparisons a little easier.

2. Request a Workmanship Warranty

Most solar PV components come with product warranties – sometimes lasting 20 to 25 years. But you should also request a workmanship warranty from each installer. This guarantees that the actual labor is up to snuff. Should your installation have any issues in the future, your contractor will fix the problem at no extra charge.

3. Check Certifications and Licensing

Anyone can install solar panels. But in order to qualify for state and federal incentives, the job must be performed by licensed professionals. So before hiring any contractors, check the California State License Board to verify that each installer has either an A, B, C10, or C46 license. And although not always required, it’s a good idea to make sure that each solar installer is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

4. Check Reviews – Online and with Friends

The Better Business Bureau is a great starting point when looking into each contractor’s background. You should also check with Yelp and Angie’s List for more detailed assessments. And never underestimate the importance of personal referrals. If your friends or neighbors are happy with an installation, this is obviously a great indication.

5. Avoiding Scams and High Pressure Sales Tactics

San Diego’s solar industry is booming. And there are plenty of opportunities for homeowners and installers alike. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of charlatans out there who are more than happy to take your money. And because the industry is largely unregulated, many of these guys aren’t actually breaking any laws.

The Center for Sustainable Energy has published a guide to help you avoid some of the more common scams and sales tactics out there. Before moving forward, we strongly recommend looking over these guidelines.

How Does Sunline Energy Stack up?

Based on the criteria above, we honestly believe that we rank fairly high on the list of reputable San Diego solar installers. Our team is highly trained, NABCEP-certified, and professionally licensed. We’ve won Angie’s List awards and have more 5-star Yelp reviews than any other solar installer in the city. And of course, we back our workmanship with ironclad performance guarantees.

As you move forward with your own solar plans, we invite you to request a free property inspection from us. Our team of expert solar installers will provide you with a fair and honest quote.

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