4 steps to choosing the right solar installer
You’ve had enough of overpriced utility bills and decided to take control of your own destiny by installing a solar energy system, so now comes the next big decision – choosing the right solar installer.
This can be a cumbersome, time consuming process, but one that is extremely necessary if you are to reap the full benefits of your new system.
Following this 4-step process will hopefully make things go more smoothly for you.
1. Support your local installer
One of the most important steps in choosing the right solar installer is to conduct an interview with each potential candidate, preferably in person. An installer nearby would generally be best. There are several reasons why this is so important.
First of all, thanks to their relative proximity, a local installer should be able to visit your home or site to perform an inspection and analysis of the site to give a reliable estimate of exactly what equipment you need and where this equipment must be installed, especially solar panels, as these must be placed where they get the greatest possible insulation.
Second, this will give you the ideal opportunity to conduct the important interview where you can and should ask any conceivable questions you may have regarding not only the system you need (to ask these questions and the answers the candidate gives, should give you a good sense of whether the person knows his stuff or not) but also the kind of training and background the candidate has, their experience, how many installations they have completed successfully, etc.
Third, you get the chance to know the person behind the company and whether you feel comfortable with them on a personal level. You may be wondering why this is important. The reason is that since you and your installer need to work together as a team to get your project completed, you will feel that you are able to communicate well and that the installer is open and honest in his relationships with you.
2. Check the credentials
A potential candidate may not carry any certification as it is not a requirement for a person to become a qualified installer, so it may be a matter of checking more intangible qualifications such as what type of training the installer has completed along with any courses they may have participated. Any installer worthy of their salt should be open and overboard about their background and experience, and any restraint or uncertainty in this area on behalf of the candidate should be cause for concern. After all, you will not find out that you are this installer’s guinea pig, otherwise known as their first installation!
It is not uncommon for installers to have an electrical background, which is likely to mean that they have a North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certification. If they are also certified in solar installations Johannesburg energy, even better.
Be sure to ask for and check references. You should make a point to call each reference and ask about their experience, good or bad, with the installer, and if possible, ask permission to visit the installation site to see the work done first hand.
You must also ensure that the candidate has liability insurance, uses high quality products and can offer written guarantees along with service contracts.
3. Find out how much labor will cost
What does a good installer cost? Ah, yes, the $ 64,000 question. Well hopefully not so much! In fact, this is difficult to quantify because it all depends on the size of the task, and most of the bids given cover the entire job, with installation costs included in the total cost.
But as a rule of thumb, the amount that covers the installation should be around 15% of the total cost. But since the installation can make the difference between a photovoltaic system that works on top of efficiency and one that gives you constant headaches, this is a topic you should not skim on, everything else being equal.
Get more bids
If you have managed to find a few installers that you think may be suitable for your project, ask for bids from them, at least 3 or 4 would be good. Look at the different bids and make sure that everything you have requested and that the installer has promised is included. Be sure to negotiate to get the best possible price. There is a lot of competition out there these days, so do not be afraid to come up with a counter offer, provided of course it is fair.