3 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Solar Panel Installer

Person Thinking About Solar PowerAll solar panel installation companies are not created equal. Solar energy for your home or business is an investment, and you want to be sure you’re getting your money’s worth from the company you trust to deliver your energy independence. So with that in mind, we’ve listed three questions below that can help you choose the best solar panel installer for your needs.

Is the company NABCEP certified?

The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (or NABCEP for short), offers a Photovoltaic (PV) Installation Professional certification for solar panel installers. The certification is based on a set of national standards set forth by the NABCEP. This certification is not mandatory and doesn’t replace a state license, but it is a good indicator as to whether or not a practitioner has invested time in learning how to install solar panels properly. Typically, a solar installation company will list its NABCEP certifications its website, but if you don’t see it you should feel free to ask. You also want to be sure they have the appropriate state and county licenses, if required. For example, in Maryland, solar energy installers must be licensed electricians.

What solar panel manufacturers does your installer recommend in their proposal?

Like any other product, solar panels vary in quality and cost. The typical lifetime of a home or business solar energy system is 25 years. Given how much can happen to your solar panels in that time, you want to be sure that your solar energy installer is giving you the best quality PV modules available. One of the most important things to consider is your solar installer’s proposed solar panel manufacturer. A quick Google search can often give you most of the information you need to know about the solar panel manufacturer, including any recent recalls or reported defects. There are a few things you should look for:

  • Is the solar panel manufacturer ISO certified?
  • How many years the solar panel manufacturer been in business?
  • What is the wattage rating for each solar panel?
  • How long will the solar panels last, and what is their degradation performance over time?

Better solar panels typically carry higher costs, but that cost also carries benefits such as better warranties and performance over your solar energy system’s lifespan. At Switch to Solar, we choose our solar panels based on each customer’s needs. We aren’t locked into contractual arrangements with any solar panel manufacturer, so we’ll always be able to give you the best quality at the best price.

What are your solar energy financing options?

Because installing solar power requires an upfront investment, it’s important to evaluate the financing options your solar installation provider will offer. The most common options include:

  • Solar Leases: With this option, you pay a fixed monthly amount to your solar energy installer which gives you the right to use the electricity produced by the solar panels the company installs on your property. It’s common practice for leased solar installers to advertise free solar panels or free installation. But make no mistake, you’ll still pay for the solar panel installation through your monthly lease payments (which not all companies will tell you). And worse, even though you’re paying for the system you don’t own it. The solar installer receives all of the solar energy tax credits, rebates, and incentives. And they aren’t required to pass those savings on to you.
  • Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs): This solar energy financing plan allows you to purchase solar power from solar panels installed on your property. While you often receive a discount on your electricity as a result, you do not own the solar energy system (even though it’s installed on your property) and as a result you don’t receive any of the tax benefits. You’re also often locked into a 20-year contract. If you want to sell your house during that time, you’ll need to find a buyer willing to take over the PPA payments as well.
  • Home Improvement Loans: This option can cover up to 100% of your solar energy system through a special solar loan provided by Switch to Solar. Our solar financing packages allow YOU to be the owner of the system so that YOU receive all of the financial benefits, solar tax credits, rebates and incentives as opposed to the solar panel installer. Switch to Solar’s financing partners offer $0 down to install, flexible repayment terms and great low-to-no interest rates. You can learn more about solar energy financing at this link.

Choosing the right solar energy installer can be daunting, but we hope that these questions help you cut through the sales speak and determine which company will be the best fit for you. If you’d like to learn more about solar panel installers in Maryland, DC or Virginia, please feel free to contact Switch to Solar.

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