My Installer vs. The Perfect Installer
Every solar installer has an opinion about how to choose a solar installer. Those with the most service time under their belts and those who’ve completed the most projects focus on the experience. Those who sell products at a premium emphasize quality. Those who go out of their way to get certified by an industry association draw attention to credentials.
In other words, installers offering advice on how to choose an installer are usually operating in sales mode.
Solar.com is able to provide unbiased information about the selection process because our business is designed to connect customers with a variety of high-quality installers in each of the markets we serve. Companies that bid through our platform are competing on a level playing field. As a result, our customers get more transparency than from any other shopping experience.
So how can you tell if one installer is better than another? It’s easier than it seems. Start with installers who have earned a reputation for product selection, workmanship, and customer service. Then see which one offers the best price.
How to Find a Good Installer
Shoppers often equate price with quality, casting a dubious light on the lowest-priced option. When spending a lot of money, it can be comforting to believe you get what you pay for. But in residential solar, pricing often indicates how efficiently an installer runs the business. Sometimes high prices only reward low productivity.
Think about how much time and money a solar company spends searching for new customers. Now, once the company has customers, think about the time it takes to assemble equipment in the warehouse, load and unload a work vehicle, and attach solar panels to the roof.
Many companies use innovative software and all kinds of industry insights to shave time here and there from the installation process. They understand that time is the limiting factor. Companies that learn to install solar panels 10 percent faster can install 10 percent more panels. They also understand it makes no sense to cut corners on quality. All it takes is one bad experience to ruin a company’s reputation.
If you’ve got a price quote that seems too good to be true, check out some customer reviews. See what people say about the solar panels and other equipment the company installs, and how the company treats homeowners and their homes. In addition, always make sure the company has liability insurance and the solar energy system has a warranty in case it doesn’t perform as expected.
If you’re a Solar.com customer, you can always contact one of our independent solar advocates for more information about the installers bidding to put solar on your home.
What About a Perfect Installer?
Search around for solar consumer guides, and you’ll notice that some of them encourage you to hire an installer who’s been certified by NABCEP, the North American Board of Certified Electrical Practitioners. Less than 2 percent of all solar installers hold NABCEP’s solar installer certification, only those who’ve paid an application fee, have gone through a formal training program or have demonstrated experience as a junior installer, and have passed a written exam. Many excellent installers do not hold NABCEP certification.
Some consumer guides also suggest spending extra to receive high-quality equipment. It’s always a good idea to find out about your solar panel brand, and to be wary of manufacturers with a limited track record. But you should know that solar panel manufacturing is a commodity business. It makes little difference whether your solar panels are black or blue, whether they go by the name monocrystalline or multi-crystalline. Better to find a good installer than to spend time comparing hundreds of solar panels, many of which would perform perfectly well on your home.
Experience is important in any line of work. In general, installers learn how to do their jobs better and faster in time. By the same token, new companies enter the solar industry with new ideas all the time. Sometimes people with the most experience are most resistant to change. If you have a better price quote from a young, less experienced company, don’t automatically rule them out. Just ask a Solar.com advocate for more information.