Questions to ask a solar energy company
Last updated 1/11/2019
Once you have decided to go solar and made a determination about your equipment and financing options, the final step is choose a solar company to complete your installation. Going solar is a significant investment, and as with any other big purchase, it is important to work with someone that you can trust.
The EnergySage Solar Marketplace connects you with qualified, pre-screened installers in your area at no cost. As you consider different solar company reviews, use the following questions to help you find the right installer for your particular needs.
Solar FAQ: What to ask when you receive a solar quote
The vast majority of solar installers should provide you with a quote for your solar energy installation before they conduct a site visit. You should not have to provide them personal information – like your Social Security number or date of birth – in order to receive this quote. Use your early conversations with them as an opportunity to ask questions that verify their business practices and experience level:
Licenses and insurance
EnergySage ensures that all solar installers in the EnergySage Solar Marketplace have the necessary credentials and insurance policies in the states where they operate. If you’re not shopping for solar with EnergySage, be sure to ask installers about their licenses and qualifications.
- Do they have all of the necessary business license and insurance policies for your state and locality?
- What is their license number? (Use it to verify their credentials.)
- Are they NABCEP-certified?
- Do they design and install the systems themselves, or do they subcontract to local companies? If they do use subcontractors, are the subcontractors licensed?
- Will there be a master electrician on-site when the system is installed?
Installer experience and expertise
Whether you are shopping through the EnergySage Solar Marketplace or not, ask the following questions to get an idea of an installer’s experience level.
- How long have they been in business?
- Do they operate in multiple states, or are they a local company?
- How many solar energy systems have they installed?
- Can they provide you with customer reviews, references and examples of their other installations? Do they have references with clients who have had post-installation service calls?
- How much experience do they have working with your utility company?
Warranties and replacement/repair procedures
While most solar energy systems will require virtually no maintenance and will operate without any problems for their 25- to 35-year lifespan, you should be familiar with your installer’s replacement or repair procedures in the unlikely event that something does go wrong.
- Who should you contact if there is a problem with the system? Where are they located? Who is responsible for ensuring that warranties are serviced in a timely manner?
- How many different warranties are there total for the system’s components, and do they cover shipping and labor costs in the event that a component needs to be replaced?
- Does their warranty also cover your roof?
- If your roof needs repairs in the future, what is the process for removing and replacing the solar panels?
- What happens if the system does not produce as much power as was promised? Does the company offer a performance guarantee?
Solar FAQs about solar leases & power purchase agreements (PPAs)
If you choose a solar lease or PPA, you will have an ongoing relationship with the installer for the duration of the agreement. Ask the following questions to ensure that you understand the specifics of your lease.
- Will there be a lien placed on your property for the system? A lien can make it difficult for you to sell your home if you fail to make your solar payments.
- Is there an insurance policy that comes with the system, or do you need to take out additional homeowner’s insurance?
- What utility inflation rate do they use to calculate your projected savings? Many companies use an estimated rate of 4.5% per year. How would a more conservative estimate (e.g. 3% per year) affect the value proposition of going solar with their program?
- Does the solar lease/PPA payment increase annually? If so, by how much?
- What is the minimum performance guarantee of the system and how will you be compensated if the system does not produce as much power as promised in the contract?
- What happens if the system produces more power than you need? Do you still have to pay for it? Is there any way you could pay more on a monthly basis than what they quote you?
- What is the fee for breaking the contract early (e.g. because you move)?
What should I ask my solar company at the site visit?
Once you receive a quote from a solar installer through the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can schedule a site visit to discuss your options and confirm your quote. The site visit is a good opportunity to verify that your solar installer is someone that you like and trust. Meeting your installer in person is a chance to interview your installer face-to-face and begin to build a relationship.
During the site visit, your installer will:
Take measurements of your roof
Conduct a shade analysis to verify that the quote they provided for you is accurate
Answer any questions about the equipment that they recommend, and why they chose it for your property
If you have any concerns about the condition of your roof, you can also confirm during the site visit that your installer will conduct a roof inspection prior to installation and let you know whether any work needs to be done.
Reputable installers recognize that going solar is a big decision and should not pressure you to sign a contract on the same day as your site visit – be wary of those that use high-pressure sales tactics. Use your site visit as an opportunity to seek clarifications from your installer in-person, answer any outstanding questions regarding your quote, and confirm that the company is one you are comfortable doing business with.