Once you've made the decision to go solar, your first step should be finding a local dealer/installer to help you achieve your renewable energy goals. This might be easier said than done: with the solar market getting more competitive, you may have quite a few companies to choose from.
Choosing the right solar company to work with can seem like a challenge—you need an installer who can give you an understanding of how different solar systems work, help you make an informed decision, and ensure that you understand the installation process so you don't encounter any surprises along the way. If you're starting out on your solar journey but aren't sure what to look for in a solar specialist, read on for the top characteristics to keep in mind.
Characteristics to Look For in a Solar Specialist
It's easy for a dealer to call themselves an expert in solar installations, but that doesn't mean they actually have a deep understanding of the various types of solar systems on the market. Look for a dealer who has actual experience overseeing your desired solar setup—whether that's ground- or roof-mount—and is familiar with the market as a whole.
Your solar specialist should be able to provide quality assurance for every system installed and have the patience and expertise required to answer all of your questions. It doesn't matter if you're starting from square one or have already done your homework on solar--you want someone who can teach you more about the system you are considering, speak to your options, and guide you to the right solar solution to meet your needs.
Solid track record
Credibility speaks volumes, and one of the best ways to determine credibility is to look at your dealer's track record. Ask them whether they can point you toward systems they have installed for other clients and how you might benefit from similar setups. By encouraging them to move beyond what could work and discuss what has worked, you can gain a lot of insight into both your options and your dealer's experience level.
Outside of conversations with the specialists, be sure look up their online ratings and client testimonials to see what others have to say about them. Keep an eye out for how former customers describe each dealer's strengths and weaknesses, with the goal of getting a sense of their reputation within the industry. And don't be afraid to ask around--find out if your friends or family have worked with a company they would recommend.
Licenses and insurance
The requirements for solar dealer/installer licensing and certifications vary by state, but even if you live in a state where certification is not a mandatory requirement, you should still seek specialists with credentials. In addition to state organizations, those such as the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) offer national certifications that require a candidate to prove their solar expertise and maintain a solid track record over a certain period of time. These qualifications help to ensure that a dealer is providing you with a baseline quality of service on which you can rely.
Many manufacturers, suppliers, and distributers of solar technology run affiliate or partner programs, which often supply training to their dealers. While these aren't always certified by a larger industry organization and standards may vary from company to company, knowing that your dealer has been vetted by respected industry businesses and is trained to install certain products can give them the edge when you're comparing them to others.
As you're deciding on an installer, you should also be asking about the scope of their insurance policies. You will want to make sure that they're covered in the case that something goes wrong—especially in the case of rooftop installations where a wrong move could compromise the integrity of your house.
Peace of mind
Peace of mind might not be the first thing you think of when choosing a solar dealer, but it's no less important than the other characteristics listed above. It's essential that you find someone who makes you feel comfortable and informed. The right dealer will make themselves available for your questions, and will recommend solutions that come with a long, reliable lifespan, meet your energy needs, and will take into consideration any constraints of your roof or yard space (and, it goes without saying, find a solution that works within your budget).
Your search for a solar specialist doesn't have to be complicated. If you take the time to ask questions, research installer credibility and qualifications, and carefully consider your options, you can find the right installer for you--and ultimately purchase a solar system to meet your needs and support your commitment to a renewable future.
Need more help going solar? Download our Homeowner's Guide to Investing in Solar to find out what you need to know to make a smart solar decision.