Putting solar panels on your roof is a decision that should not be made lightly. You will need to consider which solar company to go with, what kind of panels, where to put them, how much of your electricity to offset, whether to finance the system, the list goes on. Partnering with the solar provider you can trust is key to making the transition easy and stress free. We have compiled a list of important questions to ask solar companies before making your choice.
1) What do your customers say about you? Can I have the name and contact info of three references?
Before calling any solar company, look for online reviews. There are several national databases, such as Solar Reviews, that list local installers and their customer reviews. You can also check Yelp, Nextdoor, Facebook, and of course Google. If you want to take it one step further, you should ask for references. Reputable companies will gladly let you talk to their customers in your area who have similar types of homes. Encourage those customers to tell you honestly about their experience from start to finish, with inspections and approvals, panel and equipment selection, the installer, and if any performance or service issues were resolved. Ask about how they like their system today, as well as what they would have done differently during the installation. Most importantly, will they use the same company to install solar on a new home if they move in the future?
2) Do you have a physical office I can visit?
After doing some preliminary online research, it would be a good idea to ask if the company has an office for customers to visit. This will give you a better idea of how the company is run, and it shows they are legitimate. Plus, you may be able to see the actual panels and mounting systems. For example, Freedom Solar has retail showrooms in San Antonio and west Austin, as well as offices in Arlington and Houston.
3) How long have you been in business? How many installations have you completed?
The longer the better; experts say they wouldn’t go with anyone who has been installing less than 3 years. Experience matters in solar, because every home is unique and every project is different. A team who has been around a while, and has done a many installations, will have a better sense of what will and what won’t work for your home. A solid track record also gives you some reassurance that the company will be around if any issues arise later.
4) Do you subcontract any part of the installation?
Having a full- time, in- house team of installers and electricians rather than using sub- contractors is one way that solar companies can guarantee quality. According to Freedom Solar Energy Consultant Robert Bradshaw, “The installer’s only job is to install solar- not roofs one week, Christmas lights the next, and solar in between. Plus, if anything happens during the installation, the customer knows exactly who to contact. Whatever a company decides to outsource, is most likely it’s weakest link.”
5) Will you conduct a site visit before I sign the contract?
While there are many great software tools available to prepare an initial design for a solar array, there is no substitute for having an installer visit your home in- person to make sure the roof is sturdy enough, determine whether the installation could produce leaks, verify how much power the system will produce, confirm how much shade your roof is exposed to, etc. This step will allow the company to make sure solar is a good option, and it protects you from signing a contract without all the information.
6) Will you secure HOA approvals and schedule the necessary inspections? Which paperwork will you be submitting and what will I need to handle?
Depending on where you live, the Homeowners Association may require prior approval before residents go solar. Ask if the solar installer will take care of this, or if this will be your responsibility. Other paperwork that is typically part of a solar installation, includes applying for local, state, and federal incentives, as well as building permits. These permits are specific to where you live, and the installer should know what is required. In most cases, the installer will fill out this paperwork for you, but you should be aware of any paperwork you are responsible for.
7) How much does solar cost? What are the financial incentives to go solar?
Solar panel prices in Texas have decreased by 55 percent in the past 5 years, which means that it is more affordable than ever to go solar. That said, it can be difficult to estimate the cost of solar for you without doing a customized solar analysis for your home. Your upfront out- of- pocket costs and your monthly payments, if you choose to finance the system, will depend on the size, direction, and angle of your roof, the amount of shade, the type and efficiency of panel you choose, your energy usage, and federal and local incentives. Currently, the federal incentive is known as the solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). This allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing solar from your federal taxes. Taking advantage of local incentives may require you to use an approved installers. Be sure to check with your utility and choose a partner that IS approved. Also, incentives and rebates vary across the state of Texas depending on where you live and your utility provider. Check out this overview of incentives in Texas, and contact Freedom Solar to get the latest updates.
8) What warranties do you offer? What do I do if my system isn’t performing as promised or if I need service?
There are three types of warranties that may apply to your solar solution:
1) Performance: This is a guarantee of how much solar energy your system is rated to generate after a specified number of years of operation.
2) Product: The product warranty should cover repair or replacement of the physical components of your system, including the panels as well as the inverter(s) and mounting system. You should confirm the requirements to obtain product replacements for each component. Some companies may require you to provide proof of original purchase as a condition of the warranty, and you may be responsible for the costs of packing and shipping defective panels.
3) Service: You should verify that the cost of labor and shipping to make repairs or replacements to system components, along with service calls to assess potential issues are covered as part of your warranty.
Freedom Solar offers the best warranty in the industry. SunPower guarantees all system components including labor and shipping at no cost to you for 25 years; 92 percent of original power output after 25 years; and our service warranty guarantees we will repair, replace, or reimburse defective parts, even those caused by rust damage, for 25 years.
9) Do I need to contact you if I move in a few years?
Most people don’t live in the same house for more than 20 years. Check with the solar company to find out what paperwork they will give you to transfer the solar warranty to the buyer. You may also want to ask if the solar provider will consult with your realtor when the time comes to sell, so that you can take full advantage of the increased resale value of your home’s system.
10) How long will the solar panels last?
Installing solar is a significant investment for most people, and you want to be sure the panels and equipment have been performance tested over a number of years and have a proven track record for high quality. Freedom Solar Power carries SunPower panels, which have guaranteed performance of 25 years and a useful life of over 40 years.
Going solar is a complex process and can sometimes feel overwhelming to homeowners. Choosing the right solar provider can make the confusing process less stressful, and help you feel confident in your decision to go solar.