Choosing a Solar Energy Provider
The reasons for choosing to go solar are easy to understand. The first obvious benefit is personal; it lowers electricity costs monthly, and annually that could be anywhere between thousands to millions in savings, depending on the system size. The second benefit is more global; it lowers carbon emissions, helps save trees, betters air quality and environment. Not so easy to choose, on the other hand, is a solar energy provider.
Narrowing down the right solar energy provider can be made simple. It’s as easy as making sure these requirements are met:
1. License, Permits, and Interconnection
Work with a company that already has its systems down pat. Companies that are seasoned in helping obtain or can–on their own–obtain building permits, receive permission to connect to the grid, and have a license to operate are companies that will be much easier to work with. In some cases, the system owner may have to apply to the distribution utility (DU) themselves for net metering benefits, but if they get a company that knows the ins and outs then it’s that much easier!
2. Uses reputable materials and an in-house installation team
Ensuring that the company uses materials sourced from reputable companies is as easy as asking questions like: Where do the panels come from? and Who will be installing the system? In an ideal situation, the panels should come from a company like Canadian Solar, which has a long standing reputation for quality products. Finding a company that also does their own installation is also ideal because it decreases accountability for the system. After obtaining answers, do some research on the materials they will be using.
3. Existing clients
Ask every solar energy provider for a list of existing clients, assuming it is not on their website. Do a bit of due diligence and ask the different companies how they find the provider’s service. Did they install on time? If there were delays, what were the causes? Is the system working? Is it saving them money? Are they happy with their maintenance service, if there is one available?
4. A clear indication of wattage
Before signing anything, obtain a clear indication of wattage (in kilowatt hours) or how much energy the proposed system will produce and approximately how much will be saved each month or each year. These numbers will vary depending on sunlight, but an approximation is an important part of the consideration.
5. A 20 year warranty
There is an industry standard warranty of 20 years for solar panels and 10 years for inverters. Not to say that both will have to be changed after that time. Many systems will last 30 years if well maintained. However, any company that offers warranties less than this time span might be using substandard equipment.
6. Total cost
There is fine print to every solar energy system. Costs include panels, inverter, installation, connection to the grid, building permits, sales tax, warranty, net metering utility fees (when applicable), and more, depending on the location. A review of the total cost of each is necessary before a decision is made.
Make sure to obtain at least three bids before choosing a solar energy provider. This will help to compare characteristics and metrics to make sure the best provider is chosen.