Prepare Your Questions
It's important to find an experienced contractor to guide you through the decision to go solar.* Before you start meeting with contractors, check each company's qualifications and prepare a list of questions. By doing your research, you can ask the right questions and make a decision that's right for you. You can download this list of questions as a starting guide.
Check Qualifications & Licenses
Ask the contractor about their licenses, insurance and certifications. Many reputable installers have a solar PV (photovoltaic) certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners, but some experienced installers may not have that credential. Ask how long the company has been in business and how long its installers have worked in the solar industry. Ask about experience working with local building officials and the utility company’s interconnection representatives.
Each state requires different business licenses and insurance policies, so be sure to check requirements in your state before meeting with a potential contractor. Only allow licensed installers to work on your home, including subcontractors the company may hire.
In Massachusetts, you can visit the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations to check whether a solar contractor has registered or received any complaints. You can also ask your contractor if they have experience with the Massachusetts SMART incentive program.
Ask About Their Products & Services
Experienced contractors know their solar products. Ask why they've selected the brand of panels and inverter for your home and what experience the installer has with those specific models. If they've successfully installed them multiple times before, there's a good chance they know what they're talking about and are prepared to take on your project.
Contractors should be willing to provide free site inspections to evaluate factors such as roof size and condition, system orientation, and shading. Your contractors should analyze your past energy consumption and costs as well as your future energy needs and desired savings to help you determine the appropriate system size.
Read Customer Reviews
The best way to gauge a company's past work is to talk to previous customers and read reviews. Ask the contractor for examples of projects they've completed and for references from other solar homeowners. Most reputable companies should be able to provide you with a few phone numbers.
After talking to other customers, search the web for company reviews on reputable websites. Doing diligent research on the company is crucial to understanding exactly what you're committing to before signing on the dotted line.
Get Multiple Bids
Aim to get at list three bids or quotes to ensure you receive the most competitive and comprehensive bid. Contractors on your short list should be willing to do free inspections to determine the condition and appropriateness of your roof.
Contractor bids should include the cost of installation, the name of the equipment manufacturer, the warranties provided and more. Don't be fooled by low bids; they could be indicative of poor workmanship or bad customer service.
The two most important figures that solar contractors should provide are: the amount of electricity the system can produce and the net cost of the system per watt. This information determines the system size and the total cost. Expect each contractor to suggest a similar-sized system for your home’s need.
Review Purchase Options
Some companies will install solar on your roof with no upfront costs to you. These are called solar leases or power purchase agreements (PPA). The company owns and maintains the system and makes money through the tax credits or proceeds from part of the power generated by your system. You enjoy the savings on your electric bill.
If you purchase a solar energy system outright, you'll pay upfront for panels and installation, but in turn, you'll earn the incentive benefits and cost savings.
Also ask how long your system should last and what the warranty will cover. The contractor may offer maintenance services or a performance guarantee to fix your solar system if it's not operating as expected.
Understand the Timeline
Installing a solar panel system is not a simple do-it-yourself weekend job. Understanding the solar project timeline will help you set realistic expectations when working with your contractor.
With these guidelines in mind, you'll be better prepared to choose the right contractor that offers quality service and support as they set your home up for green energy production.
*Note that Eversource does not endorse, qualify, or guarantee the work of any contractor, vendor, or other third party and is not responsible for any goods or services selected or purchased by customers.