By Laureen Peck, Vice President of Marketing, Solar Energy World
Let’s say you have decided you want to reduce your dependency on your utilities company, have pledged to spend less on your home’s energy costs and are committed to decreasing your carbon footprint. You don’t need to be convinced that getting more of your energy from renewable sources is a responsible way for you to help end your country’s dependence on foreign oil. You also hold the fervent belief that leaving a healthier, greener world for future generations is the right thing to do. You have reviewed various clean energy options and are leaning towards solar.
The problem is that when you do a Google search, although you can see there are several solar energy companies listed for your area, they all look the same and appear to offer similar savings, financial and environmental benefits. So, how can you narrow down your choice to the solar installation company most likely to answer your very specific needs? Here are a few tips that could help save you some time;
1. Be wary of automated processes. Some solar energy panel installation companies provide a calculator or “typical” costs on their website so a homeowner can estimate their energy savings, rebates and tax credits and then sometimes “order” a solar system online. The problem with this automated approach is that in order to get a truly accurate estimate, a home solar energy expert really needs to have a conversation with the homeowner(s) and ideally come to the actual installation site so they can make sure all the elements of your home’s energy usage, roof and/or yard layout, family budget, financial goals, and your home’s current energy efficiency rating are all factored into the recommended solution. There is no question that a knowledgeable human being is more accountable and helpful than a computer can possibly be. Also, it can take time for a company to update their website, so sometimes the information shown is no longer accurate as incentives and rebates change.
Although going online to gather information is a good idea, going online to get a solar installation estimate and/or order an installation package is like going online to get a comprehensive medical checkup. A good doctor does not make a diagnosis or prescribe medications to her patients based on educated guesses. A solar installation company cannot give a homeowner a customized energy solution based on guesswork either. To make certain you are getting the best solution for your needs, it is smart to schedule a free in-home analysis with a solar energy expert, preferably from a company that also provides home energy audits and is experienced making homes more energy efficient overall.
2. Trees matter – but there are other options. It’s a myth that solar energy won’t work in colder, greyer climates. Remember when your mother told you to wear sunscreen lotion, even on the cloudy days? Mom knew that UV rays still get through the clouds. The fact is that solar works in all types of climates. If that were not true, Germany, a country certainly not known for sunny weather, would not be one of the world’s top photovoltaics (PV) installers in the world. Shade is a different matter, however. If your roof is shaded, you might need to cut down a few trees, or trim them. If you don’t want to do that, but have a good amount of property and your zoning allows it, you can still use the sun to power your home by having solar panels installed on mounts. To see an example of what pole mounted solar panels can look like, click here.
3. Good customer service is proactive, not reactive. Once you have narrowed down your selection to a specific solar energy company, make sure that company will take care of you before, during and after installation.
Prior to making a commitment, find out how much of the leg work you will have to do for yourself once you agree to buy. Will you have to be the one dealing with the utilities company or filling out all the forms for energy rebates and solar energy credits? Or will your installation company do that for you? The more the solar installation company does for you, the better. The company you choose should be the experts on all of the processes and have the most recent information about money saving options that you may not be aware of. They should also be experienced managing the bureaucracy involved with utilities so you won’t have that headache to worry about.
Also prior to installation, find out if the installers are subcontractors or actual company employees. There is nothing worse than having untrained, or barely trained installers on the job. Make sure the installers work directly for the solar installation company and are accountable to that company for their performance. Keep in mind that solar installation companies, in particular larger ones that are part of national chains, hire subcontractors most of the time so if you decide to go that way there is no assurance you will be getting the most qualified workers installing your system.
Make sure the company you hire will take care of you once you buy or lease from them. The whole point of using solar panels to power your home is that there is hardly ever a need for repairs or major services. However, there are rare times when the system goes down. In this case, it will be a lot less stressful for you if you are working with a company that not only allows you to monitor your system yourself online, but also continually monitors your system for you. What this means is that you should expect that your solar installation company will be on top of any problem that might occur and will be on their way to have it fixed before you even know there was a problem. If you bought your panels from a large solar installation retailer, it’s unlikely you will get that type of proactive service.
4. Cheapest may not really be cheaper. If you want to get the most out of your solar panels and/or feel it is your patriotic duty to get panels from an American manufacturer, do your research to make certain you are making an informed investment. Not all solar panels are equal. Your panels should be designed to absorb the most solar energy possible and have a guarantee to help increase the value of your home.
Hopefully the tips above will help you with your decision to go solar. If you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us by email: [email protected], or by calling us at 1-866-856-4580. You can also follow us on the official Solar Energy World Facebook page.