Should I sign a contract before a solar site visit?

Solar contract.

Solar is a first-time investment for most property owners in the U.S. today. As such, at some point while researching solar, you may want to sit down with an installer, ask questions and get a finalized proposal for the job. With this request (often called a 'site visit'), several installers may ask you to sign an agreement before coming to the house.

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In short, yes. Signing a contract with installers before conducting the engineering site visit is an increasingly common practice nationwide. As the cost of finding and acquiring solar shoppers hovers around 20 percent of the total solar installation cost, solar installers are searching for new ways to save homeowners money. One way installers do this is by limiting the number of sites they send sales reps and engineers to. This helps solar companies cut overhead costs, meaning they can provide a more competitive quote to solar shoppers. As a result, it is now common for installers to request that a homeowner sign an agreement before a site visit.

As with any contract, reviewing a solar contract thoroughly before signing is essential. Here are a few key details to look for:

  • The breakdown of the investment (i.e., the costs and benefits);

  • The breakdown of applicable federal, state, or utility incentives;

  • The type of equipment, specifically panels and inverter(s);

  • And, importantly, for signing a contract before a site visit, any cancellation terms and clauses within the agreement.

For a few reasons, you may find that a solar project isn't going to work during or after a site visit from an installer. For instance, you may have discovered you'll need a costly roof replacement before installing solar or a breaker panel upgrade that you didn't anticipate, which will add to the overall expense. Should something like this occur, notify your installer that you may need to reconsider as the investment no longer provides the financial benefit you initially anticipated. While each installer's practices vary, most solar companies will understand your specific situation and won't likely hold you to the pre-site visit contract. The goal of requiring a signed agreement before a first site visit is to gauge your seriousness about the investment and are likely to move forward if all final numbers make sense. Additionally, by law, all contractors will have a '3-day right to cancel' within the agreement should the consumer decide the investment is not right for them.

For many people, investing in solar is a no-brainer; however, the costs and benefits will differ for each homeowner. The position of your roof relative to the sun, the price you currently pay for electricity, and any state and federal incentives will all impact the return on your solar investment. Before bringing an installer to the home, it is worth researching solar in your area.

One method to do so is the EnergySage Solar Calculator, which allows you to get a free estimate based on your home's location and monthly electric bill average. Additionally, you can receive free, custom quotes on the EnergySage Marketplace without speaking to or meeting with any installers. If the investment is appealing and you feel comfortable with the process, scheduling a site visit and taking the next steps with an installer will make sense.

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