Your step-by-step guide to finding a competent solar provider
With the passage of new incentives for the solar panel installation industry, consumers are on the hunt for credible contractors to help them capture Florida’s abundant renewable energy. So how do you go about finding a company that does it right?
Solar panels are a long-term investment, which is why it’s important to thoroughly vet providers to find the right one for your needs. But how do you choose from the dozens of solar providers? If you’re feeling uncertain about your options or aren’t sure where to start, follow this helpful step-by-step guide to find the right solar provider for you.
STEP 1: Make a List of Local Solar Providers
The easiest way to compare solar providers is the old fashioned way. Make a list that documents the details of each company and what they provide, all on one page. Just use a sheet of paper and a pencil with rows and columns.
The left hand column list’s the solar company and the subsequent columns list the services they provide. Simply put a check mark in the row of a company if it provides the service in the column. Simple, right?
To start your list go to your search engine preference and type in “solar providers” followed by your specific or general location. For example: Orlando, Tampa, or Broward, Dade, Miami county, etc. This will give you a great starting point, and enough information to start filling in the columns on your list.
STEP 2: The Pros and Cons of Local vs National Installers
Typical wisdom is the larger the company the more established they are, and thereby can offer stronger warranties, more payment options, and maintenance services such as repair or panel cleaning. That’s not always the case though, so don’t just discard the smaller locals, as often times you’ll get superior service and better pricing from them.
Local providers can be more familiar with Florida’s governmental policies and permitting processes. This can save a ton of headaches and time delays. The local smaller businesses can be more nimble and responsive where the nationals may have stiffer rules and bureaucracies to deal with.
There isn’t a right or wrong answer when choosing a local or national solar provider to handle your installation and maintenance needs, but as Floridians it’s always great if we can keep our money in-state rather than send it out of state.
STEP 3: Who has Credibility
The primary tool to gauge credibility is local experience. Look through company profiles and About Us pages to find out each solar companies level of experience in construction, roofing, and solar installations.
In Florida, solar has a limited history so looking for companies with actual long term experience in home building and roofing expertise is wise and absolutely helpful, but it doesn’t end there.
Of course any company you choose to handle your solar installation should have the requisite licensing, bonding and insuring required by the State and Local governing boards. In addition to that, ask about additional credentials such as North American Board of Certified Energy practitioners (NABCEP). This nationally recognized certification program is recognized as the platinum standard for initial evaluations, installations, sales and service.
A certification from NABCEP tells you the solar company is a professional organization that takes its business very seriously. It also indicates the company has met very high standards of qualification and has undergone extensive study and training courses.
STEP 4: Referrals, Testimonials, and Reviews
Keep in mind that solar panel installations has a limited history in Florida, due mainly to lack of concerted governmental efforts to promote it. Now that’s all changed, so solar companies are appearing throughout the state to meet the pent-up demand
So when you ask for referrals, be sure to go deeper than just solar installations. What you really want to know about a company is what their commitment to quality workmanship and customer service has been.
For example you may be considering a company like Green Energy Solutions who has been building homes in communities throughout central and southern Miami, Dade, Broward, Orlando, Tampa and the islands for more than 20 years. Their entrance into solar because of favorable new rules and regulations allows them to take their considerable skills and expertise and apply it to the solar sector with ease.
In a case like this, follow up with a few of their past clients and ask about quality, professionalism and service. You’ll size them up quickly this way.
STEP 5: Are Financing Options Available?
There are several ways to pay for your solar panels. Cash, of course always works, but for most of us some sort of financing is a necessity.
- Take out a loan – cash-out refinance,, home equity, solar financing, etc
- Leasing – where you lease the equipment rather than own it
- Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) – selling your excess power to the grid
These are some of the options to consider, and if your solar company can assist you in any or all of these options, put a checkmark in that column. If they offer nothing, it’s best to simply scratch them off your list.
STEP 6: FREE On-Site Assessments and Price Quotes
Any good company worth their solar salt will gladly offer you a free evaluation and detailed quote of what to expect as far as cost and benefits are concerned. If they do not, or it seems inconvenient to them, drop that candidate like a hot meteorite.
STEP 7: Final Candidates
Once your list is completed you’ll be left with a few candidates, maybe three or four top picks is all you’ll need. Now it’s time to request a personal visit to your property for a free assessment and to look them straight in the eye while you ask more questions:
- Will you process and pay for ALL required state and local permits and fees?
- What is, and is NOT, included in the warranty you provide?
- Based on your assessment, can you justify the savings I’ll receive for purchasing?
- Explain the process from start-to-finish should I decide to move forward.
If you found a stand-out in this process, perfecto! – You found your solar company. If they all seemed reasonably competent and no clear winner emerged, no problem, this probably means they’d all do a good job for you. Try weighting the most important factor and making a judgement on that; financing, price, customer reviews, or just good old gut instinct.
Following this guide and being patient about the decision process will reward you for many years. Hopefully this guide has given you a pathway forward in capturing the glorious benefits of solar renewable energy.