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 longtime installers may not have that paperwork. Ask how long the company has been in business and how long its installers have worked in the solar industry. Ask about their experience working with local building officials and utility’s interconnection representatives, and in Massachusetts, if they have experience with the SMART incentive program.
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. Ask the installer if they plan to use subcontractors, what company they will be hired from, and their professional experience.
Ask About Their Products & Services
Experienced contractors know their solar products. Ask your contractor lots of questions. You'll want to know what products they carry, how they differ, and which they would select for your home. Ask why they've selected the 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 that will affect the installation and performance of your solar system, 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 offset 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. Their 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 potential solar contractors can provide are: the amount of electricity the system can produce and the net cost of the system per watt. This information is used to provide an accurate size of the system you'll need and the total cost. Each contractor is expected 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 have to pay for panels and installation upfront. In turn, you'll earn all of the benefits and cost savings.
Also ask how long your system will take to install, how long it should last and what the warranty will cover. The contractor may offer maintenance services or a performance guarantee. That means they'd offer solutions to improve or 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.