10 Questions To Ask Your Solar Provider

10 Questions To Ask Your Solar Provider

There are many reasons to switch to solar electricity for your home. Lower utility bills and lowering your carbon footprint are the two most obvious benefits, but to maximize your savings and energy efficiency, you want to choose the best equipment and work with a company that can meet your needs. Interview several companies and ask these questions before you choose a solar energy system.

1. How established is your relationship with your supplier?
Companies that work with the same solar panel manufacturer over many installations are more familiar with the products. They will be able to give you a more accurate projection of the panel performance over time and have information about any warrantees and customer service the supplier will provide.

Ask the solar company specifically whether they have experience with the product you want. If they seem happy with their supplier, ask how long they’ve worked together and what the warranty process includes. If a company changes suppliers frequently it can indicate they’re not happy with the quality or price from their products. If they don’t have a supplier they trust, you shouldn’t trust them either.

2. How can I maximize my home’s energy efficiency?
Solar companies are experts in energy efficiency, and part of the design for a new solar energy system should include a home visit to assess your energy needs. Don’t work with companies that won’t come on-site before discussing quotes and contracts. Quality companies have staff that will be happy to talk about your home’s energy profile and ways to use less power.

While the installation technician is at your house, ask them to point out opportunities to decrease your energy usage. Many companies will do a thorough inspection of your other electrical appliances including the hot water heater. Find out if your lighting is efficient or if there are places where your home may be letting out heat and wasting energy.

The company should discuss expected changes in energy use that will affect your solar needs. Find out if you can expand the system later, or how updated technology can be incorporated as new and more efficient inverters comes on the market.

3. What are my options for payment?
A new solar energy system is a big financial investment. Most consumers do not pay in full up front. Companies usually require a deposit before installation, but should not require full payment before work is completed. Financing options are available and many companies offer payment plans to make the switch more manageable for families. Find out what options the company can offer and when each payment will be due.  

4. What additional costs can I expect?
Even with a contract that outlines the major expenses, some companies charge extra for upgrades or certain roof types. Ask for a written quote that includes all the common additional charges that may apply. Find out what the approval process is for going over budget if they discover something unexpected during installation.

5. How much customer support extends beyond installation?
A solar energy system can last 25+ years, so make sure your solar company will extend customer service beyond the initial sale. Many companies promise quality work and after-sale care, but find out how they will specifically follow through. What does the warranty cover and who handles the warranty claims if you need one? Who is the contact person for customer service? Look for companies who will help you with any warranty claims and offer an in-house service department for established customers.  

6. Can you help me get incentives?
Each state and municipality offers different grants or tax incentives to help offset the cost of a new solar energy system. Your solar company should have this information available and discuss the options for each type of system they offer.

7. How long does it take to see a return on my investment?
Because each solar installation is different, there is no single answer to this question. The amount you are able to pay up front and the financing you choose will be a big factor, but the design of the system itself will also impact your payoff time. This depends on how much energy your system produces, how expensive it is to install, and what the ratio is between the energy you use and export to the grid. Good companies will have the data on several configurations ready to discuss with you and should walk you through the timeline for savings in multiple scenarios and answer any questions you have.  

8. How much will shade affect my system output?
Solar energy systems are designed to produce enough power with about eight hours of sun per day. Choosing the sunniest spots for panels and factoring in tree growth that might change shade over time is part of the company’s job in estimating your needs. They should advise you on how to keep a partly shaded roof from compromising your system’s production and help you plan for how often to get trees pruned to keep the panels out of the shade.

9. How important is my roof’s pitch?
Solar panels produce the most energy when they are installed at a specific angle related to the latitude of your home’s location. If a roof isn’t sloped at this ideal angle, an installer can alter the slope of the panels to compensate. However, the tilt frames that are required for this process are an additional cost for materials and labor. Having solar panels at a less than ideal slope will only decrease energy production in a minor way that won’t likely offset the higher installation cost.

10. Where will the panels be located on my roof?
Quality solar companies will produce a roof plan that details where each panel will be located when they write up an installation quote. Although the main purpose of a solar energy system is to produce efficient power, it will also alter the aesthetics of your home, and you want to be happy with the visual layout of the panels. Discuss the plan with your installer to make sure it meets the production needs of the system but also is something you can live with seeing for decades. Check in with any technicians working on site to make sure they use the agreed upon plan and that any alterations or updates to the plan are approved before installation is complete.

Working with a quality solar energy company is essential to achieving your goals for efficient energy use and lowering utility cost. These tips will help you learn more about your options for solar installation and customer service and help you switch to solar with confidence.