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Choosing a Solar PV Installer: Get Three Estimates

Are you the type of person who has notoriously bad luck choosing home contractors? Do you get stuck with the painter who drips paint on your carpet, the bathroom installer who uses sub-par parts, or the window installer who doesn’t seal the windows properly? Then you might be nervous about choosing a solar installer, too.

Some age-old advice that applies to selecting any home contractor also applies to choosing a solar PV installer. Get three estimates. Yes, it takes extra time. But this person will be installing a 35-year investment on your roof, one that you’ll rely on to provide your family with clean, renewable energy. It’s worth a few hours of your time to make sure you get not only the best price, but the best person for the job.

Once you’ve got the three estimates, how do you evaluate them?

The Lowest-Priced Solar PV Installer
With all other factors, including national, state and local incentives being equal, why is this installer charging less? Does he cut costs with materials? Have less experience? Be cautious about going with the lowest bidder.

The Highest-Priced Installer
Often, there’s no compelling reason why one installer can charge a lot more than the lowest priced contractor — other than he believes he can get it. Is there a reason? Are his services worth more, or are you getting taken? Tread carefully.

The Middle Guy
Experts — including contractors — recommend you go with the mid-range estimate, under the assumption that he’s got quality materials and fair pricing.

When to Make An Exception
Regardless of price, go with your gut instinct. If you get a good feeling from the lower-priced contractor and can actually see that he’s using the same materials as the highest-priced installer, jump on the good deal. If you’re less than impressed by the mid-range installer, maybe you feel it’s worth paying a bit more to work with a solar contractor that makes you comfortable.

How does each installer respond to your questions? How knowledgeable are they? Are they certified? Take all these things into consideration as well.

Where to Find Three Contractors
EcoOutfitters.net makes it easy to line up your free solar estimates. Just request your free solar report, and you’ll get the names of all our solar PV installer partners in your area.

Post Written by
A full-time freelance writer, Dawn frequently covers energy efficiency, green living, and topics like LED lighting and whole home control systems for a number of blogs and technology trade magazines. Dawn is proud to live in New York as the state vies to beat out New Jersey as the East coast top dog of solar energy and is waiting for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate legislation to pass before installing solar panels on her Long Island home.

2 Comments

  1. [...] is proud to live in New York as the state vies to beat out New Jersey as the East coast top dog of Solar energy and is waiting for the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate legislation [...]

  2. Jim Jenal says:

    Let me suggest a couple of other factors to consider:

    1) Certification – is the installer a NABCEP Certified Solar PV Installer? If so, you know that s/he has the experience and expertise to do the job right – the first time.

    2) References – before you make a final decision, contact someone who has had a comparable system installed by the company that you are considering. While it is true that installers don’t provide references to disgruntled customers, still, there is nothing more likely to give you a real sense of what the process will be like than to speak with someone who has already gone down that road. If you can go and actually see the installation, so much the better. Is it neat and professional looking? Or does it look slap-dash? You will be living with this for a long time so it should look as good as the rest of your home or business.

    3) Ask the solar coordinator at your local utility. They cannot recommend someone, but you could ask them if there have been any problems with this installer – that could provide you with a valuable heads up that you couldn’t get anywhere else.

    Best of luck!

    Jim


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